Whether you’re hosting a destination wedding or local wedding, one thing that will “welcome” your guests in the best way possible is a welcome bag. Your wedding weekend officially kicks off the moment guests check in at their hotel, and receiving a welcome bag is, without a doubt, going to set the tone. It’s such a nice way to thank your guests for spending their weekend celebrating with you, whether they’ve traveled across the country or just across the city.
As wedding planners, we get the, “What should I put in my welcome bag?” question a lot. And the answer is never just a simple list. It really depends on the budget, guest count, type of wedding, what the couple personally likes, etc. There are always the “essentials” for those who are on a budget and don’t necessarily want to go all out, and there are the amazing “extras” for those are into the idea of going a little crazy and splurging. Either way, the most important thing is to make sure your welcome bag is personalized in some way…
- A tote – the Wedding Chicks shop is our go-to for custom totes. You can buy them in bulk, too, which is nice. If you’re on a budget, though, we recommend trying to spend no more than $1.50 or $2.00 on a tote, otherwise, the cost will absolutely add up – Etsy is always a good spot. (Pro tip: Shop the Wedding Chicks shop over holiday weekends – Black Friday, Memorial Day, 4th of July, etc. – They have amazing deals!)
- A welcome letter – This is the most important part! Write a personal “thank you for coming” letter to your guests, followed by a quick itinerary. This is especially important if you’re providing guest shuttles. (Bonus: add a page of “things to do” in Chicago! Your guests will love looking through a list of your favorite restaurants, shops, and spots around the city and may be looking for something to do!)
- Water bottles – Everyone loves a water bottle after a long day of traveling. Luckily, you can kill 2 birds with 1 stone here and personalize this as well. The Knot Shop is the best place for this!
- A sweet or salty treat – If you’re on a budget and want to keep things simple, 1 treat will be enough… just to hold everyone over until they have time to go grab a bite! In Chicago, Garrett Popcorn is the #1, followed closely by a mini box of Frango Mints! (Pro tip #2: When ordering from Garrett, opt for the “build your own favor” package – You’ll have to do your own scooping, but you will save a ton of money by not buying these pre-packed!)
Photo: Amanda Megan Miller
- Something salty and something sweet – If you’re planning on going all out, the one thing we can guarantee your guests will use is food. This is also a good time to tie in another city if you/your families are from another city. We’ve had couples incorporate Better Made Potato chips because their families were from Detroit, pralines from Texas, etc. It’s a nice way to welcome your guests to Chicago while also making them feel more at home.
- A “cocktail” or ingredients to make a cocktail ;) – A mini bottle of vodka, champagne, etc. – Drinks are always a celebratory way to be welcomed to an unforgettable wedding weekend.
- Hangover kit – Some Advil/ibuprofen, EmergenC, gum, etc. will let guests know that you’re not messing around this weekend and that they are definitely in for a good time. ;)
- Something personal or handmade – Some of our crafty couples will want to bake or make something for their guests when others will surrender to a custom cookie made by their caterers ;) Either way, your guests will appreciate it.
OTHER MISCELLANEOUS TIPS & TRICKS
- Make room in your budget for welcome bags from the start. It may seem like a bottle of water, custom cookie, and a bag of popcorn is a simple, budget-friendly gift, but the truth is, it adds up. When planning for this, make “welcome bags” its own category. $400 is usually a good number to start with – You can go up or down depending on what your numbers are looking like! Then say you’re expecting around 40 guests to be staying at the hotel, and you’ll know to keep the bags at $10 each. From there, you can divvy up – $2.50 for the tote, $2.00 for the water bottle + label, $4 for the popcorn, and just plan that way.
- Don’t forget to factor in the delivery fee. Most, if not all, hotels in Chicago charge a fee to delivery bags. This can be anywhere from $2-7 per bag so it definitely helps to plan ahead!
- Study your rooming list from the hotel. You really only need to buy 1 bag per room, but probably want to add enough snacks/treats for a number of people who are staying in the room!