Why Wedding Favors Still Matter and How to Pick Out The Right Ones

In the course of wedding planning, there are bound to be details that fall through the cracks, get left until the last minute, or get forgotten altogether. It is my experience that deciding on wedding favors tends to be one of those last minute tasks. A small number of couples will think of an awesome idea for favors way in the beginning of the planning, but for most, it is an afterthought. In recent years, I've even heard a lot of couples asking "Are favors even worth it? Does anybody care?" My answer is simple: Yes, they matter, and make them count. Your guests will likely have spent a significant chunk of money (travel, clothing, hotel, gift$$) to be at your wedding to celebrate you. The least you can do is give them a little token to show your appreciation. That being said, it doesn't have to cost a lot of money to be thoughtful and special to your guests. Here are my tips on picking out the perfect wedding favors for your wedding: WeddingFavors

Factor it into the budget and plan ahead. Favors can get expensive, but they don't have to be. Once you have your venue and you have some clue of how many guests you might have, you should be able to get a clear picture of a per-person budget for favors. Get this piece into your budget right off the bat, so it doesn't become a surprise expense at the end of planning. Also, the farther out you have your spending limit, the sooner you can start shopping around. The best way to save money on all aspects of your wedding is to start shopping early. If you find an item you want from a store that has holiday sales, you can keep an eye out for when your item gets marked down or wait until you have a coupon, rather than being stuck at the last minute paying full price or not being able to afford it.

Connect it to the theme. My go-to method for coming up with a cute favor is to connect it back to the theme of the wedding, especially when it's off-beat or non-traditional. I designed an invitation earlier this summer for a travel-themed wedding. For their favors, they made mini magnets that featured a tiny map of each guest's hometown or favorite place. So personal, useful and totally fit the theme! Another of my past clients had a champagne-themed invitation, and they gave each guest a mini bottle of champagne at their seat. Rather than just picking something generic like a bag of mints and sticking a monogram on it, try thinking of a favor where the item itself connects to your wedding!

Photo: The Shultzes

Connect it to the venue or location. If your wedding doesn't have a specific theme other than the awesome location and decor, try thinking of something that matches that. If it's on a farm filled with with wildflowers, why not give your guests a packet of wildflower seeds for their own backyard? If your venue specializes in something like honey or baked goods, they probably offer a favor package for weddings. If you have a lot of guests coming from out of town, you could always feature something local. Couples in St Louis love to give their guests Gooey Butter Cake, and a couple I worked with from Martha's Vineyard gave a mug from The Black Dog to every guest. Whether it's perishable or an item that will last a long time, a location-inspired favor will remind them of how much fun they had at your wedding!

Connect it to something you as a couple enjoy. Another fun idea is to give your guests something useful that is inspired by something you love to do together. Love cooking? Give out wooden spoons or a homemade spice mix! Love to camp? Give canteens or pocket flashlights. Love the beach? How about koozies and flip flops? What may seem like a basic gift in theory, could be really cute and thoughtful when tied into your wedding, and it might actually get used!

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Pick a "day-of" item that they can take home! I've seen some really great ideas for "double uses" of wedding favors. One idea is to personalize each favor by adding a label or a tag that includes their table seating. By using the favors as escort or place cards, it kills two birds with one stone, and at the end of the night, the favors left behind have your guests' names on them, so the caterer knows who they belong to! I've seen couples give out sunglasses (which look silly but super fun in photos), koozies, custom glassware, or flip flops, all of which can be used at the wedding and then taken home by guests. You could also order paper flowers instead of using a traditional florist, and your guests could take home stems at the end of the night. These ideas all serve double duty, by adding to the fun and decor on your wedding day, but also giving your guests a token to take with them.

If you do the donation thing, make it meaningful. There is an opinion out there that a donation can be a cop-out for wedding favors. While I agree that a couple could easily say they made a donation when they actually didn't, I have more faith in humanity than that. My feeling is that on order to make a donation that is meaningful to your guests, you should donate to a cause or charity that someone (or multiple people) you love has a connection to. Too often, I see couples go the donation route and choose a cause that they feel close to or that they deem important. In my humble opinion, this seems a little self-indulgent for a favor that is supposed to be in honor of your guests. If you do choose to donate to one of your causes, at least attach the card to a piece of chocolate :).

Don't go crazy with personalization. If the item is something useful that your guests might have around for a long time, don't spend all that money putting your photo, monogram and date all over it. A koozie is one thing, but if I get a candle or a reusable bag or a wine stopper, I'm not all that interested in having someone else's wedding details all over it. Your guests will remember where they got it, and will be more likely to keep it and use it without your names printed on it. Make it special on your wedding day by ordering custom tags with a Thank You note and maybe a cutesy saying that ties it all together. That way the tag can be removed and the item will actually get used!

Think: What Would I Do With This? If the answer is, throw it away, then it's a waste of money, and it's not a favor that will matter to your guests. Go the donation route if you're truly stuck, or hire a pro to help you get creative with details like this!

Are you planning a wedding? What are your thoughts on favors? For more inspiration check out my Pinterest board!

That Time I Made a Huge Life Change: One Year Later!

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boothOne year ago this week, I quit my full-time job. After uprooting my life to St Louis, I had started my third job in 9 months and I was miserable, again. I was working for an organization that overworked and undervalued its employees. I worked a Monday-Friday work week that frequently pushed into nights and weekends, and I didn't make nearly enough money to justify my frustration. I managed an enormous staff and hundreds of labor hours, but someone else held the purse strings and wrote my budget, leaving me with little say in how I actually managed my employees. Not enough time for proper training or supervision, not enough staff hours for the size of the business, and not enough management to handle emergencies. I had been seriously reconsidering taking the job after only 35 days, but I told myself to stick it out at least 3 months. JCC St Louis

My mom and sister came to visit last February (for wedding dress shopping!) and they got me talking about what I really wanted for my life. I talked about wanting to follow passion and creativity. They asked about my business--the hobby I had turned into Katherine Elizabeth Events. How about following that and really trying to make it a career? We talked it out, and over the next couple of weeks I kneaded the idea around enough that it turned into something. Anthony encouraged the challenge, and promised to support me if I had trouble paying the bills. 

 Around the same time I gave my two weeks' notice, I found out Paper Source (where I have always bought all my paper supplies) was opening a new store in St. Louis. Great news for my materials cost! I could buy from the store instead of paying shipping fees! And then I realized, what a great opportunity for a part-time job!  Turning a very part-time second source of income into a full-time career doesn't happen overnight. It's a lot like the chicken or the egg. You can't afford to quit working for someone else without having enough business to be full time, but you won't get the amount of business you need to be full time until you have the time to dedicate to building it. I decided a part-time job was the right next step, and I was hired at Paper Source for a 20 hr/week position.

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The combination of building my business and working at Paper Source part-time has been perfect. I've met some of my best friends in St. Louis at Paper Source. I've had the opportunity to work with creative people every day, it gets me out of the house a few days a week, and it ensures I've been able to pay the bills every month. I get a great discount on anything I'm not reselling (not my materials for my business, but there's SO many other things to use it on!). And the bonus is that I'm working in the same industry as KEEvents--keeping up with trends, and getting sneak peeks into what's coming down the pipeline from some of my competitors. At first I was afraid of Conflict of Interest, but rest assured--I've been entirely open about my business, and I make sure to keep the two separate. 

 The last 12 months have definitely been the most challenging, rewarding, and exciting of my life. I spent a significant portion of the year planning our wedding and learning a lot about the other side of the bride/vendor relationship. Some days I don't remember what it was like to be in the wedding industry before I was a Bride. I don't know how I did it! There are definite challenges to working from home and being your own boss that I didn't expect. It's not always as glamorous as it sounds (keep an eye out for a future post about this!) I spend way more time on finances and paperwork than I'd like, and this spring I've been so busy that I'm working early mornings, late nights, and almost every weekend. 

 For the first time in my life, I reap the direct benefit of my hard work and long hours, and that feels better than I ever could have imagined. Last week I looked back at the business goals I wrote down for myself a year ago, and I've reached Every. Single. One. And more. Today I closed out Q1 of 2015 with 55% of the gross revenue I had in ALL of 2014. Quarter 1 Last Year brought in 30% of my total revenue, but in 2015, I have enough orders in the pipeline for Q2 to surpass Q1. 

 But enough of the financial mumbo-jumbo. Business is on the up and up, and I have so many ideas for growth down the line. The possibilities are kind of endless, and I'm PUMPED.

Long story short, I'm happy at the close of every single day. My stress level, even when I have a lot going on, is completely manageable. I swear less and smile more. Many, many days my work doesn't feel like work. I honestly LOVE what I do. And that's so much more than I can say about where I was a year ago when I chose to make this huge change. 

 So... April 24, 2015 will be my last day at Paper Source. I will officially work full-time for myself at Katherine Elizabeth Events (with a couple of A Bride's Ally weddings to close out the spring in St. Louis). And June 1, Anthony and I will move back to the east coast and set up our home (and shop) in New York City. We are SO excited for the next adventure, and I am so proud of myself (which is not something I say often) for making this HAPPEN. Pinch me!  

If there is something in your life that you love doing, find a way to do it as more than just a "when I have free time" hobby. Our "free time" seems to disappear more and more every year, and if you neglect your passions, you won't ever be as happy as you could be. 

 What's your passion? How do you make time for it? 

 Have a great weekend! 

 XO, 

 Katie

  Katherine Elizabeth Events


Two Food Lovers in Love (OUR WEDDING!)

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Anthony and I love food. We love to cook, we love to eat, and most importantly we love to sit across the table with those that we hold dear and share a meal. (Sharing a meal is different than the simple act of "eating", but that discussion is for another time). If you ask Anthony the way to his heart, he probably wouldn't say "through my stomach" because he's pretty romantic and I think I have other qualities he would list before my cooking. But, he would definitely agree that a mutual appreciation for cooking and eating good food was a huge building block of our relationship. We made pizza together on our second date! Our love for all things food has led us on many journeys together; amazing dinner dates, the perpetual hunt for new eateries, the food blog, and some memorable cooking disasters, just to name a few.

So when it came time to talk about the feel of our wedding, we both agreed immediately that we couldn't skimp on the food, and a fantastic farm-to-table caterer was a must. We eventually settled on Season to Taste, and it was one of the best vendor decisions we made! As one vendor after another started to fall into place, so did the feel and theme of the whole event. The focus would be on sharing a meal, and in general, the idea that "food is love". In keeping with the KE Events model, our stationery would start to tell that story, and then the details and decor on the day of would tie it all together.

We started things off with a postcard Save the Date that looked like a recipe for a good time!

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A great way to save money is to do a postcard -- it's $.15 less postage per card, and the envelope is another $.25 to $.50 depending on size. We sent 200 of these bad boys, so by sending a postcard, we saved $100! 

When it came time to design our invitations, I stuck with the theme, and tied in the red striped tea towels we would be using for our table settings.

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Anthony designed a beautiful website that matched all our stationery (he built the website, I created the content) and we accepted RSVPs online.

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Accepting RSVPs online is a fantastic way to use modern technology to make your wedding consumed life easier. Again, you save at least $1.00 per invitation (postage and envelope for returned RSVP cards). But more importantly, it's easier for you AND your guests. You automatically collect all your responses in one place that you can access from anywhere, and your guests can RSVP from their smart phone--no trip to the post office! We used a google form to collect ours, but many of the wedding websites out there now have online RSVPs included in their website templates. I can't recommend it enough! (If you hire KEEvents for planning and coordination, we even offer a free custom website with online RSVP as part of the package!)

When our out of town guests arrived at the hotel, we had prepared some goodie bags to welcome them. Inside was a little booklet I created with some information about the wedding and the area, complete with two maps and an explanation of what the heck a #hashtag is! (Click to see full size images)

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A Welcome goodie bag is certainly not a necessity for your wedding. It does add work, and some cost, and if your budget is tight it's an easy thing to skip. However, it's a nice thing to consider if you have a lot of guests coming in from out of town. We had over 150 people staying at the hotel, many of whom had traveled quite a distance to be with us and share in our day. My mom was a big proponent of the bags, and I wasn't about to argue. It's a nice thing to provide for your guests, but it also provides you with another way to communicate important information for your guests. Our little booklet included a personal note, the schedule for the weekend, wedding shuttle details and a tutorial on #hashtagging (for the older folks!) 

We got married at the church I grew up in, Melrose Highlands Congregational Church. The ceremony was so special to us. It included a poem written by my cousin and a song written and sung by some of my closest friends. I didn't want a boring program!

Photo credit: Nikki Cole Photography

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The reception was held at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Melrose, MA, which is an old utilitarian theater and event space that houses the Melrose Symphony Orchestra and Melrose Youth Ballet, along with many community events and a few weddings per year. The stage is where I performed in The Nutcracker for 8 Years as a child, it's right around the corner from my childhood home, and right in the center of my hometown. I personally didn't know anyone who had hosted a wedding there, and there were almost no photos online of the space set up for a wedding, so I was starting from scratch with decor ideas.

We went with long tables because I love the look, but also because I think they're better for conversation than the more traditional rounds. We did a family style dinner, and we wanted our guests to feel at home.

Photo credit: Nikki Cole Photography

Photo Credit: @clairemary on Instagram

Each table was covered with white linen and a layered  paper runner and decorated with simple paper roses in mis-matched jars and mason jars with fresh Maine winter berry. The bridesmaid bouquets were lined up down the length of the head table. The simple look worked to blend the rustic, farm-to-table meal with the grand, indoor, utilitarian space.

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Photo credit: Nikki Cole Photography

We weren't allowed to light real candles in the space, so my mom rigged up some stringed cafe lights to bring a cozy feel to the tables without any open flame.

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To fill the old theater boxes at the back of the hall, I hand painted large banners that coordinated with the logo I had designed. Each was 4 feet wide by 6 feet tall:

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The cocktail hour was held in a room off the main hall, and was pretty much filled to capacity with our family and friends. We made up a signature cocktail, The Crimson Camel; a twist on a Moscow Mule that represented our two Alma Maters (the Harvard Crimson and the Connecticut College Camels)

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For our favors, we bought spice jars from World Market and filled them with our Rotio spice blend for our guests to use in their own kitchens. I designed tags for the front that served as place cards, and a small hang tag with recipe suggestions. Anthony's Dad built us a giant "spice rack" to display them, and I wrote on the kraft table runner, "Spice a dish with love and it pleases every palate" along with a little map of the tables.

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Each table was named after one of our favorite restaurants. Anthony built a miniature sandwich board for each table, and I created a "chalkboard" design for each one that told a little story of why each spot was important to us.

Photo credit: Nikki Cole Photography

The menus and table settings were meant to mimic the trend in some of our favorite restaurants - a clipboard style card holding a simple utilitarian menu, tucked into a tea towel.

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In keeping with the theme (and taking into consideration that we'd want it displayed proudly in the future), our "guestbook" was a collection of bamboo cutting boards.

Photo credit: Nikki Cole Photography


There were a couple other pieces that didn't get photographed -- an adorable Rehearsal Dinner invitation with an embossed silverware emblem and checkered envelope liner, and Head Table placecards for our bridal party. Only now, after writing this post and seeing all these photos collected in one place, am I coming to terms without how much work I did on my own wedding! Holy moly! And this doesn't even include the flowers!

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If you don't work in this industry, I would strongly recommend NOT taking on this many DIY projects for your big day. (Hire an expert like me!) Because I do this for a living, I was able to tackle it all myself, and was very prepared with a timeline that started 11 months out and left me two weeks before my wedding to catch my breath and take it all in. I recommend taking on 2-3 major projects max, and I would also suggest choosing projects you can tackle well before your wedding date. The other tip I have for getting DIY projects done on time is to ask for RSVPs extra early. Our RSVP date was a full 2 months before our wedding. You won't have your final count for Welcome Bags, Favors, Placecards, Menus and Programs until you have your RSVPs back, and if you have a bigger wedding (ours could have swung 100 people in either direction!) you'll want some breathing room.