Unforgettable party favors
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Parting Gifts1 of 12
By Natasha Burton
Goodie bags aren't just for kids. Party favors are the "closing ceremony" of any event, whether you're holding a dinner party, hosting a book club or getting your college pals together for the big game. "Just as an invitation sets the tone for a party, a favor leaves your guests with a way to remember how fabulous it was," says Alexandra Hedin, author of Entertaining at Home. We asked entertaining and home pros to reveal the hottest trends in party favors and the best goodies they've given their own guests.
Short Story2 of 12
Entertaining expert and tableware designer Rosanna Bowles' favorite thing to make her guests: classic shortbread. "You can add nuts or chocolate to it; you can make it savory by adding Parmesan cheese," she says. For an added touch, include a tiny printout of the recipe. Not a whiz in the kitchen? Find a bakery or brand that uses all-natural ingredients, the next best thing to homemade.
SHOP NOW: Walkers Shortbread, $12 (for two packs)
Get the Scoop3 of 12
If you're hosting a dinner, use the meal as inspiration for your favors. "I made caprese salad at a party and wrote the different meanings of basil—brave, royal and king—on wooden spoons. I then wrapped basil and twine around the handles and gave those as party gifts," says interior designer Jillian Harris, who works on Extreme Home Makeover.
SHOP NOW: Bamboo Cooking Spoon, $3
Photo Op4 of 12
Picture frames are always party pleasers. "Take a group shot at the end of the night and email it to everyone to put in their frame," says Harris. If you're feeling more ambitious, Hedin recommends printing a handful of your favorite snapshots of the night and mailing copies to guests the next day.
SHOP NOW: Colored Barnwood frames by 2 DogsWoodworking, $46 (for two)
Fashion Plates5 of 12
For ladies' lunches or girls' nights, Bowles uses dipping dishes as party favors. "Put a small bar of soap or a scented candle on top, then wrap it in cellophane with the color of the evening," she says. "I usually put them by the door on a side table in a basket or tray, so guests can take one on their way out."
SHOP NOW: Rosanna Inc. J'Adore Paris Dipping Dishes, $28 (for four)
Best Buds6 of 12
"I love using centerpieces as favors as long as it's made simple for guests," Hedin says, who advises grouping floral centerpieces together in one place for guests to easily grab on their way out. Or, to avoid the problem of water slushing out of the vase on the drive home, give potted plans or herbs instead, she adds.
SHOP NOW: Year of Seeds, $80 (for 12)
High Profile7 of 12
Another option for centerpiece favors? Bowles proposes using compotes or pedestals because they're easily portable. Try compotes for floral arrangements. ("You can cut the blooms short—a hot trend in floral design—for a concentration of multiple blossoms," says Bowles.) For pedestals, she recommends "candles, candy, greenery, Christmas balls, or anything that reflects light."
Chalk it Up8 of 12
Want to make your visitors feel welcome? "Fill mason jars with colorful candy and use them as centerpieces—then, for a personal twist, paint a rectangle of chalkboard paint on the outside and write your guests' names," says Harris.
SHOP NOW: Chalkboard Labels by VintageBlooming, $7 (for 20)
Sweet Surprise9 of 12
Think about giving your guests an item they'll use during the event and take home at the end, suggests Hedin. "My favorite favors are ones that come as a surprise or are presented in an unexpected way, like using bracelets as napkin rings," she says.
Play Around10 of 12
"Five years ago, party favors were a fun surprise, but now they've almost become an expectation so you have to get creative," says Hedin. Thanks to sites like Pinterest and Etsy, it's easy to find homemade items, as well as more offbeat gifts like toys (think: chic rubber duckies or these rocking birds for a baby shower), she says.
SHOP NOW: West Elm Small Rocking Bird, $14
Initial Here11 of 12
When hosting both men and women, Bowles suggests giving initial plates or mugs, because of their unisex appeal. "You can give the initial of every person's name, the first letter of a couple's last name or, if you're getting together for a college football game, use the letter of your school," she says.
SHOP NOW: Rosanna Inc. Initial Plates, $16
Pop Stars12 of 12
For a trendier treat, try mini-desserts. "Cake pops are always fun and you can present them in a bouquet or in a cute mug," says Harris. Hedin adds that you can never go wrong with crowd-pleasers like local-made chocolates or salted caramels.
SHOP NOW: Cocomori Cake Pops, $30 (for 12)