What’s the point in wedding favours?

Wondering why people bother with wedding favours? It’s not just another thing to tick off the list – the history of gifts for guests goes a long way back

If you were to ask the average wedding guest why there’s usually a tiny present waiting for them when they sit down to their meal, most would have no idea. But favours, whether mini-chocolates or fake moustaches, are a concept that’s been around for hundreds of years, thanks to our European pals.

weddinginateacup 01 RRP£3
A favour waiting on your plate is not just a great conversation-starter – and gorgeous packaging always helps! Polka-dot bags, £6 for 20, Wedding in a Teacup

The rest is history

The custom of handing out gifts can be dated back as far as the 16th century, when French and Italian aristocrats would bestow bonbonniers (French), or bombonieres (Italian) upon their guests as a token of thanks for attending their opulent occasion. A bonbonnier would be a small box made of metal or porcelain, and possibly covered with crystals or precious stones, containing sweet treats. Sugar was expensive in those days and hard to come by, so these delicacies were much appreciated. Rather than everyone receiving a gift, sometimes it was only a few female guests who had the honour. Sugar was believed to have medicinal purposes (wouldn’t that be something!) so was given as a gesture of goodwill, gratitude and good fortune. 

As sugar became cheaper, bonbonniers were gradually replaced by sugared almonds. It became customary to give five of these, each one representing a specific wish: health, wealth, happiness, long life and fertility. A couple getting married were seen as lucky, so they were passing on their good fortune. Jordan almonds are still a popular choice with couples wanting a classic wedding favour, and normally come either wrapped in tulle or presented in a pretty and delicate box or bag. 

Fly the flag

In Scotland, tablet is all the rage for couples looking to give their favours a traditional flavour. Other Caledonian favourites include a wee dram of whisky (sometimes in a personalised bottle), pieces of shortbread and favours adorned with tartan trimmings and thistles. If you and your partner are bringing together different nationalities, favours that showcase this can be a great way to celebrate your cultural heritage.

wedofmydreams_Thank You Favour Bag £1.50 The Wedding of my Dreams -Credit Daffodil Waves Photography (111)
A cute little favour bag like this would wrap things up nicely, £1.50, The Wedding Of My Dreams

DIY divas

If you want to make your guests something personal (and – bonus! – save some money), why not break out your glue gun and try your hand at some DIY delights. You don’t have to build favours from scratch; many shops can create personalised stickers and offer printing services so each piece you create will have a professional finish. You could bulk-buy jars and sweets and make everyone their own sweetie jar, or you could use stamps or cookie cutters to make some unique sweet treats – whatever your inner creative genius desires. And going DIY with your wedding favours is a great way to get your family and friends involved with the preparation. If someone close to you is blessed with artistic talent, why not make a night of it and pop round theirs with some glitter, scissors, bubbly and a few pals and get busy crafting? Knowing that such a nice part of your wedding is handmade will make it extra special.

If your guests… love to party

As wedding favours are all about saying thanks to the important people in your life, it’s good to think about what would put a smile on their faces. If your mates are party animals, for example, why not indulge that and buy them something fun to keep the celebrations going? Alcohol miniatures, shot glasses, temporary tattoos, hangover cures, disposable cameras and silly props are all great ways say cheers to your pals with a cheeky wink.

driftliving_Box of Floral wedding Favours
Once you’ve made your favours (heart-shaped tablet, perhaps), you’ll need something to put them in – these Make Merry favour boxes,£9 for 4, are ideal

If your guests… have a sweet tooth

Sweet treats are far and away the most popular kind of favour, no doubt because they are something that just about everybody likes. The possibilities are endless – try handcrafted chocolates, cake pops, cupcakes, confectionery or biscuits, or whatever you can conjure up from a great wedding bake-off. Take your time and they’ll look great too. Make things personal by choosing sweets that were big in your childhood or biscuits in the shape of your family dog. You really are spoilt for choice when it comes to candy goodies.

If your guests… want to donate

Some couples opt to give the gift of giving, by making a donation in their guests’ names to a charity of their choice. Many charities now offer wedding favours, where, for a few pounds per guest, you get small cards for everyone telling them where the money went, and perhaps a badge or token. Ayrshire Hospice, for example, has a service where £2 per head enters each guest into a lottery, and the hospice’s personalised favours can then double as a place setting. The charity calls the service “a chance to win and a way to care”. Other Scottish charities have equally innovative schemes, so this is an area worth researching if you want to share your good fortune with a good cause.

Better Together Activist David Watts, CumbernauildPic: Peter D
If your dog or cat is part of the family, or you just want to show you care, the Scottish SPCA provides cards and (very cute) pins for a donation and £1.50 per guest

If your guests… want to get back to nature  

For eco-friendly couples, there are lots of gorgeous options to link your favours with your planet-saving side. Seed packets are lovely way to spread the love and create a wonderful memento – your friends will be reminded of the wedding each spring when the flowers they plant start to grow again. You could also give each guest a mini-plant pot containing a bulb. These look cute on the wedding table and will later blossom into a gorgeous flower. 

Double your money

One of the handy things about favours is that they can often have more than one use – first as a place setting, say, then as a table decoration, and finally as a midnight snack to give energy for one last Dashing White Sergeant. Flowers or candles work well as place settings and chocolate moustaches make the perfect photo prop. Choose the right ones and you really will win favour with everyone!