Wedding favors, traditionally identical gifts – sometimes symbolic, sometimes useful, sometimes edible – prepared in bulk and given to every guest at a wedding party, are still commonplace. But are they necessary?
The simple answer: NO! If it’s giving you a headache, you might just want to scrap the wedding favors. But be sure to make it clear to your guests that you don’t expect gifts from them. Guests who have prepared an expensive gift may be looking forward to at least something symbolic in return.
If you are still struggling with this question, there are some factors to consider. Your budget and economic situation, your creative instinct (or lack thereof), and the style of the ceremony/banquet/party may all come into play.
Here are some ideas, both for how to avoid wedding favors and for how to embrace them:
The ethics of the wedding favor argument
Wedding styles nowadays are quite diverse, and guests never know quite what to expect. And for the bride and groom, planning the festivities is often extremely complicated and exhausting even without the stress of choosing wedding favors from the thousands of trinkets and handicraft ideas out there.
But, if you expect something from your guests, you’d better commit to providing wedding favors even though you are basically giving them a free meal and perhaps even a skinful of booze into the bargain.
If budget is a concern, it can be done cheaply. And, if you are the type of person who enjoys creative challenges, it’s a good opportunity to express this side of you on your special day!
Approach 1: Don’t provide wedding favors, and don’t accept gifts
If deciding on and paying for wedding favors is stressing you out, and you are dreading the onslaught of gifts and repeats of gifts that you neither need nor want, here is the perfect solution: on the wedding invitations, make it clear in print that you and your spouse are not accepting gifts or money, and discard the term “wedding favors” from your brain. Don’t print anything about the lack of wedding favors, of course! “We are too lazy to come up with a gift for you, so please don’t guilt us by giving us expensive stuff” would sound just awful.
Something like this, toward the bottom of the invitation, would be just fine: “Please do not bring gifts or money. We have everything that we need.” Or, a little warmer: “We are delighted to have you with us on our special day. Your presence and well-wishing are all that we need, and we are not accepting gifts or money.”
Also, keep in mind that in some cultures, such as in Chinese tradition, people who receive invitations but can’t attend the wedding are still expected to send gifts/money and also expect to receive the standard wedding favors. So, no matter what, you or your spouse should try your best to have a brief conversation with everybody you are planning to invite, before sending the invitations. And if you are not ordering wedding favors, be sure to mention that you are not accepting gifts or money.
If you do this, then you can escape any guilt you may feel or may be forced upon you with snide comments. What if someone forces a gift on you? Well, in this case, you just have to accept that you can’t win them all and then be prepared to write a heartfelt thank you note!
Bowing to social pressure
We all do things that we don’t necessarily want to do, especially to please our loved ones. I personally didn’t want to embrace all of my wife’s traditional Taiwanese traditions, especially the ones involving guests giving red envelopes of money (so I saw it) in exchange for biscuits or cakes which are the Taiwanese version of wedding favors.
However, I then committed myself to include as many traditions from my wife’s culture as possible, and it was great in the end. So, if you have decided to bite the bullet on wedding favors, here are some more ideas for you.
Approach 2. If budget is a concern, make your wedding favors
If you and your spouse enjoy DIY handicraft projects, this may be the perfect solution for you. Imagine the delight of your guests when they go to sit down and find a beautiful origami paper crane (the bird, not the construction machine!) in the center of their chair.
Did you know the crane is a symbol of love, more specifically, of fidelity, in Japanese culture? Have you heard of the custom of folding 1000 origami cranes to display at the wedding banquet? Well, if that seems a bit extreme, just fold as many as there are guests, and use them as wedding favors! All you need is paper, instructions, and some time to practice.
If you want to make something more complicated, there are lots of stunning designs available with detailed tutorials on Youtube. Browse rabbits, butterflies, flowers, boxes…try them all and pick one to replicate over and over again. And no matter whether you want cranes or something else, if you are too busy to do it yourselves (or love the idea but are not good with your hands) you can also enlist the help of a relative or friend.
Other there are plenty of other handicrafts ideas including useful items like soaps and candles. However, these skills take much more time and practice to master, so you might just end up buying them instead! If you want something super easy, mix CDs of your favorite music with a nice wedding photo as the cover would do just fine.
Approach 3. Food…or weed!
In many cultures, traditional edible treats are the standard wedding favors. If you or your spouse has a knack for baking, cookies and brownies make wonderfully convenient snacks for wedding guests. Especially if your festivities don’t include a meal – if you are just having a ceremony and a simple reception, for example – a package of sweet treats might just be the perfect choice for you. Prepare a variety of several different styles of cookie, package them in bakery bags.
Do you live in a state where marijuana is legal? You may have heard of the trend of “weed weddings” in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Don’t worry, you don’t need to go completely crazy with the theme! Just preparing marijuana-infused snacks and joints as wedding favors might be the perfect touch.
Have you ever heard of a “doob tube”? Yes, this is possible for your wedding, if you live in one of these states! Just order a bunch of these (or something similar), put a joint in each one, and make sure they are available for guests upon arrival. Also, be sure to prepare enough individually wrapped cannabis cookies; some of your guests would enjoy getting high, but don’t want to inhale smoke.
Approach 4. Use your wedding favors to make a statement
Religion and politics can be sensitive and tricky, so you’d better be cautious here. On the other hand, if you’re confident in this regard and not worried about offending the guests, your wedding day can be a great opportunity to express something that you believe in.
For all major religions, there are plenty of affordable symbolic trinkets easy to order in bulk. If you are passionate about the environment, consider something eco-friendly (visit: www.foreverweddingfavors.com).
Wedding favors can be a good opportunity to educate a lot of people about a topic you are passionate about, so you could certainly be creative in using it as a platform for political change. If there is an election coming up soon or a particular bill which needs popular public support, why not use wedding favors as a fight in support of your cause.
No matter what your message or cause is, there is almost certainly something that can be used as wedding favors. You may think there’s absolutely no way to demonstrate gun rights advocacy at your wedding…but you’d be surprised (link: www.etsy.com/market/gun_wedding_favor)!
If you want to make a statement about a passionate belief or cause, directly to all of your relatives and friends, your wedding party may be the opportunity of a lifetime to indulge.
Approach 5. Don’t need favors because you don’t need a wedding
If favors are not necessary…are weddings even necessary?
By all means, if you’re financing able, be generous and throw a big party! It’s a beautiful tradition and it’s good for the economy. Millions of workers around the world in the event and catering industries depend on it to earn a living.
But, if you and your spouse are struggling to make ends meet, the stress of financing a wedding can be overwhelming and even destructive to the relationship. And you’re not alone. According to CNBC it seems that a shocking percentage of American adults don’t have enough cash on hand to cover a $400 emergency.
Remember: your love and partnership and commitment to each other are so much more important than any kind of public display. Your friends and relatives should be totally understanding if simply register your marriage and skip the wedding. You can save the money for a wonderful honeymoon instead!
If you’re dealing with pressure from traditional-minded parents, grandparents, and others, you can try to crowdfund your wedding within the family. Relatives of a bride and groom might be happy to chip in to cover some or all of the expenses.
And if you are reading this article on behalf of a friend or relative who is planning a wedding, consider it likely that money is their main concern. The price tag of each individual element in the wedding package, including the favors, can be intimidating. “No, wedding favors are not necessary, but if you want them I’ll be happy to cover the cost” may be exactly what your son or daughter or brother or sister needs to hear from you. Or maybe you are a good photographer? Offer to do it free of charge! Help out in any way that you can, as long as you are comfortable doing so.
Marriage is still the root of modern family life, and the wedding is only the beginning of the story. But whether or not it goes smoothly, and how the bride and groom feel about it, are often good predictors of the future success of the relationship. Wedding favors are just a tiny detail. Don’t get caught up agonizing over them.