A wedding welcome bag is an amenity kit typically provided to guests staying at a hotel for your wedding. Whether you have a lot of out-of-towners or your local guests want to make your wedding weekend into a mini holiday to see family, the guest is paying for a hotel for your special day—so giving a wedding welcome bag to them is a really thoughtful gesture to ensure that these guests receive little kits including a thank you note, an itinerary, a do-not-disturb door hanger, and some snacks, drinks, and toiletries. This will not only let your guests know that you were thinking of them, but also it’s a great first impression of your wedding weekend.
All hotels have different policies for these bags, but typically you have a few options for dispersal. Some hotels keep all the bags at the front desk and hand out one bag per room that checks in. Other hotels hand-deliver the bags to the rooms prior to check-in. In that case, when the guest opens their hotel room their bag is waiting for them. Hotels usually charge a minimal fee for welcome bag service that could run $1-$3 per bag. Talk with your hotel coordinator and ask them if there is a fee for this service. If you have fewer rooms, then you could also consider greeting each guest at their room upon arrival to personally deliver the bags. Your schedule may be a little too hectic for this option, so paying for the hotel delivery service may be worth it. Hotels require the bags to be random and not assigned to specific rooms.
Welcome bags are often one of the first items that couples throw in the “f**k it bucket,” which I think is a shame. A wedding welcome bag can fit into any budget. Think about a max budget you would be willing to spend on all the bags. Then consider how many rooms you will be buying bags for, the price for delivery, the cost of the bag itself, and then the cost of snacks. That will determine how much you can spend on each bag. Look for sales! When we did our wedding bags, we only bought items that were on sale at Costco in bulk. We never paid full price, and that allowed us to get way more items per bag. We budgeted $10 per bag and in the end only spent about $6 per bag, and they were jam-packed with goodies!
There are so many options when it comes to the container you use to hold your guests’ welcome items. First, decide how much you plan to put in each bag. Will it be smaller, individual bags per person, or will it be a larger bag that can hold enough for a family? Next, consider staying on theme and color scheme with the bag. It’s a great first impression of a cohesive wedding weekend.
- Paper bag: Paper gift bags are an affordable option because they are disposable. You can buy them in bulk or even two for $1 at your local dollar store. If you get a plain color, then you can decorate the front with a cute craft project. You could also buy the gift bag with a saying already printed on it. I’ve seen darling “welcome” and “celebrate” options online. The ones that are pre-printed are a bit more expensive, but it may be worth it if you don’t have time for crafts. You could also leave the bags plain and just tie a cute color-matching ribbon to the handles.
- Boxes: Another affordable option are paper boxes. These are shipped laying flat, then you pop each box open into shape. We decided to do our wedding favor in large 5” by 5” boxes, and it was really pretty. Consider getting a rectangular or house-shaped box so taller items like beverages have room to stand up. You could buy branded stickers or ribbon from Oriental Trading Company to seal the box. You could also get round hatboxes or photo boxes which Michael’s Craft Store has on sale frequently.
- Canvas bag: Printed canvas bags are really cute and reusable. You will pay a little more for this option, but consider the bag as part of the gift to your guests. For printed bags, companies usually charge less per bag the more you have printed. If most of the guests are from out of the area, then you could use the bag to showcase the state or town. You could put the engaged couples’ names on the bag, such as “Nicole & Asher’s Wedding Weekend.” You could also do simple sentences, such as “Welcome to our wedding weekend” and keep it a little more generic. You may be able to find generic options online for cheaper than custom print. You could even have the design match your invitations and leave off the couples’ names and wedding date. Your guests may use the bag more if it is generic.
- Tote bag: Tote bags are sturdier, higher quality bags that your guests would use again as a purse or beach bag. This is probably the most expensive option but also the nicest.
- Beach bucket: This is a sweet option for a summer beach wedding. My cousin got married at a beach resort, and each hotel room was given a large pail with shovel combo, and the bucket was full of snacks. It was super cute because we had a lot of kids attending that wedding and they were able to use the bucket as a toy. In the summer, your local dollar store should carry beach buckets.
- Basket: You can do mini wicker baskets in circular or square shapes. This is a bit more expensive, but your guest can re-use the basket. If you get married in Spring, then you can probably find really affordable options because of the Easter holiday.
So now that we’ve covered what welcome bags are, who gets a bag, how to hand them out, the budget, and what kind of container options you have available, let’s discuss interior contents! There are so many options available for what to put inside. At minimum, there should be something informational, something to eat, something to drink, and something for comfort.
Welcome & Thank You Note
You most likely won’t have time to sit in the lobby and wait for each guest to arrive and greet them. So adding a “welcome and thanks for coming” note is kind. Let them know how grateful you are that they are there for your special day. Consider adding in fun facts about the couple and even bios or photos of the bridal party. Also add in a contact so the guests can call that person with questions instead of calling you. It can be Mother of the Bride, or Maid of Honor, whoever! Just let them know it won’t be you.
Help out your guests by sharing a basic copy of the wedding weekend itinerary. Even if the itinerary was available online through your wedding website, guests will appreciate the easy access of a paper copy. Begin the itinerary on the date most of your guests check into the hotel. Think of adding a welcome activity, the wedding day including ceremony, family photos, reception, and after party, and a farewell activity. For our wedding welcome bag itinerary, we included a welcome bonfire after the bridal party rehearsal, a full wedding day breakdown, and a farewell brunch the morning after.
Informational Things to Do
A sheet with hotel map, neighborhood maps, attractions, and eateries is a nice way to show your out-of-towners other local things that they can do while in for the weekend. Our wedding hotel had a boardwalk shopping and dining area next door, so we highlighted a few options: a coffee shop for breakfast, a lunch spot, a dinner spot, a dessert spot, and an arcade for entertainment.
Do Not Disturb Door Hanger
Throw in a fun do not disturb door hanger that lets people know your guests just partied at your wedding and are now recovering.
If your wedding ceremony, reception, and hotel are at different areas, then consider setting up an event account through Uber Events. Uber will give you a promo code that you print on a paper and add into your welcome bag. The guest would use their Uber app ride using that code. After the event, you would be billed for all the charges in relation to the event. It may be cheaper than hiring a shuttle service, and you have peace of mind knowing guests are comfortable and safe.
For a destination wedding, a post card the guest can mail home to a friend, a house sitter, a pet sitter or coworker is so fun! You can usually buy a few for $1, so it’s a really affordable way to add in character on the cheap.
If there is a local shop that sells individually wrapped sweets such as salt-water taffy, cookies, popcorn, or chocolates, then consider picking some up to add to each welcome bag. Make sure you add “A Taste of Houston” (insert wedding town) note, plus a little history blurb on the shop. This way, guests will know it’s a special item from a local small business and something the town is perhaps well known for.
If you or someone you know likes to bake, you could make small cupcakes or loaves and package them up for your welcome bag. What a special personalized touch! Make sure you list ingredients, especially if they include nuts. You don’t want anyone having an allergy attack!
The bulk of your welcome bag will be general snacks. Make sure you cover salty and sweet options. Savory options could include chips, pretzels, savory popcorn, chex mix, trail mix, nuts, cup of noodles, and cheese crackers. Sweet options could include candy, fruit gummies, granola bars, sweet popcorn, cookies, and doughnuts. Before you give unpopped popcorn or cup of noodles, ensure the hotel rooms have microwaves. If no microwave, then skip the noodles and give pre-popped popcorn bags.
Gum or Mints
Hey, no one is ever going to pass up fresh breath. Gum and/or mints is an awesome idea to add to the bag. You can go with brand-name options, or you can go with kitschy options that say “mint to be” on the wrapper. Oriental Trading Company sells a plethora of mint and gum options.
Water Bottles or Sports Drinks
Each bag should include at minimum 1 bottle of water. We found Costco sales on water and Gatorade leading up to our wedding, so we stocked up on both. Our welcome bags had two of each.
Instant Coffee and Tea
If the hotel room comes with a mini coffee pot, then you could include brand-name instant coffee and tea options.
This is a really nice touch which will bring your bags up a notch in both offering and cost. You could do cheaper wine bottles from the state or country you are in, mini champagne bottles, or mini liquor bottles. You will be increasing the per-bag price by around $5-$10 for this add-on. You could even do a mini bottle of liquor with a small can of juice and a recipe card for the mixed drink. I will say that every time I receive these bottles at weddings, I always end up taking them home with me. I never find the time to drink them during that weekend. I happen to feel welcome bags are really nice even without the alcohol.
A small pack of tissues is a great idea to throw into the welcome bag. Likely at some point over the weekend, each guest may shed a tear. Whether it be because they have reunited with family they haven’t seen in years, or they get choked up by an emotional speech or personalized vows, weddings are an emotional time and the tissues will come in handy.
The perfect hangover kit remedy. They sell these in mini two-pill packets, or you could make your own. If you make your own, ensure you get brand name. Brand name drug companies print their name on each pill. It would be confusing if a guest got a little baggie of indistinguishable generic drugs. The “in sickness and in health” phrase could be added to packaging of meds.
Stain Remover Pen/Wipes
For a fancy occasion where everyone is dressing their best and taking photos, it’s handy to have a stain remover pen nearby. As a wedding planner, this item is always stocked in my day-of emergency kit, but it’s not a bad idea to provide your guests with one too.
Of course, hotels already provide mini shampoo, conditioner, soap, and lotion. You could, however, add in better brand names of those items. Or think of other items the hotel doesn’t cover like like a mini sewing kit, toothpaste, chapstick, bug spray (if woodsy), or sunscreen (if beachy).
You could also throw in a gift or two that are more for taking home and remembering the weekend, such as mini olive oil jars, fruit preserve jars, honey jars, coffee, cutting board, coasters, bottle opener, koozies, cookbook, candle, resort spa products, luggage tags, or wearables such as hats or t-shirts.
- Consider the best time of year to purchase the container, when deciding on the container you use to store your welcome snacks. If looking for a basket, then April is probably the cheapest time of year to buy (around Easter). If Easter is during your engagement, then purchase the baskets in advance. Don’t wait until November to start looking for baskets for your December wedding. If you buy in advance, then you may need to store items for a little, but you will find the best deals and most variety available.
- Don’t forget to include customized snack selections such as “her favorite” and “his favorite” snacks, or “hers,” “his,” and “ours”. It’s another way to personalize the bags. I’m sure your guest would be appreciative of any provided snacks, but letting them know you put a little extra thought into what was in the bag, and that you wanted to share your favorite with them, is really nice.
- Try to buy everything in bulk. Purchasing items in bulk is usually cheaper than regular-sized grocery store options. You’ll probably be making a bunch of bags, so you’ll need higher quantities of each item anyway.
- Try to buy on sale. We knew early on in our long engagement that we were going to be providing welcome bags to our hotel guests, so we began looking for deals. Over the months, Costco had different sales on gum, mini tissue packs, pretzels, chips, cookies, water bottles, and Gatorade. We stocked up as we found sales and saved a bundle! Just be sure to check expiration dates are after the wedding
- Vary Variety. Instead of buying the bulk granola bar box with one flavor inside, make sure you buy a bulk variety pack. This way if you end up putting two granola bars in each bag, the guests have flavor options.
- Each bag doesn’t have to be identical. We started off by putting the same items in each bag. In the end, we had a pile of leftovers which we evenly distributed through the bags. This meant some hotel rooms got two bags of chips while others got two granola bars. Don’t stress if they aren’t identical.
- Ask your hotel/resort for freebies. Most offer sewing kits or other toiletries they can provide you (for the quantity of bags you need). I used to work a resort. The front desk always had a stockpile of toiletries that they didn’t provide in the room (toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, razors, sewing kits, shoe shine mitt, hair ties, etc.). If you had left yours at home, and asked the front desk, they could provide those items for free. If you had 20 welcome bags, and they were willing to give you 20 of some of these items, that’s a nice freebee for your guests who otherwise may have never known they could ask for these items for free.
- Consider buying things that aren’t individually wrapped. You can buy the Costco-sized popcorn bag and then put a cup or two of popcorn into clear plastic bags (which you can buy in bulk for cheap). Tie a ribbon around the neck or put a sticker on the fold and you are done! Repackaging the items may actually look more cohesive in the end and could be cheaper than purchasing bulk snack size packages.
So now that you’ve seen just how sweet welcome bags can be, don’t throw them in the f**k in bucket! There is simply no better way to welcome your guests to the wedding weekend than with a personalized gift. They don’t have to be pricey to be appreciated. Make sure you include an attractive container, some informational paper products, snacks, drinks, comfort items, and an added bonus if you find a take-home item to throw in.
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