While we are generally thrilled to attend a wedding, it may not come at the most financially sound time in our lives. So how do you go to a wedding, celebrate it and not spend a fortune trying to buy everything in the registry in fear of looking cheap? Here are a few things you could consider the next time you need to go on a wedding but are strapped for cash.
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics
1. Offer Your Services and Time Instead
Instead of a gift, consider offering your skills instead. You could make the wedding cake, create their wedding invitations or be the entertainment (such as if you're a professional dancer or singer for instance).
For example, if you offer to make the cake you'd only have to pay for the cost of the ingredients, and the bride and groom will save money (assuming you let them have it for free) and they may be thrilled to have such a personal touch on their special day. A lot of wedding cakes are time-intensive, and it's the attention to detail that makes the final retail cost of a wedding cake so much more expensive than a regular one. (Learn how to have the wedding you've always wanted - without going broke. For more, see Have A Charming (And Cheap) Wedding.)
2. Give What You Can Afford in Cash
Perhaps you can't afford that single $125 item on the gift registry, but you can scrounge together $50 in cash to gift to the bride and groom.
These days, many couples already own the basic essentials for their lives, so buying them another bread maker may not be exactly what they want, but they put it on the list because they couldn't find anything else they needed. Cash is always a welcome (and not at all crude) gift especially if they have to bear the cost of the wedding on their own. (For more, see Marriage: For Richer Or Poorer?)
3. Make a Creative Wedding Gift
Setting up a Powerpoint presentation of the bride and groom from birth to present day can be a sweet and low-cost way to commemorate their special day. Ask for photos of their childhood, or even videotape their friends and family saying what they love best about the couple or talking about their favorite memories. All you need is to put in some effort in sourcing material, and then spending your nights splicing together the presentation to be just perfect.
If you have an artistic streak, you could even paint a picture of the couple or create a sculpture you know they will appreciate. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, however, so keep in mind whether or not the bride and groom would be able to display such a gift in their home.
You could also buy a couple of specialty items and group them together. For instance, if the bride and groom are foodies, tie up a few gourmet kitchen tools with a bow, a few ingredients that will keep (like dry or canned items), add a little recipe card that incorporates all of the elements of the gift and present it as an all-in-one package. (For more, see Newlyweds? Tips For Filing Your Tax Return.)
4. Bake Something
People love to eat, and food is generally never rejected as a gift. You don't have to bake something for the wedding specifically (although you can), but perhaps as a gift you can present them with a voucher that says: Good for one free candlelit dinner. When they come back from their honeymoon, they can redeem the voucher and have you come over early to prepare a romantic, candlelit gourmet dinner (you'd pay the ingredients of course) and treat them to a great meal.
Or maybe you're more of a baker. A homemade basket full of specially baked treats for the bride and groom when they return from their honeymoon will keep the wedding cheer going. (Don't say "I do" to years of debt. For more, see Have A Princess Wedding On A Pauper Budget.)
5. Buy Them Subscriptions
Maybe they love to read a certain magazine such as Real Simple or Reader's Digest but just haven't gotten around to signing up for a subscription. Pay for a one-year subscription to their favorite magazine(s) in their name and they'll be able to enjoy your gift all year.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, whatever gift you give them will pale in comparison to your attendance to the wedding. The bride and groom invited you to their wedding not because you had deep pockets, but because they wanted you - a special person in their lives - to be there. Whatever you decide to give them as a present will be well received, cherished and enjoyed no matter what, so don't worry so much about it! (For more, see Revealing The Hidden Costs Of Weddings.)