I don't know about you, but I am not the biggest fan of mass-produced monogrammed nick-knacks. I really enjoy giving gifts that actually pertain to the person receiving the gift. Sure, I'll admit I gave all of my bridesmaids monogrammed slippers... BUT, (not only did they wear the slippers on the dance floor at my wedding), they actually wear them frequently, like them and enjoy them. What I dislike are all the bells and whistles that wedding websites convince brides to buy. Some of it is fun, but most of it is redundant and unoriginal.
So, how to be unique and special? Consider your wedding location: are you having a destination wedding? Are you having a special theme wedding? To show your gratitude to the people who helped make your event great, a functional item might be just right.
For example, one of my great friends is planning her July 2010 wedding in Minnesota. She grew up on a lake and their wedding is very much going to be a 'lake-side' wedding. Her fiance plays for the NHL and is very gear-conscience. She had the brilliant idea to give her bridesmaids Sperry Topsider boat shoes. Not only can the girls wear them during the wedding weekend festivities, but they are also great quality shoes that will last for years to come.
If you're having a simple affair that isn't really theme-driven, consider the bridesmaids and groomsmen and whoever else you are buying gifts for: what are their likes and dislikes? It is totally kosher to give a gift to your Maid-of-Honor that has nothing to do with the wedding. If she is enamored with a certain Farmers' Market in your neighborhood--plan a special trip to the Market together and buy her groceries. Or if you are artistic, paint a picture of the Farmers' Market during a busy morning... there are a multitude of ways to turn an uncomplicated pleasure into a daily reminder of your appreciation to her.
A spectacular option is to give gifts related to a cause. I knew of a bridesmaid's mom who had Breast Cancer, so the bride and groom's gift to whole wedding party was to donate money for everyone participating in a local 5k for Cancer research, very cool. This is not only for a purpose and will help research, but it is also a great way to bond with your wedding party in non-wedding related events. Not to mention cardio exercise is a ridiculously good way to blow off some steam and wedding-related stress.
Another great idea, depending on your budget, is Wine of the Month club. Many people out there enjoy a good bottle of wine, what better way to remind them monthly of your appreciation? There are many "of-the-month-clubs" with other products such as cheese, fruit, book, album etc...
So you see, thinking outside the box has its short term and long term benefits ;)