BOSTON (MainStreet) -- Wedding registry gifts can look more brutal than pink taffeta bridesmaid dresses, but that doesn't mean wedding guests have to dredge the depths for deals.
An estimated 1.5 million U.S. couples, or 88% of couples getting married, register for wedding gifts each year, according to The Knot and WeddingChannel.com's 2010 Registry Study. Of those, 70% strongly prefer getting gifts from their registry when the big day comes, though only 54% of the gifts received come from the registry. Unless wedding guests plan to be among the 11% of attendees last year who felt a hug or a handshake was an adequate gift, they should consider a registry-related game plan.
"If you're a close friend or member of the bridal party, you're going to be attending a number of events leading up to the wedding, so come up with a number like $200 for the entire wedding and break that down for the engagement gift, shower, bachelor party and wedding itself," says Amy Eisinger, associate editor of WeddingChannel.com. "Save the majority of the spending for the wedding gift, because you don't want to spend more on the engagement gift than wedding gift."
In Eisinger's scenario, an esteemed guest or matching-color-wearing bridesmaid or groomsman should restrict their $200 spend to $40 for the engagement gift, $40 for the shower or bachelorwhatever party and $120 for the wedding gift. That estimate comes in a bit low for family members who spent an average of $146 on wedding gifts last year, but is awfully generous for friends who generally capped gift spending at an average $79.
"Brides and grooms know financial times are tight for everyone, and they're more grateful than ever for any gift, no matter the price," says Sharon Naylor, wedding expert and author of Bridesmaid On A Budget. "It's putting a personalized twist on a modest-price gift choice that makes it worth so much more than a price tag amount."
Either figure will get wedding guests much further than they'd imagine. More than 80% of registry items are less than $100, with 52% going for $50 or less. But how does a couple's buddy on a budget keep costs down without resorting to an awkward combination of strawberry hullers, acorn-print dishtowels and napkin rings? TheStreet and its friends in the wedding industry came up with five ways to game a couple's wedding registry while still giving gifts they'll love: