Easy options to dress up welcome/gift bags for your out-of-town guests

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Looking for ideas for how to make your welcome/gift bags look awesome and still be something that people will reuse? I just helped my oldest buddy dress up her plain brown paper bags for her out of town guests, so I'm in the mood to delve deeper into this idea…

First, let's talk bags:

41duMPiEKkL. SL500 AA300 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)Brown paper bags: Simple, easy, cheap and reusable (for a while). The bags pictured above can be purchased here, if you're interested. My best buddy and I got creative with these guys, but more on that later…

41+BdMzaaIL. SS400 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)Plain canvas totes: These plain canvas totes with a shoulder length strap are a great option. Guests can use these while they stay for your wedding and even when they go back home.

with pockets alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)Canvas tote with pockets: A variation on a theme of canvas tote… these have pockets inside for water bottles, perfect for packing them snacks and then they can use them on outings around the town.

41ANCD7oMPL. SS400 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)Colored reusable tote bags: Of course you can always go the colorful route, like these guys. Maybe pick bags that coincide with your wedding colors/them if you have 'em.

Now let's talk decor:

Fabric flowers.
41JnO5FmeDL. AA300 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)Buy pretty fake flowers pins and voila! — Instant pretty! Or if you wanted to go the DIY route, our beaded flower tutorial could also be a unique option.

Decorative pins or personalized buttons.

il 430xN.163563351 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)
Courtesy of Esty seller Repchi.
These could be anything from little cheapy things you pick up at a craft store to custom pins made special for your wedding guests. OBT member Emzy suggested something like these from Etsy seller Repchi.

Stamping with fabric paint.
flowerback alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)Tribesmaid Petals&Thorns created these customized tote bags for her bridesmaids using fabric stamping.

Stencil and spray paint.
IMG 5500 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)The photo above is from a night of outdoor stenciling action for my best friend's wedding. She actually made the I ♥ LA stencil and we bought different colors of spray paint and went to town. It was super easy for non-crafty people like myself and the guests thought they were adorable.

Decorative tapes.
41rh8Mt6LkL. SL500 AA300 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)So many adorable tape options, like these. How easy would it be just to run a strip along the edges of the bag? Especially if it's one of the paper bag options.

Bleach stamping

Dude, you should totally check out Ang's bleach stamping tutorial! And then do what she says: make things better by ruining them.

And then there were some other suggestions from Tribe members like…

  • Patches
  • A whip stitch in your wedding colors around the top edge
  • Ribbons

Now I'd like to ask you… what other ideas have you guys used to decorate your gift bags?

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Comments on Easy options to dress up welcome/gift bags for your out-of-town guests

  1. The bleach thing is great.

    Once I was in my parents kitchen and I accidentally got some bleach that my stepmom was using on my brand new T-shirt (the shirt was green with white writing and a lemon on it). I freaked and then I realized it would look cool if I splattered bleach on the whole thing and it would look intentional, but different from everyone else’s. So I used a fork and flung some bleach all over it to make it look vintagey and it turned out great!

    The plain shirt:

  2. If you had the tote bags you could also totally do iron on screen print for a fun saying.
    I also tie dyed fabric tote bags once 🙂

  3. This may seem like an obvious question, but what do you put in the welcome bags?? My boyf is from London and we’re getting married in Ireland (where we live) so there’ll be tons of people coming over for it. I hadn’t thought of doing this but it’s a great idea! Any thoughts for equally cool insides to match the awesome outsides of these bags?

    • Generally people put things for their guests that have traveled to the wedding to enjoy upon arrival, such as water and snacks to consume at the hotel. Then a very popular addition would be location-specific goodies, you could use this post as inspiration. Good luck and have fun with it!

      • Thanks – I had a bit of a brain storm and came up with some bits that will make great personal bags, as well as some momentos of Ireland. Can’t wait to get started!

    • Also you may want to include local area maps, and tour brochures. The local Visitor and Convention Bureau or Chamber of Commerce should provide these things free of charge and often will include postcards and such!

    • what I’m putting in, if I do them, is a bottle of water, some goldfish (A kind of cracker) some mini fruit gummies, a map of our town with tons of highlights for them to have something to do. then, also, little toys for the kids (moat of the people coming have small children. Just whatever you want to put in. 🙂

  4. Other “thinking outside the box” ideas (I crak myself up): What else could you use to hold the items besides bags? I like take-out boxes, or little buckets, or even a Nalgene bottle!

  5. This post is a little old, but instead of using photo paper and a spray adhesive, couldn’t you just use plain contact/shelf paper? Then you wouldn’t need the spray adhesive. Of course, I don’t have a printer so I’d be tracing the font/stencil anyway. Just a thought!

  6. GREAT find on the canvas tote bags. I’m trying to make my bridesmaids tote bags of awesome and I was having a terrible time finding good ones (I might just be Amazon dumb) for cheap. WOOHOO!!

  7. We’re using some brightly colored reusable beach knapsacks that we found in the kids’ section of Michael’s for $1 each. On top of the standard stuff, we also included a mini hand sanitizer and mini packets of Motrin (two things we always wish we hadn’t forgotten when we travel).

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