Alas you have to attend or are most likely forced by a mutual friend, then there’s the huge crisis of buying ‘the’ gift. This is a gift that should say ‘I don’t care’…. but politely.
Money is a good gift idea, because the couple can buy any gift they want and it won’t be a sentimental reminder of you. If you buy something tangible that is to be placed in their new home like a frame or candle holder (hey I don’t know what you would buy otherwise!!) it would be a reminder for him (or even worse the bride) of you. Giving money can save you the headache of thinking for a gift and you can give exactly how much you want depending on your amicability with him.
A Shirt Piece or any Clothing (not the unmentionables)
A Shirt is appropriately ambiguous; it doesn’t indicate any specific sentiments. Even though this is not a short lived gift, it is a kind of present that any far away relative gives so maybe yours would get mixed in with the pile and it won’t stand out ( which is basically the main point). Don’t gift a T- shirt with any message like “Dump him” or “I survived this” which I didn’t know existed before the magic we call internet.
If he is a social drinker or any kind of drinker, a wine bottle (even if moderately priced) just gives out the vibe of classiness. A wine bottle or even a case of his favorite beer suggests familiarity as a friend. It is not long lasting and something that can be shared with the Missus and even friends. If the family is traditional, and may frown upon alcohol just gift a wine club membership card.
Attending an ex’s wedding is difficult let alone buying a gift that doesn’t feel awkward. Keep it graceful where it indicates ‘I am happy for you’ (even if you are not).
Summary – Attending your former beau’s wedding is like getting into a crowded elevator, facing the opposite direction of everyone else, and not being able to turn around; aka a place where there is no room to escape, trapped in a tomb of awkwardness where everyone you know will be looking at you with judgmental stare.