Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Welcome, have some swag!

Welcome bags are not exactly a new addition to weddings; they’ve been around for a few years. However, recently these bags have become much more full and personalized than they were before. Are you curious about whether to offer a welcome bag or what to put in it? Well, you’re in luck because today I feel like discussing these pre-wedding goodie bags.

A pre-wedding goodie bag? Yep! That is exactly what a “welcome bag” is – something given to out-of-town guests in recognition of their arriving at the hotel you selected for your wedding. They are not usually given to guests who live locally because these guests are believed to be familiar with the lay of the land and to not need anything, since they did not have to pack a bag and travel to the location of your wedding. Guests understand this division, and do not baulk at the fact that some of them receive these extra treats; trust us, therefore, when we say that there is no expectation or requirement to provide welcome bags to all of your guests.

This doesn’t mean, though, that you should automatically include welcome bags in your wedding plans. The main considerations when deciding whether to gift welcome bags are the size of your wedding and the number of guests traveling long distances to your event. Review your guest list and count how many guests you expect to stay in a hotel to obtain a rough estimate of this number. If the number is large, seriously consider whether you want to offer welcome bags. Why? Because:

They cost money. The total cost of a welcome bag includes the bag itself and any décor (such as stickers) you affix to the bag, the contents of the bag and – here’s the whopper – any delivery fee the hotel charges. In some hotels, this charge could be as much as $5.00 per bag, which when multiplied by the number of bags to be delivered adds up to a significant amount. Oftentimes, hotels charge the same fee regardless of whether you instruct its staff to deliver individual bags to guests’ rooms or have the front desk clerk hand them out during check-in.

They have to be delivered to the hotel. A hotel isn’t going to put the bags together for you, and many times won’t even accept ready-to-be-delivered welcome bags until the first day that your guests are scheduled to arrive. This means that either you or someone else must deliver your welcome bags to the hotel at the start of your wedding weekend. Also note that staggered guest arrivals subject your bags to sitting around for longer, increasing the chances of their becoming lost or damaged.

Okay, you’ve decided that you really want and can afford to offer welcome bags. Great! So, what are you going to put in them? Hmmm…..

Information about your event, of course! Welcome bags are the perfect place to provide guests with the weekend’s schedule, transportation offerings, and other information they need to know so that they can enjoy all the events you have planned.

Information about the area. Are you getting married in a large city that offers lots to do? Tell your guests about the best activities the area has to offer! You can also take the extra step and tell them about some of your personal favorite activities, be they mainstream or less-known.

Snacks. Hotel mini-bars are expensive; providing your guests with some treats they can enjoy in the afternoon or evening is always appreciated. Snacks that reflect the area or are created by a local store are a fun way to interject local flavor into your gift bags. If you’ve the time, energy, and are good in the kitchen, homemade snacks are always a unique treat, too.

Water. Unless it’s offered for free in the hotel lobby, bottled water is always welcomed in a welcome bag.

Enough for everyone. If you’re giving a bag to each family and not each person, make sure that the bag contains enough all.

There are, of course, some warnings:

For summertime weddings, avoid foods that can melt – especially if guests are staying in a non-air conditioned hotel. Think of the mess, and the wasted money! Also avoid foods or drinks that need to be refrigerated, as traveling guests may not have a refrigerator at their disposal.

Food and drinks are always welcome, as are small pieces of memorabilia or fun gifts, such as candles. However, remember that whatever you gift that’s not edible requires guests to pack and bring home with them. Read = avoid large, non-edible items.