These days, many couples reach their wedding day after many years of having nested together – and the traditional route of asking for house paraphernalia may not be the best reflection of what’s most valuable to them at that time. Cash or honeymoon contributions, for example, are becoming increasingly popular, as newly-wed millennials save to become property owners or invest in much-needed quiet time away together. For many, weddings are also a beautiful opportunity to support charitable causes and non-profit organizations, and to share in this community spirit with their family and loved ones.
If the concept resonates with you, and you’d like to brainstorm on this a little more – here are some ideas for incorporating charities before, during, and after your wedding day. I hope these help you find the route that’s best for you!
BEFORE THE WEDDING
- Research non-profit organisation owned spaces as possibilities for your wedding venue. Museums, historical sites, art galleries, animal sanctuaries, garden centres and botanical gardens make for unforgettably unique locations for wedding receptions, and will often direct income towards the protection of the environment, art, and history. Think about what is most meaningful to you, and ask around your favourite haunts – there may even be spaces that don’t advertise themselves as wedding venues that would be delighted to host an event for you, and for whom your venue hire fee is the equivalent of a very generous donation. In fact, profit may often not be the major driving force of these venues, and their charitable status exempts them from VAT, so the price of their packages will tend to be extremely competitive. Some stunning options in London include Petersham Nurseries, the Horniman Museum, and the Foundling Museum – and for those that want to escape the city, have a look at all the magical estates belonging to The National Trust or the English Heritage.
- Set up a charitable gift list. A very popular and flexible option, now offered by many universal registries. You could nominate a charity so guests have the option of donating through your gift list, or create a gift list with a company that has a charity component included in the ethos – or even set up a wedding fundraiser page instead (through JustGiving for example). Whichever you choose, consider adding relevant links on your website, so your guests can find out more about the cause you’ve chosen and why it matters to you – some of your guests might like to do some research and make contributions of their own. Another fun option could be to create a list of items you need, but ask your guests to go on a “treasure hunt” around charity shops, and tick items off that list when they’re found. In the UK, the John Lewis Gift List offers the option of donating to Cancer Research UK – while Prezola (for whom I have the great joy of being an official affiliate – let me know if you want to know more!) and Zank You also allow you to nominate a charity. Have a look at the dedicated list service by Oxfam, the NSPCC, and ActionAid – or simply contact the charity of your choice to find out what options exist.
- Include some volunteering in your hen party / stag do celebrations. Let your bridesmaids/groomsmen know how much this mean to you, and research some local options for volunteering days and activities that you can include in your hen party or stag do. You could also let your hen/stag guests know that, in lieu of gifts and cards, you’d love for them to make a contribution to a particular charity, or bring canned goods to donate to a nearby food bank.
- Support local businesses and charitable vendors when shopping for bridalwear, accessories, gifts, or decor. Planning and styling your wedding will involve a number of purchases that you will need and choose to make, and there’s lots of opportunities to do so while directly or indirectly supporting causes that are meaningful to you. You could search for vendors and companies that do regular philanthropic work, purchase items from charity shops, or support small businesses local to you (or on craftmanship-oriented marketplaces like Etsy) to keep the funds in your community. For example, my friend and colleague Vaishali makes beautiful wedding and event stationery at Ananya Cards, and even after 12 years of business is still very passionate about donating 10% of all her profit to charity.
DURING THE WEDDING
- Choose charity favours. Favours are a great opportunity to involve charities in your wedding, especially if you’re feeling like you’re searching around for trinkets just for the sake of ticking that box. Decide how much you would have allocated per person, and donate that figure directly to a charity of your choice; you can then include some friendly and informative signs describing the work of the charity you’ve chosen, so your guests can find out more about it if they wish. If you’d like to surprise guests with a little something at their seat, another option is to gift them charity favours, which will often come with a description you can personalise to explain the donation you’ve made. For our own wedding, we ordered beautiful little Cancer Research pins for each of our guests, and wrote a brief homage to all those we’d lost to the cancer. Have a look at this article on BRIDES for some other great examples of charities that offer wedding favours.
- Allow for drinks donations at the bar. Bars are another fantastic opportunity for raising money for your favourite cause, especially if you’ve pre-purchased a set amount of alcohol and are unsure about how/whether to charge guests. Unless you’ve specifically disclosed that the wedding will include an open bar, your guests will probably expect to pay for their own drinks at some point – and will be all the happier to do so if they know that all/some of the money raised this way will be sent directly to charity. Include a sign and jar encouraging donations, and let your guests know how grateful you are for every contribution made.
- Recognize your favourite cause with your décor. If you have chosen a particular charity to honour and support throughout your wedding journey, you can also integrate it into your styling, stationery, and décor. Particular wording, hashtags, colours, and symbols can pay homage to this, for example, whether in an obvious way or a way known only to you. Encouraging guests to share, follow, and engage with particular charities on social media for example can be a huge help towards awareness.
AFTER THE WEDDING
- Donate your flowers. A number of companies now offer to send your wedding flowers to hospices, charities, and refugee centers, where your arrangements will be given a new life in a really special way – like Floral Angels in London for example. If you’re interested in this kind of support, do discuss it with your wedding planner and florist (it may be that they already do this!) and call local nursing homes or hospital ahead of time to ask if they would accept this kind of floral donation. If your florist isn’t able to help with this, think about whether any friends or family might be happy to take on the task.
- Rescue leftovers. A similar exercise to the above can be done with food, by arrange to have any extra food from your reception sent to local homeless shelters. Your caterer may already be doing it, or be very happy to do so for you, so do ask them to tell you more about their post-wedding process before you book them. As long as safety standards are met, and communication with coordinating shelters is kept open and honest, it’s very likely that this donation can be arranged.
- Donate your dress. Whether you’ve spent £300 or £3000 on your dress, it will have been wonderfully special to you on your wedding day – and it’s possible to find ways to let it be special for others too. For example, Wedding Wishing Well and Wish For a Wedding are charities that help organise and provide items for couples dealing with a terminal illness, through a combination of supplier donations and subsidised wedding services. Cherished Gowns transforms donated wedding dresses into carefully crafted burial gowns for babies that are born too soon, too late or too poorly. Some charities have wedding dress shops as well, like the British Red Cross and Oxfam.
- Donate your extra items. You may have discovered that purchasing items was more cost effective than hiring them, and these kinds of décor and styling leftovers are another great opportunity to support worthy causes. This may not work with everything, but a number of items might make great donations to charity shops or local refugee resettlement organizations.
- Think about “Honeyteering”. If volunteering is a big part of your life, or you would like it to be, your honeymoon is a lovely opportunity to do this with your other half. A number of travel agencies and non-profit organisations organise overseas volunteering projects for honeymooners, of whichever kind and length suits you best. You could involve your guests by asking them to contribute towards your travel vaccinations, practical bits like mosquito nets and suitable gear, or donate items that you could take with you to benefit the people you will be helping – like food, books, or clothes for instance.
I hope these ideas have helped you brainstorm how you can use your wedding as a platform to celebrate and support causes and charities that are meaningful to you both. If you’d like to have a chat, or would like some help with planning your wedding, just get in touch!