You probably want to give your friends and family members who are getting married something nice, but you don't want to break your budget doing so. And you certainly don't want to end up buying the couple something they'll never use, will return to the store or laugh about for years to come.
You don't want your gift to be "that" gift -- the one people deem the worst they received, joke about it with other friends and roll their eyes every time they come across it in the back of their closet, garage or attic.
In general, it's best to stick to a couple's gift registry because those are the items they have chosen, says Trae Bodge, a shopping expert and senior editor of RetailMeNot. But if the couple didn't register or you can't afford most of the items on the registry, you might have to pick something on your own. To avoid wasting money on a bad wedding present, here are several items you should not buy:
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Unless you know the couple's tastes well, you'll likely go wrong trying to pick out artwork or home décor that they'll display.
Better alternative: Simple, elegant picture frames are a surer bet, Bodge says, because the couple can place their wedding photos or own artwork in them.
Kendal Perez, a money-saving expert who blogs for Hassle-Free Savings, says she received a deep fryer as a wedding gift but never used it because she doesn't like fried food. The bigger problem, though, was that she had no place to store such large kitchen items that aren't on a couple's registry.
Better alternative: Perez recommends opting for a quality knife or common kitchen item that will get a lot of use. Or, Bodge says you can give a food basket filled with gourmet goodies or pantry essentials.
A monogram can be a nice way to personalize linens or other items. But, for example, if you choose a monogram color that doesn't match the couple's bathroom, the towels might not get used and they can't be returned or exchanged, Bodge says. Plus -- this might be hard to believe if everything you own has your initials on it -- plenty of people just don't like monograms.
Better alternative: Rather than spend extra to monogram linens, put your money toward higher-end towels or sheets in basic white or the color of the linens on the gift registry.
Perez says that one of her friends received a fertility god statue as a wedding gift, which was wrong for so many reasons. Beginning a new life together can be stressful enough. Don't give a gift that puts added pressure on the newlyweds to start a family immediately.
Better alternative: Give the couple tickets or a gift certificate to do an activity you know they'll like, such as a cooking class or even a tourist attraction in their town, Bodge says.
Unless you're an artisan and the bride or groom is a big fan of your work, don't attempt to make something yourself, Bodge says. Your gift could come off looking cheap or might not suit the couple's tastes. Plus, they won't be able to return or exchange it, Bodge says, and they might feel guilty not displaying it or using it because they know that you put effort into making it.
Better alternative: If the items on a couple's registry are too pricey for you, ask other guests on a budget to chip in for a group gift.
What makes you laugh might make others blush or scratch their heads and wonder, "What was he thinking?"
Better alternative: Perez says that if you want to be funny, do it with a card and fill it with cash.
Most newlyweds are in a happy place in their relationship and don't need a gift that suggests otherwise, Bodge says. So steer clear of books that offer advice to avoid looking like you think the couple's relationship needs work or could be headed for disaster.
Better alternative: A gift card to a department store or big-box store such as Target always is a good fall-back if you don't know what else to get someone. And you can save by buying discount gift cards at Web sites such as Cardpool and Gift Card Granny