You can buy a gift that's not on the wedding registry— but be sensible. You’re still fine to buy something not on the registry even though 98% of wedding websites have a gift registry.
Here’s a tip for doing it: buy something you wouldn’t normally find on the registry. For example, don’t buy your favourite blanket if the couple has a blanket on their registry— you should instead buy the one that was on the registry (that’s their preference!). The couple is the one who has to live the gift— so make sure it’s to their taste.
Here’s the first thing to know: price-for-your-plate is not done anymore. It’s an outdated idea. I mean, think about it: should you really give your best friend a less expensive gift just because they are having a smaller, casual wedding? Not to mention, you probably shouldn’t know how much the host is spending on the wedding! The size of the gift should reflect if you’re attending with a guest.
How much to spend should be a personal question. You should consider your own budget and also your relationship to the couple.
Your own budget for wedding gifts will likely fluctuate through your lifetime. Perhaps in your 20s the gifts will be smaller until later in your life.
Considering your relationship to the couple is a bit trickier. The Knot suggests this is the ballpark you should be aiming for:
(This also approximates giving guides like this.)
Note: Destination weddings obviously change the calculus. If you have to spend a good amount to travel to a wedding then it’s okay to gift a bit less. Though it might still be nice to bring a gift— something modest is fine.
If it is appropriate to give a gift that doesn’t cost anything, you will want to be creative. here are a few ideas I came across while searching:
"Best wedding gift I received came from friends who were really poor. They explained, a new couple never has enough rags to clean up with, and they gave us a bundle of rags. That was thoughtful." Source
"I got married before digital cameras. The gifts I appreciated the most weren't really even given as official gifts, but they should have been - some of the guests took many pictures and sent us copies. I let hubbie pick out the wedding photographer. He went with the lowest price and the official photos were awful. So the candid shots taken by guests were my favorites, and the ones that fleshed out my wedding book. A very thoughtful gift I think today would be to make a photo book of the shots you take at and around the wedding and send it to the bride and groom after the wedding." - Source
"A few years ago I got an instant camera (for those my age: a Polaroid camera... Though not made by Polaroid) and have brought it to events, and recently I brought not just it, but a blank book (which had individual removable pages), a box of gel pens and a bunch of stickers and double sided tape, and passed it around the reception. People took pictures and wrote notes and decorated the pages. Since people could remove a page and work on it, multiple people were doing it at once and it ended up being an instant scrapbook. It was pretty cute." - Source
"One of my favorite wedding gifts is a framed needlepoint picture of my wedding invitation."- Source
This has actually changed with the Internet.
While bringing your gift to the reception was common for a long time, these days guests can use the Internet to have the gift sent directly to the couples door.
The exception is of course gift cards and checks. They can be brought to the ceremony.
You should give it sooner if you can but the gift can certainly arrive up to one year following the wedding.
It's always appropriate to take the couple at their word. Though make sure you’ve read the language carefully!
Allow the person who invited you to take care of the gift. You can always ask them if you'd like to go in on the gift.
You should always give a card. Here a few tips about what write in it:
You can keep things formal:
You can go for funny:
Or go for something cute:
Finally, a classy closing is always nice:
Or close with something funny:
If buying off the registry, buy early. If you buy the gift as soon as you receive the “save the date” then you have the widest selection in the gift registry.
This is also handy for price-conscious gifts. If you buy early you’ll have the most options for something in your budget.
According to a survey by The Knot, couples favourite gifts are often group gifts— people pooling their money to buy something bigger.
A group gift may also be handy for single guests who are having trouble finding something affordable in the registry.
A place to put rings— so they're never misplaced.
Never be homesick again. Hand-crafted candles inspired by individual states.
This personalized gift is made to order and can include a heart, home or star symbol on a city or place of your choice.
Personalize a wood box with a favorite photo or text.
For the outdoorsy-couple.
Spice up date night.
Have a great date idea ready at anytime.
That's just cute.
Celebrate the everyday and the extraordinary with this rustic handmade wine box.
For the couple that cooks together.
A map for wanderers. Draw on it, write on it, put pushpins in it, color it— whatever!
Turn a photo into a hand-made, canvas painting.
Highlight their better qualities.
Cute. A cutting board personalized with the names of a couple.
Set of two Mr & Mrs throw pillows.
Portraits drawn individually that are timeless keepsakes and unique.
Filtered water carafe that is beautiful on the countertop and shatter-proof.
A classic staple with a new design.
The letters of some of history’s most famous lovers.
Martha Stewart approved.
Tea towel with a retro look.
More than one way to say I do.
Send the newlyweds a box of flowers every month following their wedding date.