Wedding Budget Wednesday: The Favor

AKA Why You Don't Need Them

Remember how I talked about brutally slashing parts of your budgets? Well, one potential place to cut is favors. I think favors are great if you and your partner have something that you really want to give to all your guests (if David and I do favors, you can bet they’ll be wind up plastic monkeys wearing little veils and bow ties), but if you don’t, skip it. We’ve somehow gotten to this place—thanks wedding industry—where we have all been convinced that its rude not to give favors, because it’s part of etiquette. If you think this is true, call your mom or your grandmother right now, and ask her what kind of favor she gave out at her wedding. I can guarantee that this is going to be met with silence on the line, and then maybe the question, “What do you mean by a favor, dear?” The reason they are going to say that is because favors have been invented by the wedding industry in the past 15-20 years to give us something else to buy (and stress about). Last I checked, when you hosted a party, you didn’t have to give your guests a gift too. “Thanks for coming to my dinner party, I bought you this potted plant!” The gift that you are giving your guests is food, drink, and the pleasure of sharing your joy. For serious. You are spending a bunch of money on your wedding, you don’t have to get them a bridal pez dispenser with your names and the date on it.

If you’re skipping favors, but you want to do something, what should you do? I think a really lovely gift to give your guests would be a hand written note. If you are doing escort cards, why not just make the cards a little envelope with their name and table number, and inside write each guest a short personal note saying how grateful you are that they are here with you on your wedding day. How many times have you spent a boatload of time and money traveling to a wedding, only to talk to the bride or groom for 1.5 minutes, and not have a personal moment? Another (non-wasteful) idea is to let your guests take home floral centerpieces and vases at the end of the night. In the same vein, you can talk to your caterer about boxing up leftovers for your guests if there are any. If you are taking a big group picture at your wedding of you and all your guests (we are!) then you could always print the pictures inexpensively online, or make them into your thank you notes, and mail them out to your guests after the wedding. That will probably go right on their fridge. Ta-da, instant enjoyment.

Now, I know, this is where I’m supposed to recommend that you make a donation in honor of your guests to a charity. I’ve worked in nonprofit fundraising for years, so I’m always on the side of giving to philanthropy (do it, do it today). That said, somehow this smacks of “you have to spend $XX on favors or you are a poor host, so if you are not buying favors at least give that money to charity.” You DON’T have to spend money on favors, so this is silly. If you want to start your married life with charity (tzedaka for the Jews in the house) that’s a great idea! Do it in your own names. And don’t put it as a line item on the wedding budget.

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  • Los Angeles on a Budget

    As decor, favors can add a nice touch. However, most are so tchotchke-like that they get left behind or thrown away. (If they’re tasty favors… well, aren’t you already providing some sort of food at a wedding?) Add that to the wrapping, prep time and expense, and it’s frustratingly wasteful.

    Despite all that, I haven’t entirely decided against the favors. If I do it, it will be a gift that enhances the “celebrate with me” aspect of the day. Maybe a drink indentifier ring with a handmade jewelry trinket (using wedding colors or photos). I’m thinking of pinning it to an escort/thank you for coming/please get down and party card.

    But I really like the flower idea, especially for an outdoor wedding. Budget permitting, of course.

  • I am SO happy to have found your blog today. My wedding is in five months and it’s so easy to get caught up in all the stuff we’re “supposed” to do. Your blog is refreshing.

  • Nobody wants tacky favors anyway, as “dreaming” notes. As one guest, I say, spend your money on something to make the day more fun for all of us… like paying me to do the “Space Rock” dance from that 1991 dance competition I was in… wait a minute, I’d do that for free!

  • I agree. I hate the idea of favors just for the sake of favors. My brother is going to Asia and bringing back very inexpensive but nice chopsticks for us to use as favors. It works out well because over half our guests will definitely want to use them to eat their meal!

  • Yes!! Thank you for this post!

  • jammy

    we weren’t going to favors either…we’re getting married in dublin, ca in august so its going to be mad hot and we were going to provide the guests with fans during the ceremony…i was then told that these are favors (say what?!) we’re planning on donating them to the venue or selling them for other brides to use afterward since not everyone will take them home…

  • Bravo! Love your idea of encouraging guests to actually use the flowers you spent good money on. Seriously – a free bouquet is about as nice a gift as a guest could want.

  • I’d already removed them from my budget and plans, but then I was talking to my sister about her wedding which was about ten years ago. I asked her if she had favors because I couldn’t remember, and she responded “No, they weren’t in fashion when I got married.” And all of her guests survived the trauma of not getting a tchotcky to remember the day – instead I was left with lovely thoughts of my sisters wedding – imagine that.

  • Oh, this post makes me so happy. I’m SO SICK of looking at favors that no. one. needs. and cost WAY more money than anything you’d find of comparable size/function in the dollar store. I’ve definitely decided against favors– since our reception has a nice dessert buffet, I’m boxing up cake and telling people to take it on their way out. Multi-tasking– it’s the way to go.

  • Favors have always existed in some culture, but the ideas of having something pre-packaged is fairly new.

    For Italians, we have confetti (sugared almonds) that you package in uneven numbers for luck.

    In my grandparents' day, it was custom to send everyone home with a piece of the wedding cake (usually fruitcake).

    My parent's eloped, so I have no idea what was normal in the '70s.

    I think giving people something for the sake of having favors is silly. But, something to add to the decor or mood of the day is great.

    For my own Maui wedding (with about 10 other couples) we are giving each couple 2 bottles of water, a fan (which will have our program printed on it) and a cd of our favorite beachy tunes (my FH is a musician). For our reception back home, I don't think we are going to do anything because it seems a bit silly.

  • I LOVE this! Every favor I have ever gotten has been so plastic or knick-knack like that I have promptly thrown them away, I hate to but I really don’t need teal coasters with the brides initials on them. Not saying that you should spend even more money on favors because I think it’s crazy. I would MUCH rather have a beautiful note from the bride and groom (something I would keep forever) and a plus for the wedding couple, it’s cheaper and can be done months in advance!

  • Amandover

    I, too, love the personal note on placecards idea. (Also, tiny envelopes are awsome.) We’re planning to record a CD (me singing & Him on piano), but maybe a note inside the CD sleeve…?

  • Tara

    We did “favours” because we liked the idea and it fit in with our Autumn-harvest-foodie theme. We made jam (from my MIL’s recipe) and made enough for all the guests as well as enough to last our family through the first year of marriage. This was actually one of the more meaningful wedding related rituals for me – cooking with my husband to be in my MIL’s kitchen, and then feeding all my friends and family. Plus they looked incredibly pretty on the tables at our outdoor lunch reception (and I made my bridesmaids tie all the grosgrain ribbon bows) … we ditched the stuff we didn’t care about (cake, long speeches, bucks’ and hens’ nights) but that jam still sends me to a happy place.

  • Amanda

    Well actually, I feel ambivalent on this. Of course I agree that you do NOT have to do anything if you do not feel like it. And it is not an obligation to give anything to your guests. For us, the most important part of the wedding was to spend time in family together and sharing moments. And yeah I believe premade plastic favors of any kind are completely un personal and useless .
    But we did have favors in our wedding , because we wanted to thank guests in a personal way for travelling for us. Also, we packaged – decorated and handwrote the notes of them, and preparing them, 3 days before the day, with my mom, sister, mother in law, sister in law, was lots of fun spent together. It was also not super expensive and we felt like doing it. My (now) husband is dutch and I am mexican, so we gave Stroopwafels (typical dutch caramel filled cookies) and miniature tequila bottles , so something mexican, and something dutch . We also prepared welcome packs for our guests that travelled for us, not because we had to or because the wedding industry or society or whatever dictated we should, because it was the perfect chance to write a little thank you and welcome note to our friends and family, and we also put quite cheap and useful stuff (a map, that we got for free at city hall, paracetamol, tea bags (that my friends really appreciated, as I was told afterwards, since they hade it for breakfast before the wedding), some tissue and some candy that we love (gummi bears and lollipops and mints) all from the “Dollar shop”.
    This was not a big expense, and yeah, we could have saved the money, but a). we did not do it because anywone told us to and b). it really gave us the chance to say hi and be close to our guests at their arrival, since we were not able to pick EVERYONE at the airport. It was a way of saying hey, we really appreciate that you came, and we are gonna have a great time, and thank you !

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  • Hehe,
    I keep reading your articles. Even if they are quite old I am having fun and I learn many things that are useful for the preparation of my wedding!
    The info-graphic is really funny!

  • Very useful information here. Will share this blog for sure on our FB page.

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