We are so excited to have a guest blogger today! Our friend Kristen Wandell Frederick writes about wedding planning tips, and we hope to feature her in a series of posts on how to plan and organize for your wedding. Today she is sharing ideas on how to make a memorable welcome bag for your out-of-town wedding guests. (As a recipient of one of these bags, I can attest to just how thoughtful and awesome these touches were.)
When planning for a wedding, there are many things that people will tell you are a necessity. (“How can we have a wedding without a mashed potato martini bar? What WILL people think?”)
In a word, these people are wrong. Your wedding should be a reflection of you and your future spouse, meaning your preferences and tastes are the ones that ultimately matter. If you want to have a mashed potato bar, have a mashed potato bar because you think it’s something you’d like to provide to your guests, not because someone told you it’s a “must-have.”
In that same vein, providing welcome bags for the guests who check into your chosen hotel are not a necessity. On the range of priorities, this one falls under the “nice-to-haves” list. A lot of things are going to be competing for your attention in the weeks leading up to your wedding. It’s a good idea to think ahead of time about what you want to focus on during those crunch-time weeks.
For me and my now-husband, it was important to us that our guests feel welcomed and appreciated. Most were traveling the kind of distances that necessitated a plane ticket and we wanted to thank them immediately upon arrival at the hotel for making the trip to help us
celebrate our wedding in Washington, DC.
That’s where the welcome bags came into play. The following are my tips for creating a fun and functional welcome bag for your guests…but remember—there’s not a wrong way to do this (despite what others may say)!
Tip #1: Keep it Simple…
Remember, you will be assembling these bags a couple of weeks before your wedding. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself! By keeping the “ingredients” simple, you can accomplish your goal of welcoming everyone AND not tearing your hair out in frustration.
Start by creating a list of items you’d like to include (you don’t have to specify brand names).
2 salty snacks
2 sweet treats
1 gum or mint pack
2 bottles of water
1 map of area
Now when you hit up the store, you know exactly where to focus your energies.
A few other things to keep in mind: try to include items that can be taken back on a plane and make sure nothing will spoil if it has to sit there for longer than a week. I once went to a wedding where the welcome bags included cans of the popular local soup. While this was very exciting, I realized I couldn’t take it back on the plane in my carry-on—sadly I had to leave that amazing soup with one of my local friends to prevent it from getting confiscated by the TSA. (If most of your guests are driving, this will not be a problem, so know your “audience”!)
I have another friend who recently got married and decided to bake hundreds of cookies for the welcome bags with her mom the day before the wedding. I was literally sweating just thinking about that kind of pressure! But for my friend, it was the perfect way to relax before her big day. I guess I could have made cookies and stuck them in the freezer ahead of time, but for me, homemade cookies weren’t a priority. (Therese's tip: If the idea of customized treats appeals to you, but DIY doesn't, check out PrintGlobe, where you can customize tons of items, from chocolates to totes.)
Make it easy on yourself—know your capabilities and time constraints before you decide what goes in the welcome bags.
Tip #2: …But Personalize!
Personalizing your bags can be as simple as adding a note thanking your guests for making the trip to your wedding. It doesn’t have to be long, just heartfelt.
For my wedding, many of our guests were traveling to Washington, DC for the first time—or the first time as an adult. Since the hotel was only two blocks away from the U.S. Capitol, it was important that we add information about how to take a tour of the Capitol.
Additionally, with so many guests from out of town, I wanted to cut down on the number of calls and texts we would receive from guests wanting to know where they could find a good place to eat. So I created a Google Map that showed our 20 favorite places to get a bite to eat within walking distance of the hotel, and then broke it down into three lists: Fast-Casual Fare, Sit-Down Dining and Local Watering Holes. With each option, I included the restaurant’s address, hours of operation, and a one-sentence description. At the end, my future husband and I added our favorite dishes to give our guests an idea of what kind of food the place served. This went over like gangbusters! I later heard how some of our guests even went into the restaurants and ordered the Kristen or Bobby special (to the utter confusion of the wait-staff!). This was a way for us to connect with our guests without being physically there with them.
Other ways you can personalize include decorating the bag itself. We had a wedding logo (yes, that’s a “thing”) that I had made into stamps and I personally stamped the front and back of all 85 welcome bags. The downside to my method: the stamps were expensive ($15-20 each), left me with ink-stained hands and took time to dry.
Can I suggest something much simpler and less expensive? Download these free and gorgeous Anchor Printables Welcome Tags, cut them out and use double-sided tape to stick them to the front of the bag. It’ll be a nice (and classy) touch!
Tip #3: Incorporate your Wedding Colors
Adding your colors can be simply achieved by using a ribbon—in one of your wedding colors—to tie the welcome bag handles together. And if you punch a hole in the top of your thank you note, you can thread the note through the ribbon and thereby attach it to your bag! (Savings Tip: A great resource is to download the Michaels store app to your smartphone, which allows you to open and use coupons directly from your phone. I used many of these coupons when buying the ribbon and welcome bags!)
If you can print the thank you notes on colored paper or the text in color, certainly do so in your specific wedding colors (or add colored artwork or your logo at the top).
Again, it doesn’t have to be elaborate, but a pop of color that connects to your wedding is always a nice touch.
Tip #4: Buy in Bulk
First, figure out approximately how many bags you will need (one per hotel room is the standard number, plus a few extra in case there are any last-minute reservations). Second, crunch the numbers and determine the ballpark figure of how many of each item you’ll need from your list of welcome bag “ingredients.”
With 130-ish guests staying at the hotel, my future husband and I knew we had to budget and plan for the welcome bags. Thankfully my maid of honor had a Costco membership and is one of the most organized people I know! She was also really good at forcing me to make quick
decisions. You have limited time, so don’t blow it agonizing over including Milky Way or Snickers bars.
Find the best value for your money, choose a brand you think most people will enjoy, and move on. No one is going to judge you on your selection—and if they do, it doesn’t matter because you’ll be too busy walking down the aisle on your way to marrying the love of your life to care!
And make sure to bring a friend (or two) to help you carry everything and load the car. Palettes of bottled water are really heavy!
Tip #5: Think Through the Logistics
Questions to ponder before beginning:
--When and where will I purchase the welcome bag “ingredients”?
--Where will I assemble the bags?
--How will I transport them to the hotel?
--Does the hotel charge a fee to hand the bags out to guests?
--Will the hotel allow them to be handed out to guests when they check in, or do they require them to be delivered by a bellman?
Asking and answering these logistical questions before starting the welcome bag process will help you figure out the best way to organize and execute this endeavor.
As I found out, creating amazing welcome bags can require a lot more planning and sweat equity than you might think. The more you know up front, the better (and less stressed!) you’ll be.
Kristen is a recent bride living in Washington, DC with her new husband Bobby.