At a loss for what to choose to give out as wedding favors to your guests? If you're absolutely over Jordan almonds and can't rationalize paying for 200 personalized toothpick holders, why not consider handing over that cash to a worthy cause? Nowadays some couples are skipping wedding favors and instead donating that money to a charity that is near and dear to their hearts.
"Donations in lieu of wedding favors is a growing trend that speaks to a general desire to make a difference in the world by giving back to the community," says Lena Koropey, etiquette expert and founder of Gramercy Protocol. "It is a meaningful way to thank your guests for their presence, and to share the spirit of kindness and helping others with them."
If this sounds like something you'd like to do, read ahead for five key things to keep in mind when going this route.
Don't Mention It on Your Invites
Myka Meier, founder and director of Beaumont Etiquette, suggests skipping mentioning the charitable donation on your invitations or save the dates. Instead, you can include a mention in the program or wedding website, Meier says. "You might wish to say something along the lines of 'On our special day, we've chosen in lieu of wedding favors to donate to a charity that is near and dear to both our hearts, the XX Foundation,'" she says. Koropey says she has also seen couples opt for small favors like a small edible treat with a ribbon and card indicating the name of the charity.
Protect Your Guests' Identity
If you want to make a donation instead of buying favors, that is totally A-OK, but don't take any liberties with providing your guests' information to the organization, says Kathleen Cover, certified etiquette consultant. "For identity protection and to prevent organizations from possibly contacting your family members and friends for future donations, it is best not to release individual names or contact information without obtaining prior approval," Cover says. "Donations may be issued to the charity organization by the bride and groom in honor of their wedding guests without releasing the names of guests." Bottom line: Don't hand out any guest info!
Prepare to Explain Your Choice
Even though you're doing something kind for someone else, some very traditional guests may not be on board with your choice, according to etiquette specialist Rebecca Black, known as The Polite One. "Wedding favors are, somewhat, a gift to guests," she says. "In the past, most etiquette professionals would advise—and some may still—that it is impolite to give that gift to another. However, with so many in need, it is becoming more acceptable with almost everyone to give, rather than receive a small token, which most favors are." She adds, "Some guests may have an issue with this decision. However, if the couple openly discusses their decision with guests, there should be minimal repercussions." Bottom line: Some old-school folks may not opt to go this route, but no sane person will complain about you doing something nice for others.
Steer Clear of Controversy
It doesn't matter what side of the (political) aisle you're on—keep politics out of the day you're walking down the aisle. Cynthia Grosso, owner and founder of the Charleston School of Protocol, recommends avoiding donating to any controversial or political organization. "The cause [you donate to] isn't necessarily going to be everyone's cause, but it should be one that the bride and groom believe in," she says. Grosso added, "I would be careful with political [or other controversial organizations]. It's not the time, and I would steer clear of anything that could be divisive."
More neutral choices like organizations that support the arts or help animals or children are good options, experts say.
Remember That Favors Are Totally Optional
If wedding favors are stressing you out, though, keep in mind that you can always skip them. "Party favors, just like gifts, are optional always," Grosso says. "You don't have to give party favors at all." (Phew, one less thing on your to-do list!) At the end of the day, you should do whatever feels right to you and your other half, including introducing your guests to a cause that matters to you. "It is always nice to share and introduce others to a charity that is close to the bride and groom's hearts," Cover says. "...In today's world, there is such an awareness to reach out and help others. Your guests will appreciate and remember that you chose to honor them on your special day by helping others."