Start with the registry: I know I just basically said forget the registry but that is not what I meant. The registry is what I use as the foundation of the gift. Couples register for items for a reason. They either need them or really want them. In any event, the folks getting married are expecting to see things from their registry so it's safe bet to start with those items. I normally choose a few items and decide on a theme for my gift. As an example, a recent wedding gift, I purchased kitchen items from the registry.
Grab a useful basket, reusable bag or stylish bin to house the gift: Forget the gift bag or wrapping paper that will just get thrown away. If your gift isn't a convection oven, try giving the recipient something they can use again. A cute basket can always be reused; the same goes for stylish totes or organizing bins.
Include your favorite wedding related items: The registry is good and all but there are often things that I want to gift to the happy couple but don't want to be the only thing they receive from me (see above reasons for the registry). Do you like wedding figurines or commemorative ornaments? That is the type of thing I am referring to. Personally, I love the idea of getting the couple some matching Mr. and Mrs. glasses with a sweet white bottle of wine. This is always something I love to see at wedding showers and I love being the one to bring it there. That being said, it would be considered a fluff gift, which is why registry items are important to build on.
Add an inside joke: Do you and the bride to be, or groom to be for that matter, share a private joke or humorous story? Add a little something to the gift that reminds them of that funny moment. Keep in mind that it's best if the memory you share is appropriate for Grandmas since they will likely be watching the gifts being opened. What funny addition did I bring with my most recent gift? I picked up a fern at my local supermarket and labeled it a "Love Fern". If you've seen "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days", you're in on the joke.
Finish the gift with something handmade: Are you a maker? Do you have friends that are? Adding a handmade item to the gift can make this gift that extra step of personal. If you specialize in something then add a few to the gift. Your friend will likely know you put in the effort and will appreciate it. Picking up something off Etsy or at a vintage market can have the same effect too. It's the personal touches that can make your gift that much more special.
If you don't have an inside joke or something handmade, you can never go wrong with useful items that everyone needs. As long as they don't cheapen the gift entirely or correspond with your theme, you're golden with the little extras and that little extra thoughtfulness.
If you go a little above and beyond in your gift giving process, it will not go unnoticed. Your friends will be please and you will feel like a gift giving rockstar, especially when you hear people gush about how great your gifts was... and don't forget, add a bow like the cherry on top of the sundae! PS. Don't forget to include gift receipts!