Feel-Good Gifts

Make the world a little nicer by replacing gifts and favors with donations to charity

Maybe you already own all the spatulas your kitchen can hold. And maybe you want to celebrate your marriage by doing something that will make a difference. Today there are lots of options for couples looking to replace conventional wedding gifts and favors with donations to their favorite charities.

Register for a Cause
Some charities are set up as registries, perfect for a wedding gift. Two of our favorites:
 Justgive.org: Start by creating a customized Web page on this group's wedding registry and choose from more than 1,000 causes in categories like human rights and the environment. When a guest donates, she can include a personal message to you; later, you'll get an e-mail confirmation of the gift.
Changingthepresent.org: Guests choose from your wish list of specific good works. Among the possibilities: a month's supply of clean drinking water for a Honduran family or 10 malaria-preventing mosquito nets for African schoolkids.
How do you let guests know about your good intentions? The polite way is by word of mouth, just not your mouth (unless asked). Enlist your family and bridal party to spread the word. You can also use your wedding Web site to point guests to your registry, but don't make it the focus of the site; it should be a convenience for your guests, not a mandate.

Guests Doing Good
If a guest wonders what you'd like for a gift, suggest that she do something that makes the world a better place, such as:
1. Buy carbon credits to offset wedding travel.
2. Plant a row of trees.
3. Donate books to a hospital.
4. Work at a soup kitchen.
5. Walk dogs at a shelter.
6. Recycle used cellphones.
7. Bake cookies for a firehouse.
8. Volunteer in a nursing home.
9. Clean up a local hiking trail.
10. Send a care package to troops overseas.

Philanthropic Favors
An increasing number of brides are making donations in their guests' honor. Some groups, such the American Diabetes Association (diabetes.org) and Brides Against Breast Cancer (bridesagainstbreastcancer.org) will send you customized cards to put at each place setting to announce your gift.

Or choose a charity, create your own cards, and attach an inexpensive item that symbolizes your cause, like a bookmark for gifts to the National Center for Family Literacy (famlit.org) or a poodle-shaped cookie for donations to the Humane Society (hsus.org).

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