While wedding favors were a big hit, they’ve fallen out of fashion, says Charleston-based celebrity event planner Tara Guérard of Tara Guérard Soirée. Instead, she sees more and more brides opting for welcome bags for their out-of-town guests. “The welcome bag has replaced that take-home favor that no one took because they were drunk and forgot it,” she says. The packages, which Tara’s team delivers to guests’ hotels ahead of their arrival, might include the weekend schedule, a map, and other essential info, snacks and water, a recovery kit, and a local souvenir. “It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive,” she says, noting a bride and groom’s favorite drink recipe or bag of chips can be meaningful. “The whole point is to make your guest experience amazing and to thank them for coming to your town and to your wedding.” And while welcome bags are geared toward the out-of-towners, Tara has advice for local guests too. She suggests a nice thank you note with a photo after the fact; or cocktail napkins that say “Cheers!” are inexpensive and useful; or, she says, “Just give them a good bar. … There are so many ways to make people happy.”
Tara Guérard’s Top Welcome Bag Tips
1. Choose bags that are reusable, like shoe or lingerie bags, grocery bags, coolers or boat bags—something your guests can really use. She also advises against putting your name on them, because no one wants to carry around a bag with someone else’s name on it.
2. Pick items that can travel. At many weddings, guests fly in, so consider items they can pack in their luggage with ease.
3. Water bottles are a must! They’re always used.
4. Food is always a hit. We try to include a salty and a sweet and a savory if possible. Try not to include junk; it’s likely to be tossed.
5. Include useful things. Some examples our clients love are emergency kits (Advil, band aids, ear plugs, eye drops, Rolaids, hangover patches), embroidered masks with guests’ names, and tags that can be used for luggage.
6. Make it personal. Incorporate things from the bride and groom’s hometowns and/or some of their favorite things.
7. Don’t forget the basics. Be sure to include essential information—a timeline of the weekend events, transportation schedule, and important contact info.