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Favors to Savor

Giving good schwag to your wedding, or civil-union, guests


Published February 2, 2005 at 10:12 p.m.

When Reverend Moretti goes to a wedding, which is often, he usually walks away with a few free wedding favors to add to his collection. The ebullient Fairfax minister, who bought his ordination online for $75 from the Universal Light Church, is known to most by only his last name. Moretti loves weddings; in addition to performing them, he also works for Cloud 9 Caterers and was once a wedding florist.

What Moretti cherishes most about weddings are the baubles and trinkets the brides and grooms give away. He saves them all. If they give out candy in fancy boxes, he eats the candy and saves the box. Over the years, he's accumulated an impressive array of tchotchkes. "Between catering and performing weddings, I've seen just about everything," he says.

Moretti's favorite favors aren't necessarily the fanciest. He once received a miniature, custom-made teddy bear from the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory that a family had ordered for all their guests, but he gets more excited talking about a couple's homemade gingerbread bride and groom cookies. His reaction jives with the advice of the experts, such as Teddy Lenderman, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Wedding. "The idea is not to dazzle your guests with great favors," he writes in the fourth edition, "but to make them feel special and appreciated and to add a special touch to your wedding."

Indeed, others in the burgeoning wedding and civil-union planning industry have noted a trend toward personalized favors that not only bear the couple's names but also reflect their relationship. In an article on the alarmingly titled Wed Alert website, writer Polly Liu concurs. "Couples are being more creative with their selection of party favors," she writes. Liu suggests choosing favors that showcase a couple's style, and that carry "a meaningful message."

Moretti offers a few examples -- some successful, and some exasperatingly cute. He shows off a white silk rose encased in a long, thin, clear plastic box. Its organza petals are lined with tiny white beads. One of the mothers, a Puerto Rican woman from New York City, made the flowers by hand for everyone at the wedding. In the center of the blossom are three white candied Jordan almonds, which symbolize the bitter and sweet of marriage, though Moretti points out it would be difficult to eat them. He describes the silk roses as "horrifyingly tacky," but smiles gleefully, clearly fond of his fake flower.

That's hardly the quirkiest gift he's received: One Burlington couple, obsessed with s'mores, gave everyone at their wedding a small, smiling s'more knick-knack. Each one consists of two marshmallow-shaped foam blobs glued to a square wooden base. Someone hand-painted smiley faces on them and attached little pipe-cleaner arms, one of which holds a flag emblazoned with the couple's first names.

Not to be outdone, their mothers collaborated on tiny square booklets, bound by two pieces of cardboard covered with flowery green fabric and held together by a mint-green ribbon. Moretti unties the ribbon and pulls the covers apart to reveal artfully cut and folded square pages that open accordion-style. The pages contain color photocopies of pictures of the bride and groom as children. In the center, the mothers printed a poem addressed to their kids. The books must have taken hours to make.

But even that thoughtful gift can't compare to the jar of apple jelly Moretti got at a civil union he performed in Franklin. The family of one of the women made the jelly themselves from apples they picked from their orchard. They canned it in half-pint jars, and designed and affixed their own labels. The jelly doesn't taste so great, Moretti reports, but he keeps it in his kitchen anyway. "When I see it," he says, "I think, 'This was made with love.'"

Of course, you don't have to go to such great lengths to personalize your wedding favors. Plenty of wedding vendors make chocolates, candles, mugs, water bottles, packets of seeds, even golf balls and golf tees inscribed with a couple's names and the date of the wedding.

One personal -- and increasingly popular -- do-it-yourself favor is the wedding CD. Commemorative discs are cheap and easy to make using a personal computer equipped with music storage software, a CD burner, and a printer to produce the liner notes. You can also pay extra to have the CD itself embossed with your names, wedding date, an inspirational quote and even your pictures, so your guests will never, ever forget your nuptials.

Unless, of course, they bury the CD on a bottom shelf because they can't stand to hear it ever again. Your choice of music is your prerogative, but let's be honest -- "Head Over Feet" by Alanis Morissette is a sappy, dopey song you only want to hear once in a great while, if ever. No one wants to put it on repeat, no matter how many times the easy-listening station plays it.

That unfortunate number appears on a disc from a couple (who shall remain nameless) wed in February 2000. Worse still is the second-to-last song on their CD -- "Story-book Love," from the soundtrack to The Princess Bride. In it, a deep-voiced man belts out the phrase "Our love is like a story-book story" over a cheesy symphonic accompaniment. It's enough to make even a diehard romantic wince. And that song simply has no business following Liz Phair's edgy "Polyester Bride."

The CD redeems itself, however, by featuring short snippets of recorded dialogue from the couple's favorite movies, including The Princess Bride; it opens with the short sermon from Peter Cook's Impressive Clergyman. "Mawwidge," he booms, "is what bwings us togevvah today."

This is undoubtedly a copyright violation, but it's a great idea. It lends an authenticity to the project. You get the sense that this is a healthy couple, fun-loving and unpretentious. That impression is enhanced by the last number, "I Gave My Love a Chicken," by Homer Simpson.

One Winooski couple, who married a year and a half ago, put out a more polished project, including songs such as "A Case of You," by Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey." The groom, a DJ for a local radio station, wishes to remain anonymous, fearing a lawsuit from the recording industry. He says the couple produced their CD at home on their Macintosh. And, he says, they underestimated how long it would take to put together 85 copies. "We were still printing out the cover and the inserts, one at a time, on the morning of the wedding," he recalls. "It was kind of nuts."

Some of the songs they chose at random; others were more meaningful. They picked "Innocent When You Dream" because "We're both really huge Tom Waits fans," he says, adding that "She Paints a Picture," by the local Gibson Brothers, always reminds him of his wife. The DJ also notes proudly that people seemed to like the compilation. "People tell us they still listen to it all the time," he says.

Not everyone's creative wedding favors turn out so well, though. Burlington graphic artist Don Eggert remembers the night he went to his brother's commitment ceremony in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The grooms had "livened up" their decorations with bowls of goldfish that they placed on each table. Eggert says the fish were a colorful and memorable addition to the unique event.

After the reception, the men invited everyone to take the fish home. Unfortunately, the guests -- most of whom, like the grooms, had driven long distances or flown to the affair -- were unprepared to accept them. A kindergarten teacher took some for her students, but the rest of the fish weren't so lucky. "We just sort of threw them behind the bushes," Eggert confesses sheepishly. Clearly, poor planning can cause even a good wedding-favor idea to go awry.