Ask Milwaukeeans what’s on the docket for summer, and they’re likely to offer two answers: festivals and weddings. But they don’t keep all the fun to themselves—festival-goers and to-be-weds alike invite friends and family from near and far to be their guests.
We teamed up with Wisconsin event planner Samantha Dennis of Styled Accordingly to help us design the ultimate welcome bag, sure to make any out-of-towner feel right at home, Milwaukee-style.
Start With the Basics
Appeal to guests’ sense of direction by including a map (a hand-drawn one, a Google Maps printout or an official old-school one from your local gas station). Mark where they’re staying, your home and any other event-specific destinations. Be extra-nice and note a few other places they might like to go, too, like your favorite brunch spot, a good bar, etc. Add a printed list of directions, important phone numbers and, if you have one, an itinerary, too.
An outdoor event calls for travel-sized bug spray and sunscreen, and anybody would appreciate a mini-pack of breath mints or travel-sized toiletries. Check out the collection at Halo Soap in Cudahy for locally made beauty loot.
If want to “brand” the event, design and print coordinating labels or tags with a logo, or order them from a local stationer, such as Come Rain Come Shine, Paper Lily Designs and J.Invites. Attach one in a prominent spot, or stick them everywhere.
Last, show off your Midwest hospitality with a handwritten thank-you note. Even if it’s just one line, trust us: It will mean a lot.
You Can’t Go Wrong With Food
What says Milwaukee better than our edibles? Consider Usinger’s snack sticks, cheese curds from Clock Shadow Creamery and spiced pecans from Treat Bake Shop. (Win some pecans! Find out how below. [This contest has ended.]) Visit WisconsinMade.com for more ideas.
Offer some liquid refreshment, too. For guests of all ages, opt for Sprecher soda, which can be purchased with personalized labels. And if the event calls for something a little stronger, throw in shot-sized bottles from Great Lakes Distillery (they’ll need some notice—it’s all done by hand). For a morning pick-me-up, pack a few bags of Rishi tea or a small bag of pre-ground Stone Creek coffee (it’ll make 12 cups). And don’t forget water bottles—include one per guest. Most of these vendors will sell in bulk.
Make Sure They Don’t Get Bored
This one’s especially important if the guests will have some time to themselves—if you’re getting married and finishing last-minute details, or if you have to work.
Grab a few brochures from current performing arts events, festivals and special museum exhibits (don’t forget to include Discovery World and Betty Brinn Children’s Museum if you have younger visitors). Museum gift shops are also good places to buy Milwaukee postcards—get one for each bag.
You may also be able to arrange for special rates on activities like brewery tours, museums, neighborhood walks and other nearby attractions. And for free stuff, there’s always our lovely county parks system, the beach and the RiverWalk. For scads of other ways to stay busy, look to OnMilwaukee.com’s “100 Things to Do in Milwaukee.”
Wrap It Up
Buy a pack of gift bags or handled boxes (you know, like what holds a Happy Meal) at a party supply, dollar, craft or stationery store—visit Broadway Paper for lots of choices. Or, if you have a bigger budget, purchase something more sustainable, like the Wisconstache tote bag from The Riverwest Brothers Local Screen Printing Concern.
Sign, Seal and Deliver
If your guests are crashing at your place, delivery is easy. If not, pay a visit to the hotel where they’re staying. Talk to the manager and find out if bags can be waiting in guests’ rooms when they arrive, or if the front desk staff will hand them out as people check in (to be safe, provide a list). If the manager says this isn’t possible, don’t be discouraged. Hand-deliver them when you’re together.
Welcome bags can be as elaborate or as simple as you want. No matter what you put inside, you can be sure your guests will feel honored to be here.