How to save on wedding favors

The best wedding favors are deeply personal, useful, and (of course) inexpensive

Jonathan Short/AP/File
A bride's wedding bouquet. Hamm argues that the best wedding favors are useful, inexpensive, and personalized

Saving Pennies or Dollars is a new semi-regular series on The Simple Dollar, inspired by a great discussion on The Simple Dollar’s Facebook page concerning frugal tactics that might not really save that much money. I’m going to take some of the scenarios described by the readers there and try to break down the numbers to see if the savings is really worth the time invested.

Erin writes in: Making our own wedding favors. It’s so expensive to buy them, so I tried making my own, which ended up costing about as much as just buying them would have and was no where worth the effort even if we had saved a ton of money. I wish we would have just skipped them all together, no one would have noticed and we would have saved a bunch of money.

First of all, I don’t think wedding favors are necessary at all. The vast majority of the wedding favors I’ve ever received wound up in a cupboard within a few days of the wedding and were largely forgotten until I found it a few days later. If you’re getting married and are thinking about giving away a “traditional” wedding favor, I’d just skip it. It’s expensive, not particularly personal, and quite forgettable for the guests.

That being said, I have actually been to a few weddings (or heard of a few weddings from friends) where the wedding favor was quite memorable:

+ At one wedding, where the wedding couple were both writers, they gave every adult who attended the wedding copies of each of their latest books, signed by them. These were very inexpensive for the couple (who just requested a bunch of copies from their publisher) and actually useful for many of the guests, who were almost all avid readers.

+ At another wedding, there were place settings for every person they expected at the reception. At each one, there was a custom-made bookmark depicting the couple on one side. This bookmark was inserted inside of a handwritten card from either the bride or the groom thanking that person personally for attending the wedding.

+ My favorite one was a wedding where a wonderful soup was served at the reception. Then, on the tables, were small jars containing the ingredients for that soup along with a note describing how to make it. This wasn’t particularly inexpensive, but it was very thoughtful and it got used.

+ Another wedding I attended had homemade soap given away as a wedding favor. One of the friends of the couple simply made a bunch of homemade soap bars, wrapped them with a custom wrapper that commemorated the wedding, and left them out on the tables at the reception.

Each of these favors succeeded because of several different factors.

They were inexpensive or free. In some of the cases, the items were truly inexpensive. In other cases, a member of the wedding party or a close friend stepped in to help out with a homemade item.

They were something that the guests would actually use outside of the ceremony. In each case, the memorable favors were items that would actually get used. No more knick knacks, no more commemorative salt shakers.

They were often personalized. Most of these items had some personalization to them. They were either made by someone actually involved with the wedding – or sometimes even by the wedding couple – or they were intimately connected to the couple. Many favors have no such connection.

I’ll run the numbers on two examples.

At one wedding I recently attended, the wedding favors consisted of small sacks of chocolate coins. There were perhaps 100 of these bags sitting around with 20 coins in each one. They weren’t particularly memorable or particularly tied to the couple. I was able to find chocolate coins for $0.20 each. At that rate, the bags themselves cost them $400 – I sincerely hope they found a less expensive rate.

On the other hand, at the wedding where there were personalized cards and bookmarks, I called a local printer who said that he could print a set of 100 bookmarks and 100 cards for about $60 without much trouble. I’m sure that if you shopped around, you could find an even cheaper price.

Stick with personal, simple, and useful if you’re going to make a wedding favor. It will cost you less and it’ll mean more to the guests.

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