European aristocrats were probably among the first to give wedding favors, which are small thank-you gifts of appreciation for attending guests. The "Bonbonniere" likely contained something sugary (since the sweet stuff was once a very expensive and coveted substance) contained in a handmade porcelain or crystal box.
Today, brides and grooms still give an edible sweet (cookies, sugar-coated almonds and cupcakes are all popular ways to start a marriage off on a "sweet" foot) as a take-away treat from the wedding, but most give a non-food gift, and more often than not, it's something relatively useless (and therefore wasteful). Because so much of a wedding involves waste that can't really be controlled — from food to fuel — reducing where you can is a thoughtful way to go.
The first rule is to make sure that whatever you are giving as a favor is something people will really use. While your parents might love a mug or champagne glass that's emblazoned with your name and nuptials date, chances are that most of the other guests will send this kind of item packing to Goodwill the week after the wedding.
So before you start, think of things that people wouldn't necessarily buy for themselves (see suggestions below), and keep packaging to a minimum. A bag filled with paper, ribbons and sparkles can look pretty, but it's going to be trashed minutes after your reception is over. So think of gifts that can be slipped in a bag or pocket.
Thoughtful, sustainable wedding favor ideas:
Soy candles or hand soaps are gifts that will get used or passed along to someone who will, and in the case of candles, you can even make your own from a kit.
A CD of favorite music can be shared and enjoyed after the event (one per couple or family will cut down on waste).
A jar of local honey or jam, or a 1/2 bottle of local wine can be a sweet way to send off your guests while supporting local farming and giving something that is unlikely to be thrown away.
Handmade hankies, coasters or dish towels can be found made from organic fabrics or made from vintage fabric.
Infused olive oils are perfect for brides and grooms who love to cook, or eat (everyone fits into one of those categories, right?). You can make your own, or buy them from a company that specializes in doing so.