Do I have to buy something from the registry list?
Some couples set up registries because they really do want or need those particular items, many set up registries as a matter of course. You may be able to gauge what type of couple they are by how well you know them or you can always ask. At the end of the day you can purchase whatever you like for the Bride & Groom but it does help that it is something they like or need in their home. If you do want to veer away from the registry it's still a good idea to browse the list first to get a feel for the couples style.
When do I give the gift to the Bride & Groom?
Etiquette says you have up to 1 year after the wedding to send your gift to the couple. Hmmm, I'm not sure about that. Guests generally have their item sent to the couple's home in the weeks coming up to the wedding or they bring it to the wedding itself. Most registries will have options at the time of purchase for how you would like to give your gift or what the couple has requested.
What do I do if I cannot afford any of the registry items?
Look through the registry list first to get a feel for the couples style and needs, you may see that the couple have requested a selection of dinnerware and there may be other items in the range they have left out, possibly by accident. If there is something there that is in your budget such as a salt and pepper shaker, it would be appropriate. A gift card to the store where they have the registry is also acceptable.
How much is expected to spend on a gift?
The amount you choose to spend should come down to what you're comfortable spending and considering how close you are to the couple.
The Bride & Groom are requesting money for their future home and I would prefer giving a gift, what do I do?
It is becoming increasingly popular for couples to ask for money in place of a gift and this makes some guests feel uncomfortable. If there is no registry you should purchase a luxury item over a practical one. The couple may very well be set up for everything they need in their home and a more special decorative item may be suitable. Appropriate items could include ornaments, vases, napkins etc.
My friend is having an engagement party and a bridal shower, do I have to buy gifts for these as well as the wedding gift?
As a general rule you should always bring a gift when invited to any function of importance. Figure out how much you would like to spend on the couple in total and divvy up that for each event, spending the most part on the wedding gift. A nice platter, a potted plant, a bottle of wine, would all be nice affordable gifts for parties and showers.