Traditionally, weddings themselves 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, and 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.
Why? Lizzy Ellingson, co-founder and chief creative officer of Blueprint Registry, explained to Brides where this spike in charitable registries came from.
Meet the Expert
Lizzy Ellingson is the co-founder and chief creative officer of Blueprint Registry, a website that allows users to create registries and event websites hassle-free.
"Millennials are cohabiting before marriage and getting married later in life," she says. The material needs of a 21-year-old just starting out are different from a couple of 30-somethings who have already been living together.
Additionally, "Crowdfunding has exploded in popularity over the past 10 years growing at 26 percent a year. Based on proprietary research, Blueprint Registry estimates that cash gifting and personal crowdfunding will exceed $33.5 billion by 2021," Ellingson says. She expects this to heavily impact wedding registry trends, as well—her company has already seen this shift start to happen.
"At Blueprint Registry," she continues, "70 percent of couples register for at least one cash gift like a honeymoon plane ticket or contributions to help with remodeling a kitchen. We still see couples register for both physical and cash gifts, we just see more couples register for cash who may not have registered for any cash gifts five years ago."
The increase in popularity for cash registries demonstrates that even for "the couple who has everything," there is a way for guests to celebrate the union with a gift. It's also a good option to help ease the financial burden for guests who might already find it challenging to accommodate the cost of attending the wedding (think destination weddings and multi-day celebrations). Just like with any crowdfunding, there's security in numbers—each individual doesn't feel obligated to fork over the same amount they might for a more traditional, high-quality registry item, and that's fine.
Blueprint found that while the average fundraising goal for charitable registries is just under $900, the average amount raised is a little less than half of that. An idea for couples who want to keep their guests motivated to give more: if your budget allows, agree to match their donations up to a certain amount. You'll do good for the community and the world, plus you'll get an even bigger tax write-off.
You can also think small if you'd like. A charitable registry—or swapping out wedding favors to donate money in your guests' names—can have a more local impact, too. Blueprint Registry offers an option to create a cash registry for local charities as well, which has become the most common choice among couples on the site.
Choosing which organization will be gifted with your support can be overwhelming, but with so many worthy causes, you can't go wrong choosing something personal to you and your fiancé. A couple who has lost a family member due to a certain illness might donate to research efforts around that illness. If they rescued a pet together, they might donate to a charity that aids animals in need. This is just another way to personalize their wedding celebration while giving back. Whatever you choose, 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
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.
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.
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.
One in 10 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 after school youth programming and arts opportunities for the elderly, the New York-based Guild has a wide reach that any wedding guest can get behind.