Guest blogger: Emma Arendoski, founder and CEO of Emmaline Bride, The Wedding Guide for the Handmade Bride, a website dedicated to all things handmade for weddings. Launched in 2009, the site has grown into the leading online voice for handmade weddings. Emma's mission is to empower her readers to support handmade through the use of handcrafted wedding items for all parts of the wedding planning process.
Here, she shares an excerpt from her first book, The Handcrafted Wedding: More Than 300 Fun and Imaginative Handcrafted Ways to Personalize Your Wedding Day (Sellers Publishing, October 2012).
Edible favors are always a hit; everyone loves food, and once it’s gone... it’s gone! No holding onto a wedding favor for months afterward or feeling too guilty to throw it away. Guests who are hungry before dinner can enjoy the favor right away, while others might take it to go. Here are some delicious ideas.
Homemade Jam and Other Preserves and Savories
Whip up a jar of your own delicious strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, or peach jam, place a label on the front, and tie a ribbon around the lid. Spiced peaches, pickles, and marinated olives are other tasty choices. If making your own is too much of an undertaking, there are plenty of gourmet products available for purchase. Just add a ribbon and a thank-you tag.
Photo Credit: © 2012 Eric Boneske Photography
If you’ve always wanted to have your own bakery, how about offering a to-go cookie buffet? I recommend including at least six kinds of cookies in pretty glass jars, so guests have plenty of options. Make cookie catching easier with a pair of tongs in each container, along with a card telling guests what’s inside (which helps guests with allergies). If you know you will have guests who are vegans and/or celiacs, it would be very thoughtful to include at least one kind of cookie for them.
Make cookies even sweeter with personalization: bake up sugar cookies, cut them out using your monogram.
If you’re famous for your chocolate-chip cookies, bake up several batches right before the wedding, and send them home with guests in custom packages. A paper CD sleeve is the perfect size to be used as a takeaway container for a cookie. Order custom stickers to place on the front (or print your own off the computer), and it’s done! Colored cellophane bags tied with a ribbon are another option.
For a punch of color, wrap individual cookies in waxed paper and seal with tape. Then wrap each cookie — as though you were wrapping it as a present — in colorful tissue paper, adding a ribbon embellishment. For an added personal touch, include the recipe along with the cookie in the package. Or you could tie a cookie cutter onto each one. They are available in so many shapes that you can likely find one to fit in with your theme, like a snowflake for a winter wedding, or you can always go with the classic heart shape.
For added charm, offer cartons (like you bought in the cafeteria at grade school) or glass bottles of milk for guests to take an old-fashioned milk-and-cookie break. I’ve even seen milk served up in fancy glasses for a more glorified dipping experience. You’re never too old for milk and cookies!
Cookie Mix in a Jar
If the idea of baking hundreds cookies for guests sounds like too big a task, consider cookie mix in a jar. The dry ingredients needed to make the cookies can be placed in a Mason jar, with an attached recipe instruction sheet. Create your own custom label for the front of the jar, and add fabric with clear elastic to decorate the lid.
You can incorporate a wooden spoon into the favor, attaching it to the side of the jar with twine. On the spoon’s handle, use a wood-burning tool to engrave a message (like “We love you” or “Thank you”), or write their family name on it.
Bring good fortune to guests with custom fortune cookies. You can order them online with your own personal message inside! Share a favorite short quote, words of wisdom, or say thank you in your own words.
Honey in a Jar
Give small jars of honey as favors. One of my favorite sources is Hillside Bees, based in New Hampshire. This team of beekeepers offers small jars of honey, wrapped with a ribbon and paired with a wooden dipper ready for gifting. Go to etsy.com/shop/HillsideBees and look for their honey wedding favors.
Photo Credit: © 2012 Caroline Tran Photography
Get back to your Girl Scout self and offer a s’mores buffet. This can be set up indoors using chafing-dish candles (and caution, obviously) to roast marshmallows on skewers. On a table, arrange the skewers with marshmallows alongside the lit candles (set on plates, of course), immediately followed by graham crackers and chocolate bars. Place glassine bags at the end of the buffet for transporting them to go, as well as plates for guests to savor them immediately. Check with your reception venue in advance, to make sure they’re okay with this idea.
Love the idea but want to skip the skewers? Pack mini s’more favors to go, with two graham crackers, two marshmallows, and a chocolate bar in a decorative bag.
Offer plain cupcakes, frostings, and toppings on a table for guests to build their own cupcakes. If you want to offer guests the option to take their cakes home, and leave them for guests to grab on the go.
Perfect for autumn weddings, this idea offers guests the opportunity to dress up a yummy apple with delectable toppings. On a buffet table, place apples on skewers alongside chafing dishes or small slow cookers filled with warm caramel, hot-fudge sauce, and/or white chocolate. Have plenty of chopped nuts, crushed candies and candy bars, sprinkles, and chocolate chips available for additional topping options. Make sure to provide clear bags and ties for guests to take their apples to go.
Make your own lollipops using a thematic mold (butterflies, hearts, your initials), then wrap them in cellophane and secure them with a pretty bow.
Bake small pies — or buy them from a favorite bakery — and place them inside small cardboard boxes secured with baker’s twine. Attach a plastic fork with a “thank you” card to each.
A to-go candy buffet can be a visual knockout, but without proper planning, you run the risk of it looking sparse. I recommend purchasing at least eight to ten different candies at one quarter to one half a pound per guest. I know, that’s kind of an amazing amount, but you want to ensure that the buffet is stocked so well that guests won’t feel like the “good stuff” is all gone too soon.
For a perfect candy buffet, buy or rent glass containers like large vases, punch bowls, and apothecary jars to house each type of candy. It is important to affix an identifying label on the front of each, which can be made from decorative card stock secured with a satin ribbon. Include candy scoops to discourage guests from digging in with their hands, and don’t forget the old-fashioned paper bags complete with a handle, just like the candy shop offered when you were a kid. Stamp your monogram on the front of each bag for a personal touch. And be sure to visit the buffet throughout the night yourself... after all the hard work, you’ve earned the right to indulge your sweet tooth.
Is your town or region noted for its saltwater taffy, maple syrup, or a particular fruit? Does someone in your family have culinary specialty that is transportable? Look for mini offerings of these products or, if appropriate, buy them in bulk and then use them to fill custom favor bags.
The favors at our wedding were chocolate bars packaged in wrappings that coordinated with our décor. Think about adding a custom label to your favorite candy bar or wrapping it in fabric. Skip this idea for a summer wedding, since no one likes melted chocolate!
Cider and Donuts
Coordinate the season with the favor. In the fall, send guests home with cider and donuts. Buy local cider, pour it into glass jars, add a custom label (including the name of the local mill it came from), and offer it along with donut holes in a sweet kraft-paper bag with a custom stamp. Be sure to keep the cider refrigerated right up until the time of the wedding.
From the Farm
Consider creating a miniature farmer’s market with bushels of apples or peaches, along with small paper bags to fill, or with mini baskets of cherries, blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries. Make sure you include a wooden sign that reads, “Please Pick Your Own!”
Or, place two pears in a small burlap bag tied with ribbon, along with a tag that reads, “The Perfect Pair.”
Fill various containers to the brim with good stuff like granola, raisins, dried cranberries and blueberries, chocolate chips, sunflower seeds, and nuts of all kinds. Have scoops on hand along with individual bags for guests to fill, all of them labeled “For the Trail.”
For more great ideas, check out The Handcrafted Wedding: More Than 300 Fun and Imaginative Handcrafted Ways to Personalize Your Wedding Day (Sellers Publishing, October 2012).