Last year I was a bridesmaid for a friend, and I hosted a surprise shower for her and a handful of her friends. We requested no gifts, and instead be bought a customized recipe box from Etsy and asked everyone to bring a recipe to add to the box. Everyone also brought a small gift (not from the registry), but they were more like stuff from Lush, not pots and pans. It went well and everyone had a nice time.
I usually will purchase a gift from someone’s registry, just because I know it’s something they want. I’ve gone to weddings where they only had a Honeyfund, so I contributed to that. I just stick within my price point and I’ve never heard anyone else complain!