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Not MANDATORY - but everyone will side-eye you in the WP if you skip them... They will also side-eye if you go insanely cheap on them with something they'll never use..
And yes, it should be something NOT related to the wedding and personal from you to them (i.e. you have a BM who is a KISS fan - a KISS memorabilia item would be appropriate, or a GM who is a gardener - a gift certificate to a local garden store would be appropriate)..
I disagree, I think bridal party gifts are mandatory. You (general you) honor your nearest and dearest by asking them to be in your wedding party and you give them a gift to thank them for accepting, to thank them for being your friend/family and to thank them for taking the time/money/effort to be a part of your wedding.
I believe a gift is the right thing to do, I have a large wedding party and been searching online for months, if money is the issue, find some cheap favor sites you will find a lot of things under $10 i just made a massive order at light in box, there products are awesome and i did my entire wedding party there, and Etsy will do the special parent gifts