Let me tell you about a real conversation I was standing nearby to hear – one that happened just this past weekend! I was shooting Brad and Kristen’s beautiful wedding day, and had a few moments to catch up with the wedding planner during the reception. The bride and groom came over and asked if anyone had been taking their wedding favors – the answer was… it doesn’t look like it.
In this particular wedding, the wedding favors were these charming bookmarks to match their “Beauty and the Beast” themed wedding. They sat in a black wire basket on a table at the left side entrance to the reception space. At least half the guests would have walked right past them, but the basket was still full at the end of the night.
The bride brainstormed out loud about maybe sending them back to guests with their thank-you cards that they would write post-wedding. Not a bad idea! But the whole scenario reminded me of how many weddings this must happen to.
Wedding favors have long been a tradition that now feel like obligation to many wedding-planning couples. It’s a detail that often gets caught in the “Oh yeah!” conversations – you know, the conversations about the parts of planning you might have forgot about until 3 months before.
Oftentimes couples order wholesale boxes full of bubbles, succulents, bagged candies, or custom tea candles just to have SOMETHING to send their guests home with. But isn’t a free meal and a night of entertainment enough of a gift? Especially when this little part of wedding planning can cost couples upwards of a few hundred dollars in many cases!
So here’s my guide to wedding favors – whether you should skip them altogether, or how to do them right so you save a little $$ and make sure there are little-to-no favors left behind.
Skip Wedding Favors If:
- You have less than 80 guests attending your wedding. Chances are these < 80 people are your closest friends and family – people who love you with or without a free succulent that they’ll probably overwater to death for the next month.
- You can’t decide what favors to offer. Unless the wedding favors truly communicate something about your interests, you as a couple, or easily fits the theme of your wedding, let it go. It’s not worth it. Don’t buy bubbles just for the sake of buying bubbles. Save yourself the hassle of bagging nearly 100 or more handfuls of M&Ms if that’s not even your favorite candy. Obligatory favors do nobody a favor.
- You have nowhere to put them. A lot of couples have to set aside an entire table just for the wedding favors. But where does that table go in the crowded reception space? The back. Or the corner. In other words – somewhere where no one will find or care to look for them.
- You’re on a tight budget. Good news!! Wedding favors = NOT required! If you are on a strict budget, the must-haves for you are probably: a dress, a venue, a photographer, some flowers, some food. BAM. Skip the favors, save the extra $100-$300 toward a wedding favor that really counts – parent albums! That extra cash could go a long way in thanking your parents for the beautiful wedding they just helped pay for and/or plan.
How to Do Favors the Right Way:
- Make them apart of your decor. Try your hardest to make your wedding favors serve a dual purpose. I once photographed a wedding where the centerpieces were potted herbs, with little tags that said “Take Me Home!” It was beautiful, and nearly every pot was gone at the end of the reception! Easy cleanup, and a successful delivery of wedding favors.
- Not another succulent! I love succulents, y’all know that! But this is the one part of wedding planning where cliche can work against you. In nearly every other part of the wedding day I would say do what YOU want even if it’s cliche. But favors? Think about it – your wedding guests have more than likely been to other weddings before. If they’re your friends similar in age, they’ve likely been to one or more weddings just in the past 3 months! So it’s time to get a little creative with the favors if you want to encourage guests to actually take them. Otherwise… you may find yourself unintentionally tending to an excessive succulent garden. And what bride wants 50 extra succulents lying around? Other than me… probably… So get creative! Etsy has some really unique favors that also give you a chance to support small businesses.
- Place them at the end of the dessert table. The real estate motto of “location, location, location” also applies to wedding favors. Place them at the end of the dinner buffet table or dessert table! This almost guarantees traffic from every guest. Right next to the napkins and utensils would be super smart – or next to those irresistible red velvet cupcakes maybe?
- Make them meaningful. Kevin and I attended our dear friends’ Solomon and Tkeyah’s wedding this August in D.C. It was a micro-wedding due to Covid, but they still handed each guest a gift bag as we left. In the gift bags were: a glass shaker of custom spices, a tiny jar of honey, an antique key bottle opener, among some other snacks. The spices were a blend commonly used in their Jamaican culture. The honey was a nod to Tkeyah’s beekeeping hobby. The key bottle opener was a nod to their “Key to my Heart” wedding theme. Everything in the bag had a purpose and a meaning to who they were as a couple and as individuals. And look! Here I am two months later still talking about it. I can’t get enough of those spices!! (It literally goes on anything!)
Ultimately, when it comes to wedding planning, do what you think will lead to the least post-wedding regret. If that means you just HAVE to give out wedding favors, then do it! But if you worry about nobody taking them after you drop a couple Benjamins, I hope this advice helps.
If you’re newly married (or not-so-newly married) and you had amazing wedding favors, I’d love to hear what they were! Or if you regret your wedding favors, do a future bride a favor and drop your advice in the comments below.