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Personalized wedding guest gifts do's and don'ts 

Ideas and trends for wedding favors

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According to A 2016 Real Weddings Study by the website the knot, the average number of guests invited to a wedding decreased by 10 percent from 2009 to 2016, while the average amount spent per guest increased from $194 to $245. The numbers don't lie: Personalized experiences and gifts for an intimate group of guests are the new norm.

 "There are two ways couples are person alizing guest gifts: favors at the wedding and customized gifts waiting for guests when they arrive at their hotels," says Nic Rock, co-founder of Magic Bank, an event planning marketplace.

 Guest gifts are shifting toward practical yet whimsical items.

 "We've had a lot of requests for (personalized) glassware and koozies — something that can be used day-to-day rather than one-and-done," says Shirley Bosch, store manager at Design a Latte, a personalization boutique in Metairie.

 New Orleans is a major wedding destination, so locally-themed gifts are especially appreciated by out-of-town guests. Rock likes customized street maps that point out the couple's favorite places in the city.

 Personalization enhances the appeal of the gift and can make commonplace items sparkle.

 "We've done votive candles inside of stemless wine glasses, with guests' names printed on the front and the wedding details on the back, used as place cards," Bosch says.

 Favors run from simple to deluxe.

 "We once did a custom terrarium," Rock says. "The couple got married in Gramercy, New York. (The terrarium) was an exact replica of Gramercy Park, complete with a little bench and signage."

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 Magic Bank's more luxurious gifts are personalized luggage tags, a s'more making kit for a winter wedding and custom-made cookies in the shape of the couple — and their dog. Bosch has engraved sterling silver picture frames with wedding details. But a gift for guests doesn't have to cost a lot to pack pizzazz.

 "People think that they have to spend a lot of money to make a special gift, but connection to the right vendors is the best way to make a lavish gift that doesn't break the bank," Rock says. "Realize it doesn't need to be a huge expense and that it's more about the thought behind it."

 She also says that giving the wrong gift is worse than giving no gift at all. A gift that doesn't represent the couple — like the "bottle of pain reliever and a bag of potato chips" shtick — can make the wrong impression about the nuptials (unless the wedding plan is "Bourbon Street until it hurts"). If you're going to spend time and money on a gift, make it personal and set the right tone for the celebration.

 A cost-saving idea is a guest gift that doubles as a centerpiece. For a beach-themed wedding, Bosch and the Design a Latte team monogrammed sand spikes with the couple's initials and placed them in buckets of sand in the center of each reception table next to a vase of tropical flowers. They've also customized cases of plastic Champagne flutes — Bosch glittered the base of the flute using glitter vinyl, wrapped the bulb of each with a filigree cutout and put the couple's wedding date on it.

 "It went from a dollar plastic Champagne flute to something amazing, just like that," she says.

 Magic Bank uses technology to help clients stay under budget for favors. Rock asks the couple to describe themselves in five key words, and enters those words and the couple's budget into a digital vendors list, which populates search results by cost and description.

 Bosch and Rock agree that websites like Pinterest are great resources for ideas, but they also can overwhelm. Working with professionals to help think of and execute ideas for favors — especially local professionals who are plugged in to local businesses — can help a couple pinpoint the perfect gift to remind guests of the couple's big day for years to come.

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