Essential 10: Cheap, DIY, & Free Wedding Gifts

Wedding season is here in full force, and if you're young & broke, it can be hard to cough up even $50 for a blender or set of sheets on the happy couple's registry. What to do? We've got a few ideas that you can do alone, or go in with a friend or two on, so read on!

1. Cleaning: If you're the one house sitting while they're on their honeymoon, make like a maid and tidy stuff up for them. Vaccuum, dust, mow the yard, do the dishes, sort mail, put away any opened wedding gifts & file the instruction manuals together (make sure you make a list of who sent what so they can send thank-you notes!), and do some laundry. A vase of flowers on the dining table, even if it's just flowers from your mom's yard, makes a great finishing touch.

2. Stock Their Fridge: Have a few friends each contribute $5 or $10, then go shopping for some of their favorite foods the day before they get back from their honeymoon. Leave it all in the fridge with a nice note. They'll appreciate not having to run errands right away, so they can "continue the magic" for a few days longer.

3. Stamps + Your Best Penmanship: A couple books of stamps for wedding gift thank-you notes will come in handy, but if you offer to help write (or at least address) notes as well, you'll be in their good graces for life.

4. Framed Memories: Find a photo frame with space for 2 photos, and slip their invitation in on 1 side, and a nice copy favorite picture on the other. Other suggestions to fill the space include: any poems or prayers read at their wedding, printed (or handwritten with a calligraphy pen) on beautiful paper; a photo of their first kiss at the ceremony printed at a local drugstore in between the ceremony & reception.

5. Anniversary Supplies: Freezer burned wedding cake? Ew. A bottle of nice wine or champagne (as nice as you can afford) plus two pretty (but inexpensive) champagne flutes, with a handmade "Save for first anniversary" card? Yahoo!

6. Your Talents: Can you play the violin or sing? Are you a whiz when it comes to hair and makeup? How about an organizational diva who excels at making sure everything gets done on time? Offer up your services, gratis, to the happy couple on their happy day. They'll love the savings and the personal touch.

7. Boom-Chicka-Wow-Wow the Honeymoon Suite: Well, not really. But it's pretty cheap to hit up the hotel room and turn down the covers, add candles, put nice bath products in the bathroom, leave champagne, chocolate, and a Barry White CD on repeat, and scatter rose petals (check with the hotel to see if real ones are ok). Stuff for the next day is great, too: set a wake-up call in case they have to get to the airport, water, ibuprofen/Pepto Bismol, and some food (covered & refrigerated) with a note letting them know it's there.

8. Photography & Videography: If you're a skilled camera-wielder, play shutterbug/videographer at the wedding in addition to the hired photographer, capturing as many candid moments as you can + well wishes from guests. Put together a photo album with prints from an online photo service like Shutterfly, or burn them some DVDs to give to their family.

9. His-n-Hers Aprons: If you've got a sewing machine & some basic crafty skills, pick up a few yards of fabric and whip up a his-n-hers apron set. Grab one of these 50 free apron patterns from to get started!

10. House & Pet Sitting: Don't wait to be asked to housesit or pet-sit - offer! It'll help check off one more thing on their list, and with all the other insanity involved in planning a wedding, they may not have remembered to do this. Then, while you're there, see item #1 on this list for further inspirations.

Got any other fabulous ideas? Let us know in the comments!

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