Wedding expert Abby Larson, editor and founder of Style Me Pretty, is well-versed in all things bridal. And she's sharing her expertise with us this wedding season with a series of articles on tips and tricks for your big day! First, she helped us out with advice on recycling your wedding, and now she's back with ideas for sentimental wedding favors that will leave a lasting impression on your guests. Abby says, "Whether it's a token of gratitude chosen to represent who you are as a couple, a nod to your family roots, or it's something that truly gives back to the world, the gifts given with meaning will always be treasured the most." We couldn't agree more! Here are nine fun favors that give back, straight from Abby.
My best friend is getting married on a beach about 2,000 miles from where we live, so I'm already spending a good deal of money to stay for the week and see her tie the knot. Since I'm spending so much on the trip, how much should I spend on a wedding gift? Honestly, I won't have much of anything left over by the time I pay for travel. My mom thinks that my presence should be the gift and that I only owe my friend a card. Thoughts?
We've gotten many questions on how much to give newlyweds, and not to mention, the preparties leading up to the big day — engagement party, bridal shower, and bachelorette party. With too many parties to account for and a never-ending list of things to spend money on, such as the cost of traveling to the wedding (and if you're in the bridal party, the dress, shoes, and accessories — gah!), you need to make sure that your spending doesn't get out of control.
The best way to figure out your expenses for the gifts is to set a budget for the whole wedding and split it up among the different events. Here's what our savvy pal LearnVest had to say about this:
For gifts, determine your gift budget per couple for the wedding season. Once you have this number, Eisinger recommends breaking down the gift budget by these percentages for the events:
Eisinger says the most important thing is to refer again and again to your budget: “Over the course of a year, you’re not thinking about the bigger picture of what you’re spending on a wedding. You’re thinking it’s only $50 this week and $20 this week, but it is actually $100 spread out over a period of time.”
Read on for more great wedding saving tricks from LearnVest.
Once you're invited to an engagement party, you may be facing a gift conundrum. Chances are, the happy couple hasn't yet registered, and even if they have, you may want to save those offerings for the actual big day. Engagement parties are the perfect chance to go with something more thoughtful and personal, whether that be an experience gift or a small, inexpensive present with sentimental value. Here are some ideas!
Give them something useful: After all the money they'll be spending on the wedding, a splurge like a luxe photo album for wedding pics, personalized guestbook, or thank-you cards for after the wedding would be much appreciated.
Help them make their house a home: When a dear friend of mine had an engagement get-together, I got her and her fiancé a pretty and sweet-smelling candle. I knew she had an affinity for mood lighting, but I also knew it'd cozy up their new home together. Pay attention to the little things that mean a lot to the couple but may not make it onto their registry.
Give them one-of-a-kind art: Give the couple something truly personal with a custom portrait of the lovebirds from Etsy or their favorite illustrator. Another idea is to find a cute photo of the couple and turn it into wall art.
Help the bride stay organized: Gift a wedding planning book or a purse-sized planner with a calendar to help give the bride-to-be a jump start on her to-do list. Or you could just give her a pretty journal to jot down her experiences during the lead-up to the wedding.
- Gift certificate to a restaurant. Select a fancy restaurant in the couples' home town. Place the gift certificate in a pretty card and write a note suggesting that they enjoy a meal together to celebrate their six-month anniversary. (For those couples who prefer to register for special dinners, you can do so at FoodieRegistry.)
- Cooking classes. There's tons of awesome culinary classes out there, select one that suits the cooking style of the happy couple. If the bride and groom are really into cheese, purchase tickets to a cheese-making class. Likewise, if they're adventurous, present them with passes to a butchery class.
I asked a handful of my long-time married and freshly hitched friends, as well as our faithful Facebook fans, what the best wedding gift you received was. From the splurge-y to the sentimental, you all shared the gifts that made the greatest impact on you. Some were experience gifts, some were just registry items that get used on a daily basis, and some were boudoir-related — always appreciated by newlyweds. Besides the always practical but not-too-exciting monetary gift, which a lot of our Facebook fans seemed to love the most, here are the top wedding presents our friends and readers received. And be sure to take notes for the next time you receive a save the date!
We asked our Facebook fans what you'd like to receive as an experience gift in lieu of a traditional wedding registry gift, and you gave some great ideas. While the gift of "eternal happiness" may be out of reach (although nice idea, Sarah!), we can at least provide newlyweds with some momentary romantic bliss with these presents that are more about making memories than making dinner in the kitchen. With our Facebook fans' help we came up with these tips for experience wedding gifts.
- The honeymoon — I loved these ideas from Facebook fan Rebecca: "I would LOVE to have different 'experiences' bought for us for our honeymoon like a special dinner under the stars, or a couples massage on the beach . . . the cheesy kinds of things that we could never or would never get ourselves because we're too practical." On sites like Traveler's Joy and Honey Fund, guests can not only put money toward paying for the couple's honeymoon, they can also buy honeymoon activities like snorkeling, spa days, and tours.
- Daredevil date — You know how in every Bachelor and Bachelorette season there are a handful of adventurous dates that result in the couple bonding over the experience and learning how to trust each other? Well, you can make that happen for a newly hitched twosome! One site that specializes in these types of excursions is Cloud 9 Living, which offers everything from hot balloon rides to sky diving to race car driving.
- Museum membership — Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. On sites like NewlyWish, you can give a couple the gift of art for a whole year with a membership to their local museum. Many museums, like our neighborhood San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, offer gift memberships on their sites.
A gift registry can sometimes feel quite limiting, so some of you may opt for giving some cash to the newlyweds. It's nice to know that the couple will be able to use the money towards their new house or even to cover some of the wedding costs. There are so many rules out there on how much to give, so I'm wondering what wedding gift money rules work for you. If you tend to give money to newlyweds instead of giving a present, how much do you usually give?
You're happy for the two lovebirds, but the gifts on their wedding registry are way out of your budget. Drop the old tradition of resorting to the cheapest gift on the registry when you're strapped for cash! instead, take a more modern, savvy approach and pick a personalized gift that'll portray your thoughtfulness and give your wallet a breather. Dana LaRue, from The Broke-Ass Bride blog gives us some tips on the smart way to give below.
- Check Out Coupon Codes: Never hit "purchase" on an online order without checking RetailMeNot.com for a coupon or promo code. You can score percentages off, free shipping and more by doing some stealthy searching around the web, which adds up to big savings!
- Go With the Gift of Experience: Sometimes experience is the best gift of all. Rather than a novelty gift or trinket that will just sit on a shelf, show your gratitude by taking your giftee out on an adventure that suits their interests. A fancy gourmet dinner out (or cooked at home with love) will satisfy your foodie friends, a hike and picnic out in nature will tickle your hippie-buddy's heart, massages at the spa for your luxury-loving sister, or tickets to a concert or play could be just the thing for your cultured crew. Personalizing the gifts for each recipient is a very special touch that will not be soon forgotten.
A close friend of mine lives out of town and wasn't able to make it to my bridal shower, but she sent a gift. A while back after my engagement party, she made a comment that still doesn't sit well with me — she said I didn't have enough nice things on my registry. I feel very secure with what I've chosen so I ignored her, but when I opened my shower gift, I was completely taken aback — she gave me an accent pillow with an embroidered comment about sports that felt like a gag gift! To set the record straight, money is no object for this friend, and after her rude remarks and uncharacteristic behavior over the past few months, I can't help but feel slighted that she spent less than $20 on something so thoughtless! Am I overreacting?
To see the Savvy Bride's advice, read more