Gift baskets, memorable decor, and personalized practical gifts are all good places to start. But you can also opt for something like live food-producing plants or trees, antiques, or even experiences that will bring them closer as a couple.
You can spend a significant part of your personal budget celebrating the brides and grooms in your life. Gifts are important tokens of love to the people you care about, but at some point, they cross over from gracious to burdensome.
Conventional wisdom dictates that you should spend approximately the couple’s cost per plate for each guest. And taking one look at a registry packed with fine china and expensive appliances can have you wishing weddings weren’t such big affairs.
Luckily, that’s just a rumor. They’re probably more concerned that you show up to their big day than about getting a pricey present. That said, acknowledging a new union is important. Fortunately, if you look for thoughtful gifts, you don’t necessarily have to spend a ton.
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Wedding Gifts on a Budget
Some people attend five or more weddings each summer, so it’s crucial to come up with gift ideas that are thoughtful, inexpensive, and useful. By checking off those requirements, you can be sure the couple will love your gift — without forking over the money for a super-expensive registry item.
These tips can help you do just that.
1. Small Registry Items
If there’s a registry, take a peek. You might be surprised at how many smaller, less-expensive pieces there are alongside the top-of-the-line coffeemaker and new china.
Choose a few of the more modestly priced registry items to create a little gift basket for the couple. By doing so, you keep better control over how much money you spend, and the happy couple still gets the spatula, measuring cups, vase, and placemats they wanted.
Other guests might pass up these smaller presents in favor of splashier gifts, so it’s a win-win situation. Most registries offer online access, and you can often sort the list based on price to get started.
2. Embroidered Linens
Look specifically for machine embroidering (as opposed to hand embroidering, which can be significantly more expensive), and you can expect to pay about $3 to $5 per item to put a name, monogram, or a nickname down for the newlyweds.
It’s a memorable way to elevate an otherwise basic gift.
3. Dinner or Dessert for Two
If you’re short on cash, wrapping up a few smaller related effects can make an inexpensive gift much more thoughtful and useful.
I love the idea of giving dinner or dessert for two as a cheap, cute gift basket. You don’t have to get too fancy — just some nonperishable ingredients and a few baubles or gadgets that go with the theme.
For example, a dinner basket might include:
- Package of dried pasta
- Jar of pasta sauce
- $5 or $10 gift card to a local bakery or grocery store for bread
- Candles (tea lights are the least expensive)
Or you can fill a dessert basket with:
- Boxed brownie mix
- Rubber spatula
- Set of measuring spoons and cups
- Cute pair of oven mitts
- A couple of mixing bowls
Place the items in the bowl or colander and wrap them with clear cellophane, securing the top with a ribbon. The gift should cost no more than $30 or $40, but a couple of newlyweds starting out are sure to be grateful that you’re thinking about some of the staples they’re going to need after their honeymoon.
If you have the budget, add a $10 bottle of dinner or dessert wine to the basket.
4. A Framed Wedding Invitation or Photos
With a shadowbox, you can use the invitation you received to create something the couple will cherish. If you’re unsure how to place the invitation inside, check out Pinterest for clever ideas for embellishments and assembly.
With a free afternoon and about $25 in supplies, you can handmake a gift you know the couple will enjoy for a long time.
If you don’t have the time or resources to put together a shadowbox, frames filled with sweet and thoughtful photos can be an inexpensive but meaningful gift.
You can find frames for just about any budget, from dollar store basic black to more elaborate or classic designs at a home decor shop. You can leave the frames empty or fill them with pictures or quotes to help commemorate the occasion.
5. Anniversary Wine
Prove that you know the couple’s love will stand the test of time by bringing this inexpensive and impressive gift.
Visit a local wine and spirits shop and speak to the wine expert there. Ask for a semi-inexpensive bottle of wine (in the $20 to $40 range) that will taste even better in 10 years.
Then, wrap the bottle with a note telling the couple to drink up and toast their love on their 10th anniversary.
6. Date Night In
If the couple is like many newlyweds, money can be tight during those first few years of marriage. When there are bills and debts to pay, the days of pricey date nights, going out to eat, and seeing movies might no longer be feasible.
Reduce their burden and put together a date night in a box. It’s a thoughtful, inexpensive gift that can help newlyweds feel connected, even when times are tough.
You can fill a reusable popcorn bucket with:
- Super-soft throw blanket
- Redbox or other DVD rental service gift card
- Gourmet popcorn
- Wine or a couple of vintage sodas
- Some boxes of movie theater-style candy
Overall, the basket shouldn’t cost more than $45, and it offers a cozy night in for the happy couple.
7. Honeymoon Gear
Find out where the couple plans to take their honeymoon, and you can probably come up with a few thoughtful travel gifts that enhance their trip without breaking your bank. Try these combinations:
- Beach Vacation: A couple of matching beach towels, sunscreen, and some good beach reads
- Adventurous Vacation: Skiing or hiking trips call for a first-aid kit, sunglasses, trail mix, and a disposable camera
- Theme Park Vacation: Park swag like Mickey Mouse ears, matching T-shirts, and water bottles
- European Vacation: Maps for the countries they’re visiting, cute passport holders, and luggage tags
- Road Trip: A prepaid gas card, road maps, custom playlists, and some healthy snacks
8. Crowdfunded Gifts
If you’re short on cash but want to pack a big gift-giving punch, start a crowdfunding effort. The couple can use the money to help pay for the honeymoon, reduce their financial burden, work toward a down payment on a new home, or simply jump-start a nest egg.
Crowdfunded gifts are especially appropriate for destination weddings or couples who plan to move soon and will otherwise have to pack and move everything.
Some people see it as poor etiquette for the couple to begin their own crowdfunding effort. So your gift can be the setup, administration, and promotion of the profile so friends and family know it’s an option in lieu of gifts.
While it might not be the most traditional of wedding gifts, making it easy for guests to donate money could be a lot more valuable than whatever’s on the registry.
The couple is going to get plenty of kitchen gadgets. So why not offer the gift of an experience instead? For under $100, you can give the married couple long-lasting memories — the most thoughtful gifts of all.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out these inexpensive experience-based gifts:
- Recreation Center. Get them a membership to a local facility, where newlyweds can work out together, go for a swim, or take classes.
- TV Subscriptions. Netflix offers gift cards, which start at $25 on Amazon, $15 at Kroger, and $30 everywhere else. A Hulu gift subscription starts at $6.99. Simply set how much you want to spend, and the newlyweds can binge-watch the hottest new series.
- Couples Massages. A relaxing massage is guaranteed to reduce post-wedding stress. Expect to spend from $75 to $100.
- Events. You can find tickets to events like festivals, concerts or concert fairs, and wine tastings for under $100.
- Memberships. Look for annual memberships to a local attraction the newlyweds would enjoy, such as a museum or zoo.
- Cooking Classes. Prices for cooking classes usually range from $50 to $75 per couple. If there’s not one in your area, look online for virtual classes.
- Date Night. Look for restaurant gift certificates for a night out at a romantic bistro they probably wouldn’t pay for themselves.
The farmhouse look is all the rage. Just check out any Anthropologie or Pottery Barn store. Of course, their antique-looking wares cost a pretty penny, so instead of going for the recreation, choose an actual antique for a wedding present.
By frequenting flea markets, farmers markets, yard sales, and estate sales, you can find some beautiful pieces to help outfit any newlyweds’ home. Whether it’s a gorgeous vase, an old picture frame, decorative tchotchkes, or an old sign with a location or phrase that’s meaningful to the new couple, your antique gift can be thoughtful, personal, and special.
As always with antiques, ensure the merchandise is cleaned and properly cared for before you wrap it. It might take a little weekend hunting and some elbow grease to make an old item usable again, but a well-chosen antique can make for a beautiful addition to a new home.
11. Plants and Trees
Puns about “growing love” aside, giving newlyweds the gift of something living is a sweet way to acknowledge their union.
Trees and plants continue to grow long after the wedding. They act as a metaphor for a couple’s relationship and a long-lasting reminder of their love’s endurance.
Try giving the happy couple a functional tree or plant — a planted fruit tree can yield sweet treats for years to come. You can also opt for a row of potted herbs to help them make fresh, flavorful meals and reduce their grocery bills.
Weddings are becoming less formal and more friendly affairs to celebrate a couple’s commitment to one another.
As such, the standard for gifts has changed drastically as well. There really isn’t a set spending amount you need to adhere to, especially since attending the wedding can be pricey enough after travel and outfits.
By thinking beyond the usual suspects and going with a gift that has heart, you can blow the couple away even if you’re on a tight budget.