Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Out of Town Bag Alternative

I like the out of town bag. I really do. I like the non-hotel priced bottle of water and packet of hangover-appropriate Tylenol and cookies. (mmm cookies.) I like the local attraction info, maps, bus route info, rehearsal dinner information, and phone numbers. And I especially like the handwritten welcome notes I've received in some out of town bags at other weddings. 

However, I do not have a real budget for out of town bags. Nor am I entirely comfortable with throwing more paper bags into the world (though these might make a nice, affordable, canvas alternative that's sized for reusable gift bags.) Nor do I love the idea of buying single-use, chemical-laden water bottles when the hotel is likely to have glasses for water.

But I still love that packet of pertinent information and the handwritten card (and the cookie, obviously.) They always make me feel truly welcomed by the couple. It's the sort of gesture that creates hospitality and warmth that stays with you long after the event ends. Feeling individually welcomed and valued has no price.

So I'm thinking we may go with Out of Town Envelopes as a waste-free(er), practical-but-still-sentiment-inducing alternative.  I can write a handwritten greeting. I can make it pretty with a stamp or fun label (perhaps a double print of our eventual invitation label design and mail merge? or perhaps I won't care when I'm assembling these at midnight?) I may try to bake cookies to hand out with each envelope at hotel check-in.  Like the Doubletree chocolate chip cookies, but without the Doubletree getting involved. (And by "I may try to bake cookies" I mean "I will try to wrangle my baking goddess friends to "help" while I eat cookie dough and make a mess with flour.") 

I think this compromise embodies the heart of the Out of Town bag without all of expense, disposability, or when-will-wedding-cr*p-stop-taking-over-my-spare-room insanity-inducing potential. Also, cookies. Everyone will be happy about our wedding and can forget about horrid airport stories if they're greeted with cookies, right?

What are your thoughts on out of town bags or envelopes? And, more importantly, do you have any tried-and-true cookie recipes to share?

30 comments:

  1. That's a really smart compromise. Are all your out of town guests checking in to the same hotel, then? Are they checking in at the same time or are you giving instructions to the hotel? I'm unsure of the logistics but also aspire to make each person feel individually welcomed.

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  2. I'm so glad someone else is planning on doing this! We had a budget for OOT bags but our out of town guests exceeded our expectations. We decided to create 4 bags just for my FH's immediate family (my family is local). For our other out of town guests we're planning on delivering envelopes with pseudo-homebaked brownies (they're from a Pamela's mix) for our other guests, a handwritten welcome, a wedding activity guide, free tour ticket to local brewery, transit guide, and free SF guide.

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  3. This made me LOL! I reckon cookies (especially homemade) will keep everyone happy, and well don to you for not wanting to add further to pollution.

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  4. @KWu - we're planning to set up a hotel block and provide a shuttle from there, so hopefully all our guests will use the same hotel. If not (ie, for people staying at local friends' houses) we can have the envelopes at the welcome barbecue (we're doing a barbecue instead of a rehearsal dinner.) I think the hotel can give us a list of guests who are using the hotel block, so we can plan for envelopes from there.

    Eden - I forgot about brownies. I can actually make those from a mix. Hmm. This might be another possibility too.

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  5. I always thought OOT bags were completely unnecessary and that guests would be totally confused. Then I went to my first wedding where I received an OOT bag. The bottled water and snacks came in super handy when I was slaving away over their flowers for 6 hours straight without time to eat a proper meal. Long story short, those OOT bags saved the day! I don't think everyone who got one really fully appreciated them to the extent that those of us who were busy helping the bride and groom get everything together did, so maybe have envelopes for most everyone and beefed up bags for those who will be helping you the most? Or at least make sure your helpers have food and drink through other means.

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  6. I was also thinking about cookies as an out-of-town greeting gift. I'm a pretty avid baker, so I can tell you on good authority that shortbread is the way to go. In an airtight tin or tupperware, the stuff will stay fresh for weeks. Plus it has the added benefit of being an excellent vehicle for interesting flavors (I've made lavender, black sesame, green tea...) and the dough freezes well, should you want to start making it MONTHS in advance and bake it shortly before the wedding.

    My very favorite shortbread, the one that gets rave reviews whenever I make it and has even converted died-hard coconut haters, is this Toasted Coconut Shortbread.

    They look very humble but are totally irresistible!

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  7. We're not doing them because while we do have a hotel block, I know a number of people are staying at other hotels or with local family or friends, and we're not having any event for people the night before. And then there are the ones who are undecided about whether they're staying overnight anywhere at all (i.e. those who are a 2-3 hour drive where it's doable without a room but possibly more convenient albeit expensive to get a room).

    Basically it would have been hard not just to figure out the logistics of getting them to people in advance of the wedding, but also to determine who counted as out-of-town. It feels weird to be "oh, you dropped your kids off with grandma and splurged on a room for Friday night, so you get a cookie...but you over there, you had to hire a sitter so you didn't leave until Saturday morning and are going straight to the ceremony, no cookie for you!" And even without that aspect, I just feel nosy asking where people are staying but hate to give something to people using our hotel block but not others.

    So, we're just going to make an extra effort to make everyone feel welcome at the wedding.

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  8. We did cookies. Totally unnecessary expense. People liked them, but they didn't expect them.

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  9. I think an envelope is a great way to simplify things. Your guests will appreciate it just as much as a traditional out-of-town bag. We originally planned to put together bags for our guests, but decided not to toward the end. It would have added one more DIY to our list, and we also ended up with guests spread out at several different hotels. These hotels were all great about providing guests with maps and guides, as well.

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  10. @Erica - we're planning to provide food the day before and the day of for our helper friends. It will probably be a deli tray for sandwich making or something similarly easy, inexpensive, and filling. I was thinking of the OOT Envelopes as a "Yay! Thank you For Coming!" thing.

    @Anjali - Thanks! Besides the coconut, I have everything in the kitchen so I could definitely test that out. Even better, my mother is Scottish, so it might be a really nice tie in to that half of my family and culture.

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  11. I'm a fan out-of-town bags, but I wasn't sure that we were going to do them. In the end, I think we're doing similar to you -- homemade cookies, free city maps/attractions/pamphlets, and a handwritten note. I figure if I just do simple drop cookies (I'm thinking oatmeal raisin and maybe chocolate chip, two favorites), I can start early and get them done by early afternoon, then drop them off at the hotel. I also thought about having them at the Welcome Dinner (we're having one instead of a Rehearsal Dinner too), but then I figured I'd end up having to make more for people who weren't from out of town (because who doesn't love cookies?!?).

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  12. Four Words: Nestle Tollhouse Cookie Recipe.

    It never fails. It's easy to follow. Skip the nuts.

    I love OOT bags. I haven't figured out how to make them work in our budget (or with our guests since we're not getting a room block or anything), but I love, love, love them. I absolutely require water, tylenol and chocolate after a plane ride. I could go for a snack pack of m&ms, too.

    Have you looked at Oriental Trading's inexpensive totes and draw-string bags? They're small, can be decorated and CHEAP.

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  13. That's what we did.

    Honestly? I've never not thrown the stuff in an Out of Town bag away. In the hotel room trash, no less. It's hard to remember that your taste is not your guests taste, and well, waste, waste, waste.

    So yeah, I think a note is the way to go. We put a few things in our envelope... and uh... ONE person said that they had gotten it and it was nice. So in the end? I consider the little we did do a waste of effort. It stressed us out in the days leading up, and um, no one cared.

    But yes, do a note :)

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  14. In all the out of town weddings I have attended, I have never received an Out of Town bag. Once, I got a packet of info, and that was super helpful, but never any water or cookies or whatnot. What does that say about my friends/family?

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  15. I like the idea of welcome envelopes! :) We did bags because I wanted to put little baggies of pretzels and gummy bears and mini-candy bars in there. But I think an envelope is a great idea!

    And I have a wonderful egg-free oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe, if you have any egg-allergy concerns among your guests. :)

    For us, the main problem with the bags was getting them to guests and the hotel wanted to charge us $3.50 per bag, which was much more than the value of the content of the bags. So we hand delivered when we saw people, and brought the rest to the welcome picnic. The awesomeness of the envelope is that you could slide that baby under the door of the rooms before the guests arrive! :)

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  16. eh... we didn't do them. They are definitely a nice touch, and a lovely way to make people feel welcome. But in those final weeks of crossing things off the list because we were out of time/ money/ sanity, the importance of the OOT bags quickly vanished. In my mind, they're like favors: invented by the wedding industry to siphon more money out of our pockets; nice to do but not necessary.

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  17. Oo how about making the bags from old newspaper?

    http://www.ehow.com/how_4811774_paper-bags-newspaper.html

    Or maybe far too much effort!

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  18. It sounds like you need to delegate. And, um, if you decide to do chocolate chip cookies, I am totally willing to whip them up and stick them in simple wax paper envelopes for you the day before. Not kidding. We could just stick the envelopes to them with a zot (crazy strong glue dot). I'd consider it a trade for your sweet venue help.

    You can easily make cookies in advance, if you research recipes carefully. If I need CC cookies for something, I always make a double or triple batch and then scoop them (cookie scooper is magic) and freeze the scoops unbaked. Pop them in the oven and you're done. But remember that it kind of sucks to do this the day before the wedding, unless it's the only thing you have to do. And it probably won't be.

    And if you end up not doing anything, no one will probably notice - especially if they're from an older generation.

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  19. i'm definitely doing the out of town bags too (in some way, shape or form). i like the envelope idea, it's still a way to acknowledge the out-of-towners and give them the information they need. but i also remember many a wedding, coming back at the end of the night to a goodie bag with a cookie, bag of doritos, and water, is always a nice treat :)
    PS congrats on the best bride win. it was a close race and i feel honored to have been in the same category as you and the other amazing blogs out there. consider yourself +1 follower :)

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  20. I used those bags you linked but in the 9 cents cheaper neutral color and they worked great and people were appreciative of them. I used a tree stamp I got at the craft store and made them a little prettier and I saw family members using them that weekend so I HOPE they didn't just toss them. I also made a document in Publisher that had a "hello" note, a schedule of events, directions, and our own traveler's guide so that people could find places to eat, and different things to see while they were in town, and while we were too busy to show them around. Those were VERY well received by our guests and many people thanked us for them. It also worked totally fine for us to give them to the hotel-- they know how to handle room blocks--but make it so each room (not each person) receives the bag or envelope. I would also suggest using only one hotel. We gave 3 suggestions and it was hard to track everyone down. Also, definitely delegate this someone who wants to help!

    Oh, these are the BEST COOKIES IN THE WORLD: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/09/dining/091crex.html?_r=1

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  21. Damn, I wish I had some cookie recipes to share. Actually, I just wish I had some cookies. :)

    Love the envelope idea- creative, less wasteful and still allows you to be creative. Yay!

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  22. We wrote notes to all of our out of towners too. The envelope concept is cool but I'd try to attach it to a water bottle - I find these are consumed practically 100% of the time.

    Here are the cookies I made for the wedding - they can come out cakey sometimes, but are still tasty!
    http://chicncheapliving.blogspot.com/2009/11/diy-pumpkin-cookies-my-nyc-wedding.html

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  23. I feel like I'm going to bake the cookies in preparation for the cookies (we have to decide on a flavor, duh) while you eat cookie dough and make a mess with flour...

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  24. we did oot bags...mostly with information from the tourist information council, and was a nightmare to distribute all those bags to all the differents hotels...we know for sure the people gets the bags in their rooms, but not all of them appreciated. We didnt put anything perishable in it. Mainly bus, museums, timetable and bar/restaurants options. And a had writting welcome note. That´´s all.

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  25. See this is why I love wedding blogs. I had this idea that I could give guests party bags with water, hangover accoutrements, things to do in the local area, nearest pub etc. But I didn't know this was an actual 'thing' with a name! Useful - thanks!

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  26. I'm going to make little bags with notes "if you get eaten by bears, it's yr own dang fault."

    no, i'm not. and i do hope none of my guests get eaten by bears.

    i bet 2 days before everyone gets there i freak out and go OMG EVERYONE NEEDS MAPS AND COOKIES NOW, NOW NOW@!@!! And and I make my mom make some.

    Maybe I just make bags OUT of the free maps from AAA and they have to take the bags apart if they get lost. "in case you get lost: dismantle bag. eat cookies inside. read map. avoid bears."

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  27. @Verhext - hahahaha. I would love to receive that note. In a bag made of maps or not. But then again, I have a strange sense of humor and a weird affection for bears, so there you go.

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  28. i plan to do bags, but the fact is that most of our over-night guests are actually local. Very local; our venue is less than an hour from our home and most of our guest live close by to us. BUT they are still planning to stay in our B&B venue. There are 14 rooms and the cost is not inexpensive for the beautiful 90 degree views of the bay. Sooooo, while someone pointed out that a bag of stuff certainly is a drop in the bucket for the cost of staying overnight, I still think it is a nice gesture. I'm not sure what bags or envelopes we will use but I think the content will include a personal note, map, a list of things to do (and there are a lot of things to do in this "destination" weekend), water, sunscreen, aspirin, and some kind of simple healthy snack (fruit maybe).

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  29. I saw some idea somewhere for cheapo brides to write individual welcome letters to each guest instead of handing out gifts bags. I resolved to do it, and then decided my company was the gift because I was too damn busy to take on one more DIY project. Those people are still my friends, welcome bag or no.

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