The 101 on Wedding Welcome Bags

As a luxury destination wedding planner, the majority of our clients are planning weekend wedding getaways, in which their guests are traveling to another state or country for an epic weekend of fun and to be with our couples on their big day. When guests are making the financial commitment to travel to celebrate with a couple, it seems only fitting that couples should welcome them accordingly. This is why wedding welcome bags are a frequent topic of discussion with our clients!  But what exactly are these bags and why should you consider gifting them to your guests? 

Let’s take a closer look at what welcome bags are and how they compare to traditional wedding favors to help you make the right decision on what to give your guests when it’s time for your destination wedding.

Are Wedding Welcome Bags Better Than Favors? 

Unlike wedding favors, which are small souvenirs that your guests take away from your event, your guests receive welcome bags when they arrive at the hotel for your wedding. Filled with a personalized letter and thoughtful items to help your guests enjoy their stay, these bags can make your guests feel truly welcomed to your wedding. 

I personally no longer recommend wedding favors to my clients. Let’s be honest: do we really need another candle or bar of soap branded with a couple’s wedding date? 

That being said, some favors are appropriate. As a destination wedding planner, I’ve found that gifting items that are significant to the location of your wedding can make for unforgettable favors. For example, you might choose to gift a bottle of olive oil if you get married in Tuscany, or locally distilled wine if you wed in Napa Valley. 

I prefer to take it a step further and create wedding welcome bags in lieu of wedding favors. They can provide a snapshot of the vibe of your wedding and can also be used to introduce your theme.

What If Your Guests Aren’t Staying at the Same Hotel?

In some situations, you might consider offering a “take home” box in lieu of a welcome bag. If there’s no designated room block and your guests are staying in multiple hotels, providing gift bags that they can take home from the wedding reception may make more sense. 

If you’re not hosting a farewell brunch at the end of your destination wedding weekend, a “take home” box might include breakfast supplies, such as orange juice, mini bottles of champagne, and croissants or pastries with little jars of jelly or marmalade. An emergency hangover and carb kit for a shuttle ride home can also work great and is easy to put together —- think mini bottles of water, a couple packets of Advil, and some donut holes that will work a treat on the drive back. 

What Should You Include in a Wedding Welcome Bag? 

The possibilities are endless when it comes to what to include in a wedding welcome bag. Just like with wedding favors, it’s ideal to include items that are authentic to the location of your wedding.

Snacks and beverages are great options. Consider artisan snack and drink items that are local to where you’re holding your destination wedding. Local fruits, chocolates, or candies can make great options. In Vermont, you might consider including maple and raisin flavored cookies, or in Santa Barbara, you might gift locally grown and raised artisan bags of pistachios. If you’re having a Mexico destination wedding, you might include spicy takis or a mini bottle of tequila for some local fun! 

Be sure to consider location-specific- must-haves. For example, if you’re having a beach destination wedding, you might include sunscreen, flip-flops, and/or tummy meds. If you’re having a wedding in the mountains, you might include bug spray and maybe even a pashmina for the evening.

Local experiences and excursions can make a great addition to your wedding welcome bags! Tickets to a local museum or horseback riding on the beach can make amazing gifts — especially if you’ll be joining your guests! 

You’ll also want to include a thoughtful, personalized note in the welcome bag. This is the best way to let your guests know how much you appreciate them for attending your destination wedding — and how excited you are to host them! 

You’ll also want to include an itinerary and addresses for key locations to help your guests find their way around, as well as an email and/or phone number for your destination wedding planner in case of a guest emergency. 

image of white wedding welcome bags with blue ribbon sitting on table
Photo by Joseph Rogero

Who Should Pay For the Welcome Bags? 

When it comes to who should be responsible for the cost of the wedding welcome bags, there’s really no right or wrong answer. Traditionally, the bride’s parents pay for anything related to the wedding weekend. But nowadays, the bride and groom’s families often split the costs of the wedding. In some cases, the couple may even choose to chip in themselves for expenses like wedding gifts. Ultimately, it comes down to what works best for you!

How Much Do Welcome Bags Cost? 

The cost of your wedding welcome bags will ultimately depend on what you end up including. That being said, we usually estimate around $100-$150 per welcome bag, including the tote bag, basket or disposable cardboard box that will hold the items, along with a pretty ribbon and branded message for your guest. Don’t forget to check with the wedding venue to see if there’s an additional cost for placing welcome bags in your guests’ rooms. If there is, you might consider setting up a fun welcome bag display at your welcome party for guests to take when they leave.

With all the hidden costs of weddings these days, I totally understand that the additional spend of welcome bags may not be a priority. Before you decide to nix your welcome bags from your budget, however, there are several ways you can save money on welcome bags. Purchasing items in bulk and eliminating filler add-ons are two great tips. I always advise my destination wedding clients to prioritize quality over quantity. Your guests are more likely to appreciate a few personalized or authentic local items. Choosing travel-sized options, which your guests will appreciate for their flight home, is another great way to increase savings. 

Another cost to consider is distribution. You’ll also want to check with the wedding venue to see if there’s an additional cost for placing welcome bags in your guests’ rooms. 

When Should You Purchase Wedding Welcome Bags? 

I recommend purchasing the tote bag or box before your invitations go out. This way, you can plan to match the branding of your wedding invitations to the stationery. 

When it comes to buying contents for the welcome bags, you won’t be able to purchase them until you’ve received RSVPs and know your guest count. 

If your bag will contain perishable items, I’d advise purchasing them no earlier than two weeks prior to your wedding. In some cases, you might need to wait even longer. For example, if you include muffins, you will want to purchase them in time to guarantee freshness. 

Who Distributes Wedding Welcome Bags to Your Guests?

You’ll want to designate someone to help assemble and distribute your welcome bags, especially if you want them to be ready in time for your guests to arrive.

If you’re planning to have the venue place the bags in your guests’ rooms, you’ll want to give them enough notice so they can arrange for personnel to assist with distribution. 

Assembly and distribution is something that a destination wedding planner may also be able to help you out with. Not all planners include welcome bags in their services, so this is something you’ll want to inquire about. 

While we provide a design, assembly, and distribution service for welcome bags that you can add a la carte to your wedding planning package, we also love to collaborate with gifting partners, such as Marigold & Grey. To see some of the welcome gifts and bags we’ve helped design in the past, check out my Pinterest board for some examples.

What’s most important is that you have fun with your welcome bags. Take the time to think through the contents to ensure your bag is unique to you and your destination wedding. Your guests will thank you for it! 

If you’re looking for a luxury destination wedding planner to help you create wedding welcome bags that your guests will remember for years to come, contact us here. We can’t wait to help you start planning a wedding weekend that’s filled with unforgettable custom touches!

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