Brokester’s guide to wedding gifts under $25

wedding presents-1Summer-time means sunshine, heat, cleavage and, if you’re anywhere in a certain age-range, weddings upon weddings. And once that gleaming, perfectly crafted, calligraphy-graced invitation arrives, the financial obligation begins. Because etiquette says that even if you don’t go to the wedding (or even if the couple elopes), you’ll be heading to with that $300 stand-mixer staring you in the face. But there are some creative, memorable ways to stay within your budget.

After talking with multiple married couples and the best sources of all: parents, we’ve come up with some options for the next time an invitation comes sailing to your door. All of these offerings are a bit more work than checking a box on the registry, but  we think they’ll make the happy couple even happier.

Cover those wedding-day emergencies

No, not with flashlights and crank-radios. Make a kit with all those helpful things that could prevent the prospective bride or groom from melting down over torn dresses, stains or forgetful fiance(e)s. Buy a bucket from a 99-cent store, and fill it with $24 of whatever else you can think of: bobby pins, a razor, clear nail polish (it fixes everything!), black socks, shoe polish, Tide to-go, deodorant, comb, brush, extra hose, tissue, toothbrush, toothpaste, moist towelettes, no-sew glue, re-wetting drops, Advil, a shot of their favorite alcohol and just for good measure, a brown paper bag.

Put together a pounding/recipe book
Pounding is something they did in the olden days: friends and family came over and brought a pound of goods, like flour, sugar, etc., to stock the newlyweds’ kitchen. Host a Pounding Party, specify what to bring, and include 5-10 recipe cards (there are a ton of cute ones on Etsy like Typewink ($4 for eight, but re-printable) or Brooklyn’s Moontree Letterpress ($12 for eight)). Everyone can bring their favorite recipes, and then you combine them into a book (see memory books below). Get some old pictures from family to make it a little more personal.

Typewink recipe cards
Typewink recipe cards

Be the party-thrower
This one’s good for showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties, whatever—everyone needs a party, and throwing it can score you big points. Keep it light and simple. Have friends over to your house, make some tea or lemonade and leave out the alcohol to save a bit of dough. Make hummus and pick up a giant $0.75 bag of pita from Damascus Bakery in Cobble Hill. Get your friends to bring something small as well, and you can all put in $15-$20 toward a nicer gift.

Make them Mr. & Mrs. fix-it
Here’s something a man can give and feel manly about (strip clubs cost a hell of a lot more than $25… from what we hear). Everyone needs tools, and every neighborhood has a hardware store. At Sisters Community Hardware in Clinton Hill, you can get a full tool kit, with a hammer, two screwdrivers, a tape measure and pliers for $20. Or pick out the items yourself (hammers: $6-$11, pliers: $5-$12, screwdrivers: $4-$13. Throw in a level for that level-headed marriage too ($13). Steer clear of 99-cent stores for this one.

Photo by Julia Manzerova

Share your memories of the big day
Everyone has a wedding album, but there’s only so much the newly-weds can fit into that one book. Give them a second one, full of wedding-day memories from your perspective. There are a lot of great sites that print books, from Blurb (books start at $12.95, with $6.99 flat rate shipping), to Shutterfly (books start at $11). Or of course, you can slap it together yourself. Amazing Savings in Midwood has an awesome scrap-booking section.

Keep the marriage spicy
Spices can be expensive. Similar to the Pounding, this is a good way to help stock a kitchen. Get creative and buy some cheap Indian or Pakistani spices from Zaitoon in Brooklyn’s Little Pakistan: 7-oz. bags of Garam Masala, curry, turmeric, ginger and every other spice you can imagine go for $1.79-$1.99. For the spiciest couples, a 14-oz. bag of extra hot chili pepper runs $3.99. If you’re going the Chinese route, Serious Eats has a fantastic guide. A small herb garden is a nice idea too. Include an aloe plant for burns—it’s easy to take care of and regenerates itself. You can find fresh herbs all over Brooklyn at greenmarkets and nurseries.

Photo by Rohit Rath

Offer your services
Our parents are right: we’re all good at something… so we all have something to give our friends for the most important day of their lives. Offer to make the cake, record the wedding, quilt a blanket of pictures for friends to sign (sounds weird but is very cute!). Find some free pretty fabric to re-use or choose a snazzy sale pattern for under $5 at Sew Materialistic in Borough Park.

Round out the registry
Look at the registry, find an item that has already been purchased, and buy something to go with it. If someone bought a nice coffee-maker, buy some local coffee, like Gorilla Coffee ($11.99/lb) or Crop to Cup ($8.99/lb), and throw in a few cute coffee mugs. Obviously, don’t buy bread for a toaster—try to be creative! Once again, Amazing Savings is a good bet. Scour the registry and see what brand they chose for their cookware, and find the same brand for cheaper. If they buy a 10-piece cooking set, buy them an extra frying pan.

Ensure the honeymoon romance
Some people are more worried about the after-wedding than during it, so why not ease their concerns? Now, don’t be crude: We’re talking about making a little package with a bottle of Prosecco (Gnarly Vines in Fort Greene has a mini bottle for only $4.50, with a twist off top!), two champagne glasses (disposable ones from Party City work), a book of Keats or Wilde and, ok, throw in a few condoms too, of the free NYC variety. Although your friends might never admit it, they’ll appreciate the thought.

NYC condom-1crop

And to wrap it all up? There’s nothing wrong with paper bags or Christmas paper turned inside-out… as long as it’s not too tacky.

What’s your best under-$25 wedding gift idea?


  1. To Lisa — but when you’re shelling out $300 for a plane ticket, $200 for a hotel, and $100 for a rental car to be there on their special day, are you really being that cheap?

  2. Your friends are blowing over $100 a head to feed or drunken your cheap ass. A pound of Gorilla Coffee and a free condom does not cut it.

    +1 from someone planning a wedding.

  3. Smitty07

    Hi All, I want to clarify a very common misconception that if you are invited to a wedding, you have to give a gift. The truth is, if you don’t go to the wedding, you really are under no obligation to give a gift. If you do attend, you should really give something – even if it’s small. It’s surprising how many people and websites are confused on this point, but this is via real etiquette books (Post, MManners). Remember: if you are broke, you do not have to go to the wedding – and therefore you don’t have to give a gift, and you don’t have to feel guilt about it, either! A sincere letter wishing the couple happiness is enough. I too learned a lot while planning my wedding!

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