Never underestimate the power of a welcome basket to excite guests, show your appreciation for their attendance and prepare them for the fun ahead. We gathered some of our favorite products that fit any locale, then turned to four industry experts to get their advice on what works in some popular destinations.
What factors should couples keep in mind when choosing items for their welcome bags?
To keep things simple, include items that are nonperishable and don’t need to be refrigerated; keeping things cold can be tricky in a hotel room. Also consider the weight of the items and avoid things that are too bulky – you don’t want guests to stress about having to find room in their suitcases to bring everything back home. Traditional wicker baskets are nice but hard to pack.
– Kristine Fong, director of romance at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Lahaina, Hawaii
How can couples save on their welcome baskets? How can they splurge?
You can still welcome your guests without breaking the bank. It can be as simple as wrapping a rum cake and adding a welcome letter. Or instead of creating a full welcome bag, just wrap a few items in a cellophane bag and tie it with raffia. On the other end of the spectrum, Caribbean-bound couples can splurge with extravagant beach bags filled with plush towels, caps, beach reads, T-shirts and toys. If you’re springing for an excursion like a snorkeling trip, include their “ticket to board” in the bag, along with some snorkel gear, fish food and an underwater disposable camera. Likewise, if the girls are having a spa day, include some personalized slippers, a robe and lavender oil along with the spa schedule.
– Danielle Cococcia, Octopus Events, Cayman Islands
What do you recommend for the container?
We like to use bags that the guests can reuse during their stay and afterward, instead of a decorative basket that will most likely get left behind. It’s also fun if the bag has some local flair, like a colorful woven shopping bag for an event in Mexico or a monogrammed canvas beach bag for a beach wedding. A cost-effective option that always looks great is a simple paper gift bag filled with brightly colored tissue paper to match your wedding theme._
– Alison Hotchkiss, Alison Events, San Francisco, California_
Should couples assemble the baskets themselves, or is it worth hiring someone else to do it?
If the budget allows, I recommend that the wedding couple have someone assemble their welcome gifts for them. People often underestimate the time, labor and space involved. In my experience, when brides have traveled from out of town and try to complete these kinds of tasks on their own, they feel rushed and overwhelmed. I understand the desire to be hands-on, but the reality is, hotel rooms don’t offer the space necessary, and couples don’t have the time to gather last-minute items, making assembly a burden. You’re better off spending that time enjoying the moment than stressing out.
– Sebrell Smith, Sebrell Smith Floral & Event Design, Savannah, Georgia
What local items have your brides included?
A popular item in the Caribbean is locally made rum (in Cayman it’s Tortuga Rum, in St. Croix it’s Cruzan Rum, and in Jamaica it’s Appleton Estate). Other favorites include locally made sweets like rum cake or candy, fresh fruit juice or a souvenir with the destination name.
To represent Georgia, we often include locally made goodies like small glass bottles of Coke (plus a bottle opener), peanuts, pralines or jars of local honey. Many historic sites and museums sell items such as Christmas ornaments, postcards, and fold-over notecards that can be used as gift tags or welcome notes. We always include a visitors guide, an area map, the itinerary and a stamped postcard.
For weddings in Mexico, we’ll include a small bottle of local tequila with a fresh lime, or two bottles of Mexican beer (Corona, Tecate or Pacifico), plus hand-painted terra cotta shot glasses, chips and salsa, Mexican candies, a Mexican blanket, a Spanish-to-English language book, and a local map or guidebook. It’s great if you can throw in some beach accessories as well, such as a snorkel mask, beach towel or sun hat.
Popular Hawaiian touches include macadamia nuts and cookies, Maui brand potato chips, Hawaii postcards, a CD of Hawaiian music, a flower lei, a map of the area, and local magazines featuring area attractions and hours of operation. Gift certificates for planned activities, such as sunset cruises and luaus, also come in handy. You can present items in a beach tote along with snacks, locally made OLA sunscreen – even flip-flops. Adding little games like dice and playing cards is also a nice touch.
@ADPIJESS – Include maps and complimentary tickets to local venues like historic sites.
@BEVERLYC467 – Flip-flops with the couple's name and wedding date are a great idea.
@EKRYAN – Give paper fans, coffee, disposable cameras, sunscreen and aspirin.
@ORLANDOHARPIST – Include info on things to do – a little guide with a map and ideas.
REGALAFFAIR – Include two bottles of water, fruit, something sweet and something salty.