A wedding favor may be almost anything: beautiful, ethereal, precious, ephemeral -- even impractical. The only thing it must be is symbolic. It should serve to remind your friends and relatives of their participation in the union of two people and two families. It is an offering to your guests, one that expresses your gratitude.
The wedding favor can be traced to ancient Rome, to the tradition of breaking a large piece of bread over the heads of the bride and groom. When family and guests picked up the pieces and ate them, they recognized and pledged to uphold the marriage. Today, the wedding cake symbolizes this recognition when it is sliced and shared with the guests.
Like the wedding cake, favors are significant because they are shared. Yet favors are more adaptable than most other elements of the wedding: While they are influenced by tradition, they are not bound to it. It used to be, for example, that each unmarried woman at the wedding took a piece of the groom's cake home and slept with it under her pillow, in theory prompting dreams of the man she would one day marry. In recent years, though, the groom's cake has become a favor for all guests, and one constructed of individually boxed pieces is the perfect way to let everyone take a piece of the wedding home.
Because they symbolize union and stability, monograms have also been incorporated in many of the favors we've created here. A single initial is featured on a pressed-sugar box; another is formed with silver dragees (almonds with a sugar coating). Equally appropriate are monograms composed of first initials, as in the "GH" inscribed inside our handmade boxes tied with ribbon. A gift of dragees, chocolates, or the like will complement the monogram heralding your new life.
The use of almonds as favors has evolved in significance over the centuries. The ancient Greeks, and later the Romans, were fond of honey-coated almonds. Sweetened almonds later found their way to the celebratory tables of medieval Europe, when they came to be known as dragees. By 1850 the first commercially produced dragees, coated with colored sugar syrup, appeared. In Europe today, dragees are still fixtures at weddings, christenings, and confirmations. Because the almond is a seed, it represents fertility, abundance, and fruitfulness.
When a bitter almond is used in a dragee, the hard sugar coating produces a piquant contrast of sweet with bitter; the dragee thus represents an important part of the wedding vow: "for better or for worse." Just as the couple has pledged to support each other in good times as well as in bad, those in attendance symbolically honor the marriage vows by partaking of the almonds.
A thoughtful favor will add a distinct touch to your wedding. At the same time, it can round out and connect an overall theme or color scheme; the wedding favors on these pages, for instance, were all created in shades of white. Whatever motif you choose, you're likely to find that wedding favors have an impact all out of proportion to their size.
Above: Handmade origami packets hold a sachet of seeds in one side and planting instructions in the other.