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On December 21st 2013, I read my first ever engagement announcement text from a friend. On December 24th, I got my second. Then four more came over the next 12 days. I went from having no engaged friends to six within the course of 16 days. Now, I’m drowning in bridal talk and my social calendar has transformed into a veritable wedding-related feast, including gossip sessions and engagement parties.
My first thought was on how to congratulate my dear friends on their impending nuptials. After reading up on engagement etiquette, it came to light that whether to buy the happy couple a gift before they’re even married is still a big debate in wedding etiquette circles. The best solution I found was a happy medium – a small token rather than anything extravagant, which worked out for me because I had six brides-to-be to tick off my list.
Now that Christmas and New Year, two of the most popular times of the year for engagements is over, many more in my position are scratching their heads while working out how to buy engagement gifts on a tight January budget. And then you remember Valentine’s Day! How many more gifts will there be?
Don’t panic! Here are some ideas on how to celebrate with your friends and family by giving them the best engagement gift while sticking to your budget.
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Basic but Personal: The Photo Frame
Find your favourite picture of the couple, print it, and put it in a nice frame. Or, alternatively, you could find a picture of the couple surrounded by their friends. This is a popular choice for an engagement gift, but its mixture of simplicity and personalisation means that it’s always a winner (and very low budget too, phew!).
Practical: Wedding Planning Book
Some useful and practical guides include: The Knot’s Book of Wedding Lists or A Modern Girl’s Guide to Getting Hitched by Sarah Ivens. Hardly a month has passed since Christmas and several of my friends are already deep into wedding planning, and most of them are freaking out about budgeting and picking the best song for the first dance. Getting a book on how to plan the wedding is a small, yet useful and reassuring gift that will help calm the bride and get her organised!
If You’re Missing the Party: Balloon in a Box
If your long distance friend or relative just got engaged, send them the perfect congratulations notice with an extra little something , a balloon in a box! The helium filled balloon will float out of the box complete with a personalised message, it’s a great alternative to a card and will start the celebrations early!
For Your Best Friend: Wedding Planning Favours
If someone very close to you has become engaged, the best gift you can give them is your time – no, really. Create a set of ‘favours’- from making phone calls to chase up pesky caterers, to accompanying the bride to a dress fitting and helping the groom make those all-important grooming decisions. Offering your help will be much appreciated. Planning a wedding can be a huge stress!
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For the Busy Couple: Treat the Couple to a Date Night
A restaurant or cinema gift card (or even both) means the lovebirds can have a lovely evening out on you, maybe as a break from wedding planning stress. If your budget is bigger, you could always push the boat out a little and treat them to a night out at the theatre, or even a couple’s spa day.
If you want to Team Up: Engagement Basket
You could either do this solo, or club together with a few close friends and/or family to congratulate the couple. A budget version could include a wedding magazine, nice toiletries, sweets, chocolates, wine, and a posh notebook to note down all of those wedding ideas! You could go more upscale and include champagne and personalised items like mugs, key rings, or necklaces. Etsy is a good website to find one-of-kind personalised items.
For the Broke Couple: ‘Wedding Fund’ Piggy Bank
If a long engagement is in the works while the couple save up for their perfect day, giving them a special wedding piggy bank (maybe with some change already inside to start the fund!) is a sweet token to get them started on their savings.
For the Couple Short on Ideas: Subscription to a Wedding Magazine
A one-year subscription to a wedding magazine filled with hints, inspiration, and guides on how to hold the perfect do is a great gift to give to a couple that has no idea where to start. Prices range from £12 a year to around £50 for upmarket titles not bad for a present that will provide inspiration and excitement for a whole year!
Alex is a freelance writer for Balloons Galore. She loves giving gifts (and doesn’t mind receiving them either!) and is looking ahead to buying some killer main wedding gifts after the ‘appetiser’ of the engagement gift.