Gift Idea – Custom Tote Bags

I love gift giving. It’s one of my favorite things. From selecting the gift to wrapping it in pretty paper and writing the card, I just love the whole process! (OK, so maybe I’m not great at writing the card.) I’m always on the lookout for unique gift ideas. This one came to me last year when I was planning my wedding.

When it came time to put together the welcome bags for our out-of-town guests, I thought, “why not make them something that our guests can keep?” instead of a paper gift bag that would immediately get thrown out. And, just like that, the custom tote bag idea was born!

Everybody can use a great tote bag. I’m always throwing things in my totes and running out the door- my heels, my lunch, an umbrella, odds and ends- you name it. I have them stashed all over my apartment. So, I figured that my guests probably had the same needs.

The first thing we did, when designing our bags, was find a great illustrator (Holly Graham). Holly took all of our ideas and drew them up into a charming collage of images. We wanted to highlight all of the fun, unique things about Louisville, Kentucky (where our wedding took place). The collage featured Derby horses, the street sign from our favorite spot, a cheeseburger (Louisville is the home of the cheeseburger – or so they claim), Kentucky bourbon (naturally), a Derby hat, our wedding venue and a bunch of other little elements that were representative of both us as a couple and the city of Louisville.

Here’s the original sketch she came up with:

Custom Tote Bag, The Busy Girl Blog

And the final product:

Custom Tote Bags, The Busy Girl Blog

The totes were a huge hit (and they were even featured on a wedding blog!) My friends are always telling me about how they still use them, over a year later! It’s special, for me, to think that a little piece of our wedding is living on in so many different places.

Fast forward to this summer, my best friend was planning a bachelorette party and she did the same thing (inspired by us, no doubt ;)). She had Holly draw up a adorable collage of the city of Chicago (where the bachelorette party took place) plus high heels, purses, and other bachelorette-ish items. They were the cutest favors and I’ve used mine several times since the party.

Custom Tote Bags, The Busy Girl Blog

Custom Tote Bags, The Busy Girl Blog


This is a totally do-able gift for anyone to replicate. All you need is an illustrator (I highly recommend Holly. Emily Rose Ink also makes adorable illustrations.) and a printer. If you are artistic, you can even draw up an image of your own.

We tested out several tote bag printers when we ordered our wedding bags. It was important to me that they were 1) good quality, 2) the ink colors were true-to-life, and 3) cost-effective. After sending our artwork off to several printers and getting back our testers, we decided on Wedding Chicks. Their bags are great quality, strong enough to carry shoes and similarly-heavy/sharp items (#1 criteria for me), and the colors looked great.

Wedding Chicks has bulk discounts, if you want to order 10+ totes, but they will also print individual totes with your custom artwork. They offer 2 different sizes – one small and one large. And, despite the name, they don’t only do wedding items! Other companies who will print tote bags are: CaféPress, Zazzle and VistaPrint.

To make this a cost-effective gift, it would be great to come up with an image that would fit several different recipients. I went to about 10 baby showers last year and a baby tote would have been a perfect gift (damn- I should have thought of that!) Do you have a catch-phrase that you always use, or a favorite quote that would be cute on a bag? Maybe a city tote, like we did with Louisville, featuring your home town. Use your imagination!

Right now I’m considering having another illustration drawn up for me to use as a more general-purpose gift tote, that I can pull out whenever I need an easy present. Once I think of a great idea, I will do it! Maybe a quote or a pretty floral pattern? Maybe I’ll print out 20 totes with my dog’s face on them! Everyone would love that, right? Obviously.

I’m not 100% sure yet. In the meantime, here are some totes that are inspiring me right now.

Custom Tote Bags, The Busy Girl Blog

1. Feathers Cotton Tote Bag 2. Illustrated Grocery Tote Bag 3. Grown-Ass Lady Tote 4. “Superman” Tote Bag 5. Natural Flamingos Tote 6. David Bowie Tote Bag 7. Mountains Tote


Anyone have a great quote or idea for my tote? Let me know in the comments!


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