As a wedding guest, there is nothing that actually turns me off more than a BAD out of town tote. I’m so easy to please as a guest, I’ll make do with a wine and beer bar and I don’t need a fancy centerpiece, but there is something about bad OOT bags that feels like fast food. It TECHNICALLY counts as food, it cost money and has calories, but there is nothing memorable about it. Nothing says “I did this out of obligation, not because I care” than slapping some Poland Spring, Advil and some Terra Chips from Costco into a paper bag from Party City. (Sorry to the person who is reading this and planning on doing that. But better to hear it from me and save the money, OR better yet, hear it from me and get a better idea.)
As I often say, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. So here are some thoughts on how to make everyone feel welcome at a few ranges of budgets!
For us, with most guests for our most recent wedding coming from Australia and everyone invited making the trek up to the Hudson Valley, we wanted our gift bags to be super special. A big part of their lives is their awesome bull dog Hercules, who we immortalized on our stamps for our invitations and our STDs. So, for our gift bags we had one of our designers take this handsome guy and illustrate him for this simple cotton tote.
Inside the tote we put a map of the property with shuttle information and then a ton of fun and relevant items for the weekend and for the couple: candies from Australia, snacks from the farm where our food for the wedding was coming from, scarves for “if it got cold”, flashlights for “when it gets dark” and then we tagged each of the items with these awesome tags that mirrored our “logo” for the weekend. I think my favorite part about it was that it was personal to our client, but not overly “wedding”, so not only did we see people using them this weekend, but they will probably use them in the future too. As a matter of fact, I used mine this morning.
If you don’t have the time or the inspiration for creating a custom tote, there are TONS of really amazing options online. Melangerie has these great State by State food totes, which is great for the foodie out there. But I also loved these city location totes from Bliss Wedding Market. And of course, you could also DIY. Over at Fig and Plum, she tells the tale of making her own totes with her Gocco and a bike motif that had a lot of symbolic meaning to them and their wedding.
More Modest Ideas:
I recognize that not every budget can support a $20 tote bag, plus all the good stuffings inside, BUT you can still get creative and offer your guests something that feels a little more special than the aforementioned paper bag with tissue paper and bulk ordered junk food.
I love, love, love the idea of a gable box stuffed with goodness. And, luckily you can buy them already stuffed. Newlywish has two adorable gable boxes priced between $25 and $30 each including the stuffings. I loved this craft paper with Brooklyn water tower motif. (Though, and I know I sound like a broken record, I am having such a hard time reconciling the Brooklyn of my youth with the craft paper/water tower movement it now represents.. but no matter.. It’s a cute label.)
The gable box is a fun and easy thing to put together yourself if you have the time to do so as well. I always thought a creating a NY gourmet box could be fun: something with local chocolates and some macaroons and other fun stuff. Or, a breakfast box with bagels that gets sent up the morning after!
On a Budget (Or simply less fussy):
Sometimes people’s out of town guests aren’t all that out of town (I.e. your aunts from NJ staying in the city for the night of the wedding) and an OOT bag seems a little overkill. Other times, the idea of doing a gift bag well might bust your budget. So, rather than do a BAD gift bag, consider not doing one at all. And instead sending up a bottle of wine and a personal note to each guest thanking them for coming. OR, if budget isn’t an issue, consider sending up a bottle of champagne instead… but the truth is, the KEY is the note! It’s the thing that separates the boys from the men in terms of special-ness; $10 on a bag will chinzy junk food or a $10 bottle of wine and a note that says “Hey Aunt Chuckles, I’m so glad you could make it” (We had an Aunt Chuckles once), I think the Wine and note is simply more elegant and more… welcoming, frankly. Not drinkers? Then consider a box of cookies from your local bakery with a note, or a box of chocolates with a note.. Everything is nicer with a handwritten note and one quality item is always going to trump a ton of cheaper ones.