Gift Bags With Connecticut-Made Products A Big Hit With Guests

Pez

Pez is headquartered in Orange, and Pez dispensers make great souvenirs. (Michael McAndrews, mmcandrews@courant.com / January 7, 2013)

Can't wait for spring? Remember, along with warmer weather, May and June bring graduations and weddings — and graduations and weddings bring out-of-town guests.

I learned this fact some years ago, when my son got married in June and then my daughter got married, (just 11 months later), the following May. Both couples tied the knot in Connecticut, although neither set was living here — which meant loads of out-of-towners on both guest lists.

Along with booking blocks of rooms at local hotels and making more airport runs than I could count, I put together dozens of gift bags for visitors.

(Gift bags were a new concept to me. Back when I got married, most attendees lived nearby and party favors ran to little net bags of Jordan almonds tucked into plastic swans.)

These days, since so many celebrations include family and friends who have traveled a distance to attend, a goodie-filled sack, basket or box awaiting them on their arrival sends a special welcome, according to Beatrice DeShano, owner of BeatriceGiftServices.com, an online retail site specializing in personalized favors, candy, gifts and bags.

"The bags are such a nice way to greet your guests," says DeShano, a Newington resident. "You can drop them off at the hotels, so people get them when they check in. The bags' contents can serve as introduction to your planned activities and to the area."

Contents typically include a welcome note, event itinerary, directions to the ceremony and reception venues, information on local attractions and destinations — and, most important, local specialty snacks.

"People love the snacks," says DeShano.

She suggests a combination of salty munchies, chocolate and bottled beverages. Additional items can include small gifts, and toys or crayons and activity books for pint-sized attendees.

Beverages can range from bottled water to locally made sodas to beers from area breweries. (At OrientalTrading.com and other websites, you can order personalized bottle labels.) Avery Beverages in New Britain, (www.averysoda.com), will produce specially labeled soda for weddings and other events.

Deep River Snacks based in Old Lyme, (www.DeepRiverSnacks.com), makes a variety of bagged chips and popcorn. Connecticut chocolatiers, including Munson's Chocolates, (www.munsonschocolates.com), and Fascia's Chocolates, (www.fasciaschocolates.com), make individual favor boxes for weddings and other occasions. Foil-wrapped poker chips, available at Meriden's Thompson's Chocolate, (www.thompsonbrands.com), are a fun and tasty nod to Connecticut's casinos. Hilljack Sugar Shack in Litchfield, (www.hilljacksugarshack.com) does small bottles of maple syrup and jars of honey for weddings and other events.

"Since the PEZ Company has its headquarters in Orange, a PEZ dispenser and Pez candies would be a great souvenir for Connecticut guest gift bags," says DeShano.

In our bags, along with the food, we tucked in postcards, (complete with stamps), from the Old State House and Mark Twain House, maps, brochures for area museums, wineries and other attractions and tips for best times to visit. (Most hotels, museums and historical houses stock brochures for other destinations as well, so you can often pick up most of what you need with one stop.)

A list of downloadable apps for guests who want to explore on foot is also helpful. "City Maps and Walks," available for iOS and Android, provides walking tours for close to 500 cities, including Hartford and New Haven. GPSmyCity.com also provides walking tours of Connecticut cities and towns.

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