The choice is of course personal, and if providing favors makes you happy, you can do both your guests and the environment a favor by choosing something useful or edible rather than a gewgaw that will end up in the trash. For extra credit, make the favors yourself, or buy them from a local artisan, producer, or business, and keep any labels and packaging you use biodegradable. Below, some great DIY and local green wedding and party favor ideas.
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You're going to have decorations anyway—design them to be reused as favors! Set out as many small flowering plants or herbs (organically grown, if possible) as there are seats at your tables. Annual or perennial herb plants (rosemary or bay trees) make lovely houseplants, as do succulents. Or you could opt for flowering perennials. Choose short ones with long season's of bloom such as 'moonbeam' coreopsis or clove pinks. Alternatively, have a single plant or container planted with a selection of plants (keep it small enough to be easy to carry) on each table, and tape a "you're the winner" note under one plate. Not having individual tables? Use small plants to decorate around the venue and encourage everyone to take one home.
As for packaging, classic terra-cotta pots are attractive and natural, and they're easy to paint to match your color scheme if you want to. Transplant into them a few days before the event. Or, stick with plain nursery pots dressed up with a strip of natural fabric and raffia. Attach instructions on how to take care of the plant. If your favor is a bunch of flowers, use mason jars to hold them; they're classic and attractive and can be reused in all sorts of way. (And here are 7 tricks from professional florists to make cut flowers last for weeks.)
Related: How To Source Your Wedding Flowers Locally And Sustainably, According To Florists
Edible is always good in my book, and it's actually a tradition in some cultures. In Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries, almonds signify good luck, and each wedding guest gets five: one each to represent health, wealth, happiness, children, and long life. I personally have a soft spot for chocolate, especially when it's organic and fair-trade. Equal Exchange minis are great for sprinkling liberally around a table, and Endangered Species Chocolate offers small zippered jute bags of mini chocolate bars.
For a tasty edible treat with fewer food miles, buy or bake and decorate plain sugar or shortbread cookies and pack them in individual biodegradable cellophane bags. You can also pick up small containers of hot sauce, honey, or seasonal fruit preserves from local producers. Small packets of tea, mulling spices, or a fresh or dried bouquet garni (a bay leaf bundled with sprigs of thyme and parsley and tied with organic cotton twine) would also be nice. Add directions if applicable and a custom label to personalize the favor.
Related: 7 Thrifty Ways To Plan Your Big Day On A Budget—According To Wedding Planners
Small beeswax candles, handcrafted soaps (avoid strongly scented ones so as not to overpower sensitive guests), or bags of potpourri or dried lavender make great non-edible favors. They're easy to make and just as easy to find pre-made by local producers at farmer's markets if you'd rather not spend the time. Packets of flower or herb seeds make nice favors, too. Buy pretty individual packets, or buy seed in bulk and repackage in small reusable containers such as 4-ounce jelly jars. You can buy readymade seed favors, such as these really cute little tins of seeds topped with silk flowers, or make your own seed bomb favors easily and cheaply.
Related: 10 Natural DIY Wedding Favors That Your Guests Will Actually Use
I attended a wedding recently where the couple provided a retro Polaroid camera and instant film (yes, you can still buy both), set up at the guestbook table—along with a fun backdrop—with instructions that encouraged guests to take snapshots of each other to post in the guestbook and to take home as a memory. Even in this time of digital photos, there is something fun about having an instant Polaroid picture to hold onto. Visit thrift stores to find quirky, unique picture frames, or find inexpensive name-card holders for your tables that can serve double-duty as picture holders at the end of the event.
Related: How To Have A Simple, Thoughtful And Beautiful Green Wedding Without All The Waste
Depending on how bold you feel, you can turn the tables and have your guests give you favors! It's not uncommon in other countries for the wedding couple to solicit monetary gifts to help pay for the honeymoon or a new home. At traditional Italian weddings, the groom's tie is cut into pieces and sold to the wedding guests as a memento of the occasion.