Best Practices for Giving to Charity Instead of Wedding Gifts

Girl putting money in donation jar

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Couples are more likely than ever to forgo wedding gifts in favor of donations to their favorite charities. Traditionally, wedding presents were given to help the engaged couple set up their new, shared home. Many modern couples already live together before tying the knot or are combining two fully furnished homes into one. Getting one more crock pot or dish set is not as meaningful as soliciting for donations to a worthy cause.

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    How to Choose a Charity

    If you are considering asking your guests to give to charity in lieu of gifting you with a wedding present or cash, the first step is choosing the charity. This can be a daunting task. Causes abound, and both of you should be passionate about what you choose to support. Begin by looking close to home. Is there a cause that is close to your hearts already? Has a loved one been impacted by an illness, or have you lost someone you love to heart disease or cancer? Perhaps you are an animal lover and would like your gifts to help save animals in need. Local causes may offer a great meaning for you. Your gifts could support your church, your local school or send a deserving child to camp. If you were a Scout or Girl Guide, you may choose to support those organizations. If you are passionate about world peace, ending hunger or the environment, you could consider donating to larger international organizations such as the Red Cross or Oxfam.

    Once you’ve settled on a cause, do some research. Make sure your charity of choice is a registered charity or non-profit organization. Find out how much of your donation will go towards research, marketing, fundraising, and administration. You can check watchdog site for information on many American charities. Also, check to make sure your donations are tax deductible.

    Alternately, you may want your guests to be able to choose the charity they would like to support with your gift. Provide them with your preferred charity, or a list of charities you’ve researched, and ask them to let you know which one they chose. All of that in mind, make sure you let them know how thankful you are for anything you receive.

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    How to Tell Your Guests

    The best way to inform your guests that you will be supporting a charity in lieu of wedding gifts is on your invitations. It is not good etiquette to insist they donate to your chosen charity, so be prepared to accept gifts from those who choose not to participate. You can let them know that you will donate any gifted items if they would rather not support your chosen cause. Let them know that your life is full of love and laughter and you want to share that with those who have greater needs than your own. With all the blessings in your life, and on your special day, to give to those in need would help you begin your marriage with full hearts.

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    How Much Should You Donate

    Do not ask your guests to donate a specific amount of money. Instead, allow them to choose how much they can give and offer to help them make the donation. Offer them the option of donating anonymously. To encourage donations, you could set up a donation match game, where you match each donation your guests make with a special activity at your wedding. For example: For every $100 donated, the bride and groom will have to share a kiss at the head table or dance with the donor.

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    Donation Programs

    Many organizations have wedding donation programs. The American Cancer Society has a wedding scroll program, where you can make a donation in lieu of providing wedding favors. The customized scrolls let your guests know you've made the donation. In keeping with the wedding theme, you could register your wedding as a fundraising event to help others have wonderful wedding days. Wish Upon a Wedding grants wedding wishes to couples in need. Oxfam has a program where guests can buy a wedding card and make a donation that provides goats to help families in need. Ask your preferred charity if they have any special wedding registry programs or if you can register your wedding as a fundraiser.

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    Tax Deductible Donations

    Make sure to provide information to your guests about tax-deductible donations. If you are collecting the donations yourself, be sure to ask the organization to provide receipts for your guests. Do not donate the money and make a tax deduction for the total amount for yourself. If your guests would prefer to make an anonymous donation, ask them to donate directly to the organization. Make donating to charity in lieu of giving you a gift easy for your guests. If they insist on buying you a wedding present, you can register at a store that supports your preferred cause, or donate the items purchased through your registry to a charity.

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