Do Me a Favor

When it comes to wedding favors, there’s one important thing to keep in mind: unless it’s a consumable, most of your guests will either leave them behind or junk them quickly. Over the years I’ve taken home more than my share of plastic doves, personalized wine glasses, tiny implements like flashlights that don’t actually work, and other assorted useless bits of flotsom and jetsam. Most of them got kept for a few puzzled months and then finally tossed in the trash…though I do still have a couple wineglasses with the names of couples I barely know sitting in my cupboard. They don’t get used, but I can’t quite bring myself to simply toss them and nobody wanted them at our last garage sale. No, I wasn’t surprised, but I gave it a shot.

Over and over again, it’s been made clear that if you want your favors to be a hit, then it’s best to give a popular kind of candy like chocolate. I’m all for chocolate, of course. I love it. It’s tasty, it’s sweet, and it’s nearly universally popular. But there are some other options you may wish to consider.

Why not soap? Soap is even more universal than chocolate. We all need it, and if you don’t like the one you get, it’s easy to either just stick it in the guest bathroom or pass it on to someone else.

Heart Soap Favor

And at $2.39 apiece, it’s affordable, too.

Don’t like the hearts? How about shells? They cost a little more, but you get two soaps per favor instead of one.

Not into the soap idea? That’s okay. There are other options. How about tea? If one guest leaves it behind, another will have plenty of room to take a second…or you might use the extras for yourself.

All of these favors and hundreds more are available from Hanson Ellis.

Of course, you don’t have to give favors at all. If you’re looking to save a few dollars on your wedding, favors are actually a great thing to cut. If you give them out and they aren’t consumable, at least half will probably get left behind and half of those taken will never be used. If you don’t give them out, chances are 90% of your guests won’t even notice.

Just do me one favor, if you’ll pardon the pun: if you decide not to give out favors, for the love of all that’s holy do not put out some sort of notice that you decided rather than spending the money on your guests, you’ve given it to charity for them instead. For one thing, people should be allowed to choose their own charities. I don’t care who you give it to, you’re going to at least annoy and possibly offend someone. More than that, though, those notices tell your guests that it wasn’t spending the money you minded, but spending the money on them which is an incredibly rude thing to say. Go ahead and give to the charity of your choice. Just don’t try to tell me that’s my party favor, because it isn’t.

40 Responses to “Do Me a Favor”

  1. I must say I really like this post, but for the last part… I started to question myself. I was planning on giving a donation to Breast Cancer (since my grandmother passed away from it and my mother is a survivor) I thought it would be nice, instead of offering the not so useful favors.

    At the same time, I did not want to have my guest leave empty handed so I was opting for a bottle of imported sparkling water (to fit our glamour theme) yet, I still wanted to highlight the whole breast cancer thing because it is important to me.
    am i totally out of the loop? Any suggestions?

  2. Leah says:

    My cousin is a glass blower, and my mother commissioned napkin rings from him for favors. It was part of the table setting, so it was easily incorporated. It was hand-made, and therefore of higher value, and if one person didn’t want theirs, most people walked away with at least a pair if not a set of four. It also gave my artist cousin some publicity and a few leads for work. His card was set out at the tables too – in case people wanted to order more. I know not everyone’s cousin is a glass-worker, but in many areas you may find an artisan or craftsman willing to do something similar.

  3. Toyouke says:

    My sister gave out pairs of chopsticks (we’re half Japanese and her husband is Chinese). She bought wooden chopsticks, which are pretty cheap in bulk, and then wrote their names and the date on them with a gold paint pen, and then she and I spent forever making origami flowers to tie on. The origami looks good but I thought the chopsticks were a good favor: cheap but useful. She also got married outside in July so everyone also got a nice paper folding fan to take home.

  4. Alex says:

    Great post!

    I think the last paragraph is a great one. If you want to donate to charity, that’s wonderful and generous of you. Please don’t make the decision for me. It is in no way shape or form a favor or gift for me.
    Don’t get me wrong, I think donating to a charity you believe in is great and I think people have their hearts in the right place…I’m just not sure why exactly it has to be announced to me, you know?

  5. MissPinkKate says:

    I 100% agree on not doing charity donations as favors. I think charity giving is a private matter, often motivated by personal, emotionally wrought circumstances, and that’s the way it should stay.

  6. C* says:

    I totally disagree with both Twistie and MissPinkKate on this one. I think if you stick with a charity that is pretty universal (i.e. Breast Cancer research or Make a Wish etc.), no one will be offended, especially if they know that there is a reason you have chosen that organization. I would stay away from anything that could be political (i.e. stem cell research, pro-choice/pro-life, etc.).

    I think you’d probably want to note to your guests that you made the donation but stay away from saying anything like “ lieu of favors..”. You could even put a little pink ribbon on your note to tie it all together.

  7. Riona says:

    Nice post! We had temporary tattoos (sailor hearts) as our favors, and people loved them.

  8. LadySun says:

    For Kelly:

    Why not look into some of the trinkets from the Susan G. Komen foundation or the Breast Cancer Research Foundation? You can combine the best of both worlds — you’ve given your money to a worthy cause that means a lot to you and your family, and your guests can have something that not only reminds them of your grandmother but of you and your special day.

    While I do agree that giving to a charity may be a very personal thing, if it has a family signficance, I think it might be worthwhile. It might do to ask (discreetly) within your family, though.

  9. Kate says:

    As a guest, I wouldn’t mind a charitable favor. To me it doesn’t say someone didn’t want to spend money on me (and really, knowing the cost of whatever food and drinks I consume at a wedding, there’s no way I could think the bride and groom didn’t want to spend money on me). Rather, it says, rather than put the favor budget to some candy that gets eaten quickly or some cheap chotchke none of guests really want or need, the couple decided to pool the money and give it to a charity that could use it, and all the guests get the gift of sharing in the good feeling that provides.

    I also like charitable favors because they are relatively ‘green’. By that I mean there is no individual packaging, there’s nothing to throw away, and no energy has been spent in manufacturing, shipping, etc. (Of course that’s somewhat offset by having little scraps of paper telling everyone about the favor, so if you’re trying to be ‘eco-friendly’ keep that in mind)

    That said, I do realize (and this post illustrates) that charitable favors are a subject of some debate. So consider the response of your family and friends both as to whether you choose to have a charitable favor and, if you do, which cause you will donate to.

  10. Allura says:

    I’m not sure where I got the idea, but we combined our centerpieces and our favors. On each table were potted mini rose plants, with ribbon & such on the pots, one per couple or single. Everyone took one home. Several are still growing, as far as I know, and I really liked the idea of something lasting from that day and even growing.

    The only catch was the florist couldn’t get matching colors without us spending a LOT more (and even then, she wasn’t sure). But it still came out great, since I love color.

  11. Cassie says:

    I think LadySun’s idea is great. There are a LOT of charitable items available that would be good favors and still allow you to donate.

    Leah, all I could think when I read yours was how, for a while, my cousin was dating a guy who made gold teeth for a living. Image asking him to make favors, lol.

    For my mother’s wedding, we bought jumbo jellybeans and put them in favor bags. Everyone liked it and they were pretty cheap.

  12. Melissa B. says:

    “If you don’t give them out, chances are 90% of your guests won’t even notice.”

    Heh, every time I go to a wedding, when they pass out the favors my initial reaction is: “what the heck is this?!” followed by the realization, “oh, right, it’s the wedding favor.” I definitely wouldn’t notice if there was no trinket at the end of the night. (But maybe I’m just clueless.)

  13. Sarah C says:

    I had a friend who got married and had the best wedding favors ever. They used those little plastic film canisters and put 6 mini dice and the instructions for a dice game called Farkle in them (this was a game that the bride, groom and many of their friends had spent a lot of time playing). On the outside they had affixed labels with the name of the game and the date of the wedding.

    I was sharing a hotel room with one of the other bridesmaids who I hadn’t actually met before the wedding and we spend the evening after the wedding playing this game and had a great time. It’s small enough that I still have it kicking around in the bottom of my purse and, if I’m ever waiting with a group of people, it’s fun to get out and play.

  14. beanchar says:

    First of all, the wedding “favor” is a quite recent phenomenon (probably dreamed up by the Wedding Industrial Complex) and not AT ALL required by established etiquette.

    I’m sure that brides that prefer to make a donation rather than give out dozens of meaningless tokens feel that they MUST mention it because favors have become an “expected” part of the package.

    I REALLY doubt that any bride is going to choose a “controversial” charity. More likely, they will choose something that all their guests can relate too– like breast cancer (we’ve all got ’em or love someone who does).

    As for not picking your own charity, if you are truly offended by a friend honoring you by helping others less fortunate, then you really ought to re-think your priorities.

    I hope more brides will try to include charitable giving as part of their celebration rather than spending money on useless trinkets.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I love it when guests donate to charities in lieu of traditional favors.
    A) I’ve just attended their wedding, where they have likely spent a fortune to provide me with munchies during cocktail hour, a full dinner, an open bar, and decadent desserts. I am stuffed to the max. I certainly do not need edible favors of any sort to take home, because I probably still have food from the out-of-town bag sitting in my hotel room.
    B) I don’t need some cheapy favor they picked because it was cheap (read: mini picture frame, one votive candle holder, letter opener etc.). Sure, there are lots of ideas for things you can actually use and would want to use, not just keep out of obligation, but they generally cost more. If you can afford to spend $15-$20 per person on favors, then by all means buy something lovely. Most of us, however, cannot.
    C) What do I generally do with these little trinkets? I throw them out. Others leave them behind on the table, and you throw them out. This is not only a waste of money, but a waste of packaging — more crap to wind up in a landfill. Yay!

    Donations to charities, on the other hand, help people far less fortunate than the majority of us. Yes, it might be one thing if you pick something controversial, like Planned Parenthood, or a donation to a politician unless you work for the political party and people would expect it. But the majority of donations I have seen at weddings are to big, non-controversial causes — March of Dimes, Habitat for Humanity, etc. And none of the weddings I have been at have made donations in the name of specific people, i.e. “$5 was donated in YOUR NAME to Such-and-Such a Charity”, so it’s not like you specifically can be singled out for donating to someone.

    I think it’s a lovely thing to do, and we will be doing it at our wedding, both instead of favors, and by donating 10% of cash gifts. We’re certainly not announcing that part of our gifts are being donated, as there is no need, but we will be mentioning on the program that we have donated to our non-controversial charities of choice (medical related, but my fiance and I are both in medicine and if people do not support furthering those with diseases, then chances are we are not friends with them and they are not invited to the wedding) rather than hand out the standard favor.

  16. catherine says:

    If you want a great way to package it all up, try They’re really great, and have tons of ideas!

  17. kelly says:

    I have to totally disagree. Even though I’m having a wedding, I can not get legally married. And 30% of my guests are gay as well. We decided instead of giving some stupid favor we would donate $300 to the Human Rights Campaign to advance the cause of gay marriage so everyone could actually GET married.
    Though I know some people are anti-equal rights, they would never be coming to my wedding, so I know I will not offend anyone.

    Getting legally married? How about making sure everyone can. I know a few straight couples have done the same thing. It’s the perfect perfect favor.

  18. Anonymous says:

    While giving to charity is always a noble idea, I have to agree with Twistie on this one -it’s very easy to offend someone with your choice of charity. Even the most “non-controversial” charities have the potential to offend or irritate someone. For example, I don’t support breast cancer research (and definitely not the Susan G. Komen fund), because I prefer to give my money to charities where it’s actually going to be used well, and donate to causes that aren’t supported by everything from measuring cups to mashed potatoes. If I went to a wedding where I was told that in honor of their guests (or however it was phrased), the bride and groom gave to breast cancer research, I would, quite frankly, be irritated.

    That’s not to say that I mind them giving to breast cancer research – far from it. Hey, it’s your money – you spend it how you want. I’ll be busy over here with my money. But please, please, do NOT give to charity for me. That makes way too many assumptions about me and what I like and am comfortable with – in other words, yes, it’s rude.

  19. Never teh Bride says:

    What I find interesting is that every gift makes assumptions about the recipient and what the recipient likes and is comfortable with. Why then is a charitable gift in someone’s name particularly contentious?

    That’s not to say you have to like them, of course. I’m not a big chocolate fan, so I won’t exactly like little chocolate heart favors. The very nature of wedding favors involves pleasing some of the people, all of the time, rather than all of the people, all of the time. Personally, I wouldn’t let the fear that some people won’t like charitable favors stop me from ordering them if that’s what I really wanted, just like I wouldn’t let the fact that some people don’t care for chocolate or soaps or whatever stop me from ordering those.

  20. Julie says:

    Anonymous #2:
    Isn’t it just as rude to assume that I want you to purchase more crap in my honor to pile into a landfill as others have mentioned as it is to assume that someone would want a donation to breast cancer research made in your honor?

    Never teh Bride is dead on. You are making a guess with every gift. Everyone suggests giving out chocolates — what if you have a Mormon friend attending your wedding? They don’t eat chocolate because it contains caffeine. That’s not exactly considerate either now, is it?

  21. oh wow… what a debate. Sorry I had to post about it on weddingbee…

  22. Ladybug78 says:

    I have to disagree with your post. If you are a guest at a wedding, the couple has already spent an enormous amount on your dinner! For our wedding, the cost for food was $85 per person + tax and tip, which ended up totalling $106 per person just for the food. So, if one of our guests felt offended because we donated to a charity rather than buying a cheap plastic dove that would have been instantly thrown in the trash….I wish they would not have come to the wedding at all.

  23. Wow, interesting debate. I never really gave that much thought to the possibility of a donation offending guests at a weddings.

    Time for me to rethink and update that section of my site.

  24. Melissa B. says:

    If you want to give to a charity as part of your wedding celebration, go for it! I don’t think anyone would be offended if a bride and groom choose to mention a charity or cause that means a lot to them on their wedding day. A note on the menu saying something like “In honor of Grandpa Smith, Jane and Steve have made a donation to Charity X” is a good way to bring the guests’ attention to that charity.

    But to me, linking the charitable giving to the guests’ favors (or lack thereof) seems weird because favors are a very minor and optional part of the wedding. Announcing that you took “the favor money” and gave it to charity, in a way, perpetuates the idea that favors are traditional and necessary when they are definitely neither. It also implies that your greedy guests must be wondering where their present is.

    Personally I plan to forgo favors entirely, unless I can think of one as awesome as the Farkle game Sarah C got.

  25. Kai Jones says:

    Why then is a charitable gift in someone’s name particularly contentious?

    Because it isn’t a gift from you or to you, it is a gift from the bride and groom to the charity–and they are bragging about it by pretending they did it for you.

  26. Ladylynn says:

    Provided that any donation/favor is not made with a guest’s specific name attached to it (because of potential religious/political/ethical concerns, mentioned above), I have the following thoughts:
    Why would any guest care how the money that was reserved for favors is spent. It was not money any guest was ever entitled to to begin with. Newsflash: You are not entitled to favors!!!
    If a guest is offended that the bride and groom took the time (and very minimal percentage of the budget) to consider those less fortunate, those are not guests I want at my wedding.

  27. wedaholic says:

    Giving something pratical will for sure be the hit at any wedding for that matter. Practical Wedding favors are by far the most cherish and will certainly won’t be left at the table. Presenting your guests with a trinket box filled with candy or chocalate is always recommended by us as well.

  28. Tizzy says:

    I’m going to say something offensive: if I went to a wedding and was told that money had been donated for Breast Cancer research as the favor I would be offended. It’s personal, it’s stupid, but it’s true. I think too much attention is paid to breast cancer research compared to other more deadly cancers and diseases.

    I understand that my reasoning is flawed and selfish but it’s how I feel. My father died of lung cancer when I was a child. No, it wasn’t his fault. No, he wasn’t a smoker. Yes, lung cancer kills more Americans than breast cancer. No, there isn’t money for research because if you get lung cancer it’s your fault. My father will not be at wedding and I don’t need your wedding favor reminding me of that.

  29. Susan says:

    It’s nice to see healthy debate on this subject and that both sides can discuss things without fearing the PC police. With respect to charitable donations, I think it would be more compelling if the bride and the groom considered registering for their favorite charity rather than the usual array of crap from Pottery Barn or WilliamSonoma. Somehow it strikes me as a bit hypocritical otherwise to say “hey, we donated what we would of spent on your favor to [our fav charity]. Oh, and by the way, we are registered at Macy’s for the $200 piece place setting of ye-crappy-floral-china”

    And as a daughter of a pancreatic cancer victim, I can tell you there’s a huge difference between charities that promote advocacy/awareness vs funding medical research. I’m not going to say what is right, but I know that you will offend people who support the one over the other. So yes, even cancer research isn’t safe… and is more likely to touch a nerve than gifting a crappy photo frame.

  30. what if you have a Mormon friend attending your wedding? They don’t eat chocolate because it contains caffeine.

    I guess I won’t be converting any time soon.

  31. Julie says:

    “Yes, lung cancer kills more Americans than breast cancer. No, there isn’t money for research because if you get lung cancer it’s your fault.”

    I know this has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but I just wanted to respond to this particular statement. I’m a research oncologist, and I was shocked to read this statement — there is A TON of money for lung cancer research — #2 after breast cancer, followed closely by prostate. It’s the most funded particular form of cancer research at my particular university. A HUGE chunk of money from the tobacco settlements is funneled straight into biomedical research relating solely to lung cancer.

    Like I said, nothing to do with the wedding favor topic, but I just wanted to clarify up that misconception.

  32. Elizabeth says:

    My fiance and I are both in education and are making a donation to the Make a Wish foundation for our 250 guests. Honestly, if anyone attending our wedding is offended by that, helping out and providing for ill children,–I would hope they wouldn’t come.

    Personally, I have been to so many weddings and would be honored if I saw that the couple made a donation in my name. I hate trinkets and if you have ever attended a wedding you should know that there are always more than enough sweets present!

  33. maryland says:

    I’m really dissapointed in this blog. How insulting for you to say that charitable giving is not a favor. Instead you suggest soap and other crap? how selfish to say that you don’t want a charity donation in your name. In case you forgot, the wedding is NOT about the guests, it’s about the couple. As a wedding blogger, you are not sending the right message to your readers. shameful.

  34. Leah says:

    @maryland: While I don’t disagree with your sentiments about charitable donations, the favors ARE about the guests, are they not?

  35. Maryland says:

    @Leah –
    Favors are something the wedding INDUSTRY created to entice you to spend more money. I haven’t been to a wedding with favors, and I don’t plan to do them myself.

  36. daisyj says:

    I really don’t care one way or the other about wedding favors, or what charity the couple decide to support in honor of their wedding. And if you want to cut out unnecessary expenditures somewhere in the wedding to free up money for that charity, then by all means do so. But I’m with Twistie and the people who say they don’t see what this has to do with them. You giving to a cause you support is a fine thing, but it isn’t a gift to me, and I think if I were to get a card to that effect I would feel like you were trying to get double-duty out of the money, by spending it on something you wanted and getting out of a perceived obligation to your guests. None of which is to say I would prefer a plastic tchotchke to world peace; I just think if you’re going to take credit for giving someone something you should probably actually give them something.

  37. Charity Bride says:

    I agree with everyone on this blog that said ” I would be honored to see that the bride and groom cared enough to donate money instead of waste it on candles, soap, or whatever”

    Seriously- you do have to make sure you are not doing a controversial organization but other than that —– if you don’t like the idea of donating to the less fortunate please do not show up to my wedding!

    Has America become soooo materialistic that they would rather receive a stupid candle then know that money was going to the less fortunate. Who can argue with “Make a Wish Foundation” —- another way i would see getting around the political controversery is to donate to a local charity that is highly viewed among the community. My fiance and i are from the same town so we’re donating to the humane society in our town.

    We are feeding our guests dinner for free- yes we get a gift in return but i would rather say “i helped the humane society” instead of 90% of my gifts were thrown away!
    And you could offend anyone with any gift and someone is bound not to like it— again please do me the favor and don’t show up to my wedding! We are inviting 150 people but we’re just going to say “on behalf of our guests” not sam, sally, susie, etc… come on why would they care?
    In lieu of a favor means instead of— instead of wasting $400 on favors we actually saved a dogs life—- oh and we’re animal lovers so if you hate animals then you have offended us and won’t be invited to our wedding! (seriously if anyone complains at it at my wedding then tough luck)—- you’re telling me you have never offended anyone and that you have accomplished please 150 people all at once—- there are other complaints: the ceremony’s too long, im allergic to flowers, i didn’t like the menu choices, i mean the list goes on!

    Oh also check out the I Do foundation —- it works with the wedding channel and will donate a portion of your gifts to a charity of your choice! and its no cost to you or your guests! Weddings are so expensive and have become more and more wasteful — consider what you’re doing first!

    I think it is soo respectful to donate- and that is what our families do now for christmas- instead of buying another statue we donate to a charity!

  38. CCC says:

    I have a serious problem with the selfish statements on this blog. I would be honored if someone donated to a charity instead of giving me some crappy trinket. I actually got the idea to donate in lieu of giving favors at a friend’s recent wedding — they donated in lieu of a gift, and I thought it was a great idea. So my fiance and I are donating to a cancer charity. We’re researching them to make sure it’s one that actually funds research for a cure. But my fiance’s father died of cancer, and my mother battled cancer three years ago (we’re lucky, she beat it), and frankly, if any of my guests has a problem with that then I don’t know that they’re someone I want in my life. If they want the $4 votive candle so badly I’ll happily drive their selfish butt to the store so they can buy it themselves.

  39. Jennie says:

    I had no idea I was so out of it. Wedding favors are now expected? Personally, I am doing everything I can to de-clutter/de-crap my house. I have so much “in honor”, “representing”, etc… shite in my house, drawers, cabinets that I can’t stand it. Goodwill doesn’t want it. My name is not Shirley or Tom so it’s not usuable. Personally, spend the money on the bar, on a charity, not at all, or on your honeymoon. This is YOUR day. Not mine. Please do things your way and to the darkest pits of the seventh dimension with what everyone else thinks!