Photo: Aniko Productions
Traditionally, weddings and the months leading up to them are bursting with generosity. There are engagement parties and bridal showers. People spend hundreds on plane tickets and bedding sets. Friends and family members offer their time, support, and energy. So, in this time of great giving, what better time to give back? Whether you make a donation to a cause in place of party favors or ask your guests to invest in a charity instead of a crock pot, a little selflessness can go a long way for many non-profits — and experts say the practice is becoming more and more popular for engaged couples.
Choosing which organization will be gifted with your support can be overwhelming — with so many worthy causes to choose from, but you can't go wrong choosing something personal to you and your fiancé. Did either of you lose a family member to a particular disease? Contribute to groups fighting to find a cure. Love animals? Donate to a local shelter. Whatever you pick, know that you're making a difference by paying all that wedding generosity forward.
Here are 10 charities doing innovative and important work across the country to consider donating to in lieu of wedding favors or gifts.
1. The Birthday Party Project
Keep the party going with a donation to this group that hosts birthday parties — complete with presents, cake, decorations and games — for homeless children living in shelters or transitional housing across the country. Last year, the group's volunteers threw more than 180 bashes, and with additional donations and new partnerships with brands like the super yummy Nothing Bundt Cakes and others, The Birthday Party Project aims to host at least 371 in 2016.
2. Flying Fur Rescue
This growing group of volunteer pilots, drivers, and animal rescue workers transport animals at risk of being euthanized (typically at high kill shelters) to areas where they are more likely to be adopted — while they are taken care of in foster homes. Founded in 2015 by a pilot, the non-profit is based in southeastern Pennsylvania and currently pays the $300 to $500 cost of each transport out of pocket. With a little more funding, the group plans to outfit its own dedicated aircraft specifically designed to transport furry friends.
3. Wish Upon a Wedding
Spread the love from your wedding to a couple in need through this organization — which funds weddings and vow-renewal celebrations for couples facing serious illness or other life-altering circumstances. Brides and grooms as well as husbands and wives battling terminal cancer, cystic fibrosis, and other obstacles benefit from the charity's work and partnerships with wedding and event industry pros in chapters across the country. In addition to monetary contributions, brides can give a little extra by donating their wedding gown as well.
4. Charity: Water
One in ten people around the world don't have access to clean water. This tech-savvy group works with local partners in places like Africa, Asia, and South America, and it puts 100 percent of public donations toward sustainable solutions as well as education about the crisis. Completed projects include the installation of new water pumps, safer wells, filtration systems, and other infrastructure geared towards cleaner water for all.
5. The Adventure Project
You can add a charitable donation to this global job-creating organization right onto your registry using The Adventure Project's online tools. And to keep the home-making registry theme going, the current targeted donation program gifts a stove that protects a family in need in places like Uganda or India from breathing in the toxic smoke of an open flame. Other featured programs tackle hunger, health, water, and the environment.
6. The Good Beginning
Created by wedding planner Beth Helmstetter, this online registry allows couples to research, choose, and embed a link requesting donations for a variety of local, national and international charities that support everything from human rights to animal welfare to faith-based initiatives right onto their wedding website. Don't see the charity you'd like to donate to on the site's list of causes? Let The Good Beginning know and they can add it.
7. Honor Flight Network
A particularly meaningful pick if you or your fiancé have a grandparent or relative that served in World War II, this non-profit flies elderly or ill veterans to visit war monuments in Washington, D.C. The group is currently in the process of expanding their services to eventually honor veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars as well as World War II.
8. Arbor Day Foundation
Plant a tree in each of your guests' honor through the conservation and education organization behind the holiday. Your donations can also help fund specific nature-loving programs like rain forest rescue, outdoor education, or community forestry restoration efforts after natural disasters.
9. Heifer International
The idea behind this well-known charity group is to help hungry and poverty-stricken communities become self-reliant through the donation of animals, farming supplies, or small business support. Encourage guests to help you donate a goat, a water buffalo, or a whole "gift ark" to communities in South America, Asia, Africa, or Europe, and you'll receive updates on how your contribution is making a difference.
10. National Guild for Community Arts Education
Music lovers? Painting enthusiasts? This group provides funding and resources to community arts education organizations across the United States that can help kids and adults follow those same passions. With a focus on key initiatives like afterschool youth programming and arts opportunities for the elderly, the New York-based Guild has a wide reach that any wedding guest can get behind.