History of Wedding Favors

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Promo Expert

Published: September 14th, 2018

Updated: April 22nd, 2019

If you’ve ever been to a wedding, you know there are certain traditions to expect. Delicious wedding cake, the bouquet toss, champagne toasts, and Grandma awkwardly doing the Cha Cha Slide, to name a few. Perhaps no tradition is as cemented in our culture, however, as wedding favors. From bridesmaid gifts to trinkets for your guests, we rely on these small tokens of appreciation for the Big Day.

Why do we give out wedding favors? Where did the tradition come from? Send in your RSVP, it’s time to learn the fascinating history of wedding favors!

Hour Glass

History of Wedding Favors Timeline

People have always had a sweet tooth when it comes to wedding favors. Take a look at how these small gifts have evolved over the years!

  • 1350s

    Source: https://steemkr.com

    The first written account of Jordan almonds was found in Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio’s collection of novellas entitled The Decameron. This brand of almonds has been extremely popular at weddings in the United States ever since.

  • 1501-1600

    Source: https://www.pinterest.com

    French aristocrats handed out bonbonnieres, or jewel-encrusted boxes, filled with bon bons, cookies, or sweet almonds. At the time, sugar was expensive making this a luxurious gift for wedding guests.

  • 1700s – 1800s

    Source: https://wallpapersite.com

    Individual happiness became important after the Enlightenment. As a result, couples gave out wedding favors like spices, flowers, and other small gifts more frequently.

  • 1907

    Source: https://www.timetoast.com

    Hershey introduced their iconic kisses to the public. The candy company was already perfecting mass-production, meaning couples could turn to these bite-sized treats as the perfect wedding favors.

  • 1930s-1940s

    Source: https://www.huffingtonpost.com

    The Great Depression meant it was back to the basics for weddings. In fact, only about half of marrying couples gave out inexpensive favors like M&Ms to guests at the ceremony.

  • 1950s-1960s

    Source: http://qualitylogoproducts.com

    Weddings became more elaborate after World War II. Screen printing was a popular printing technique, and couples could order anything from t-shirts to wine glasses featuring their names and wedding dates.

  • 1970s

    Source: http://dailynewsdig.com

    The disco days were a groovy time for wedding favors. It wasn’t uncommon to load 8-track tapes with love songs from The Bee Gees, ABBA, and Earth Wind, & Fire.

  • 1980s

    Source: http://weddingdaycolors.com

    Creativity boomed in many areas and wedding favors were no exception. Couples thought of unique and inexpensive giveaways like matches customized with a cute message.

  • 1990s

    Source: https://www.countryliving.com

    Disposable cameras were a trendy wedding favor. Before social media, this was a great way for couples to capture special moments throughout the ceremony and reception.

  • 2000s

    Source: https://shop.cancerresearchuk.org

    Non-profits started encouraging couples to make donations on behalf of each guest. In turn, the guests were made aware of the donation with a complementary pin, ribbon, or other small trinket.

  • 2010

    Source: https://www.pinterest.com

    Pinterest became a good medium for creative inspiration. Even today, many couples turn to the website for DIY projects and other unique wedding favor ideas.

  • 2012

    Source: http://emmalinebride.com

    Mason jars became extremely trendy at weddings. Couples could customize their containers with a personal message and fill them with delicious mixed drinks or punches.

  • 2016

    Source: https://www.willyumspice.com

    Warren and Brandalyn Wiliams started Willyum Spices from their kitchen. While they’re not chefs, their goal was to offer fresh, MSG-free spices as wedding favors.

  • 2018

    Source: https://www.glamour.com

    Megan Markle and Prince Harry celebrated their royal wedding with special favors. Close friends left Windsor Castle with a $450 gold bracelet from Zofia Day Jewelry.

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We love to infuse each celebration with our own unique brand of style and personally see to every detail to make sure everything is just perfect. Beautifully thought-out favors add to the welcoming feel of our table, making our guests feel special and treasured.

– Beverly Clark, author of Favorable Occasions: Favors for Parties, Weddings and Holidays

Why Do People Use Almonds as Wedding Favors?

A Greek myth tells the story of Demophon, the king of Athens who married Phyliss, the daughter of a neighboring king. Demophon left on a sailing expedition, but upon his return discovered that Phyllis had died and turned into an almond tree. Demophon hugged the tree in despair, and in return, it went into full bloom, symbolizing their enduring love for one another.

This story has inspired the tradition of giving five almonds wrapped in elegant fabric to each guest at a wedding. These almonds, typically coated in sugar or honey, represent fertility, longevity, wealth, health, and happiness and became popular wedding favors in roughly 800 BC. The sugar-covered almonds are known by many names. They are called koufetta in Greece, mlabas in the Middle East, and confetti in Italy.

To this day, the tradition of giving out Jordan almonds is still observed in many areas, including the United States. While the true origins are unknown, it is believed the name comes from either the almonds that grew along the Jordan River in Palestine or from the French “jardin” which translates to garden. The first written account of Jordan almonds was in Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, a collection of novellas dating back to the Renaissance. There’s also a story about guests eating more than 260 pounds of these almonds when Lucrezia Borgia, the daughter of Pope Alexander VI, married her third husband in Rome in the early 1500s. Ever since, this has been a popular brand of almonds for wedding favors around the world.

Whether they’re called koufetta or Jordan almonds, the idea behind these treats is to remind people that life is both bitter and sweet. Today, these almonds are available in a variety of colors and typically come in small boxes or bags. They decorate tables at the wedding reception and are sometimes even accompanied by a mini poem!

http://weddingdaycolors.com
Did you know?

Jelly beans, invented in 1861, were modeled after Jordan almonds.

What Are Bonbonnieres?

The French aristocracy took gift-giving to the next level in the 16th century. Guests would still be treated to sugar-covered almonds, but they were housed inside bonbonnieres, which were delicate jewel-encrusted boxes made from porcelain, crystal, or gold. These fancy containers also held other sweets like bon bons, cookies, or mini cakes.

Source: https://www.pinterest.ca

At the time, sugar was believed to have medicinal benefits, making the bonbonnieres a cherished gift among guests. Due to the expensive cost of sugar at the time, however, only the higher-class families could afford giving them out as wedding favors. If you didn’t make a lot of money, you couldn’t have as elaborate of an affair.

That all changed in the late-1600s. Sugar was in high demand for coffee and tea, and as a result, it became more accessible and affordable. It wasn’t long before the middle and lower-classes started handing out their version of bonbonnieres at their own weddings. While these weren’t as elegant as the ones used by the upper class, they still were treasured gifts among guests.

The word “bonbonnieres” has become interchangeable with “wedding favors” in general. Some couples still do the traditional containers with sweets, although they unfortunately aren’t decorated with real diamonds. For those on a budget, it’s easy to craft elegant bonbonnieres from cheap materials like cardboard, paper, plastic, or glass.

Did you know?

The treat bon bons gets its name from the traditional bonbonnieres. The phrase means “sugar confection” in French.

A Personal Experience: The Industrial Revolution

Wedding guests were getting nice and full on all the sweet treats, but it wasn’t until after the 18th century that other favors became popular. Before then, marriage was more of a civic duty than a celebratory event. It was based on increasing wealth and extending families, and as a result, weddings were more a means to an end or a business transaction than anything else.

Source: http://www.vam.ac.uk

Following the Enlightenment, however, individual happiness became more important than wealth and status. People started getting married because they were in love, and wedding favors started reflecting that love. If you couldn’t afford a fancy jewel-encrusted box and were allergic to almonds, you still had options for great wedding favors. It could have been natural like flowers or spices, or something more elaborate like engraved pocket mirrors.

The timing couldn’t have been better for this new way of thinking. Within the next century, the mass production of goods during the Industrial Revolution made it possible for couples to order large quantities of wedding favors at an affordable price. Screen printing also paved the way for personalization, and promotional products companies were on the rise, giving these couples an avenue for purchasing these favors. It would be another fifty years before this technology was used to its full potential. Still, though, there’s no denying how influential the Industrial Revolution was in shaping the future of wedding favors.

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Today, wedding favors have become an intrinsic part of a wedding reception and can range from the simplest almonds or individual chocolate in a pretty gift box to more elaborate gifts personalized with the couple’s names and wedding date.

Make Love, Not War

The Industrial Revolution made favors more accessible, but weddings didn’t have all the bells and whistles until after World War II. Following the war, people had more money and spirits were high since the conflict was over. Not to mention, plastic and other materials like stainless steel and aluminum were in abundance. It was finally time to really take advantage of the technology from the Industrial Revolution.

Source: https://www.countryliving.com

The 1950s brought with it the idea of elaborate weddings with all the trimmings. Sometimes the wedding would be conducted with very little money and on short notice. People had to be creative about planning their ceremony. As a result, DIY dresses, colorful decor, and homemade favors became extremely popular during this era. From that point forward, favors were part of the typical wedding experience.

Source: https://www.qualitylogoproducts.com

Screen printing, which had been invented in the early 1900s, also became a huge trend at this time. Couples could add their name, wedding date, or a small image like a heart to the exterior of items like tote bags, bottle openers, or keychains. Today, you can customize any wedding favor under the sun, from cool sunglasses and water bottles to stress balls and bobble heads.

Source: https://www.qualitylogoproducts.com
Quote

Favors are a charming aspect of hospitality – a small token of thanks and regard for your guests. They also serve as keepsakes, reminding recipients of their time spent at your event.

– Mary Lynn Maloney, author of Favors with Flair

Wedding Favors from Around the World

Love is universal and celebrated all over the world. Many countries have their own traditions when it comes to wedding favors. Take a look at some of the most popular gifts from around the globe!

Ireland
Guests are given decorative bells they can take home after the wedding. They ring these throughout the ceremony as a way to honor the new married couple.

http://www.therapybox.info

Spain
Couples need to buy twice as many wedding favors in Spain. Male guests are given cigars, while women are provided with folding fans or pieces of jewelry.

http://www.therapybox.info

India
Elephants are considered lucky in the Middle East. As such, guests often go home with either hand-carved elephants or decorative incense holders.

https://www.pinterest.com

Ukraine
Hand-painted eggs are extremely popular wedding favors in Ukraine. They symbolize fertility for the newlyweds.

https://www.flickr.com

Japan, China, and Korea
Favors range from decorative chopsticks to wooden fans to porcelain tea cups. These are typically decorated with cherry blossoms as they symbolize the fragility and beauty of life.

http://www.myasianweddingfavors.com

Of course, you’ll see these weddings favors in the United States as well. Favors can be everything and anything, it all just depends on the preferences of the marrying couple.

Why Do We Love Wedding Favors?

There is no right way to celebrate a wedding. Some couples go all-out with fun themes like steampunk or fairy tales, while others fuse their celebration with holidays like Christmas or Halloween. Either way, wedding favors are souvenirs of a special day we spend in the presence of love. Whether we get customized sunglasses with a cute note, make our own lacy centerpieces, or give out traditional Jordan almonds, these fun mementoes capture a beautiful moment in time.

Stats for Success

The wedding industry is estimated at $86 billion a year in the United States.

An average of $205 - $297 is spent on wedding favors alone.

Most couples buy or make their favors two months before the wedding.

The Bottom Line

Wedding favors have changed a lot over the years. While almonds and sweets have always been popular, it wasn’t until after World War II when these small gifts became personal. Whether you wrap chocolate kisses in tulle, make rustic frames, or customize shot glasses with your initials, there’s no denying that we’ll always say “I do” to Pinterest-ready favors.

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world’s first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC’s logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.

References

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Meade, D. (2018). The Reason Behind the Rhyme of Jordan Almonds. Retrieved July 27, 2018, from https://www.wbtv.com/story/8177149/the-reason-behind-the-rhyme-of-jordan-almonds/

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Richmond-Times Dispatch. (2014, June 29). The Story Behind Jordan Almonds. Retrieved July 27, 2018, from https://www.richmond.com/life/celebrations/the-story-behind-jordan-almonds/article_00c20dfa-fd5c-11e3-8165-001a4bcf6878.html

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Hendricks, S. (2018, February 14th). Here’s What Weddings Looked Like the Year You Were Born. Retrieved July 30, 2018, from https://www.insider.com/how-weddings-have-changed-2018-2

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