How to Save on Wedding Favors

Couples who offer wedding favors to their guests spend an average of $275 on them, barely 1% of the reported overall cost of the typical wedding. They have almost infinite options for favors and also many tactics to help lower this expense. The bulk of the cost comes from the favor itself, although personalization, packaging, tax and shipping can add up. Avoiding the more extravagant options—like Tiffany keychains—is the best way to keep your favor expenditure reasonable. But you can probably also bring down the cost of wedding favors by shunning sites that specialize in the occasion. Alternative approaches can still delight your guests, while leaving more money in your pocket.

Cut Back on the Total Number of Favors

Many wedding guests attend as couples. Some as full families. Rather than bestow a small, cheap trinket or edible treat on each individual, you might be able to offer a more substantial gift that a group of guests can enjoy together and still save money. While there can be a slightly higher incremental cost per item while increasing quality, you get to cut down the overall quantity, which results in a lower total cost. Consider items such a plant, a game, a fondue pot, or a mini-gumball machine. The table below shows how you can save money using this approach. It compares the cost of individual favors with the cost of a similar, but more impressive, favor for a couple or a group.

Instead of:Per PieceFor 150 GuestsTry:Per PieceFor 75 Couples
DIY Single S'more$0.52$78.00DIY 2 S'mores$0.84$63.29
1.75" Mini-cactus$1.45$217.502.5" Rosette Succulent$2.70$202.50
Maple Sugar Candy (1 pce)$2.39$358.5050ml Bottle of Maple Syrup$2.85$213.75
Tube of Gumballs$2.50$375.00Mini-Gumball Machine$2.98$223.50
2oz Personalized Candle Tin$2.95$442.503oz Personalized Candle Jar$4.17$312.75

Based on the examples we researched, we reduced the initial cost between 7% and 40% on favor expenditures, with these kinds of substitutions. To indicate that the favor is meant for two (or more), add a tag saying something like: For the Smith family; or for Kimberly and Jason Johnson. Guests attending solo should get their own, of course - a very reasonable reward for their courage.

Offering Favors en Masse

One subset of cutting back on the numbers: a simple switch in placement strategy might result in savings for your overall wedding budget. Instead of individually placing your favors at guests' seats, which necessitates displaying one per person, group them en masse. Some guests might prefer not taking a favor. You can allow them to quietly opt out by setting up a favor table near the door, so guests can select or ignore them at will. For 250 guests, you might ultimately give away 200 favors (although if they are going like hotcakes, you might have to ask family and the wedding party to hold back). You might even wind up saving on labor and time too.

Try to purchase favors you can return for a full refund if they’re unclaimed and unopened. Then you can overbuy, to ensure there’s enough for everyone and allow for some loss or damage. Afterwards, you can take or send back those that aren’t taken home. Most retailers and etailers allow returns, unless the favors are personalized objects, edible things, plants or other specifically excluded items. Read the terms carefully in advance. They may also have limited time frames for returns, so you might need to order your favors late and quickly pack up any extras after the wedding.

You might also get away with less than one favor per guest—and enjoy some cost savings—with a “make your own favor” table. This often appears in the form of a candy buffet (you could use nuts and dried fruits or granola for a healthier impact, just be thoughtful about potential allergies). You provide large bowls or jars filled with goodies, as well as scoops, baggies and twist-ties. The hungry can have their fill, while diabetics and dieters might choose to take home a floral centerpiece instead. Here is what the costs of a fairly simple candy buffet might look like:

Candy BuffetCost
Assorted Clear Bowls/Vases$20.00
Cellophane bags$12.00

Another way to cut back on favors: shift to door prizes. Drop every guest’s name into a bowl, or add suspense by distributing raffle tickets (you can get a roll of 500 for about $3; and could leave one at each place setting). Have your DJ or the best man call out names or numbers for a select number of desirable prizes, like a nice bottle of champagne or a gift certificate for a massage.

Consider Alternate Vendors

People who operate within the wedding industry are well aware that brides and grooms come armed with mega-cash to spend—an average of $31,213 overall—and they’re hoping to collect as much of that as they can. Companies that sell to other people—for example, parents of small children or home gardeners—may be more likely to keep their prices in line with their customers’ presumably lesser amount of disposable income. A bride and groom can take advantage of this kind of disparity by seeking to purchase favors from a store that doesn’t cater specifically to wedding couples.

Check out children’s party favors, like 0.6 oz jars of bubbles which you can buy for about 20 cents apiece from Party City. If you buy the same size jar in white from a site that specializes in wedding paraphernalia, they sell for 33 cents apiece, a 65% price increase. Similarly, garden supplies like seed packets can be had for 30 cents each from a site like American Meadows. You could also explore the wares of companies that provide promotional items in bulk—like notebooks and tote bags—for companies or fundraising events.

If you happen to find a great favor in an untraditional place, like a local boutique or Etsy, see if you can negotiate a better price than what a single one would retail for, since you’re buying much more than the typical customer.

Offer Useful Things

Eschewing traditional wedding favors might also allow you to choose an object with more utility for your guests—such as a tote bag, a holiday ornament, or a USB thumb drive. (What’s your elderly aunt going to do with a personalized beach ball, anyway?)

Another way to get the most bang for your buck is to provide something edible. Many guests like consumable favors, so they're not left with a physical object they might feel obligated to keep, or feel guilty about throwing away.

About half of couples personalize their favors—adding their names, the wedding date or a memorable phrase. Many favor companies offer this service, or you can make tags or stickers yourself at home. However, you might save money, and/or time, and increase the favors' utility by skipping the personal touch. A wine glass filled with candies in your wedding colors looks just as attractive, and is more useful once the candy's gone, compared to a glass etched with your initials. While your immediate relatives may keep the favors for commemorative reasons, it is likely that they'll wind up underused by your colleagues or fraternity brothers.

DIY Your Favors

Lots of couples construct their wedding favors, and the possibilities are almost endless. By buying items in bulk and doing the assembling yourself, you can often end up spending less than you would have purchasing a pre-made item. Make sure you factor in all of the materials you’ll need, and calculate the quantities in advance. The tables below show the costs of materials for three types of DIY favors for 150 people.

DIY S'Mores FavorsCost
Graham Crackers$9.00
Cellophane Bags$15.00
Tags or Stickers$16.50
Printer Ink (est.)$3.00

A couple can save significant money by buying the components and assembling the favors themselves—a pre-made S'more kit costs about $7 per favor, compared to about $2 for a comparable DIY version. However, they need to build in the time before the wedding to do the work. It helps to rally a few members of the wedding party, or other family members, for a group favor-making session. Depending on the number of favors needed, and the complexity of the item, a handful of helpers can typically knock out the project in four or five hours.

DIY Spice JarsCost
4oz Jars$85.00
Tags or stickers$16.50
Printer Ink (est.)$3.00

Some couples go one step further—making the contents of their favors from scratch before they divvy them up for their guests. Brides (and grooms!) have made homemade granola, flavored popcorn or scented soaps. This can become a much more labor-intensive process, with extra quality concerns (no one likes stale popcorn). Account for the time this will take up in the days before the wedding so you don’t overextend yourself, especially if you don't already have a habit of making these things.

DIY Lavender SachetsCost
Lavender (25 lb)$330.00
Organza bags$22.00
Tags or stickers$16.50
Printer Ink (est.)$3.00

Another tactic can help you save money on favors and do some good for the world at the same time. Make a donation to a favorite charity and inform your guests, either through a note in the program, or a signed displayed somewhere communal, like the table that holds the seating arrangements. Say something like “In lieu of favors, Mr. & Mrs. Wright have made a donation to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation." If your budget is tight, the donation can be more modest than the few hundred bucks you would have spent on favors. And it’s tax-deductible too!

Just make sure you haven’t chosen a polarizing non-profit, or political organization, so you don’t offend any guest with a different opinion. Charities that help children or fund disease research are usually a good bet.

Favors are an easy way to delight your guests and/or advance your wedding’s theme, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make an impact.

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