You could try hitting up stores like TJ Maxx, Saks Off Fifth, Nordstrom Rack, Last Call Neiman Marcus, and the Coach outlet. I am paying for my girls’ hair/makeup AND their dresses, which they got to choose from a list of 114 dresses, but I also wanted to buy them nice gifts, so I also got them a tote filled with gifts:
DKNY leather pouch, TJ Maxx ($15 each, marked down from $75 each) – not only are these beautiful and high quality, they can be used as anything from a clutch to a pencil or makeup holder. That way the girls can reuse them however they like.
Sterling silver earrings, TJ Maxx ($20 each, marked down from $40)
Sterling silver necklace, TJ Maxx ($20 each, marked down from $40) (the two jewelry items I picked based on their personalities/our shared history, not as a prop for the wedding, though they’re planning on wearing it)
Red heart sunglasses, Fashion District vendor ($5)
Saks brand 45-item makeup palette for eyes/lips/cheeks, Saks Off Fifth ($3–this was crazy on sale, marked down from $40)
Neutregena face wipes, Nordstrom Rack ($1) – two of them never use makeup, they’re going to need something to wipe off their faces
Ruffled umbrella, Forever 21 ($8) – it’s gonna be August and either sunny or raining
All stuffed into a cherry tote, Forever 21 ($10)
Total $82/girl, though I may add to the totes if I find any other great deals.
I don’t necessarily agree with the “shop as if it’s their birthday” for several reasons. 1) jealousy between recipients (I was one of 4 girls growing up and everyone always tried to give us different gifts at Christmas, and though the price value was the same, there was always one gift that all of us wanted, and there were tears and tantrums afterwards. I know we’re all grownups, but trust me, we still feel this way sometimes) 2) In all the weddings I was in, I cherished the jewelry I was given as a souvenir/keepsake of the wedding, my friendship with the girl, and the great time I had that day. I’ve talked to them and they feel the same way about my wedding.
If you don’t have time to bargain shop, you could consider giving them a gift card, in which case yes, tailor it to their interests. A $75 gift card + a framed photo and handwritten note may be a great option for your girls; it’s a real treat/gift that they can use as they see fit.
I would lean away from doing “emergency kits” because that stuff adds up and as someone said, how often do you use that stuff? It’s like the sample sized toothpastes that your dentist gives you. It invariably just sits around.
Instead you could have those items on hand. I bought a bottle of makeup setting spray, bobby pins, pain meds, band-aids, bug spray, mints, etc., that I’ll keep with kleenex and everyone can use it. My “emergency” kits consist of each girl’s favorite energy bar, her favorite bar of chocolate, and a bottle of water.