Your best friend's wedding gift registry specifies the necessities of her basic want list—place settings, linens and other essentials—and you feel incredibly silly buying for her from an online inventory. The longer you've known her, the easier it gets to dream up the perfect gift, one she'll treasure 30 years from now, but leaving the registry behind and going it on your own can lead to mistakes. Think creatively but practically to dream up the best wedding present ever.
You two go way back, all the way to middle school and braces, college and study groups or far enough that page after page of your photo album shows your smiling faces together. Out of all those images, find one that truly represents the closeness and caring you've built. Using your camera or smartphone, recreate as much of that image in the present as you can, or locate a current-day shot that comes close to the same pose. Using your home computer and image-editing software, composite the two shots together. Have a professional enlargement made from your image file and frame it with a tag that carries an expression of your feelings for your friend.
Whether your friend and her intended love the theater, dance, opera, movies, concerts or sports, a membership or subscription to a series of events shows how well you know their tastes. Season tickets to a local professional sports team may be too pricey, but you can pick up seats for games against division rivals. A gift in their names to an experimental theater group puts them in the program for every show. If the series you know they'd enjoy doesn't start selling this year's tickets until after the wedding, make up a personalized gift certificate on your computer and present them with your promise of the real tickets.
Art & Music
If you know your friend's artistic taste well, and know that her soon-to-be-spouse shares or at least appreciates the same kind of drawings, paintings or photography, look for an original work that suits their style, or a reproduction of an out-of-budget old masterwork. Complete with a beautiful frame and UV-resistant glass, it can earn pride of place over their living room sofa, next to the TV from one of their family members. If a home theater system falls outside your budget, give them the top 10 albums from your last year together in school or the year of your high school graduation. Along with a gift card for online music your friend can enjoy on her smartphone or tablet, include the actual CDs.
If your friend plans a non-traditional wedding, either in venue or theme, offer to help with the behind-the-scenes labor of putting it together. Some brides can't afford or don't want a traditional wedding cake. Your convection oven and baking prowess can make you the right person to provide the 75 or 150 cupcakes your friend wants to serve.
Instead of expensive invitations that your friend already shakes her head over buying, offer your skills as a graphic designer and create the invitations to her specifications on your computer. When nothing but a registry item looks like a safe match for her tastes and his, choose one you can engrave with a personal dedication to them.
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