We love wedding favors like chocolates or scented candles as much as the next person, but let's face it, making a charitable donation instead can be even more gracious and meaningful. On a day in which you will be showered with so much love, attention, and gifts, it will do your hearts good to give a little back. Your guests will most certainly be impressed with such a show of good taste and a plus: the cash you put forth may be tax-deductible. We found four couples willing to walk us through their philanthropic efforts and are happy to report that the process is pretty painless. Here are their stories.
Couple 1: Beth & AlanThe Cause:
Help the environment.
The Gesture: Beth and Alan planted trees in the name of each guest who attended their wedding. They made arrangements through the National Arbor Day Foundation, which plants trees in national forests that have been destroyed by fire, insects, or disease. The foundation also has a rainforest protection program. "We wanted to give something more meaningful and lasting than candy, matches, or wine," explains Beth. "We knew we wanted to do a charitable favor, but didn't want to just donate money. With the trees, each person knows there is a tree out there that has been planted just for them, which makes it very special and personal."
The Cost: $1 per guest
The Details: "I did it all online in about 10 minutes!" exclaims Beth. Weeks before the wedding, she logged on to the National Arbor Day Foundation's website at ArborDay.com, visited the donate-a-tree section, and paid with a credit card.
The Presentation: For each place setting, Beth and Alan designed small white cards that included an image of a tree and included text that described the charitable donation. They also printed the following quote by Enos A. Mills: "Enter the forest and the boundaries of nations are forgotten. It may be that some time an immortal pine will be the flag of a united and peaceful world."
Make It Yours: Copy Beth and Alan, or choose a similar charity such as Save the Elephants (SaveTheElephants.com); the Sierra Club (SierraClub.org); or Greenpeace (GreenpeaceUSA.org). Or make a donation toward the preservation of a local natural wonder or green space in your area.
Couple 2: Jen & BobbyThe Cause:
Give back to victims of crime and disaster.
The Gesture: New Yorkers Jen and Bobby decided to donate a portion of the money they received as wedding gifts to the Twin Towers Fund, in light of September 11. "We wish we could have done more," says Jen. "We knew people at the World Trade Center and thought this was the best way to support the victims' families."
The Cost: 10% of the sum total of their cash wedding gifts
The Details: After the wedding, Jen and Bobby simply logged on to TwinTowersFund.com and paid with a credit card.
The Presentation: The couple ordered white folded table cards adorned with a blue border, American flags, and blue text from the Chelsea Paper Company (ChelseaPaper.com). The couple placed two cards at each table for guests to read. Each card said: "To remember this evening together, we are making a donation to the Twin Towers Fund. We know that your hearts are also with those who lost so much in the events of September 11. We are so grateful to be together with all of our families and friends on our most joyous day. With love and thanks, Jen and Bobby."
Make It Yours: Choose a similar charity such as the American Red Cross (RedCross.org); The Salvation Army (SalvationArmy.org); the UFA Widows and Children's Fund (UFALocal94.org); or the New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund, (202) 737-8484.
Couple 3: Lynn & FredThe Cause:
Donate to cancer research.
The Gesture: Lynn and Fred donated money to the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, from which Fred's father was receiving care. "At the time, he was battling his second round of lymphoma," says Lynn. "The Cancer Institute of New Jersey treated him fabulously and they helped him get healthy."
The Cost: $3,000
The Details: To make arrangements, Lynn first contacted the Development Office at (732) 235-7076. "They'd never done anything like this, so we had to explain our idea and get it approved," says Lynn. She and Fred were then asked to submit their donation, along with a letter.
The Presentation: Scrolls made of "plantable paper" (flower seeds and petals are embedded in the paper -- wildflowers bloom after you plant it) and tied with ribbon rested at every place setting. The Cancer Institute of New Jersey had to approve the text printed on the scrolls, a personal note from the bride and groom explaining to guests that a donation had been made in their names. The scrolls also included the institute's logo. "This is imperative," explains Lynn. "You need it to substantiate and legalize your donation."
Make It Yours: Do like Lynn and Fred, and make a donation to a cancer center in your state. Or donate to a similar cancer-oriented organization such as The American Cancer Society (Cancer.org); Search for the Cure (Komen.org); or the Make-a-Wish Foundation (Wish.org).
Couple 4: Tracie & CurtThe Cause:
Feed the hungry and the poor.
The Gesture: Tracie and Curt donated a flock of chicks for every guest attending (50 flocks in all), through the Heifer Project International, an organization dedicated to offering hungry families around the world a way to feed themselves and become self-reliant. "Our guests have enough things to tote around, and this seemed like a natural thing for us to do," says Tracie. "It made us feel good, and I think it made our guests feel good."
The Cost: Around $1,000
The Details: Tracie was able to coordinate payment for the chicks online at Heifer.org. Other donors to the organization may choose to give trees, bees, or make a general donation; each option provides a valuable contribution to the welfare of a family or community suffering from poverty and malnutrition.
The Presentation: Each place setting featured a card created by You're Invited (YoureInvited.net) wrought in vibrant colors to match the "Cinco de Mayo" theme of Tracie and Curt's wedding. The cards included the following text: "A gift of love has been given in your name...May this flock of chicks bring you joy as it brings hope and nourishment to a family in need." Tracie and Curt also made sure to include verbiage from The Heifer Project International's website, to explain the organization's mission and function.
Make It Yours: Donate to Heifer.org like Tracie and Curt, or choose a similar charity such as UNICEF (Unicef.org); Meals on Wheels (ProjectMeal.org); or CARE (Care.org).