Though generally on the receiving end when it comes to wedding presents, brides and grooms must do some shopping of their own in connection with the big day. Gifts for attendants -- including the maid or matron of honor, bridesmaids, best man and groomsmen -- are a traditional way of thanking them for being in the wedding party and providing mementos of the day.
When it comes to selecting the gift, the most important thing is to be thoughtful, no matter what your budget, according to Anna Post of The Emily Post Institute.
"It's a good idea for the bride and groom to get their respective attendants the same gift or a variation of the same gift," says Post, the great-great-granddaughter of etiquette expert Emily Post. "This includes the maid or matron of honor and the best man. It is important that no one feels that they are being treated differently. You don't want to get one an engraved pen and another a book," although variations of the same basic gifts are fine.
"An example would be if a bride gave all of her bridesmaids a pashmina shawl. She might get the same shawl in different colors to suit the individual coloring of each woman," Post says.
"A groom might choose to give each usher a CD of his favorite music. Again, the basic gift is the same, but the choice of music makes it personal."
Traditional gifts include those that can be monogrammed with the attendants' initials or the wedding date. Popular choices include sterling silver necklaces or bracelets for women and cuff links, pens, business card cases and lager glasses for men.
There is a growing interest in nontraditional gifts for attendants, according to Candice Lapin of Para ti Novia, a Web site for Latina brides.
"What we are seeing in terms of trend are a lot of do-it-yourself or eco-friendly gifts from the heart, totally eco-friendly and reusable gifts, such as homemade jam or jelly in a recycled jar or hand-sewn totes," she says.
Lapin says that popular gifts are also ones that have an "old-time" feel, such as handkerchiefs with embroidery and handmade frames, and anything that looks vintage, such as old aprons, journals and photo albums.
Couples who are ecologically conscious or having green weddings have various attendant gift options -- such as Earth to Gert reusable bags (http://www.EarthToGert.com), which are made from cotton organically grown in the United States or from recycled plastic cloth. The bags can be personalized with the wedding date, a favorite quote or an image and can be reused long after the happy day.
Other environmentally conscious gifts are personalized reusable drinking bottles or coffee tumblers engraved with the wedding date or a special message. Michael A. Aaron, president of Greensender.com, says his company has received orders of up to a dozen bottles for attendants' gifts.
Personalized bottle orders have included a fishing image with each groomsman's name engraved on the bottle and a peace sign with the name of each bridesmaid.
There are gift options that are appropriate for attendants of both sexes, such as photo albums customized with individual names. Freeze Frame Publishing (http://www.FreezeFramePublishing.com) produces a range of albums in various sizes and prices (from $29.99 to $89.99).
The PortaPocket (http://www.PortaPocket.com) is one attendant gift that could come in handy during the wedding. A lightweight carrying case designed to be strapped on a leg or arm, it keeps keys, cell phones, sanitary products, lipstick or medicine out of sight on the wedding day and afterward when jogging or traveling. The PortaPocket is $25.
One unique way to mark the day is to provide attendants with commemorative coins. Coins for Anything (http://www.CoinsForAnything.com) has seen a marked increase in wedding orders for its custom-designed coins. A photo inset technology is used to create the image desired, such as the bride and groom.
Gifts to attendants normally are presented about the time of the wedding, Anna Post says. "The gifts can be given in private but are usually presented as a group, such as at the rehearsal dinner," she says. "It's all right to give a gift for them to wear the next day at the wedding, such as necklaces, bracelets or cuff links."
When in doubt, traditional choices are safest, she advises. "The bride and groom should think carefully and ask themselves, 'Am I sure this will go over well?' If they're not sure, then they should go with another gift," Post says.