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Have you been invited to six weddings in four weekends, and simply can not afford gifts equivalent to the cost-per-head the bride and groom paid for the dinner? Is money tight right now? Perhaps you are a co-worker, or distant relative, who wants to help the couple celebrate but surely should not be shelling out cash for $200-per-place-setting china. Classy alternatives to china and crystal do exist.

Here are 20 wedding gift and bridal shower gift ideas that each cost $20 or even less.

1. Fill a gift bag with kitchen or household basics. There are so many things that brides and grooms forget when they are registering for gifts. They do not know that they need a vegetable peeler and bag clips much more than a corkscrew and a chafing dish.

2. Choose a bottle of domestic wine and wrap it in a yard of pretty fabric and satin ribbon. This is a gift that appears to have cost more than it really did.

3. Do the bride and groom work long hours or have small children? If either situation is true, they probably have difficulty finding time to go out. You can make some movie magic for them with microwave popcorn, kitsch-y boxes of candy (under $1 each) and a gift certificate for a movie rental. As an alternative on this theme, opt for a gift certificate to a movie theater, and offer your pet-sitting or babysitting services if needed.

4. Insert the wedding invitation into the front of a purchased photo album.

5. Assemble a basket of cleaning supplies. It’s not glamorous. So what? Sponges, scrubbing brushes, dishwashing liquid…these are all things the newlyweds will need. They may just thank you again the first time one of your gift items saves a pot blackened by burned pasta.

6. Make it so that the spouse who is earliest to rise can serve up breakfast to the sleepyhead still warming the bed. Include inexpensive cloth napkins from a discount store, preserves, muffin, bread or pancake mixes, or whatever other nonperishable breakfast items come to mind.

7. Choose a cookbook or two of which you are especially fond, and include a note or pretty sticky-notes to mark some of your favorites.

8. Provide the bride and groom with a gift certificate for developing film. That way, they can see the pictures from their honeymoon or the first day in their new house without having to swallow yet another expense.

9. A set of guest towels or a few hand towels can be purchased at a department store or discount store. If you are unfamiliar with the couple’s bathroom color scheme, check that section of their registry. If the registry provides no clues, it is usually safe to default to a neutral shade.

10. Purchase a picture frame…or two…or four. Silver-plated frames are very inexpensive. Black frames have a sleek look and are perfect for the tastes of many modern brides and grooms.

11. Give them a head start on getting thank-you notes and Christmas cards out by purchasing an address book for the couple and beginning to fill it with entries. Who knows…some addresses and phone numbers may have changed since they first began gathering them for invitations. 

12. Assemble a cookie kit. Include some basic cookie cutters, a cookie sheet, a handwritten recipe or two (or an inexpensive cookie cookbook), some potholders from a discount store, even an apron if you can find one on sale. 

13. Stir up a little romance with a gift basket that includes an inexpensive bottle of  champagne, a small box of chocolates, a book or list of love quotes or copies of love poems, a votive candle, and a couple of pretty stemmed glasses or champagne flutes, which can usually be found at discount outlets for $1 to $3 each.

14. Prepare the bride and groom for some pampering with bubble bath, candles, lotions or massage oil, and an inflatable bath pillow. Not that they will be using the pillow much…. Married life gets hectic, and they will appreciate the break from the world and the chance to bond with each other.

15. Maybe they just need a jolt of java. Small packages of flavored coffee grounds can be purchased at the grocery store for less than $2 each. Bags of beans or freshly-ground beans do not cost much more. Include a couple of mugs and you have just given them a nice cuddle on a cold morning.

16. Does the groom have the proverbial green thumb? Give some gardening goodies. Seed packets are exceedingly inexpensive, ranging from only 10 cents to $2 for most packets. Other inexpensive additions to this gift are men’s and women’s gardening gloves and small hand tools. The newlyweds can bond over a hobby while putting sweat equity into their new home and adding work-intimacy to the relationship.

17. If the couple has recently purchased a home, give them a small tree or bush or a potted perennial that can be transplanted. Your gift becomes part of their landscaping, and therefore, part of their home and memories, and perhaps even the memories of their future children.

18. Find an interesting set of coasters. Two or three sets, if possible, so they can be used with company. Glass coasters that say “Love” are widely available in a variety of colors and cost $4 or less for a set of four. Purchase enough for 6-10 guests and still have money left over for gift wrap and a pretty card.

19. Put together a basket of flavored teas. Include one to three containers of tea, a couple of mugs or teacups, depending on the bride and groom’s personal aesthetic, and a tea ball, especially if loose tea is part of the package.

20. Consider Christmas ornaments. If you are close to the couple, pass down ornaments that can become family heirlooms. Or as a wedding gift for a couple you do not know very well, inexpensive glass balls can be picked up for a song after Christmas, and can be coordinated to the couple’s holiday décor. Or pick them up in clear or white only. They will think of you every year while decorating the tree.

Unless otherwise indicated, many of the above items can be located at discount stores, including the gift bags and tissue for wrapping them, and possibly even the baskets. Other good sources for baskets are thrift stores, rummage sales, and post-Christmas and post-Easter clearance at department stores.

Remember, the couple invited you because they are more concerned with having you present than receiving your present.  Choose a gift that expresses your interest in the bride and groom’s happiness, and they will appreciate your thoughtfulness and ingenuity.

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