Pay It Forward: 8 Things to Donate From Your Wedding Day

Planning Tips

Photo: Chad Hansen for First Mate Photography Co.

'Tis the season to do some good and give back! Share your good fortune and spread the love by not letting all your pricy wedding items go to waste. With so many different ways (and things) to donate, it's easy to make a difference and truly touch lives.

1. The Dress
Get your bridesmaids on board too! Because, let's face it, the likelihood you'll ever wear your gowns again is pretty slim. So, why not let engaged girls without the budget enjoy them? Donating wedding and bridesmaid dresses is a dramatic way to aid young brides who can't afford the designer dress of their dreams, says David Merrell, CEO and Creative Director of AOO Events in Los Angeles. While some charities like Brides Across America will actually give your gown to another bride in need for free (in this case, military brides), others like Brides Against Breast Cancer will sell it at a deep discount with all proceeds going to support a specific cause.

2. Decorations
Turns out, you've got a ton of options for donating gently used décor, from nearby nursing homes and churches to The Salvation Army and Goodwill. You can even list your items on the free section of Craigslist. Your community may have options you weren't aware of as well so look into that. For example, in Seattle, Jennifer Taylor of Taylor'd Events says they have a group that creates a wedding garage sale every year so brides have a local spot to donate. "The proceeds go to Get Hitched Give Hope, which, in turn, gives money to the Young Survivor Coalition and Dream Foundation."

3. Flowers
Discuss potential possibilities with your wedding planner, as he or she may have some connections, or do a little research on your own. Oftentimes, flowers can be donated to your local hospice if you coordinate with them ahead of time, point out Francie Dorman and Britt Cole of 42° North Weddings in New England. "Some will even pick them up for you." There are many organizations across the United States that specialize in repurposing wedding flowers for the folks at hospitals, nursing homes, and shelters to enjoy.

4. Food
While there are restrictions for cooked food that vary from state to state, many food banks will accept packaged, unused dinner rolls and gift bag food items, such as wrapped chocolates, not taken by guests, tells Merrell. "Feeding America is a great place to identify food banks in your area."

See More: What to Do With Your Dress Once the Wedding is Over

5. DIY Supplies
Any leftover items like paper, paint, markers, envelopes and ribbon from your DIY projects can be donated to local schools and daycare centers, as well as retirement homes, for their crafting purposes, informs Sharon Naylor, author of The Bride's Guide to Freebies. Materials for the Arts is a fab resource for NYC brides looking to donate extra wedding supplies, and if you're in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, definitely check out The Birthday Project, which will use your gifted items to throw homeless kids the ultimate birthday party.

6. Extra welcome bags and favors
Odds are, you'll have plenty! Donate the extra items to a local cause and they won't go to waste, advises Michiel Perry, founder of digital lifestyle brand Black Southern Belle. "This is another item your wedding planner or mother can help you handle and a perfect donation for your community's local women or girls charity."

7. Live Plants
For Eco-conscious brides and grooms, sustainable arrangements (ones created from hearty potted plants or succulents) can be repurposed and replanted post ceremony, points out Merrell. "We've even seen where the potted plants were gathered, re-packaged and sent with a card to the attending wedding guests as a thank you."

8. Unwanted Gifts
You can literally donate your unopened and unwanted wedding gifts, or you can set your bridal registry up for guests to give to your favorite charity in the first place. This allows your good fortune to be bestowed upon others, says Merrell. "Charitable registries are becoming increasingly popular amongst millennial couples and more mature brides and grooms on their second marriages."

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