Fun, Memorable, and Zero-Waste Wedding Favors

by - Friday, April 20, 2018

zero-waste wedding favor ideas sudoku game

Wedding favors are kind of the best. Everyone at the wedding gets a little present just for showing up, and often it is something to eat. There is a lot of sweetness in them, because it's a way that the couple can show gratitude to their guests for coming to celebrate with them. This is important, because the couple probably won't get to spend the time they thought they would with every guest (at least I didn't- those hours go fast).

So favors are really a lovely little tradition, and it annoys me when wedding advice suggests skipping them all together. So much of what you spend on your wedding doesn't necessarily show gratitude, but I think gratitude is so important.

On the other hand, wedding favors are kind of the worst.

Often, guests either don't remember them or eat them immediately. We ate this cupcake before we left the reception (that's a lot of plastic boxes to throw away). We do remember that we once got a cookie with the bride and groom's faces on them. We still have that cookie, after five years, and they look like zombies.

 We have all received favors we will never use.  They so often come in clear plastic boxes. Lots of clear plastic with ribbons and tags. I get it, to a certain extent, you want it to look fancy, and that is all in the framing. But that is a lot of pointless garbage so you can see inside a box you are about to open. 

Can you give a favor Can you gift favors that don't create a bunch of plastic waste? Or maybe even do some good while still being a gift, not a grandstand? I think so.

So what do you want from your favors? My thoughts.

1. Low cost but high meaning. You aren't buying fine jewelry for every guest.

2. Useful and not wasteful. You want the guests to actually want your favor.

3. Captures the spirit of your wedding. Memorable in a Good Way. Or a zombie cookie way.

To me, the answer screaming out here is to make something yourself, because you can get a lot more for your money. The favors have a lot of feeling and effort behind them, but you can save the money for another aspect of your wedding. And if you avoid really wasteful instagarbage packaging, this can be an eco-friendly option as well! That being said, not everyone has time to make 75 candles or jar their own jelly or paint 100 ornaments. So I will try to list off some simple purchase options as well.

from Lynnburg Lane

1. Soap

 This might be a more common gift for showers (ha! joke), but I think this might actually be nice for a wedding. Perfectly useful, and it might be a fun treat for your out of towners (better than lame hotel soap). I have never seen this at a wedding, but I like the pretty, subtle colors, and I think it might make a good universal gift.

You can find lots of very girly rosy ones or super-themed ones (Star Wars, Winnie the Pooh, etc), but I found some simple ones to get you started (consider buying one tester from them so you can find one that you like before diving in)- Lynnburg Lane from Wisconsin, Home Brewed Soaps (they have beer soaps- might be perfect) and Fat Belly Farm from Maine,  and Tighty Whitey Soap Co from Virginia.

2. Tote Bags

Some of your wedding guests could probably use some more grocery or shopping bags, and totes can find lots of practical uses. My suggestion would be to choose something that nods to your wedding and theme without it just saying "Jerry and Donna - March 31, 2019" How mementos other than wedding favors are that on the nose? Instead, consider doing something fun and cheeky that won't be embarrassing to carry later. Because why would your Aunt Mildred want to lug around her groceries in something with your name on it?

If you find one you like, but it is out of budget, consider asking the store if the price goes down if you buy in bulk. There are also a bunch of etsy shops that do something custom if you have a great idea for this. Either way, just ask. You might be pleasantly surprised. Here are some bag shops that look pretty good to me- WhoDoesntWantThat, DreamState, Pressed Cotton, and PCBHome.

from Sweet Home Darlings

3. Cookies, Candies, or Cupcakes in Responsible Containers

Pennsylvanians love a good cookie table, but too often the deliciousness comes in one of those plastic boxes or bags. Boo! Plastic is no good.

One option is to just have no container at all- you could tie them with compostable string or just leave them as is.

Another option is to use a reusable container. Ball jars had their moment in decor, and they are still great for sending home goodies. You can always find jars in secondhand stores too.Those jars could be put to a million uses. I would choose

If you want something that breaks down (or need something as cheap as possible), I bet you can track down some very affordable boxes (I like these pillow boxes) but I would suggest cookie envelopes that are made of recycled paper and break down. I would choose simple envelopes, which will break down and are made of recycled material.

I love the many different styles of cookie envelopes on Details on Demand (they have a completely custom option as well), Mavora, and Sweet Home Darlings (and a soft pretzel one?!? Please, someone invite me to the pretzel wedding). If Kraft paper doesn't look right with your decor, check out stores like Mind the Wrap, because it sells tons of options. Using one of these, no one would even suspect you were trying to have a low-waste or Plastic-free wedding.

zero-waste wedding favor ideas recipe book
from Heavenly Handmades

4. Homemade Recipe Books

Ok, the Harry Potter book is a bit misleading, but you could make a small book with five to ten pages of recipes.

Print two to a page on recycled paper, get some cardstock for the cover, and bind it together with some ribbon!

Perfect if you are a foodie couple, and people might actually want to try out your recipes. You can put a sweet note on the front page, and leave the rest to recipes. I bet it would only take a few hours to put together.

from Life and the Little Details

5. Local Treats or Spices

 Have a lot of people coming from out of town? Use the opportunity to introduce them to your hometown's hot sauce or maple syrup or ketchup. It might be cool to gift Old Bay for your Maryland wedding or other honey from your local beekeeper. Coffee from your favorite coffeehouse! Come from different regions? Pair the favorites from each place together so everyone is getting something new! The options are endless and you already know some of the things your neighborhood has to offer.

 It's great to do something like this as well, because hot sauce or syrup will actually be used, but more slowly than the sweets I will have eaten in the car on our way to the hotel.

Show off what you love about where you live and give that money to someone giving your neighbors jobs. Have a family recipe hot sauce or spice rub? Do that! The more you put yourself into it, the better a favor it will be. The shorter a distance your favor has traveled from field to your wedding, the better. Be thoughtful about the packaging, and keep it simple.

zero-waste wedding favor ideas saplings
from Tree2mydoor

6. Saplings

I love this one so much. Can you imagine all the trees growing out there because of the day you were wed? I mean, how does anything else even hold a candle to that!?! I wish we had done something like this. In the six years we have been married, our little gifts would have grown to do so much good already.

Saplings may be the coolest wedding favor ever, and how cool to track down your wedding trees years later? People could send you pictures, and imagine what they will look like decades into your marriage? The price is a bit higher, but if you gifted one sapling per family at your wedding, you could probably pull it off. And I would just think you were the best couple ever


 You could make these yourself, but these could be perfect for a nerdy or bookish wedding. Buy a few used books, atlases, or comic books and cut them into long strips. You could stamp them at the bottom or add your names and the date, then simply laminate and cut. You could punch a hole and string a ribbon as well. You can buy them, but I would just use the Etsy options as inspiration. I also found some out of recycled circuit boards if you are that kind of nerd. I also found plain kraft bookmarks if you wanted even simpler decoration. Fun and quirky, and you can probably easily incorporate them in with your seating cards or to make another focal point.

Meow Kapow also sells recycled comic book magnets and bottle openers for favors if you want a different twist on the idea!  I think these have a fun look and aren't too fussy.

zero-waste wedding favor ideas succulents
from San Pedro Cactus

8. Succulents

Handing out regular plants might be a gamble for some guests, but you have to work a lot harder to kill a succulent.

Gifting small succulents might make for a pretty and low maintenance gift (you may be in a danger zone if your guests are mostly flying in). I love these little jarred ones (though I am not excited about the plastic), and they would really be all the green decoration you needed on a reception table, depending on what look you were going for too. Put one at every seat, and you already have a gorgeous table and a lovely gift for each guest.

I did find some that seem to be in terra cotta (??) from SmittenwSucculents and SucculentGiftShop. I think your actual best option is to try to buy some from a florist or grower near you and then put them in separate pots.

zero-waste wedding favor wheelbarrow full of seeds
from Elux Magazine

9. Seeds

Now depending on how willing you are to let your tree-hugging flag fly (or what best fits your venue, you could give straightforward seed packs like these or plantable seed paper like these from Ka Bloomz or (in every color) from Recycled Ideas or Fancy That Loved. Doing a really green-themed wedding? These leaves from Recycled Ideas are gorgeous and get the point across. I think the seed paper is really pretty, and it might look nice in a more formal/ sophisticated setting in simple envelopes (I also think it would make super cool confetti for an exit, but I am not sure how you would work it).

If you think a lot of your guests don't have anywhere to plant, you could do a twist on it and make bird seed feeders instead. Still taking care of the natural world. Plus, they look so sweet and pretty. Check out this simple DIY recipe from Intimate Weddings.

zero-waste wedding favor ideas seeds
from Recycled Ideas

zero-waste wedding favor ideas seeds
from Megmichelle
I also wonder if you want to give seeds, if you could just get envelopes or small boxes like these ones from MegMichelle or these from Inside my Nest and put seeds in yourself. The envelopes are really lovely, and if you buy the seeds in bulk, you may save lots of money. Maybe not every guest will go home and plant the seeds, but how neat if some of them do? And talk about memorable- you could gift perennial tulips for your spring wedding, and then every year, they would have tulips. Too cool.

zero-waste wedding favor ideas christmas ornaments
from Iron Maid Art

10. Christmas Ornaments

 Even if you are getting married mid-July, an ornament might make a nice gift that actually gets some use from year to year. Plus, there are lots of options from DIY to Etsy buys that are pretty affordable!

-These Iron Maid Silhouette ornaments could be cool for a wedding at home or destination wedding, which you can buy in bulk for something like wedding favors.
- I think these antique keys might make really pretty Christmas ornaments once they are done bedecking your wedding.
- I think my favorite idea is to buy a collection of wood slices  and make an ornament yourself. Nothing too fussy, but this could be a great opportunity to make it yourself if you have the time! We were just in a wedding where burnt wood slices were the favors, and I can say without a doubt, we will treasure them forever.

If you have lots of time, check around pinterest, the land of a billion ideas, and you can find something fun to plug away at when you binge watch tv together at night.

zero-waste wedding favor ideas plantable paper leaves
from Recycled Ideas

What did you do for your wedding favors? What are you planning to do? It can be such a sweet gesture without coming at a huge environmental cost. 

zero-waste wedding favor ideas

Want an environmentally responsible registry? Be sure to read The Eco- Friendly Wedding Registry. Want more Green Wedding goodness? We have SO MANY ideas here of how to make your special day kinder to the environment and that much more original. Check out the Green Wedding Page for more ideas.

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