Gift lounges are the newest addition to the interactive wedding craze, and they're stealing the spotlight away from traditional welcome bags and party favors. Here, a few wedding planning experts share advice on how to execute a personalized gift lounge that complements your big day.
It's all about options.
The premise of a wedding gift lounge is simple: Set up a space with a selection of goodies, then let attendees pick and choose their favorite items. It gives you a chance to mingle with family and friends, and your guests will love getting the star treatment. "As nice as it is for a guest to receive a welcome bag as they arrive at their hotel, they're often filled with items they might not ever use," say Colette Lopez and Kaitlin Kolvet of La Fete Weddings. "Assembling the gift bags also tends to be a ton of work for our clients in the final days before the wedding, and this is a time when they'd prefer to be relaxing."
Timing is everything.
When it comes to opening up your gift lounge, our experts say the earlier you do the better. "On the day of the wedding we prefer that the focus is set completely on the couple getting married," say Lopez and Kolvet. Because the lounge can take time and attention away from the couple during the reception, Lopez and Kolvet suggest holding it on the night of your rehearsal dinner or welcome party. "This becomes a fun surprise for the guests and a great conversation starter on the first night of the festivities. Everyone can enjoy a specialty cocktail or a glass of Champagne as they mingle and fill their bags."
"Consider the space you'll need and any extra staffing you'll want on hand to replenish the goods, monitor the room, and assist guests," says Harmony Walton of The Bridal Bar. Especially at a destination wedding, guests will be coming and going during an open window of time, so the best place to set up your lounge is in a hotel suite or a small event space. If you're having a hometown wedding, it may be best to open up the gift lounge during the reception so that all guests get to enjoy it. "This can be in the area where cocktail hour was previously in the evening, in the after-party space, or a lounge portion of the ballroom," Walton adds. "Hold off on opening the doors until later in the evening if you can, but don't wait too long for a mad rush at the end."
Show off your style.
Walton stresses the importance of styling your gift lounge. "This shouldn't be an afterthought! Presentation is a big part of making your gift interactive and memorable. Set the area like you would a swanky store and weave your wedding theme, color palette, or motif throughout so there's a seamless connection to the big day," she says. Ideas for the items themselves can range from local products to the bride and groom's favorite things. "We created stations that were specifically 'for the ladies,' 'for the gentlemen,' and a full candy station for the kids at a recent wedding," say Lopez and Kolvet.
Keep extra expenses in mind.
Gift lounges can be as costly, especially depending on what you buy and how much of it. According to Walton, gift lounges are typically more costly than the average favor or welcome bag because of the additional décor, space, and sometimes staff needed to satisfy and serve the guests. To cut down on costs, consider asking loved ones to assist instead.