Check Their Registry
Good news for gift-givers: You can be totally sure the couple will love your present if you buy them something they picked out themselves. Most couples register at a few different stores for items in a wide range of prices. Registries are also super-convenient for the shopper -- many stores let you buy the gift online and ship directly to the couple.
Knot Note: If you're buying online, remember to factor in the price of shipping to the final cost.
How do you know where they've registered? A couple's registry info is usually listed on their wedding website or bridal shower invitations. You could also try The Knot's registry locator, or call the couple's parents or bridal party members. As a last resort, you could ask the couple directly. If you go to the store, bring a printed copy of the couple's online registry (though you might not need it, since many places have in-store computers that allow you to print out the couple's wish list). After you buy the gift, make sure the cashier takes the item off their registry list when you checkout, to avoid duplicate gifts.
Be careful! You may be certain that the crystal bowl on display at that cute boutique will match perfectly with their crystal wine glasses, but ten other guests might have the same idea. The couple could be left with hundreds of dollars of credit at an obscure store, or even worse, ten matching crystal bowls! Take a look at their registry and familiarize yourself with their style. The bride may have adored everything pink during her college years, but if she plans to decorate their place with bold reds and greens after the wedding, you run the risk of buying something that won't fit in, no matter how cute it is on the shelf. If you do decide to choose your own gift, make sure to include all store information (a business card should work) and a gift receipt in the package.
Help With Their Honeymoon
Is the couple planning a trip to Paris? Treat them to dinner at a famous restaurant, such as Altitude 95 in the Eiffel Tower. If they're visiting a place you're familiar with, give them a gift certificate to a local attraction or store that you loved, or traveler's checks and a note with an insider tip for a dish they have to try, like the fantastic risotto at a tiny bistro in Florence.
Indulge Their Interests
While kitchen gadgets, bathroom towels, and bedroom linens are staples on any registry, they might seem a little impersonal. If you're close to the bride and groom and see that many of their big-ticket registry items have been purchased, consider a gift tailored to their personalities. If the couple is avid skiers, buy them a weekend at a favorite ski lodge, or a gift certificate to a local ski shop. If hiking is their hobby, put together a package of goodies (like trail mix and a portable GPS device) to use on their next trip to a national park.
If All Else Fails . . .
There's nothing wrong with a cash gift. There's no hard-and-fast rule for the amount to give, but here's a good way to figure out how much to spend
. If you're going to give cash, think of a cute way to deliver the dough -- if the money is for their honeymoon, include a luggage tag with the gift, and if they're about to make a down payment on a new home, give them a card that's shaped like a key. The couple is sure to be thankful, and you'll be known as a great gift-giving guest!
-- Kristen Hawley
See More: Going to a Wedding?