By Libby MacCarthy
Like any good gift, you’ll want to put some thought into your selection. So, before you dish out the cash for those monogrammed Christmas ornaments or koozies, take a moment to reflect — is this something you would want? You don’t want your favor to collect dust or — worse yet — get left behind or end up in the trash, so consider something that’s practical or edible. Edible favors are a fail-safe option guests can enjoy at the reception or on their way home. Some of our favorites include cake pops, mini-pies and macarons. Among those in the something-useful category are locally roasted coffee, luggage tags or acrylic frames for the photo booth pictures they took at your reception.
Resist the urge to put your initials and wedding date on everything. Personalizing the favors is a fast way to turn a useful gift into something totally cringe worthy. For example, guests who enjoy entertaining would find coasters handy, but no one (excluding your mother) will want to display coasters featuring your engagement photo. The one exception? Packaging — it’s totally fine to put your personal touch on the boxes, bags, ribbons or labels. It’ll make for a pretty presentation, but won’t put off your guests.
Choose favors that express your personalities, speak to the wedding’s setting or share something you love with your guests. Are you both into wine? Mini wine bottles with personalized labels will go over big. Spend almost every weekend hitting the links? Give out golf balls or tees customized with your wedding locale and the date. Share a piece of your unique heritage by giving out tins of Asian cookies or pastries, or authentic olive oil from the region of Italy where your ancestors were born. Regional specialties like jalapeno jelly from Texas, hot sauce or Cajun rubs from Louisiana or Vermont maple syrup are great for giving guests a taste of local flavors. Or look to the season for inspiration — for spring, we love the idea of sending guests home with potted plants or flowers and growing instructions, while warm blankets or hot cocoa kits are perfect for a winter affair. You could even make a donation to a cause close to your heart in lieu of traditional favors. Let guests know of the donation by placing a note at each place setting or table.
While DIY favors might seem like an easy way to save money, they can be a lot of work. So before you go crazy with the glue gun, try making a few samples to gauge whether you’re up for the project — assembling and wrapping 200 favors is probably more time-consuming than you might think. On the other hand homemade gifts are a great way to show guests you appreciate their support. And they don’t have to be complicated — take the opportunity to show off your jam-making skills, mix up some spice blends or put together s’more kits. Don’t be afraid to ask for help either: Throw a favor-assembling party complete with cocktails and snacks to entice your friends to tie bows or affix labels.
Once you’ve decided on your favors, do a trial run (especially if you’re buying them online). Order a sample before you hit “buy now” and end up with 100 favors you hate — you want to make sure the truffles taste good or the handcrafted soaps are the right scent. Even if you’re just purchasing personalized tags or packaging to wrap homemade gifts, ask to see a proof to make sure everything is spelled correctly. Order favors one month before the wedding to allow yourself time to assemble, if necessary.
Whether you choose to give one favor per guest or per couple, always have backups ready (figure about 10 extra favors for every hundred guests) in case some get lost or broken in transit. Plus, some guests will take extras, and you may want to hold on to a few favors as keepsakes.
Personalized packaging and a thoughtful display can go a long way when it comes to these tiny tokens of appreciation. From colorful boxes and clear cellophane bags to tiny tin pails and slim silver canisters, your favor packaging can, and should, make as much of an impact as what’s inside it. Edible favors require special packaging. Paper bags or boxes can quickly absorb the grease of cookies or custom popcorn (leaving you with an unsightly favor box). Line the container with wax paper before adding any edible goodies to keep grease from leaking through and ruining your pretty packaging.
While they’re thought of as parting gifts, favors can be handed out at anytime, from the start of the wedding to the end of the night. Make your favors and your escort cards one in the same. From lollipops to Christmas ornaments, tag your favors with each guest’s name and table number and use them as escort cards. Smaller favors wrapped in pretty packaging can add to the table décor—arrange them at guests’ place settings or prop them on their seats. If your favors are attractive and big enough, you may decide to designate a special table in the reception hall or near the exit for guests to grab on their way out. Let guests know the favors are theirs for the taking by attaching tags to each one, or by placing a legible framed sign nearby that reads, “Please take one,” “Be our guest” or simply “Thank you.”
However you decide to present your favors, put someone in charge of them (a planner, site manager or amazing friend) and make sure they know exactly where you want them. Ideally, you’ll want to give them a picture rather than just a note — “on the tables” can mean near the centerpieces, on the plates or on the napkins. So pick a precise place for the favors and give that person detailed directions.