There’s more to wedding favours than candy-coated almonds.
Sarah Ward

12 Jan 2018 - 4:47 PM  UPDATED 15 Jan 2018 - 1:55 PM

Tearful speeches, eccentric relatives, the upbeat sounds of Kool & the Gang’s "Celebration" and everyone drinking too much Champagne — no wedding would be complete without them. The list of nuptial staples goes on, spanning everything from awkward photos to cake crumbs littering the floor to finding confetti in strange places for days. And, of course, it includes the gifts that newlyweds give their nearest and dearest for coming along.

Weddings might be all about the happy couple, but it isn’t a one-way affair. The act of giving bomboniere is a small token of appreciation, but it’s more than the thought that counts when it comes to this matrimonial tradition.



More than just mementoes

Bomboniere is thought to date back to early Europe, when aristocratic families would give boxes filled with treats or sugar as a gesture of thanks. With the sweet stuff considered a luxury and out of the price range of many, it was a small but lavish gift that offered a memento as well as a reminder of a family’s status. And it wasn’t just limited to weddings.

The price of sugar may have changed, but the giving of token gifts for multiple occasions hasn’t, with party favours also associated with birthdays, baby showers and christenings — and wedding-related celebrations such as engagement parties and bridal showers, as well. That said, today no one expects bomboniere to signify the host’s social standing or to uphold its other original intention: inviting good fortune.


A different kind of confetti

Like most wedding traditions, bomboniere is steeped in superstition. Just as crumbling wedding cake over a bride’s head was thought to bring favourable tidings, sugared almonds — also known as Jordan almonds, or as confetti in Italy — fulfilled another luck-enticing purpose. And if you’ve ever wondered why they usually come in bags of five, it’s to represent the just-married couple’s happiness, health, longevity, wealth and fertility.

Almonds also tick several other boxes. Combining their bitter taste with the sweet coating, they’re thought to represent the bittersweetness of marriage — a not-so-jolly way to mark the beginning of two people’s lives together, but a surprisingly honest one. The aphrodisiac qualities of almonds prove a much merrier reason for their bomboniere prominence.



Out with the old, in with the new

Or, they did. If you’ve been to a wedding in recent years, you might’ve noticed that almonds aren’t the automatic inclusion they once were. That’s good news for anyone with a nut allergy, and for fans of everything from fill-your-own lolly bags and personalised biscuits to decorative and functional items that fulfill a table-setting need while also providing guests with a keepsake.

In both camps, the options are limited only by your imagination. Fancy a particular type of candy? Love doughnuts? Always wanted to have your own cookie buffet? There’s your bomboniere idea sorted. Or, perhaps you’re looking for a creative alternative to boring old place cards, which is where photo frames adorned with the guests names and personalised luggage tags come in.


From trinkets to tattoos

Personalisation often goes the other way — if you can stamp someone’s name on an object, then someone has used it as a wedding favour. Shot glasses and tote bags emblazoned with the couples names are easy options, while attaching a label or card can add a personalised touch to just about anything. That includes candles, cacti, soap, lotion, coasters, bottle openers and alcohol, including miniature bottles, homemade cocktails and hangover kits.

Among the more creative possibilities: temporary tattoos, terrariums, toys, comic books, personalised playlists, mini Lego figures, board games and flower seeds. For outdoor weddings, practical ideas include sunglasses and umbrellas, while thongs are a typically Australian choice for beach ceremonies. The other trend of late is to forgo the trinkets in favour of helping those in need, with the newlyweds giving the bomboniere budget to charity.


Explore the culture of weddings with Marry Me, Marry My Family on Thursdays at 8:40pm on SBS, with episodes streaming at SBS On Demand:

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