Ooh I have ideas!!!
I was just a bridesmaid, and these are the gifts I got:
-“diamond” stud earrings (not real obviously, that would be outrageous),
-a sweatshirt with a cute, sweet graphic/quote on it (it’s from the bride’s favorite tv show, which many of the other girls watch as well),
-a robe for getting ready,
-a hangover kit (lolol),
-a pashmina, and
-a tote bag.
I have used honestly all of these things except the scarf. In fact, the tote bag (we’re talking an old navy tote bag) is something I now use every day. Since I love bathrobes, I use the bathrobe constantly (it’s a light, cheap, summer robe and I live in Texas so it’s still hot as balls in the fall). I also often forget to take the earrings out and I wear them almost every day. I wear a lot of more eclectic jewelry (mostly like vintage turquoise and clunky hippie jewelry) so the diamond studs are actually a GREAT gift because when I need to look more professional and normal (not often, I’m a musician) I finally have something to wear.
You totally don’t have to get them all of these things. And I also totally understand being on a tight budget, so please don’t feel discouraged at the people scolding you. Bridesmaids gifts are more of a marketing ploy than they are some kind of tradition. It’s definitely nice to feel appreciated after spending a shit ton of money and time on someone else’s wedding, but I am of the opinion that they’re not supposed to be something extravagant. When people spend like $100+ on bridesmaid gifts, I’m like, shit just give me that money or pay for something else. It seems pointless. But I digress…
What about, a tote bag with a screen print of something each girl likes, maybe a dragon for one, or a steam punk corset graphic (or gears or a hat or…) for another? Even if you don’t like purses and bags, EVERYONE will use a tote at some point– from going to the beach, to lugging books, to carrying groceries. I also like your mug idea, as I have quite the collection of coffee mugs, but I think it should be personalized to each gal.
For our groomsmen, we are buying their ties but I am personally picking them out from vintage shops, and they’ll all be mismatched. Some of them will likely be crazy inexpensive, but super unique, cute, and thoughtful. I couldn’t figure out why people pay like $50 per tie for literally the most boring tie I’ve ever seen, so that’s how I got that idea. Maybe you can find a similar idea for some girls? All of my favorite flannels are from vintage stores! Buy the girls each a soft, comfy flannel, wash it up, sew on different, decorative vintage buttons, and write them each a thank you note! Boom.
Hopefully any of this helps….I could literally think of this stuff all night. I love gifts and I love NOT spending money haha.
P.S. Someone is inevitably going to balk at my vintage shop idea. Not everyone loves antiques and pretty old things like I do, so if you have any bridesmaids that would think that was “gross” or “tacky”, steer clear.