The Value of a Thoughtful Welcome Gift

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The Welcome Bag

So you’re planning the details of your wedding, and you’ll have more than a few out of town guests. After you’ve scoped out some accommodations proximal to the festivities– and a couple of price points are thoughtful to offer– you should contact the properties to block off some rooms. Be sure to ask for a discount! Now, have you thought about a welcome gift for your out of town guests? If you haven’t, you should!

The welcome bag is a nice way to say “thank you” to friends and family who are traveling to be with you on your special day. It’s also a good way to provide useful little snacks and sundries, and information about the venue and surroundings. Most couples I’ve talked with really enjoyed putting this together for their guests.

A Philadelphia Welcome

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We were recently guests at a wedding in Philadelphia, and were delighted by the thoughtful welcome bag and note from the bride and groom. The bag was designed to welcome us to Philadelphia, the bride and groom’s home, and they wanted their gift to reflect their passion for the city. A specially-made bag with a custom line drawing of the city’s skyline included note cards by the same artist, and an assortment of “Philly-made” treats. Other thoughtful items included morning-after Bloody Mary fixings and some Advil to aid in our recovery from what was promising to be an awesome party!

Why a welcome bag?

Quite simply, to show your guests how much you value them, and appreciate their being a part of your special day. As an out of towner on that memorable weekend, I felt the Brotherly Love from our hosts, and a heightened anticipation of a good, good night. It did not disappoint!

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As hosts of a wedding, are you responsible for transporting guests?

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photo from vailrides.com
If your wedding will involve a good number of your guests staying at a hotel, and the reception is at a different venue, consider arranging shuttle vans or a bus for your out-of-town guests.

We went back and forth on this, initially thinking that shuttling family would be the extent of our obligation. In the end, we decided to provide shuttle service for anyone who wanted it.

Whatever you decide, make this decision early on, and most importantly, communicate transportation logistics to your guests via wedding website, or in their “welcome” packets at the hotel.

If you’ve made the decision to offer transportation, here are some suggestions that I wish someone had shared with us:

1.Get a good estimate of the number of people you will need to shuttle, and check out the directions and mileage (including a realistic time it will take to cover that distance!). You’ll want to give accurate numbers to the companies you contact.

2.Shop around! Like so many wedding expenses, these estimates tend to vary widely. Be sure to ask about minimum and maximum time and mileage requirements. Ask if multiple vans or one large bus makes the most sense financially and logistically.

3.Remember to ask the hotel if they would be willing to provide shuttle service for your wedding. Most have vans for airport runs, so be sure to ask. If a hefty number of guests are populating their hotel for the weekend, they may work with you on discounted transport costs.

4.When you book the transportation, get everything in writing, including the schedule (departure times, pick-up times, staggered times if you are moving a large group of people, etc.). Put the plan in writing, and give someone – not you, MOB, that schedule along with driver contact information.

5.Type up all transportation information and put it on the wedding website and in welcome bags for hotel guests. If you are not doing welcome bags, print plenty of the itineraries and ask the hotel to give them to your guests as they check in.

6.If you decide NOT to take on the expense of shuttling your guests, arrange to have taxis waiting at the reception to transport any guests who does not want to drive home after your party. In this case, communicate to guests ahead of time that their will be taxi service, and give them some phone numbers as well.

This is a bit of a project, and not a small expense, but if a great party is your goal, you want to take care of your guests and keep them safe! One more thought: Sometimes when the groom’s family offers to “pay for something,” why not suggest transportation?

How hard is it to drop a reply card into the mail? Top frustration of MOBs and brides!

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Yesterday I checked in with my friend Jamie, whose daughter is getting married in September. I asked her, “what is stressing you out the most RIGHT NOW?” This was one part shameless mining for blog material, and two parts that I really care because I know what she’s going through right about now.

Jamie’s response: “My biggest wedding worry right now, which is totally stressing me out, is people not responding to the invitation!” She went on to say that the responses were due a week ago, and they still haven’t heard from 20 people. We experienced the exact same thing, down to the numbers. So what to do?

First, when selecting your “respond by” dates, allow three weeks before the final count is due to your caterer. We allowed two, and it wasn’t enough. weddingwire.comsays three, and I would go with that. You want to minimize stress, not court it.

When the RSVP date comes and goes, get on the phone with the nonresponders right away— within a few days of your deadline date. Split up the task between bride, groom, moms, and even maid of honor, if she’s a pitch-in-and-help type. If someone says they’re not sure yet (yes, this will happen, believe it or not), politely tell them that it’s time for a final count, and the RSVP date has passed, so perhaps you can get together after the wedding to catch up. Use the old “it sounds like you have a lot going on right now, but our numbers are due now.”

Be ready too to deal with those who are not up on their wedding guest manners (because, oh, they live under a rock or something); these are the ones who ask if they can bring a child/new boyfriend/random date (whom you did NOT include on the invite).

Polite and firm. You’ll get the hang of it!