The idea of giving a ‘favor’ or small gift to your guests is a very old one. It probably started with 16th century English aristocrats who gave small trinket boxes, which usually held sugar or delicate confections. The French and Italians also loved to do this. It was meant to show off their wealth to their guests. When sugar became more affordable (and therefore not so excusive) almonds were given, and sugar coated almonds followed, which are still popular today.
This time-honored tradition can cause uncertainty. No one wants to waste money on something not wanted. Many people question the value of giving any trinket at all. Yet a small gift is indeed lovely way to say thank you (but does not replace the thank you card you will send later!) So, how do you balance the idea of giving a gift with the desire to not be wasteful or trivial?
Do not despair! There are many ways to keep with tradition and still reflect your values. Here are a few ideas:
Items made by collectives. Many organizations give women an opportunity to earn an income and improve the lives of their families, usually in undeveloped countries. The workers are not exploited, but paid fairly, and develop skills as well. Examples are: Paper to Pearl from Uganda, Women’s Peace Collection from Darfur. Prosperity Candle works with refugee women right here in the USA.
A donation to a charity. Cancer societies, animal welfare, Meals on Wheels, UNICEF, and countless worthy groups will tell your guests something about your values and do good in the world. Let you guests know by creating a little something like a bookmark or other token with the information about the charity. Some organizations may provide you with a something to give your guests, like those popular rubber bracelets or a card.
Eco-gifts. Live seedlings or herbs or trees are great, as long as it is the right season to plant them. But not everyone is a gardener so know your guests! Other eco-friendly gifts include edible favors such as honey, maple syrup, herbs, coffees or teas, or almost anything organic and locally sourced! Birdseed is another way to go. Bamboo products and anything made from recycled materials is also interesting
DIY – make your own food or craft items! A book of recipes from both families shows the joining of families and can be quite useful. Be sure to list the contributing family members, with a bit of information about them. Infused oils, a S’mores kit, or homemade Limoncello are all great. How about spring bulbs in pots?
Whatever you decide, I hope its not stressful for you and you find that giving a favor will add to the fun and meaning of your big day.
Thanks as always to Michael Straub for the photo!