I’ve been at the age where weddings and showers have become as common as going to the movies for a couple of years now. Since the traditional wedding and bridal shower season is coming soon, I thought I’d post some of the best ideas I’ve seen when it comes to wedding and party favors for guests. Of course, “best” in this context doesn’t mean the most extravagant or impressive. Let’s be realistic: most people won’t do much with their party favor, if they take it home at all, right? How about putting the money to better use elsewhere?
1. Donations made to charities in the name of guests
I’ll start with my favorite. Instead of spending money on bookmarks, trinkets, and whatnot, how about making a donation to a charity of your choice on behalf of the guests attending your wedding? Even $2.00 per person at 100 guests is a nice donation of $200 that goes to someone who probably needs it. In fact, the concept has become popular enough that several organizations and charities have dedicated departments that will work with you to create a nice card that your guests can take home, if they wish. Here are links to a few of them, although I’m pretty sure you could probably work out something similar with other charities:
In a similar vein, I’m happy to say that in many of the wedding invitations I’ve received, the couple has been generous enough to list not only the traditional stores where they’ve registered but also offered alternatives to buying them gifts. Most of my friends (myself included) have been fortunate enough to have had jobs and enough money by the time we got engaged to have bought most of the necessary dishes, appliances, and other basic goods to start a new married life together without hardship, unlike couples 40-100 years ago. I’ve donated to the American Cancer Society, the United Negro College Fund, and a few others on behalf of my friends, at their request. Give it some thought!
2. Giving useful items: chopsticks
At a wedding where both the groom and bride were of Asian descent, guests were each given a set of chopsticks. Not the plain bamboo or plastic ones you see in restaurants, but a nice pair of lacquered, Japanese-style chopsticks. This isn’t necessarily the most frugal choice among those listed here, but the idea is to give something that people might use, and maybe bring a little of your own culture into it, too. A few links for bulk chopsticks:
3. Giving useful items: cookie cutters
I have to say that, in researching this one, I ought to be in the cookie cutter business. $3 for a small piece of bent metal? Anyway, I first saw this idea at a bridal shower. Take heart-shaped cookie cutters, put them in an organza bag, and give to your guests. However, I think they probably accomplished the same effect by buying the cookie cutters bulk (or maybe even at a kitchen outlet, where they often sell for $0.50 a piece), and doing the same for the organza bags. Actually, if you’ve got simple sewing skills, the total cost of this should be much lower than buying the whole thing at retail. Maybe even moreso if you’re willing to put in cookie cutters shaped as bears or other “feminine” themes other than just hearts, if it’s for a shower. Or go totally anti-establishment and buy these. I’m sure someone out there probably has a frugal way to make cookie cutters, too. Some links I found (but haven’t tried):
- Sugarcraft (offers bulk orders off reasonably priced cutters)
- Make-your-own cookie cutter kit (depending on your needs, this probably doesn’t save you money but I’ll include it anyway)
4. Make-your-own bath salts
This one definitely works better for a smaller bridal shower or party. Guests make their own bath salts. Admittedly, this appeals much more to women, as at the party I attended, the guys just sat back and ignored the whole thing happening at the other side of the room. But the women really got into it. Find a recipe for bath salts (you can half or quarter it, of course), which usually involves buying:
- epsom salts at a drugstore for $3 a milk-sized carton
- essential oils, of which you don’t need many: lavender, mint, eucalyptus, and citrusy flavors are popular ones
- baking soda
- food coloring (entirely optional)
- bulk glass jars available at Cost Plus or craft stores, or online
You can spruce up the jars with stickers and ribbon if you’d like. Guests really get into making and shaking these things. And they’re useful.