Do not think of the gift tradition as a quid pro quo transaction, a hunk of silver or a heavy kitchen appliance traded for multiple trips to the buffet, several glasses of champagne and dancing until your feet hurt. If budget is bugging you and you're considering skipping the event to avoid skimping, rethink your intentions and offer your expertise in lieu of a traditional gift. Tech-savvy? Offer to keep the couple's wedding website updated with information, photos and videos. Extraordinary kitchen skills? Make their favorite childhood treats to serve at their shower or engagement party.
Also, giving something from the registry may sound impersonal, but at least you know it's stuff they actually want. Put your personal stamp on it with simple tweaks, like a panini grill given with your favorite gourmet grilled cheese recipe. Or wine glasses given with a bottle of wine from the year you met. Or, go in with a group to by a big-ticket item and fill a mini paper photo album with snaps of each of the participants as the card.
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