{Advice} Out of Town Gift Bags

To do or not to do...

Many brides ask if they should or shouldn't provide their guests with "Out of Town" (OOT) gift bags.  The decision comes down to the budget, creativity, the time spent in putting them together, and delivering them.

Concerning the budget, this can be done on the cheap and with class, or as elaborate as desired.  When considering the budget, it first comes down to knowing how many guests to provide the bags for.  It can be one bag per room, double up on items if desired, or a bag per guest, which can raise the budget.

Favors & Snacks
What goes into the bags will determine the budget.  Choosing the items can correlate with where your wedding takes place.  If your wedding is in a warm climate, consider bottled water in the bags & travel sized sunscreens.  If in a colder climate, packets of hot cocoa or instant coffee are a nice touch, as most hotel rooms have a coffee/tea maker, and can boil up some water.  A step above this could be a mug in the bag, which is personalized, or generic, but gives them a vessel to enjoy the coffee/coa coa from.

You can easily personalize your mugs with Shutterfly.com, showcasing your engagement pic, or find out how to personalize water bottles with custom labels from online providers, such as Beau-coup.com.

If a bigger budget is in mind, mini/full bottles of wine are a great item for the gift bags.  Stores such as Cost Plus World Market offer fantastic wines and champagnes in the mini variety.  As well BevMo offers mini liquor bottles, like the ones found on airplanes.

Cost Plus World Market also offers mini cheeses, smoked sausages, crackers, etc.  These make for great items for a picnic basket, and would do well to add in to your guests bags.  With picnicking in mind, you could even recommend to your guests some of your city's/state's most romantic picnic spots, they will really be grateful for the suggestion, and might go out exploring.

Think Locally
Items from your locale are fun to consider for OOT gift bags!  If there is an item that is made locally, a souvenir type gift is a great idea.  In Phoenix, there is an old candy company called "Cerreta Candy Company".  These candies are sold at the famous candy shoppe in Glendale, as well they sell them at local grocery stores, in packets or separately, and are great to include into gift bags-which is what I included in my gift bags for the weary out of town travelers.  Not only did I provide them with a little fix for their sweet tooth, I provided them with a locally made item, rather than something that people can get everywhere.

You could include quirky items like "Cactus Candy", for example, which are candies made with the flavor of the saguaro prickly pear.  These novelty items can be found at various souvenir shoppes (many exist in AZ for sure!) or online.  Your guests will likely get a kick out of little themed souvenir type candies.

Filler items for your bags might be trail mix and other munchies.  Usually at wholesale places like Costco,  it might be around $8 for a pack of 24+, not too shabby to fill each bag with one bag of pretzels to appease midday munchies.  You can make a mix of such items into cellophane baggies, or include them in their original packaging.  The point is to provide a little bite of something, and your guests will be grateful!

Maps & Brochures
If you have time, or want to delegate someone, going to the local tourism office or convention center to collect brochures & maps is really idyllic for OOT gift back inclusion.  To do this on the cheap and without driving around town, you can research events going on, outdoor activity places, include them into a map, provide details on specific places, and print out a few copies.  An example would be finding museums, zoos, gardens, etc, as well horseback riding, hiking, and include any sports events taking place, like a basketball game.  Your guests will really appreciate the time you took to share your city's hot spots for activities and entertainment.

Finding the bags is easy, and the cheapest way is to go to the nearest dollar store's gift bag section.  Dollar stores aren't what they used to be, and you can find brown paper gift bags easily, and mostly in sets, which helps in the savings.  More elaborate gift bags would be customized bags or even baskets, which can be found on the cheap at stores like Hobby Lobby or Michael's.  The baskets can be varied as well, meaning each guest does not need to receive the same basket.

Once the bags are put together, you can make them full with tissue paper and tie the handles with a simple curling ribbon, or just leave them be.  A suggestion could be to add a note, whether a generic message for all guests, or personalize it for each guest.  It all determines your time, on your hands.  The OOT gift bags are kind of the last on the to do list.

If you're short on time, do what I did (pictured above): Type up a note and/or a little poem, then copy and paste it in paragraphs, print, then cut the messages into squares, punch out a little hole to slip some ribbon through, tie the ribbon up around the gift bag handles, and you're set!  I wrote something along the lines of "Thank you for flying in and joining us"... on the outside of the note, with a little mention of munchies to eat on the inside of the note.  I cannot remember for the life of me what I wrote on the inside-I made up a silly little poem, I wish now I could reference.  Be as creative as you want, or as simple as you want, should the "OOT" gift bags be a choice for you.

Your gift bags can be done on an occasion to have your bridal party and family members over, as you might when putting your favors together.  You can set up your helpers in an assembly line-cuts down on so much time, and is a fun gathering!  This also could be a fun activity for you and your fiance to do!  Point is, if you have many bags to put together, having help will make the project less daunting for you, which eases the stress.

If your guests are staying at various locations, consider delegating your bridal party, closest friends, and/or family members to deliver the bags for you.  It is easier if all are at one location, and can drop them off at the concierge, but chances are your guests are all over the place.  Regardless, if you are tied up, rely on these people to deliver the bags on your behalf.

Again, it all comes down to your budget, your creativity, and time.  If you can do this, it is a treat for the guests to receive.  They can have nibbles, drinks, events/activities to do during your wedding week, and they will thank you for it!

Happy planning!