Smart and Savvy Wedding Gifts on a Budget

An hour into our monthly FaceTime date (and just as my arm was getting tired from propping up my phone) my best friend tells me she has an important question. She paused, cleared her throat and with a mix of excitement and nervousness she finally asked, “Will you be my maid of honor?” I was thrilled and shocked, especially since I lived nearly 3,000 miles away.  But there was a caveat to this privilege: I would be sharing this position with one of her college friends. As a naturally competitive person, I knew I would have to outshine my counterpart. Suddenly I was the one feeling excited and nervous.

Flights, Dresses, and Shoes. Oh my!

Even though I wasn’t the one walking down the aisle, my friend and I were both going through milestone life events.  Mine was buying a home (as if being maid of honor isn’t enough pressure!). I had enough cash for closing, but it was still going to be tight. I was practically living on pasta, pinching every penny possible, and I certainly hadn’t budgeted for a momentous event with significant expenditures. No one gave me a heads up that weddings are expensive even when they’re not yours! Expenses quickly added up: flight home for the wedding, bridesmaid dress, shoes of a specific color, manicures, pedicures, gas to the destination, the Vegas bachelorette trip, and more. It’s pretty hard to be thrifty when there’s not a huge surplus of lavender bridesmaid dresses and silver shoes at Goodwill. But the bride graciously picked up the tab for our hotel stay, hair, and make-up – so we were well rested and looking picture perfect for the big day!

But there was one more price tag looming over my head: how was I going to find extra money for a gift when I had to prepay my property taxes, insurance, and a mortgage? My friend’s wedding registry website wasn’t much help. I was hoping to pick out an Instant Pot, new china, or towels, but instead they were requesting cash for her honeymoon or a future home purchase. Smart…But not helpful for me! This was my first “adult” wedding with no registry or even a suggested dollar amount. I was lost. How was I going to express how happy I was for her and her new husband and still fulfill my maid-of-honor duties?

Well, if you ever end up in my silver shoes and haven’t budgeted for wedding party costs (or even if you just want to be a mindful gift-giver), here’s something to consider.

Time, Talents – and Connections

If you really want to give something useful and valuable – but you’re strapped for cash – you’re going to have to get creative. What do you already have to offer that is uniquely you (and also worth something to the happy couple)? In a nutshell – your time, talents, AND the time and talents of people you know!

Here’s how I found a creative and (in my humble and unbiased opinion) extremely valuable present for their future. My friend was asking for cash as down payment money to help buy their first home. But how could they really know how much house they could afford? Or what type of insurance they’d need? And had they even talked about finances before the big day? As a Certified Financial Planner™ myself, I understand the importance of these kinds of questions.  This was an excellent opportunity to help them think past their big day and begin building a financial future together.

The Reveal

When I presented her the envelope containing a gift certificate for a two-hour financial planning meeting, I wasn’t sure how she would react. Would she laugh? Would she be upset it wasn’t a check? Would she put the gift certificate in a drawer and forget about it? After all, not everyone knows what financial planning is or thinks they need it. To my relief, she was ecstatic and booked her appointment within a few weeks to meet with my colleague Laura. After her meeting, my friend thanked me profusely and said what an impact my thoughtful gift had made on her and her husband’s future.

I was able to offer knowledge and expertise on some really important stuff that they may have never sought professional advice for. Chances are you or someone you know has a unique talent or knowledge that would benefit your friend and provide exponential value beyond what you could pay for. Maybe it’s floral arrangements or graphic design or carpentry – there’s literally a whole world out there of useful services!

As a final thought…if you’re down to the wire and finding yourself somehow void of any relevant talent or connection – you can always make a donation to their favorite charity! You can choose any amount, and they won’t even know. 😉 You may even be able to deduct a portion on your taxes.

So, no matter how far away you live from your friends, set aside some cash for future wedding expenses, and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box to celebrate their big day!


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