What gift to send to a friend who's getting married, yet I don't have any money.
July 13, 2004 9:37 PM   Subscribe

Any help here would be appreciated, as I am at a total loss: A good friend is getting married this month. I am not attending the ceremony, as it is family only, but I would like to send a small congratulatory gift. However, I'm pretty broke. I don't want to go the giftcard route; that's unoriginal. Any of you married MeFites, is there some small, inexpensive gadget/tchotchke you wish you'd been given as a newlywed that you would have appreciated more than a blender or electric can opener?
posted by ScarletSpectrum to Shopping (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Cash. I got married a couple weeks ago and the checks we got are speaking the loudest to us right now. If the couple knows you're not in the best financial means right now, they'll totally understand if you don't shower them with money/gifts.
posted by zsazsa at 9:42 PM on July 13, 2004

I don't think cash is a suitable answer, considering Scarlet has little to spare.. and throwing $10 in an envelope as a wedding gift is crude.

I am renowned for my non-giving of gifts, but in this case I'd say something small is quite appropriate, especially considering you didn't get an invite. My recommendations would include a really well done musical gift (mix CD, CD of non-cheesy romantic music - it exists!, latest album you know they'd both like - they probably aren't throwing money around themselves.. etc), an art gift (nothing corny here, only if you have a real talent), or if you know they have the sense to appreciate it.. go to those shops that sell the most bizarre things, and pick something totally bizarre that they'd actually hang on to.

Alternatively, buy something that's cheap, but that everyone runs out of.. stationery! It might strike you as corny, but I wish I got more gifts of stationery, I always forget to buy any! Scissors, gel pens, ruler, sharpie.. and so on. Scissors are especially useful in the home. Of course, if this couple are in the Ivy League set, you might wanna forget that one..
posted by wackybrit at 10:33 PM on July 13, 2004

A small 5 X 7 picture frame is good. They'll have a lot of wedding and reception photos. Some of 'em gotta go on display.
posted by planetkyoto at 10:35 PM on July 13, 2004

Are they going on a honeymoon or another trip soon? I have a Levenger leather passport and document holder that I absolutely adore. They wear well with age and keep everything in one spot. I can't seem to find my case, but this looks like a reasonably priced (and customizable!) option. It's a gift that will be used for years.
posted by fionab at 10:40 PM on July 13, 2004

Buy them a journal. It's personal (assuming they use it) and you can get a very nice one without spending money.
posted by letitrain at 10:45 PM on July 13, 2004

Without spending much money, that is.
posted by letitrain at 10:47 PM on July 13, 2004

If you are at all artistic, I'd suggest making them something. One of my most treasured wedding gifts is from my wife's friend, who took a windowframe and painted two entwined trees on it. The materials cost could not have been too much of a burden, but the gesture was perfect. It's on our wall now, and has been since we got married four years ago.
posted by jeffmshaw at 12:30 AM on July 14, 2004

Acrylic glasses.

There's nothing quite as handy as nice-looking non-breakable glasses.
posted by Katemonkey at 12:46 AM on July 14, 2004

yeah. you're talking about skillz.

writer? write something pleasant about the two of them -- a good memory of the two, wishes for the future, etc. Presentation is going to be key here -- get a friend to either design something nice for you, or someone who knows something about calligraphy/lettering to write it for you on heavy bond paper.

painter? paint a nice portrait of the two -- not necessarily anything conventional -- something in your style.

musician? write a little cute folk song for them, featuring their names prominently.

architect? design a little lamp or household good for them. hell, you probably know how to make cute little gifts already.

Do you crochet/knit? find a pattern for something small and householdy (tea cozy? with a teapot? i don't know. Little sack that you can fill with potporri or something?) and put their initials on it.

if you don't have any crafty type skills you feel sure of, or more importantly, not enough time (i planned on painting a portrait for my friend, but I didn't start until about 2 days before the wedding, and there was NO WAY it was going to be finished in a satisfactory manner in time, so I just skipped it), i'd go with booze, as long as they drink. A nice bottle of wine packaged beautifully is going to be something they use, and it's going to be difficult to price exactly how much you spent on it, because hey, you could've dropped a fair amount of money, right? (just don't buy them charles shaw or anything, and do your best to make sure the wine isn't going to suck -- ask for help from someone if you aren't familar with wine.)

if they're straight-edge, buy them a gift certificate for tattoos. can't lose with tats. or maybe put together a tasteful and well thought out honeymoon gift (oils, lotion - yes, condoms, edible underwear - no.)
posted by fishfucker at 12:46 AM on July 14, 2004

oh, as an aside, I went with cash for my friend (and he *really* appreciated it), but I think with cash, if you give anything less than $50 you run the risk of looking like a cheap uncle or something. (and i'd go with $100, although you didn't get invited to the wedding, so it's gonna be hard to drink that back at their expense.)
posted by fishfucker at 12:47 AM on July 14, 2004

ooh. fun, fun martini glasses, and what a bargain!

This cheese bug is adorable, or this onion dome, for a happy married life without tears. Or something.
posted by taz at 1:07 AM on July 14, 2004

Slightly more, but very, very cool - a mezzaluna. I want this. Ah, here's a very sleek one, for even less.
posted by taz at 1:21 AM on July 14, 2004

My best friend got married last year, and one of the most appreciated little things that they got were picture frames. You can buy gorgeous, expensive-looking silver ones from places like Ross, TJ Maxx, or Target for next to nothing.

Another cheap option is to visit those types of stores and peek in their gourmet and home sections. Buy a pretty basket, fill it with gourmet chocolate, a couple of interesting wine glasses, and then go to the liquor store and buy a good-but-inexpensive bottle of wine. It will be a nice thing for them to have for a romantic evening at home once the wedding hoopla is over. You could even buy a Blockbuster card or something similar to toss in. They will appreciate the gesture, everything will get used, and you won't spend a lot of money. You could also do a breakfast theme with cute coffee mugs, a bag of gourmet coffee, and some fancy fruity pancake syrup. Those stores have tons of crap that is perfect for homemade gift baskets. I've made a couple and they were both huge hits for less than $25 each.
posted by gatorae at 1:22 AM on July 14, 2004

Rolling pin.
posted by biffa at 2:07 AM on July 14, 2004

Oh! Wait, are they going on honeymoon?

Say you'll cook them dinner on the day they get back. Think about it, they're tired, they've been travelling probably all day, they get in, drop their luggage, and voila, dinner is served!

God knows I would have loved to have dinner waiting for me when I got home from my honeymoon trip (nearly ten hours from L.A. to London, four hour coach trip from London to Nottingham, fifteen minute taxi ride from city centre to my house...empty home awaits. Bah.).
posted by Katemonkey at 4:42 AM on July 14, 2004

how about making a set of cards with magic 8-ball like advice on resolving arguments? you'd need to find at least 20 or so ideas (kiss+make up, divorce, various rather crude suggestions, go out for dinner, talk about it you moron, it's your turn to clean the toilet, etc) and some ideas for how to decorate the cards...
or you could make a duo-decagon (is that the right word - the one made with 5 equilateral triangles forming a cone, then 2x5 in a band round the middle, and another cone opposite) from cardboard and write the different things on, so it would be like a giant dice for deciding things.

[on preview - if you can get the keys to their house on the excuse that you'll check it up, you could leave a dinner prepared for their arrival]
posted by andrew cooke at 5:41 AM on July 14, 2004

The best thing to do, IMNSHO, would be to enquire with other mutual friends to see if anyone else is in a similar boat; then pool resources and get one of the standard wedding gifts.

Failing that, you really can't go very wrong with a nice 5x7 or 8x10 picture frame. Avoid ones with hearts or those Tragic Moments figurines on them. If they're readers, you might send them a book you really enjoy that you think they might not have read. Or a nice assortment of fancy chocolates.

Unless you're very skilled, as in you do or can do the relevant activity at a real, honest, no-shit professional level, I'd shy away from making / writing / singing them something. Much below that, and it's going to be the thought that counts -- and if it's going to be the thought that counts, send them a card with a well-thought-out letter detailing the thought and leave it at that. The last thing they'd need is something that's amateurishly done that they might feel constrained to have out when you visit.

I don't disagree with it being good if you're actually artistic, but I'd draw the line at "Don't unless you're actually, verified, artistic, and not by your mom" instead of "Do if you consider yourself at all artistic," since most of us are pretty delusional in that respect.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:44 AM on July 14, 2004

In my broke years, I put together a small basket for a wedding gift, consisting of two attractive candleholders, two candles, two beautiful wine glasses (a dollar each at Goodwill,) a mix CD of romantic music, a box of high-end pasta and a jar of high-end pasta sauce- romantic, candlelit dinner in a box. It only cost about 25 dollars total, but it went over really well.
posted by headspace at 6:10 AM on July 14, 2004

Where are they registered? I know you want to give them a thoughtful gift, but they probably already created a list of things they want, and there is probably some low-end stuff on the list.
posted by smackfu at 6:21 AM on July 14, 2004

i have to disagree with the people saying "don't do stuff unless you're gifted". i can't think of the last time someone bought me a gift i hadn't chosen that i liked enough to keep. most unsolicited gifts are tokens that get thrown out/hidden away, no matter how much they cost. much more important than utility, then, is something that is entertaining for a while, and which demonstrates that you care. something hand made can meet those requirements. i wouldn't expect anyone to keep anything "forever" that i'd bought or made them. that's not the point.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:38 AM on July 14, 2004

Lots of good suggestions. Here's one more :

If they like to cook and eat lots of garlic, get them a Rosle garlic press. Most garlic presses suck, and many are made of aluminum - clearly an insidious plot to gunk up brain synapses.

The Rosle garlic press is literally built to last an average human lifespan - chrome plated steel, with an easy to clean swing out cage. It's precise and nearly indestructible, and awesomely efficient at one thing alone :

Squishing garlic.

At $40, it's not cheap - but so very much worth the money. $10 between 4 friends wins your married friends' hearts forever - via their happy stomachs and clean arteries.

Be sure to include, in your attached note, this unproven assertion - which logically should be the case due to garlic's blood-thinning function, as well as from it's antioxidant effect : garlic eaters have better sex!
posted by troutfishing at 6:44 AM on July 14, 2004

I once put together an inexpensive basket of different scented massage oils. (The bride had a history of back trouble and the groom was expected to do his duty.) A practical and romantic gift.
posted by SPrintF at 7:30 AM on July 14, 2004

Moleskine notebooks are really very nice, as well as plain and useful.
posted by redfoxtail at 7:32 AM on July 14, 2004

Are they close enough friends that you could secure a copy of the guest list? When we returned from our honeymoon, all the envelopes for our thank-you notes were addressed. It was wonderful.

Also, we got some great, unique cookbooks, which I loved and my husband loved the benefits of - the "vintage" collection was my favorite, and you could get that from a used book store or a secondhand store.

A magazine subscription to a periodical they both enjoy? Or a his and hers?

A gift I've given that people seem to like - a favorite DVD or just a gift card to Blockbuster, in a basket with popcorn and nostalgic candy (JuJuBees, Goobers, etc.)
posted by ferociouskitty at 7:38 AM on July 14, 2004

Ditto on cd mixes. Silverplated 5x7 frame - take the extra step and get it engraved w/ wedding date. Deliver strawberries, sour cream & brown sugar w/ bottle of champagne when they get back from honeymoon, or leave a reheatable dinner in fridge or on porch in cooler.

Most of all, get or make a great card, write a thoughtful message. Friendship is a way better gift than loot. No, really.

Some year, on their anniversary, surprise them with a gift and explain that you always wished you could've done more on the day.
posted by theora55 at 8:14 AM on July 14, 2004

FYI, etiquette-wise, you have a full year after the wedding to get them a gift.

Gift baskets are great, but since you have to mail it, I'd go with the picture frames or cookbooks instead. Another classic gift is a little ring-holder dish for beside the kitchen sink (you put your rings in it while you do the dishes). You can usually find these in department stores.

I recently mailed a fancy corkscrew gadget along with a wine guide and a set of wine glass charms to some friends. They had forgotten to register for that kind of stuff, so they were very pleased to get it.

BTW, do they have a registry? Most couples are savvy enough to put a wide range of stuff on their registries, and you'll probably be able to find something for less than $20. Plus, the store will ship it for you.

Finally, hand-written letters and/or custom-made cards are always a big hit, probably because they are so much more personal. I threw out all of the other (store-bought) cards from our wedding the first time we moved. One of my favorite cards had little caricatures of our bodies in wedding clothes with cut-out photographs of our heads on top.

Good luck! And remember that your support and friendship are the greatest gift you can give to the new couple.
posted by whatnot at 8:36 AM on July 14, 2004

much more important than utility, then, is something that is entertaining for a while, and which demonstrates that you care

For a birthday or Father's Day or similar, maybe. But I don't think that's true for a wedding gift, which should be something useful (or actually aesthetically pleasing) to help the couple hit the married ground running.

If what you want to do with a wedding gift is show that you care, write a well-thought-out, revised and considered, hand-written letter with whatever attention to penmanship you can muster. They're going to get enough useless clutter from their grandparents and uncles and such.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:54 AM on July 14, 2004

Okay, I just have to step in again here and say that I think that all the people suggesting picture frames are nuts. Cheap picture frames are a dime a dozen and they don't seem particularly memorable or interesting or specially from you -- all of which is fine in a gift if it's something you have reason to know that your recipient particularly wants it, but otherwise, it's the wedding gift equivalent of getting socks in your Christmas stocking.

(I also think gift baskets are un-great. They aren't actually all that affordable, they leave the recipient with a basket they may not want, and they emphasize "giftiness" over the desirability of the thing itself or the personality of the giver.)
posted by redfoxtail at 8:55 AM on July 14, 2004

As someone who is getting married very shortly, my two cents: if they're registered, something inexpensive that they actually want is always better than something (expensive or otherwise) that they may not care about. So I'd check that first.

If you don't have at least $50 to give in cash, go for a nicely presented gift and personalized card. There are some really good ideas above.

Just to balance the scales, I have to say I disagree with redfoxtail on both counts. Nice pictureframes are not a dime a dozen (hopefully you'll have some idea of their tastes from the frames they already have) and they will have tons of pictures from the wedding and honeymoon they'll want to put up.

Also, I thought the ideas for gift baskets above were wonderful - sure, they can get expensive, but they don't have to be. Besides, it's a gift that clearly shows effort and individuality by the content and variety. Who cares if they may not want the basket? If they can't use it, they can give it away without any feeling of guilt whatsoever since it's not THE present, just part of it.
posted by widdershins at 9:25 AM on July 14, 2004

Cheap picture frames are a dime a dozen and they don't seem particularly memorable or interesting or specially from you

Really? Come to my house and I could identify who gave the majority of the picture frames given as gifts, including the ones from Round One (aka It Seemed A Good Idea At The Time, Somehow) 11 years ago, without having to think about it.

You do have to pick something with a bit of class, taste, style, what have you. But they'll have something that fits the bill at the local Michaels or Import Barn or whatever for $25 or less.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:57 AM on July 14, 2004

How about a Neti pot? (3.54MB .wmv file)
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:57 AM on July 14, 2004

Response by poster: Thank you, thank you, thank you all ever so much. ALL of these ideas are gold!! I had no idea my comparatively small problem would generate so much response, but I appreciate it tremendously!!
posted by ScarletSpectrum at 10:29 AM on July 14, 2004

Raku pottery. It's wholly non-functional, meant only to please the eye.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:08 AM on July 14, 2004

I recently bought someone a pretty bamboo cutting board. It cost about $25, and I figured they could use it no matter what color scheme they chose for their kitchen, etc. If you wanted to spruce it up, you could include a gift certificate to a local cheese shop or a set of cheese knives or something.
posted by bonheur at 12:26 PM on July 14, 2004

Or you could take a Sex and the City approach to it all.. I mean, come on.. why is there a requirement to give married people stuff when single people get jack crack? So, 'do a Carrie' and hold a 'I'm single' do and demand gifts :-D
posted by wackybrit at 5:36 PM on July 14, 2004

I always put together a small package of mementos from the date of the wedding. Five, ten, fifty years from now, a well preserved magazine, a local newspaper and a silly/trendy toy that screems 2004 will be really cool. I always get a metal box from Ikea ($6), a New Yorker (I subscribe), a NYT and something from the dollar store ($10 max).

Just a card, or a bouquet is also nice. I know I hate most gifts, but love the sentiment. I feel particularly bad when I know it's from someone who's really hurting.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:40 PM on July 14, 2004

Response by poster: Wackybrit, I must have missed that episode, but I wholeheartedly agree with the spirit of the idea =)
posted by ScarletSpectrum at 7:41 PM on July 14, 2004

Troll your local artists for inspiration -- I bought a bunch of really cool handmade stained-glass 8x10 picture frames a few years ago for $10 each, and they've been a good all-purpose gift.

An artist friend also used to make boxes out of of weathered wood, using old silverware or spigot handles as the handle on the lid. I compiled about seventy of our family's favorite recipes (my mom's an awesome cook who lent me her files), retyped them into 4x6 format, got 'em printed on card stock and cut to size, and voila! A nifty, personal recipe box.
posted by Vidiot at 8:22 AM on July 15, 2004

A nice vase is also good. Most people never have one. You can get a pretty good one for $10-25 at Target/Crate & Barrel, etc.
posted by Vidiot at 8:28 AM on July 15, 2004

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