Event welcome bags are one of my favorite things! Find out all about what they are, why I like them and what makes a good one below!
What are welcome bags?
Welcome bags are traditionally a well-thought out gift that is delivered to guests prior to an event weekend. Their purpose is to welcome guests to your celebration and thank them for traveling/making the effort to celebrate with you. But they are also very helpful in giving everyone pertinent information regarding the weekend's schedule. For instance, if you are providing transportation from hotels to your venue, the welcome gift is an ideal place to include a transportation schedule. While they are traditionally presented in bags (hence the name "welcome bag"), I like to get creative and think of new ways to package these gifts for our clients and their guests.
I love welcome bags because when I plan an event I place a lot of importance on the guest experience. I feel it's important to make your guests feel special from the first moment -- and these gifts make guests feel special before they arrive at your wedding or event! And, from a practical side, if important information is paired with food or fun things, guests will usually find it and read it! That means guests are less likely to miss the shuttle you've provided to the wedding!
What should you include in a welcome Bag?
Below is a list of items I usually like to include in a welcome bag:
1 - Water
Water is a very useful basic. Wherever you are staying, it's always nice to have a bottle of water on hand. And if you want to go the extra mile, you can personalize the water bottle labels so they look cohesive with the other items in your gift.
2 - Weekend Schedule/Event Details
You should always assume that guests haven't brought you invitation along and don't know where they are supposed to be when. Giving guests consistent, clear directions will make it easy for them to figure out their own plans and get to your event on time. No stress with people who miss the bus or are stuck wondering when the last shuttle departs from the reception!
3 - Maps
These are particularly useful if you are celebrating in a rural area and have guests driving to your event. They are also useful if you are celebrating in a big city (i.e. Washington, DC or New York City) and want to give guests something to orient themselves with. A map of the metro or subway system is also a great idea for places like DC or NYC where the public transportation system is relied upon heavily. (For NYC weddings, it's sometimes fun and appropriate to stick a MetroCard in each welcome gift. I only recommend doing this if you know people might be up for taking the subway. Otherwise, it's a waste of money.)
4 - Sweet & Salty Snacks
I am a huge believer in edible gifts. If you don't know whether that paperweight of the Capitol Building is going to be useful, you might as well give your guests something they can eat. And if they like it, great. If not, at least they don't have to figure out what to do with a random paperweight.
I like the snacks we give to guests to be local or have a connection to the guest(s) of honor. So if a couple really likes popcorn (or they met at the movies), let's find some awesome snack popcorn we can give guests.
If the guest of honor likes candy and is getting married in Maryland, Goetze's classic caramel creams are perfect!
Make sure to include a mix of sweet and salty items so everyone's tastes are covered.
5 - Recovery Kit...or a toiletry that is practical for the location
We love including a complete "Recovery Kit" in our welcome gifts. We usually package it nicely so it actually looks like a complete kit and include a variety of items that anyone would find useful after a weekend of indulgence and celebration. Tylenol or Advil, breath mints, band-aids, etc. all make wonderful Recovery Kit items.
*I love using the term "Recovery Kit" instead of the popular "Hangover Kit" that's used these days. It's just more refined and makes it easy to use these for any kind of party.
If you don't want to include an entire recovery kit in your welcome gift, including a toiletry that's useful for the destination is helpful. For instance, if you're celebrating in a warm location, it would be nice to include a small bottle of sunscreen for your guests so they are protected while they relax by the pool. (Bonus: your guests won't be lobster red in your photos!) If you're having a "glamping" wedding, include bug repellant or the bug repellant bracelets that people swear by.
It's easy to get carried away with what to include in welcome gifts so it's important to remember to have some balance. Have too many sweet items and nothing crunchy or salty? Consider removing a sweet to add some chips.
Keep in mind that the guests you are gifting these bags to have usually traveled to your wedding or event location. Don't give them something they're going to have to stuff in their suitcase and lug back home.
Also, always make sure your gift components are practical and useful and have some type of connection to the couple getting married or the guest(s) of honor.
Want a little welcome gift inspiration?
Here are some examples of welcome gifts we've created in the past:
For a wedding in Napa:
-an itinerary for the weekend events
-two bottles of Smart Water
-a bottle of wine from the winery where the Friday night welcome dinner was held (we did not include a corkscrew as we checked with every hotel and corkscrews were provided in each room)
-an apple (the groom loved fruit)
-a box of British tea (the groom was British)
-Goldfish (the bride's favorite snack)
-a Cadbury chocolate bar (both the bride & groom's favorite chocolate)
**These were all packaged in a cotton tote that was custom printed with a tandem bike symbol that was used throughout the wedding's print material.
For a NYC wedding:
-an itinerary for the weekend events
-a NYC subway map
-two bottles of Smart Water
-a "Wedding Recovery Kit" with the following items: band-aids, emergen-c, advil, altoids,
-a small box with mini black & white cookies from Zabar's on the Upper West Side
-a bag of pretzel chips from Sigmund's Pretzels in the East Village
**These were all packaged in a beautiful black magnetic closure box, the top of which was gold foil stamped with the Art Deco emblem used on the print material and the couple's names and wedding date.
Is there something else you think is a necessity in a welcome bag? Let us know in the comments below!