Marrying Philanthropy: When Couples Choose to Give Rather than Get

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Marriage

Marriage / Leland Francisco

September 2, 2015; New York Times

There’s an inspiring wedding trend that’s on the rise. Instead of wedding registries filled with bread machines and ice cream makers, many newlyweds now choose to support philanthropic causes in lieu of receiving wedding gifts.

Candy Culver, marketing director for the I Do Foundation, believes that one reason is shifting demographics: “The average age at which people marry climbed to 26.5 for women and 28.4 for men in 2009, compared to 20.6 and 22.5 in 1970, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Market research firms put the current average age of marriage at 29 for women and 31 for men. So many people set up house before tying the knot that traditional gifts of serving platters and toaster ovens are less relevant.”

There are countless ways to create a charitable wedding:

  • Consider renting a nonprofit’s space (for example, a museum, historical site, or botanical garden) for the wedding or reception.
  • Consider donating flowers after the ceremony to a hospital, nursing home, or fire station.
  • Ignore favors altogether and instead make a donation to a charity.
  • Assemble the wedding party to spend a day together at a charity like Habitat for Humanity or a food shelter.
  • Consider donating the wedding gown after the ceremony, or donating airline frequent flyer miles to the family of a “wounded warrior.”

Some couples request donations instead of gifts. Websites such as IDoFoundation.org and JustGive.org are two options for couples to create giving registries. The top five charities designated by couples on I Do Foundation’s wedding charity registries are Doctors without Borders, American Cancer Society, Heifer International, Habitat for Humanity, and Save the Children.

With 2.2 million weddings in 2009—each averaging 128 guests, according to The Wedding Report Inc., a research company tracking the wedding industry—weddings are the ideal place to draw attention to charities.

When planning a wedding, the couple should consider:

  • What causes are we passionate about as individuals, and where is there overlap?
  • How much do we want philanthropy to be a part of our special day?
  • Is legacy important? Are we supporting a cause due to family support? Do we want our family to support a specific cause or mission?

According to Marianne Rohrlich in the New York Times, here are some examples of wedding gifts that incorporate philanthropic missions:

  • Cuff links for him and a bangle bracelet for her from the Caliber Collection, both made from guns and bullet casings taken off the streets. The serial numbers of the guns appear on the jewelry. The organization promises that 20 percent of the net proceeds of the jewelry sales will help victims of illegal gun violence.
  • Glassybaby votive and tea-light candleholders, hand-blown in Seattle, come in 400 colors. Ten percent of every sale is donated to the White Light Fund, which teams up with organizations that help veterans or victims of domestic violence.
  • For every product sold by United by Blue, such as a pass to national parks, the group pledges to remove one pound of garbage from a waterway or ocean through cleanup missions.

With so many people planning, attending, and spending money on weddings, there is no question that the nonprofit sector can reap enormous financial support as well as brand awareness.

Did you include a charity in your wedding? Please chime in.—Debbie Laskey