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When I got engaged last year, I didn’t know what I wanted to wear or what kind of flowers I wanted or even what state I wanted to get married in. But I did know one thing for sure. I wanted to give books away as our wedding favors. My now husband and I planned things pretty quickly. We decided to get married where we live in Brooklyn. And after a short ceremony in the park, we had a small celebration in a nearby brewery. This only intensified my desire to include books in the celebration, because I felt like it would be a way to really infuse my interests and personality into the event.
At first, I thought about getting each guest an individual book that was selected just for them. But it was probably obvious to everyone else that this was going to be way too much work. My next idea was still to get about 75 different books, wrap them in brown butcher paper, and create unique mystery dates with a book for guests to choose from. Of course, with a tight timeline, the rest of the celebration to plan, and, you know, a job, this was definitely not feasible either. I landed on the idea of picking ten books and setting them out on a favor table for guests to choose from.
How did I choose the books? I decided they would all be set in New York City. At first, I wanted all romance novels. Because weddings are about love stories, right? But I compromised with half romance novels and half other genres, leaning heavy on science fiction vibes since that is my husband’s favorite type of book. After whittling a long, long list down to just ten books, I ordered half from The Ripped Bodice — a favorite bookstore when I visit my family in California and one that just opened a new location nearby in Brooklyn — and half from our neighborhood booksellers Greenlight Bookstore. I also ordered a custom library stamp but changed the wording so it said, “From the wedding of Alison & Andrew,” with the date.
The books were a big hit at the wedding! It was fun having friends and family come ask me for personalized recommendations. And it was a big topic of conversation between different groups because if you didn’t know someone, you could just ask, “What book did you pick?” I’ve also loved getting messages from our loved ones telling me what they think about the books they took. It was definitely an expensive option for a favor, but it was a way for us to give a meaningful gift to people who came to support our marriage. And it was an incredibly fun way to help support local bookstores we love.
While I could go on and on about it all day, here are the books we gave out as favors!
The Neighbor Favor by Kristina Forest
This is my favorite bookish NYC romance. And, as a former publishing intern, it’s the one that feels the most true to life about the industry! Lily is a burnt-out editorial assistant who emails her favorite author in a fit of despair on the subway. They begin a correspondence that turns surprisingly deep, then flirtatious, and then something more. When he ghosts her, Lily is heartbroken. Months later, she has no idea her cute new neighbor Nick is the same author who wrote under a pen name. Swoon, swoon, swoon!
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
Okay, this is my other favorite bookish NYC romance…But where The Neighbor Favor is sweet and funny, this one feels more dark and emotional. Eva and Shane spend seven days together as teenagers in a love affair that changed both of their lives. Now, Eva is a single mom with a chronic illness who writes vampire erotica. And Shane is a literary darling with great critical success. When he shows up at one of her book events and tells the audience he is a fan of her work, the book world is stunned. And this reconnection gives them a chance to work through the trauma of their pasts and maybe make things work through this second chance.
Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
I had to include Love Lettering because it is set in the Brooklyn neighborhood where my husband and I both lived when we first met. So many of our first dates were in places described in the book. Also, it is adorable! I had a minor freak out when the copies of this book were delayed and didn’t arrive until the day before the wedding, but luckily, everything worked out. Meg is a font designer who used to make custom wedding stationery until a groom called her out for putting a secret code into his program, warning him not to get married. A year later, she’s shocked to find out how Reid (the groom) called off the wedding. And now, he wants answers about how she knew the relationship was doomed. A friendship, and then more, bloom out of these questions. But on paper (font designer pun intended!), there are real reasons why a long-term relationship between them won’t work.
The Rogue of Fifth Avenue by Joanna Shupe
For my last romance novel, I knew I wanted to include a historical romance by Joanna Shupe. Her Guilded Age romances set in NYC are all auto-reads for me, and the Uptown Girls series is one of my favorites. Frank is a lawyer to the richest men in New York and relishes the status and respectability his lower-class childhood lacked. His newest task is to keep tabs on Mamie, the rebellious daughter of his most important client. But when the chemistry between them becomes undeniable, he might just risk his entire career and reputation for a chance at love.
The Engineer’s Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood
I read this book specifically because I wanted to include it in the favors. My husband is an engineer, and we got married in the park right next to the Brooklyn Bridge, ao it seemed perfect! Plus, I thought it would be a hit with the Boomer crowd at the wedding. I didn’t expect the story of Emily Roebling to be so fascinating. After her father-in-law and husband fell ill while being the head engineers of the bridge, she took over the project, despite the fact she was entirely self taught. This book embellishes the story with some imagined excitement, but it is still an engrossing look into the history of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Once I expanded the list away from just romance, I knew I’d add this dramatic thriller to my list. It’s another book set in publishing — what can I say? I love books about books! With the TV series out just a month before the wedding, I knew a lot of guests would be excited to read the book. Nella is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Publishing. But the hiring of another Black editorial assistant sets off a chilling series of events that threaten both Nella’s job and her life.
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
This is the one book we gave out that I haven’t read (yet!). My husband read it this year and is a big N.K. Jemisin fan. It also fit the NYC books themes perfectly! In this world, cities have souls that can be represented by people. New York City has five people representing and protecting her, one for each burrow. But there are also dark forces that threaten the city. Doesn’t this sound so cool? It’s on the top of my list to read in 2024. It was the first book that we ran out of copies of at the favor table!
This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
I read this book at the beginning of 2023, and it made me laugh, cry, and fall in love with NYC all over again — no small feat after years of pandemic living here. It seriously reads like a love letter to the city. And Emma Straub, along with her amazing bookstore Books Are Magic, are iconic. In this story, on her 40th birthday, Alice discovers an ability to travel back in time to her 16th birthday. She relives the day, then travels back to her present to find almost everything about her life has changed. Does she want to stay in this new version of her life? Or should she go back in time again, change what she does on her 16th birthday again, and see how that one day could alter her life?
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Engrossing is the word I would use to describe this book. When I read it a few years ago, I was totally sucked into the atmospheric world-building and intrigue of a secret world below ground in New York City. It’s hard to describe what this book was about. Zachary is a student who discovers a mysterious book in his college’s library. The book leads him to a masquerade party in NYC, which opens up a fantasy world that he never could have expected. At almost 500 pages, this book is a doorstopper. But I knew our friends who are fans of fantasy stories and lyrical writing would be really excited to read this one.
Easy Beauty by Chloé Cooper Jones
This book was an outlier among our list. It’s the only nonfiction book on the list. And even though much of it is set in NYC, that’s not really the focus. But reading it felt life-changing to me, and I strongly felt that if I put it out on our favor table, then some other loved ones who really needed it would pick it up. The memoir weaves together threads on disability, motherhood, and aesthetic philosophy. It felt like a mirror at times, helping me understand my relationship with my own body, and a window at others, helping me understand my own complicity with unjust systems. I was right that the book would find its way to people who needed it. In the three months since the wedding, this is the one the most guests have texted me about to share their thoughts and say thank you.
Thanks for reading this list! If you can afford to do this at your wedding or celebration, I highly suggest it. Books are more important than flowers, right? That’s a real sentence I said to my husband at one point during the planning stage. If you want more literary wedding ideas, here is a list of wedding books, or you can read about these bookish wedding ideas from another Book Rioter.