Bridal Favor Traditions
by: Michael Kabel
Brides traditionally give favors at their wedding reception as a means of saying thank you to their guests. It’s a small token of appreciation, meant to communicate affection and gratitude to those who share the bride’s special day.
The tradition of giving wedding favors dates back to Europe in the 16th century, when aristocrats and nobleman offered gifts of perfume and pastries to guests that had often traveled for days or weeks to attend the festivities. Sometimes, more elaborate gifts were given as a show of the host family’s largesse. For example, the French nobility – perhaps the most decadent class in history – handed out Bonbonnieres. These were exquisitely flavorful bonbons (sugared almonds) presented in glass or crystal boxes. Over time, the gift of five almonds has become a traditional wedding favor symbolizing the five hopes of the new family: wealth, health, longevity, happiness, and fertility. The modern bonbonniere is sometimes given in a net or mesh bag or gift box, and often filled with chocolates or small pastries.
Modern brides often strive hard for a unique or truly creative wedding favor gift that reflects the happy couples’ interests or tastes. For example, some couples choose to base their gift around the bride or groom’s favorite pastime, such as golf, playing cards, or sailing. Other brides choose to extend the hospitality of the reception into the future, giving tea, coffee, or even cocktail beverages. These gifts keep well, are easy to pack and carry by guests going returning home, yet present a delicate touch of consideration.
Of course, brides may also choose to give a keepsake or permanent souvenir of their happy day. One example of such gifts would be a silver candle, which when lighted commemorates the date of the ceremony.
Favors might also echo the theme of a wedding or reception. For example, guests at a beach-themed wedding might receive a flip-flop photo frame, or candles shaped as seashells. Weddings with a seasonal theme would include colors and textures appropriate to the season. Guests at an autumn wedding, for example, might find themselves presented with pastries shaped and colored like fall leaves, or a gel candle that includes leaves and earth tone colors in its stem.
A recent trend in bridal favors is personalization. New production techniques have allowed couples to include their names and wedding dates on each individual favor. Although prohibitively expensive in times past, these distinct favors are increasingly popular with brides anxious to commemorate their date in even the smallest details.
When selecting favors, the only true criterion is the taste and budget of the bride or wedding planner. Favors are today an expression of the bride’s taste and sensibilities, and should be considered as such when making the favors’ selection. History and tradition have their place, but ultimately the bride should decide what’s best for her, and come to the most unique expression of her creativity based on her own tastes.
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