At face value, a wedding is about a couple who've decided to spend their lives together. But anyone who's on the other side of wedding planning will tell you that a wedding is actually all about your guests. It's about creating a special day to share your love with the friends and family you care about the most. Or a whole weekend, if you have a destination wedding or most of your guest list coming in from out of town.
If that's the case, you might want to kick off the weekend with a gift: An out-of-town welcome bag. As soon as your guests check into their hotel, you can give them a little token of appreciation in the form of a bag filled with snacks and goodies–plus some important info that might make their weekend even better.
What Goes Into an Out-of-Town Welcome Bag?
We've mapped out the perfect formula for out-of-town guests at a wedding, family reunion or another big party, but you could easily translate this to stock your guest room with treats for a close friend's visit.
Snacks: Something Salty & Something Sweet
You'll hit every guest's snack palate, and give them another option besides the mini bar to quench late-night cravings. A small bag of chips and a handful of Hershey's Kisses will do the trick here, but feel free to seek out local flavors and have some fun with it. Some other great options: Granola bars, mixed nuts or a piece of fresh fruit.
Something to Drink
Bottled water (or boxed water) is a pretty standard go-to that will be much appreciated by your guests. You could also include mini champagne bottles, nips/airplane bottles and a mixer, or anything else to help get the party started.
A Local Souvenir
Totally optional, but it's a nice touch, especially if you're getting married in a fun city and have a lot of guests making their first visit there. It doesn't have to be expensive–anything from a postcard to a small trinket or a local treat will do. Think Mardi Gras beads for a New Orleans wedding, or plastic leis in Hawaii. For my Atlanta wedding, we gave everybody paper hats from The Varsity, a local burger landmark.
Think about your wedding location and venue, and try to stock the welcome bags with essentials your guests might not have packed. Cheap bulk sunglasses for a beach wedding, Chapstick for a high-altitude winter bash or heel protectors for a ceremony on a soft lawn. You could also include some hangover provisions for the next morning, like Aspirin or Emergen-C packets.
The Weekend Schedule
Include the time and location for the wedding ceremony and reception, along with any pre-wedding festivities your out-of-town guests are invited to. Almost everyone forgets to bring the invite when they travel and, surprise, don't have the details of your wedding day memorized quite like you do. You don't have to reach out to your stationer for this, just mock something up in Word on your laptop and print it out at home or a print shop. If you're printing two to a sheet, here's a tip: Split the paper lengthwise. The long, narrow strips look more bespoke than short and fat half sheets.
Local Guides and Maps
Include a travel guide or local magazine to help guests find fun things to do in their downtime. If you contact your local tourism office, you might even be able to get it all for free.
Something Cute to Put it In
Cloth totes or a cute basket might be cheaper than you think if bought in bulk. But there's no need to go crazy here. Paper gift bags look great and do the job just fine. If you'd like to customize them, order a rubber stamp with your names and wedding date on it and mark each of the bags before you fill them.
What's the best thing you've ever received in a welcome bag?