Favors seem to have come a LONG way from your standard Jordan almonds haven’t they? It is amazing how extravagant the favors can get at weddings these days. Let’s see, I have received silver fortune cookies with personalized messages inside, jeweled Chinese slippers to “dance the night away,” monogrammed chocolates, customized mini photo albums and even bottles of champagne (okay, well that was from my own wedding so I guess it doesn’t count). Bottom line, favors are becoming more and more personal, and more and more extravagant.

First, lets look at the trends in food favors…No one, and I mean no one, does this better than my best friend, Martha. Take a look at these oh-so-adorable sweet treats that Martha is featuring on her site this month.

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Ummm, yeah. I could die, they are so completely adorable. If she does anything really well, Martha teaches us that you can be crafty AND elegant at the same time. It is all about choosing favors that have personal meaning or are native to the area that you are being married. When you pair that, with simple, sophisticated packaging (key word here people is SIMPLE), you typically have a homerun.

The thing with Martha though is that it takes a pretty patient, crafty person to really see her ideas to fruition. Even if you are the most creative and artsy bride, really hand involved favors can be time consuming, sometimes overly expensive (because of all the little parts that make the whole) and even more often, a bit impractical. We tried to do something similar at our wedding with these darling little bakery bags and my favorite chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. We took hours stuffing these little bags as delicately as possible, taking extra care not to wrinkle or crush them. Flash forward to my wedding reception…I walked in to find that the hotel had not given them quite as much care and attention as we had, crushing all of the perfect little bags, then lazily plopping them down on the table. UGH. Bottom line, sometimes, the lovely ideas that we have for our favors, aren’t always the best or most practical routes.

So here are some great ideas for ready-made food favors …

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Top Row: First 2 from left, brides.com, 3rd on right from MarieBelle; Bottom Row: left photo by Richart , Center and Left by Coco Designs

And finally, Brides.com came up with this great idea list for the budget-minded bride. Although you have heard some of them before, I think that it’s got some good ideas. I am adding some links with great sources to make the list even more useful! Oh, and I took off some of those that weren’t that great. You can see the full list here.

Hands On

Draw guests out of their chairs with a candy buffet or bakery cart. These interactive stations allow guests to fill favor bags (or pastry boxes) with the treats of their choice. *You can find great favor bags, pastry boxes, organza bags, clear bags, etc. at Nashville Wraps. Check out the incredible candy selection at Dylan’s Candy Bar in NY or for the budget minded, A Candy Store.

Double Duty

Choose favors that also serve as place cards, or even centerpieces, to save money. Think small wrapped boxes of chocolate that you can stack as centerpieces, or labeled Champagne bottles that double as place cards. I was thinking the other day that a cute centerpiece would be to stack vintage champagne saucers in the center of each table. How cute is this to compliment the champagne bottles as place cards idea! Beacoup.com has the most enormous selection of favors. Check out the mini champagne buckets that are good place card holders (and you can overflow with chocolates), the petite mint julep cups (perfect for a single truffle tucked inside) and the silver ice cream scoops (then the food theme can be taken home with them).

Classic Favorite

Cookies. Think cutouts that match a blossom in your bouquet. In many cases, these sweet bites can be designed by your confectioner. Here are some INSANELY cute cookies that can be ordered online. They are perfect because they come complete with adorable custom packaging (complete with a picture of your choice) and can be shipped anywhere in the country! They can also be personalized with your initials…

Eco-friendly

Choose a favor that will help the environment. Think evergreen-tree seedlings. Visit greenworldproject.net to place your order.

Family Bonding

Bake cookies with mom, enlist bridesmaids to help fill clear boxes with Jordan albums or craft Christmas stockings with grandma. Cocoa Designs creates thee amazing little cocoa-covered nuts that are a perfect substitution for the Jordan Almond. The description on their website says “A little jaggedy and ill shaped, Cocoa Nuts have an unexpected crunch, they get your hands all messy when you eat them and they are definitely not fancy like truffles or chocolate confections. ” I love that!

Win-win favors

You can never go wrong with chocolate. But don’t forget less traditional (and less expensive) sweets that can make a lasting impression, such as taffy sticks or caramels. Buy the sweet stuff at candywarehouse.com. Dean and Deluca have some amazing candies though if you are on a tighter budget, check out the old-fashioned candy sticks at the candy warehouse, the adorable salt water taffy at Sea Shore Taffy and the “a-little-bit-expensive, but oh-so-perfect” sea salt caramels at the Little Flower Candy Company.

Give guests a growing favor, such as potted herbs, to cook with at home. I love a favor that can actually be used, and not simply devoured on the car ride home. If you adorn the pot with a handwritten note or your favorite herb recipe, it adds a really personal touch. To save even more money, although it might be a bit time consuming, you can make your own!

I think that with favors, the most important thing to remember is this…by the time your guests have fallen back in love again while watching your ceremony, devoured a delicious meal that they didn’t have to pay for, drank from numerous glasses of champagne, wine and cosmopolitans, and danced the night away…they most likely won’t be thinking too much about what kind of favor you have chosen. So, in my opinion, the favor should really only be used if it adds another dimension, or a unique and pretty feel to the wedding. If you can’t afford to, or simply don’t have the time to, design a lovely favor…skip it! And don’t look back.

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