Have you thought about how to encourage charitable giving for your wedding, or perhaps the wedding of one of your kids? You’re not alone. Many couples, particularly those who have already established a home, are choosing to direct their loved ones’ generosity toward charitable organizations and causes.
I like this approach for several reasons. One is that it’s so “green” – couples can reduce the amount of “stuff” they get, which saves energy and natural resources and helps keep a lid on household clutter. But it’s also a great way to honor people or causes that mean the most to the marrying couple, and help them set the tone they want for their future together.
If philanthropy is a priority in your life together, why not incorporate it into your wedding?
The question is, How?
I asked Eileen R. Heisman, the CEO of National Philanthropic Trust, to provide some guidance. She recommends that first, you get clear on your own interest in philanthropy. Then, she offers 5 ways to encourage charitable giving at your wedding.
Why Giving is a Good Idea
“Giving is always a good idea. Studies show that helping others—including making charitable donations—has positive effects on happiness and social interactions. Including giving in your wedding can have an impact on you, your guests and the charities you’re supporting.”
Ask Yourself These Questions About Your Own Interest in Philanthropy
“Start by asking yourself these questions. You’ll get a sense of how philanthropy fits into your life—or your wedding:
• What causes do we feel passionate about as individuals and is there overlap in what we support?
• How much time and money do we want to set aside for philanthropy?
• Is legacy important to us and are the causes we choose something we hope our family will support in the future?
Answering those questions can help you narrow down a wide range of worthy causes and establish a framework for your philanthropy now and in the future.”
Find the Best Way to Give
“If you want to incorporate charity into your wedding, do it in a way that reflects your values and the future you hope to have together. Here are 5 ways to get started:
1) Register for charitable donations instead of a traditional registry. This is especially common for mature couples or those who have already established a home. There are a number of websites to help facilitate your guests’ charitable donations, like the SoKind Registry, the I Do Foundation or JustGive.org, or you can create an online registry where guests give directly to your chosen charities. Alternatively, ask guests to make a donation to a charity of their choice in recognition of your marriage.
2) Make a donation in lieu of favors. A charitable registry shows that a couple is philanthropically-minded, but a donation from the couple makes them philanthropically-active. Celebrate your guests or loved ones by making a gift in their honor. Include news of your charitable donation in your program, on your menu, or on a small sign where guests can see it.
3) Remember that your charitable acts don’t have to be financial. You can contact shelters or soup kitchens in your area about delivering leftover food from your party or wedding, or you can donate flowers from your celebration to hospitals or nursing homes. You can also donate any duplicate gifts or items you know you won’t use to local charity thrift stores—no one really needs four spatulas, anyway.
4) Use your honeymoon as a time to help others. There are companies, such as Cross Cultural Solutions or Globe Aware, that can plan trips for you. Some couples travel with charities (like Habitat for Humanity or the United Nations) while others find local organizations at their destination to support. No matter where you’re honeymooning—an exotic location or a local staycation—there is always a way to lend your time or talent to help others.
5) After the wedding, consider donating your wedding dress. There are a number of retail stores that accept used wedding dresses as donations and contribute the proceeds of the resale to local charities. Other organizations accept wedding dresses, suits, tuxedos and bridesmaid dresses that are then donated to couples facing financial hardship or terminal illnesses. Check out websites like Brides for a Cause or Brides Against Breast Cancer for more information and inspiring stories on donated dresses. You can also sell your own dress on sites like Once Wed and commit the proceeds to a charity of your choice.
When you find the right way to support your favorite causes, it will mean almost as much as finding the right person with whom to share your life. Best wishes!”
Eileen R. Heisman is a nationally recognized expert on charitable and planned giving. She was among the first fundraising professionals to earn the distinguished ACFRE certification and was the recipient of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 2014 Outstanding Fundraising Professional award. Since its founding in 1996, National Philanthropic Trust – one of the 25 largest grantmaking institutions in the US – has raised $5 billion in charitable contributions and made more than 111,000 grants totaling $2.5 billion to charities all over the world. NPT publishes the Donor Advised Fund Report annually.