I absolutely LOVE putting together welcome bags for my clients and their guests.  I firmly believe that a guest’s experience should begin the moment they receive an invitation (or save-the-date!), and culminate in a well-planned weekend full of personalized details.  With this weekend’s destination wedding in Paso Robles, my sweet bride and groom commissioned me to assemble some fabulous “swag bags” for their favorite people in the world.  As I delivered them this morning at four different hotels, I couldn’t help but smile thinking of the lucky guests who would receive them today and tomorrow.  A welcome bag is a special touch that can simultaneously: 1) Tie in the look/feel/design of your wedding, 2) Provide your guests with helpful weekend info and enough snacks to postpone their raiding of the minibar, 3) Make the recipients feel really special, kicking off the celebrations of the weekend and setting the tone for the wedding.

a trunk packed with hospitality!

For today’s installment of {the nuptial primer}, I thought I’d break down how to plan and prep your own welcome bags.  From simple to over-the-top, we never tire of these thoughtful gifts.

photo by Ryan Ray // custom artwork by Kristin, in-house graphic designer for Love & Splendor // printing by The Wedding Chicks

1) Start with a great tote/bag/basket/container!  Many of my clients love to use reuseable totes from the Wedding Chicks shop, which are reasonably priced and totally customizable.  They have tons of darling designs to choose from but you can also send them your custom artwork for printing.  🙂  For this weekend, we used their airplane state wedding totes but adjusted it slightly to have the plane’s trail coming from Texas, where the couple currently resides.  Beyond totes, I have used kraft paper gift bags, gable boxes of all colors and sizes, baskets and sturdy gift boxes.  For a tropical destination, you might consider a straw beach tote.  For a garden wedding, a galvanized steel bucket would be a charming pick.  Make sure that the size of the bag or container is appropriate for the contents you plan to pack inside.

2) Include the basics.  I think all welcome bags should contain a bottle or two of water, a sweet snack, a salty snack, and a pack of gum or mints.  These are traditional items that will definitely be appreciated by your traveling guests.  Depending on the location and season, I also like to include a piece of fresh fruit (like an apple or banana — something that travels well).  For the sweet and salty snacks, consider favorites of the bride and groom.  This weekend’s couple requested Pirate’s Booty as well as fun-size Snickers and a piece of fresh Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory fudge.  For my sister and brother-in-law last year, we included a tin of Hampton Popcorn because they love watching movies together.

3) Add local flavor.  Guests love getting to sample some local treats.  Is the city or town famous for their citrus (ahem, Ojai)?  Well throw in some Ojai Pixies (tangerines) for your guests to enjoy.  For Anna and Sean’s wedding, we also included local favorites like Zhena’s Gypsy Tea and raw lavender honey.  With this weekend’s wedding taking place in Paso Robles, a half bottle of wine was a must-have.  They opted for a Cabernet Sauvignon from Justin Vineyards and Winery.  I had a couple who got married in New Mexico and they integrated both local treats (roasted nuts) as well as items from a city important to them (New Orleans — beignet mix from Café du Monde).  A Hawaiian welcome bag might feature chocolate covered macadamia nuts or a small bag of Kona coffee beans.  For a Santa Barbara wedding, I might include some Robitaille’s famous mints (from nearby Carpinteria).  And for an L.A. shindig, some inexpensive sunnies, some Handsome Coffee and a box of See’s candy might be perfect.

I hope Ryan Ray forgives me for taking an iPhone pic of this print because I don’t have the photo uploaded to my comp.  The fuzziness and light leaks are all mine.  😉

4) Share vital info.  If you need to update guests on a shuttle schedule or various weekend events, include a little note or card with important addresses, contact information, and itineraries.  It may also be helpful to put in some local maps and guides to help your guests navigate the area.  For an SF wedding, you might put in a BART or MUNI schedule and map, for example.

5) Pack up to perfection!  Consider working with your stationer to create custom labels, tags and notecards to go with your welcome bags.  If you are buying certain items in bulk that you will be repackaging (e.g. Goldfish crackers to go into small clear boxes), you may need to source just the right mini boxes.  A simple tie-on tag that says “welcome” is also a nice touch.  Assemble the bags/boxes carefully, putting heavy items on the bottom and any printed materials on top (so they won’t get crushed/bent).

pretty paper goods from Le Partie Sugar

Now deliver those special packages to your guests!  Make sure to save one for yourself and have your photographer shoot it on the wedding day for some great detail shots.

I hope this post was helpful to some of you out there!  What was the best thing you’ve ever seen in a welcome bag?  Or on the flip side, what would you make sure to put in one now?

See you again soon!

Comments (2)

  1. kristin @ petal and thorn: September 12, 2013

    so cool! that’s one thing I wish i had done for our out-of-towners. love all your creative ideas!

  2. petal and plume: September 13, 2013

    so sentimental! i adore this idea!

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