"Alternate" Wedding Gifts Part 1

If you've ever planned a wedding for yourself or are planning one for your child, you've seen how expensive it can be. $120 for a bridesmaid dress, before alterations? $1000+ to reserve a reception hall? A $500 ice sculpture of two dolphins forming a heart? I don't know about anyone else, but I can't afford to spend that kind of money.

The good thing about growing up in a small town is that my family knew a lot of people in the area who could give their services for free or a reduced price. In some cases, the service or item *was* their wedding gift to us. If you also have specific talents and someone you love is getting married, you could probably save yourself and the family a lot of money by providing things they would otherwise have to pay through the nose for. Depending on what it is, you could be saving yourself the cost of a wedding gift. As for the family and the happy couple...well, let's just stay the time and care you put into things is a lot more valuable than another toaster! Here are some ideas. For the most part, they would be most appropriate for a small wedding party.

Bake the cake. One of our good friends is very "crafty", particularly when it comes to cooking. To help us save money and to give us a cake we'll actually like, she made us a beautiful red-velvet cake with cream-cheese icing and white fondant that was a lot better than anything we could buy in a store.
Here's a good recipe:

As you can see, it takes a *lot* of work.  If you don't want to do this, you can always make a cupcake tier.

Provide the venue and decorations. If you're good with crafts, offer to help make the favors and/or decorations. It doesn't have to be anything major; it can be as simple as creating the programs or tying balloons to chairs. If you have decorations from a previous event, lend them to the happy couple for the day.
If you have the right kind of house or yard, offer your place for the wedding or reception. For instance, ours was held in a party room of some of my parents' friends. It was done up like a '50s soda shop, so most of the decoration had been done for us. The 'muscle cars' parked outside were a nice touch!
If there's dancing, either act as the deejay or otherwise set up the music. Set up a laptop to play over a sound system and either play pre-burned CDs or iTunes playlists.
For more tips, check out part 2 of this article.

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