Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Seriously Cheap Wedding Gifts

What do you do when you need a wedding gift to meet a social or business standard?

I overcompensate. When you have a reputation for being thrifty, you don't want that notion to precede your gift!

There have been times when we have improvised with less. The more you know the couple, the more freedom you have to be creative.

Here are some ideas for perfectly acceptable wedding gifts on a tight budget:

1. The cheapest thing on the department store registry.

The dollar amount won't impress, but at least it's something the couple selected. "Bulk it up" with cheaper extras:

  • two handtowels from the registry with fancy soaps bought on clearance.
  • set of salt and pepper shakers with a grocery store canister of French sea salt.
  • set of everyday glasses with a cellophane bag of homemade tea mix.

2. Something that complements their registry.

It doesn't cost anything to view the registry list. Take note of the colors of their china, then head to a reasonably priced store for something coordinating.

Big Lots always has a selection of 99-cent placemats and napkins, which are heavenly cheap to ship. Or make your own.

3. Something pretty which everyone needs.

I often choose a pitcher from a bargain store like Old Time Pottery. These can cost as little as $4 and make an impressive, if inexpensive, package.

When I entertain, I use several pitchers for water, tea, and lemonade. Clear or cut glass coordinate with most crystal choices. Likewise, cake plates and salad bowls.

4. Someone else's wedding gifts.

You wouldn't believe how many people are too tired to exchange duplicates after a wedding.

When you see generic, new-in-the-box items for pennies on the dollar at yard sales, stockpile them in your gift closet. Examples would include tasteful frames, silver cake and salad servers, and Armetale platters designed to complement any china.

5. Regional cookbooks and specialty items.

Several of my cherished gifts were local specialties like the Charleston Receipts and Repeats cookbook set from my cousin Kathy.

I have gathered several unused local cookbooks (Miss Daisy and The Nashville Cookbook) for this purpose.

6. A wedding snapshot, framed.

You have up to a year to give a wedding gift. Bring your digital camera to the event and snap until you get a great picture. Develop and frame using your own thrifty sources.

Trust me, with the ridiculous cost of professional photos, the couple will appreciate free photos and/or negatives--especially if you have them waiting after the honeymoon.

7. The gift of your praise.

If you feel unsure of your modest gift, take the time to praise the wedding in writing.

Sit down and pen a note to the couple and/or the bride's mother thanking them for the wonderful time you had. Include specific examples of touching moments, beautiful flowers, the most delicious wedding cake you've ever tasted.

A wedding is over so quickly. No one appreciates the opportunity to relive and reminisce more than the people who put their hearts into the day. Your thoughtfulness will far outlive the wineglasses!

Share your ideas for budget wedding gifts! I'm always happy for more ideas.


Sallie Borrink said...

Hi Meredith!

Before I got married, I would buy whatever gift I fancied for the couple. After I went through my own wedding experience, I realized the importance of purchasing a gift from the registry whenever possible. We registered for many things we NEEDED and ended up with so many things we didn't need at all. I think we received SIX serving pitchers of various kinds. Now a couple is nice, but SIX? We also received so many picture frames, crystal bowls, and various knicknacks. We didn't need those kinds of things as much as we needed the things we put on our registry.

So.... all that to say that I really encourage people to consider your first suggestion. Even if you only purchase the least expensive thing on the registry, it was still something they wanted. Oftentimes I will select four or five inexpensive items on the registry (like kitchen dodads) and put them together in a nice little way. It looks like you spent a lot, but you really didn't.

Happy shopping!

Mary Ann said...

Having just gotten married a year and a half ago, I have just about gotten through re-gifting the few wedding gifts that were duplicates that we couldn't return. I tend to give smaller gifts, because my gift budget is very limited right now. I tend to do a theme basket/container gift a lot of the time. Some ideas- cookie sheet, cookie scoop, cookie/pancake turner, potholders and some hand-written cookie recipes; mixing bowl filled with kitchen items plus I added some spices from my bulk supply of spices put into charming yard sale spice jars(completely cleaned, of course); wine glasses, non-alcoholic bubbbly beverage, candles, and nice chocolates(this is a great anniversry gift as well).Some of our favorite gifts were marriage and finance books that we refer to constantly, especially the Dave Ramsey book!:-) For very good friends, we try to give a little more and if I have the extra cash I do like to give money, especially if the bride and groom already have household items.

Meredith said...

So maybe no on the pitchers! I received two--for some reason, never registered for any--and I use them all the time!
Thanks for sharing your experiences with the usefulness of a registry. Now if only more brides would include items under $25 on theirs...

Shannon said...

We have a beautiful framed poem (done in caligraphy with lots of flowers and a beautiful frame) called "Marriage Takes Three" that our aunt gave us when we got married. For several couples, I've taken it down and made a color copy of the poem and put it in a pretty frame. It's not always the only gift I give, but it's holds a lot of sentimental significance:)

MommyLydia said...

I didn't get ANY pitchers for my wedding.

Of course, we weren't desperate to get what was on our registry. I actually ended up appreciating more some of the things we got that were not on it than the things we got that WERE (And we ended up taking back when we realized) We had a houseful of stuff and the registry was just for 1. Ideas for people and 2. Some nicer holiday type stuff.

Another idea, if you can't afford anything on the reigstry, is a gift card at anywhere they are registered.

Or a check :)

Sarah E. said...

If you are lucky enough to have a Bed Bath and Beyond near you, you can use their coupons. They are constantly sending out 5.00 off 15.00 purchase coupon which saves some money.

Also, something neat I saw the other day at Kroger near the cashiers. There was a revolving stand that had $25 or $50 gift cards for several places, restaurants, book stores, etc. I thought this was perfect for gifts. Several of the gift card places we don't even have in our area but the person you are sending it to might.

Catherine at Frugal Homemaker Plus said...

We were desperate for the things on our registry. I actually do wish more people had chosen to use it. I don't mean to sound ungrateful, because we loved everything we got. But we registered for things we actually NEEDED, and almost none of those things were over 50 dollars. Many were 25 or less, and we did a ton of kitchen stuff that was under 5. We did not live together before we married. We married right out of college, so we did not have established households full of dishes and stuff at this time in our life.

After we married, we had to buy sheets, towels, kitchen stuff, silverwear, dish rags, and dishes ourselves, because nobody had gotten our registry items, but we got THREE picnic baskets for wedding gifts. We got many decorative items as well. And lots of silver frames.

Again, not complaining exactly, because I liked everthing I got, and I know people put thought into it. It's just that we acutally needed the things on my registry. We both had twin beds- so we had no queen sheets. (Actaully, I blame my mother about this. I kept looking for sale items on stuff like this before my wedding, and my mom told me not to waste my money, because people will give you stuff like that for wedding gifts! Thanks, mom!) Our parents had loaned both of us towels and dishes and such for college. They were not ours.

In my case, something very small on my
registry would have been more useful than many of the cute things we got. It would not have even needed to be the exact same item. Just if somebody had noted that I needed sheets, and given me a set of sheets in that size, it would have been very helpful. So I try to give something off the registry, assuming that it is something they need.

Anonymous said...

These are fabulous ideas! Thank you for bringing it front and center Meredith. I always shop the registry, too, because you know the couple CHOSE those things. Your pitcher suggestion, Meredith, is so charming and southern. Because I was raised by a Southern momma, I too received a large % of pitchers : ) ... including a gorgeous Waterford, still in its box. I entertain a LOT, but not that style in this culture...should just Ebay that pitcher and start my own wedding gift fund from the proceeds!

Hey, inspiration--We drink tons of coffee up north. I have been searching in vain for inexpensive hangtags for my buffet coffee and decaf carafes (to identify the contents, like hotels do)...I will create my own hangtags and package them with 2 carafes!


Anonymous said...

Could we talk budget graduation gifts, too? And what about all the solicitations to support kids going on summer missions trips this time of year? (I always paid for my own trips, but that doesn't seem to be the norm anymore)

For my special niece I sent her some money AHEAD of graduation, to buy dresses and stuff with now. On the actual day I plan to frame in a shadowbox, a picture of me laughing and holding her at my wedding (she was 1 yo) while she was crying big-time, all scrunched up and red. And then next to it the 2 of us on her recent trip to do Boston with me this spring. Debbie

Catherine at Frugal Homemaker Plus said...

Debbie- The money BEFORE graduation would have been great!

For a high school graduation where they are going to college and living in the dorms, I like to give a big bottle of laundry detergent and a roll of quarters. Before cell phones were everywhere, I would give a calling card so they could call home.

DonnaB said...

I'm a little wary of registries because of some of the absurd things I've seen on them. I recall one registry that had 3 toasters on it! Also I remember a work friend who had registered for $245 per place setting china (and this was 15 years ago)...excuse me? You have not just hitten the lottery. Registries are to give an idea of what the couple needs or wants and an indication of their tastes in colors and style. But it is still a gift. A giver shouldn't be obligated to purchase something off the registry especially when the amounts far exceed their budget for gift giving.

Here's two ideas:

If you want to give something off the registry but its more than you want to spend, call some friends and see if they want to "pool" their resources and get the big item.

If you know the couple well, consider a homemade heirloom.

I don't mean to be contrary about the registries especially considering some of the things I've read above but at the same time I wanted to present a different perspective. I try to be generous but at the same time, stick to my budget.

Anonymous said...

Just two inexpensive graduation gift ideas ~ My husband is a school teacher so we get invited to a lot of graduation parties. We usually give one of two things for gifts, either a $2 bill in money gift card or a large bath towel (purchased through the year on sale) in one of the school colors that the student is graduating from. I put a pretty bow around it and tuck the card in the bow. Especially nice for those heading off to college :)

Anonymous said...

Hey, Frugal homemaker, you would have gotten something from your registry from me if I had known you : ) I LOVE the detergent/quarter idea, and also the school colors bath towel. I like how that ties into your husband's profession (teaching).

This has been fun. Again, any ideas about the solicitations to support missions trips? Thanks, Debbie

Catherine at Frugal Homemaker Plus said...

Awww, thanks Debbie!

I don't know about solicitations. I have a hard time with that as well. I look forward to other people's suggestions!

Anonymous said...

My favorite wedding shower or graduation gift is a set of simple tools. A hammer, a 4-way screwdriver, a pair of pliers, and maybe a few other things. Everybody needs tools and a lot of people don't have any. And if they do have some, most people should have another set to keep in their cars. I don't generally give this for an actual wedding present, but it is great for other times.

Sarah E. said...

Jordana, I agree with you. I got one of those "tool boxes" for my bridal shower. I can't even begin to count how many times I have used that. My husband is allowed to use it as long as he returns everything.

Another just neat/frugal gift idea - I had a hard time getting something for my grandma for Christmas this year. I vowed not to get her any nick-nacks or coffeemugs. I had already given her several CDs and DVDs that I wanted to do something different. I went and found paper plates and napkins for holidays throughout the year. This was hard and a little pricy doing it all in December but would be dirt cheap to get the stuff on clearance after the holidays. I stuck a note on the bag that says, "Celebrate the Holidays without having to do the Dishes". I think she's enjoyed it as she lets me know that she used her Easter ones, etc.

Anonymous said...

I teach college classes and I'm stunned at how many students turn in unstapled papers because they don't have a stapler. My suggestion for a high school graduation gift if they are continuing on is a basket of items like a stapler and one of the those small staplers that can put in a backpack-you know like the one I have to staple their papers with LOL A planner can be useful, pencils, etc.

In terms of wedding gifts, I usually cross-stitch something for people I'm particularly close to and buy from the registry for everyone else. Thought it might be fun to think of what I still have/use from my wedding gifts 12 years ago....towels, china, pitchers, placemats. I don't think any of the small appliances have held up until now-oh wait-the ice cream maker because we rarely use it. A couple of picture frames.

My favorite wedding gift was a friend who gave us a couple of Baskin-Robbin gift certificates and 2 ice cream scoops. I have very fond memories of walking from our house down to the ice cream store and planning our future together.

Anonymous said...

Great ideas Meredith! Thank you for sharing your grocery budget today. I know I could do better, it would just take more meal planning. I am very low on time right now though. In a few months my little one will allow me more time to myself and I will work hard at reducing my budget! I love your ideas. Thanks for sharing.

Mrs. Happy Housewife said...

I usually give a handmade wedding cross stitch sampler. It's time-consuming but costs little. Everyone has enjoyed a sampler because it is unique and has the names and wedding date.

Diane said...

I'm faced with a number of weddings this year -

When it is a close friend, I like to make a lap quilt for the couple, but at about $80 - $150 for materials, it's not exactly frugal!

Two different local radio stations sell gift cards. Every Friday you can purchase a $50 gift card for $25, a 50% savings. The cards are for mid- to high-end restaurants, tanning salons, child care centers - the list goes on and on. I've been watching carefully for over a month for ones that would be perfect wedding gifts.

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