If you're looking for a fun way to update the traditional welcome bag experience for overnight guests at your wedding, create a build-your-own bag station that gives your friends and family the opportunity to choose their own perfectly curated collection of weekend must-haves. The stations are less work for you (no need to fill all those bags!), interactive and engaging for your guests, and an easy way to reduce waste at your wedding, says planner Virginia Edelson of Bluebird Productions. "A make-your-own station can be more personalized for a wedding guest or a couple attending, as you can customize what is helpful and wanted—as opposed to gifting something that ends up immediately in the garbage," she says.
Decide how you want to put your station together.
Plan to set up your welcome bag station in a hospitality suite at the hotel, where guests can pass through as they check in, or at your welcome party for a hands-on activity. Use trays, risers, and shelves to keep everything visible and accessible, says Edelson, and make it pretty—but without blowing your budget. "As the products will do most of the talking, little traditional décor is necessary, but how the items are displayed is more important," she says. "We suggest you think of it like a lovely little gifting area in a boutique versus an assembly line. Bonus points for having it attended to keep it tidy and replenished!"
Choose the right snacks.
Food and drink are welcome bag must-haves, whether that means packages of your grandmother's famous chocolate chip cookies, local jam and honey, quick hotel-room snacks like fresh fruit and granola bars, or specialties from the city where you're tying the knot, like your favorite beers or artisan potato chips. "I have a sweet tooth so I always suggest something sweet," says Edelson. "We don't like to discriminate, so including something savory is always a plus!" And don't forget something to help your guests stay hydrated: "We rarely do a welcome gift without including a vessel for water—a reusable water bottle or customized water bottles," says Edelson. "Water is so critical during festive holiday weekends."
Other popular welcome bag items include mints, playing cards, sleep masks, sunglasses, lip balm, baseball hats, and mini emergency kits with headache medicine and bandages. But don't go overboard on the monogrammed items, warns Edelson: "Items that are too personalized with dates and names tend to be the items that get left behind," she says. "We suggest neutral items that are generally popular to reduce the amount of trash from welcome gifts." If you're working within a budget, think quality over quantity and focus your resources on gifts that are durable, useful, and versatile—rather than on a variety of cheaper options that aren't as practical. "We suggest one nicer item like a customized water bottle versus 10 smaller knick-knacks," says Edelson. "This will have the greatest bang for your buck."
Make sure to provide the perfect bag.
The most obvious part of a welcome bag station—the bag—doesn't have to follow any certain rules, says Edelson: It can be as simple as inexpensive gift bags in your wedding colors, as personal as a tote with your monogram on it, or as functional as a reusable cloth tote, a chic box, or a pretty basket. "We love all different types of bags, from a paper bag that is used to put emphasis on the items versus the vessel to a customized canvas tote bag," says Edelson. The option you choose will really depend more on your own personal style, your wedding atmosphere, and your budget. But one point to keep in mind, says Edelson, is whether you want the bag to complement the items you include or be the main event: "Is it about the bag or the contents?" she says. "We suggest that our clients be mindful about the vessel for the welcome bag or box and to select a vessel that really allows the gift to speak for itself."