If you haven't been to a wedding in a while, you might be surprised by the guest favors. No longer limited to such traditional offerings as matchbooks engraved with the happy couple's initials or Jordan almonds wrapped in netting and tied with a bow, wedding favors have taken on a new prominence.
Personalizing favors is the hottest trend, according to Stacie Francombe, founder and CEO of Get Married Media Inc. (http://www.GetMarried.com), which produces Get Married magazine and a show on WE tv. "It's the biggest thing out there. Personalization is huge," Francombe says. "Couples are incorporating their initials or names and wedding date into the guest favors."
Instead of traditional matchbooks or bottles of bubbles, some couples are choosing small engraved photo frames as place card holders at the guest tables. Others incorporate their memory frames into the actual place settings, perhaps on the napkins.
More couples are demonstrating their environmental awareness through such eco-friendly favors as water bottles made from recycled materials. "Even those are very personalized with the couple's names and the wedding date printed on the bottles," Francombe says. Other eco-friendly gifts include small saplings and seed packets.
The wedding colors are often an important consideration in selecting favors. Hot designs for 2010 include butterflies, cherry blossoms, lovebirds and damask patterns.
For example, a Chinese-American wedding had a red, white and gold color theme. The couple used red Chinese food takeout boxes full of Legos as favors, which doubled as an icebreaker as the guests built and compared their own creations.
Personalized small boxes of fine chocolates, cookies, truffles, brownies or gourmet coffees and teas are other possibilities.
Some brides choose to make the favors themselves. Kits are available in all budget ranges, according to Francombe. "It can be as simple as adding ribbon to bags of candy," she says.
Even for couples on tight wedding budgets, do-it-yourself favors can be limited only by their imaginations. One couple asked their guests to choose a beer, wine or martini glass in advance of the wedding and then purchased them from a supplier. The couple made personalized wine charms for the guests, who then got to take home their glasses as memorable and useful favors.
Those couples for whom money is no object can choose to treat their guests to "experience" gifts. A popular trend in the United Kingdom and Australia, experience giving is catching on in America, according to Tania Luna of Surprise Industries. "My company organizes surprise experiences, and we've had several surprise gift certificate orders for wedding guests ($25 per person)," she says. "The response is tremendous. Guests feel appreciated and get excited about their favors. The trouble with most wedding favors is that they are generally useless, but guests don't want to throw them away because they're a symbol of such an important day. Experience gifts don't collect dust and give guests something they actually enjoy."
"Higher budgets may go for personalized monogrammed jars of caviar, honey, nuts or wine, or couples may choose to monogram a cocktail glass or large diamond-shaped crystal for their guests," according to wedding and special event planner Marlaina D. Skowron of Engagements.
Some wedding experts are observing a new and somewhat surprising trend when it comes to favors.
"Some couples are doing without them, as they consider favors an unnecessary expense. It's definitely a growing trend," says Marta Segal Block, who writes the "Ask the Wedding Maven" advice column for OneWed.
Another trend is for couples to make charitable donations or purchase carbon offsets, notifying guests that these purchases were made on their behalf, says Marilee Karamanski of Planned Spontaneity. "It can be a lovely gesture that helps the bride and groom express their values through their wedding celebration."