They’ve been there for you and your partner through thick-and-thin—and now they’ll stand by your side as you promise until-death-do-we-part. Wedding parties play a major role not only in the couple’s lives but on their special, one-of-a-kind day. Not to mention all of the events leading up to it: the engagement party, the bridal shower, the bachelor/bachelorette weekend and all of the late-night responses to your frantic text messages during planning. You appreciate every last gesture and stroke of kindness they send your way, and your wedding is a perfect time to show them just how much you care. From physical gifts to experiences, here, industry experts share the kindest ways to express gratitude to the men and women who have supported you from day one:
Write a ‘thank you’ card.
Of course you will send a note to every single person who attended your big day—but your wedding party? They deserve something more. As event planner Kristen Gosselin explains, a heartfelt, personalized letter to every member of your wedding party, either from the bride, groom or both, will have everyone weeping. You can pair this with any of the gifts, but the most important thing is to take the time to write it. You can explain what they mean to you, how much you’ve appreciated their dedication and how you look forward to many monumental milestones ahead.
Be mindful of their budget.
Sure this isn’t a gift or an event per se but the more considerate you are with your wedding party’s budget, the more grateful they will be for you. This means selecting ‘necessities’ that you can either pay for—or are affordable for all lifestyles and budgets. As wedding expert Bron Hansboro explains, although accepting a coveted role in a wedding party comes with a share of responsibilities, forking over your entire vacation budget for the happy couple isn’t exactly, well, fun. “Consider attire that is reasonably priced and that can be worn again. If possible, cover the costs of the attire or subsidize your party’s investment by purchasing accessories, shoes, and other necessary items,” he explains. “If you are gifting, try to indulge them in something meaningful on the day of, such a bridal suite massages, hair/makeup, individual portraits, and personalized gift boxes for each member.”
Host a special class or dinner before the wedding.
And no, we don’t mean the rehearsal dinner that’s centered on the eve of your wedding, but something separate specific to the wedding party. As Kylie Carlson, the owner of the International Academy of Wedding & Event Planning explains, hosting a group activity (like a cooking class or boat ride) or meal is a way to spend quality time with your nearest and dearest. “This is a wonderful way to show your wedding party that you cherish all of the hard work and time they put into ensuring that your big day was a success,” she explains. “After the stress of the weeks leading up to your wedding, it could be a nice way to finally relax with your friends after all is said and done.” If you’re having a destination celebration, book an adventure for the day after the party arrives, or if you’re staying local, find a favorite restaurant in the area for everyone to eat, drink—and you know how the rest goes.
Buy local gifts.
No matter if you’re having a destination wedding or you’re saying ‘I do’ in your hometown, shopping local is a fun way to introduce your guests—and your wedding party!—to the area. Even if it is your bestie who you grew up down the road from, a unique find from the local community will surprise and delight him or her, according to the vice president of marketing for Destination Weddings Travel Group, Jen Avey. This is especially true if you’re off the beaten path, or somewhere foreign to most people in your group. “Show a little extra appreciation to your wedding party by providing a take-home keepsake they may only be able to get in your wedding locale,” she continues. “Ideas include a handmade lei for a wedding in Hawaii, or a personalized maraca for a Mexico celebration.”
Keep everyone hydrated—and fed.
If you want your wedding party bright-eyed and ready for a full weekend of events, Hansboro makes one very important suggestion: feed them! No matter how cohesive and chummy the group is, hanger is a real danger when you’re running from breakfast to a cocktail hour, or from mimosas in the A.M. to pre-wedding photos. He suggests having an abundance of food available, as well as plenty of H20 so everyone’s tummy is happy. When you can make the experience more comfortable—opt for it. Whether that’s having options for dietary restrictions or even pain medicine on hand for when the hangovers start to wreak havoc.
Though sure, you could head down to Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s and buy plenty of goodies in bulk—spending the extra dollar on something personal is worth it. As event planner Jose Rolon explains, personalized tokens of appreciation are sentimental, timeless and are likely to evoke a tear or two. For groomsmen, he suggests an embroidered duffle box, a cigar box, a wine opener, a money clip, a rocks glass or a decanter. For bridesmaids, necklaces, earrings, name rings, bathrobes and other keepsakes will add the ‘wow’ factor. Make sure you really think about the style and the personality of every member in your wedding party, and not just what is the most affordable. With personalization, the purpose is illustrate how thankful you are for each individual.
Upgrade, upgrade, upgrade.
If you and your partner have worked hard to build a bustling empire and your income is a bit more padded, Avey says surprise upgrades will make everyone’s experience that much brighter. For anyone who has to fly to see you get hitched, or if you’re having a destination wedding, look for areas where you can ease the financial burden. “When it comes to destination weddings, the wedding party is usually shelling out a bit more out-of-pocket expenses—such as flights, accommodations—than a local celebration,” she explains. “Show your gratitude by surprising them with an upgraded suite, or spa credits at your resort so they can relax and feel pampered after all the hard work is done.”