Today we’re looking at ways that you can use your wedding budget to impact for good. It’s becoming simpler than ever to use your wedding to give back – from hosting your wedding at a non-profit venue, to planning a bachelorette party focused on volunteering. We’ve put together an awesome list of thoughtful and charitable ethical wedding ideas to get you inspired to use your wedding for the greater philanthropic good.
Charitable Ways to Give Back With Your Wedding
- Highlight your values to your vendors.
Start by making sure that your team of vendors understands you’d like to ensure that your wedding has a positive impact. Ask them for suggestions on how to help you do so. “When it comes to reducing wedding waste, for example, ask your suppliers what they plan to do with the waste and ensure that there is a plan for reducing, recycling and recycling all surplus,” says Nu Davidson of Nu Experiences.
- Look for wedding vendors who have giving-back built into their business model.
“Certain vendors give a portion of their profits to charity and are a great option for brides and grooms that are looking to have a give-back component to their wedding day,” says Afeisha James-Kipps of Wedspire.
- For example, many cities in the US have non-profit caterers, like San Diego’s Kitchens for Good. “They donate to local food banks, focus on eliminating food waste, support local farmers, or provide free culinary job training to at-risk populations,” explains Lesley Smith of Ceremony App.
- Check out organizations like Love Gives Way, where listed vendors donate a portion of their profits to fighting sex trafficking.
- Also ask your venue, planner and other vendors for recommendations of vendors in your area who give back.
- Plan your bachelor/bachelorette around helping a cause that is close to your heart.
“Add a philanthropic activity like assisting an animal shelter, building a house for an in-need family, or creating food packages for the hungry,” suggests Liz Ise of Chancey Charm Dallas. “This will create a bonding experience and show your group more of your heart.”
- Host your wedding at a nonprofit venue.
Many museums and historical venues also operate a charity, which means your rental fee will go toward supporting their organization, explains Jenna Miller of Here Comes The Guide. “Some of these venues stay afloat through donations and volunteer work, so you can rest assured the money you’re spending is going to a good cause. ”
- Skip the favors and donate to a local charity in your guests’ honor, instead.
“Often couples choose to donate the same amount they would have spent on favors to a charity of their choice,” explains Cape Town wedding planner Cara McLaughlin of The Mosaic Wedding Company. Cara suggests animal shelters like DARG – or African Tails for South African readers.
“The average US wedding favor costs $3 and the average wedding guest count is 125—that adds up to a pretty sizable donation, especially for local charities,” agrees Lesley Smith of Ceremony App. “Eliminate that item from your budget, and create one or two beautiful wedding signs by the reception exits, notifying guests of the donations in their honor. It’s a great way to end your celebration on a high note!”
- If you must gift favors, choose a gift that supports a charity.
For example, buy everyone a Save the Rhino bracelet, suggests Cara. “This way, everyone receives a gift, and your purchase stills give back.”
- Let your guests know you’d like them to donate in lieu of wedding gifts.
“Most couples nowadays live together before they get married, so they don’t always need new dishes and a Crock Pot! Set up a charitable registry and have your guests donate to a cause you’re passionate about instead of giving gifts!” says Afeisha James-Kipps of Wedspire.
Picking an organization that is close to your heart will also allow guests to get to know you better, says Liz Ise of Chancey Charm Dallas.
- Sign up for a charitable registry and let your guests choose the charity.
“It’s totally fine to focus on a single cause for charitable giving, but if you’re not partial to one, why not give your guests a few options?” says Lesley Smith of Ceremony App. “The Good Beginning is a great online charitable registry that allows couples and their guests to donate to multiple US-based organizations,” Lesley explains.”Everything is tracked in one place—which is ideal for couples and the charities receiving donations—and if you don’t see a specific charity on the list, you can just add it.”
- Donate your wedding dress.
Choose an organization that focuses on providing gowns to couples less fortunate than yourselves. Instead of collecting dust in your closet, they’ll put your gown to great use, says Jenna Miller of Here Comes The Guide. Here are some organizations to consider donating your wedding gown to:
- Brides for a Cause (US): Sells donated dresses to raise funds for various women-focused charities.
- The Princess Project (South Africa): Donates wedding and formal gowns to those who need gowns of their own – based in Cape Town.
- Brides Across America: Provides gowns for military and first responder brides that are burdened by financial hardships like deployments.
- Snow White Project (South Africa): An organization that brides and grooms can donate their dresses and suits to.
- Angel Gown Program (South Africa): Turns donated wedding dresses into free infant gowns for babies who have passed away in the NICU.
- Adorned in Grace: Resells donated gowns and accessories, with all proceeds used towards preventing sex trafficking and helping sex trafficking victims.
- Local Goodwill or Salvation Army.
(READ ON FOR MORE SUGGESTIONS + CHARITABLE RESOURCES CONTINUED BELOW)
- Have your vendors remember the behind the scene players that helped work on your day.
“Often people think they’ll have to go the extra mile to dispose of any leftover food or flowers from a wedding. Usually, there are behind-the-scenes people who have worked very hard on your day that would appreciate the small gesture,” says Nu Davidson. “Remember the important team players in the background who make a fundamental difference to the day.” Nu suggests checking with your venue, to inform them of your plans, first.
- Work with vendors who are green certified or have eco-friendly practices.
Many wedding industry companies are doing what they can to reduce their impact on the environment. This is especially true for caterers and rental companies that use large amounts of water and can create waste. “If you’re thinking about using disposable utensils or plates, make sure they are made from recyclable materials and your vendors have a recycling plan,” says Liz Ise of Chancey Charm Dallas.
- Check out Paper Culture Wedding Invitations where every order plants a tree, suggests Jenna Miller of Here Comes The Guide: “This Certified Green Business prints every piece on 100% post-consumer recycled paper, too!”
Nowadays, there is a wide variety of recycled and tree-free paper, including handmade, colorful and artistic materials, adds Jenna. “Ask your stationer if they can print your invite using soy-based inks, which put less pollution into the waterways. By using reply postcards and nixing the inner envelope and tissue, you’ll use less paper altogether while saving on cost.“
- Choose digital invitations from Greenvelope and $5 goes to directly to the National Park Foundation for preservation.
“In addition to the artistry and beauty behind Greenvelope’s national park invitations, the true inspiration behind this collection is to help do our part to preserve these national treasures for generations to come,” says Greenvelope. Click here to view the entire digital collection via our affiliate link.
- Donate your wedding flowers to a nursing home or hospital.
“Your wedding flowers made your reception, now allow them to make someone else’s day. Consider blessing those in need by donating your centerpieces!” says Ashley Bourque of Chancey Charm Nashville. Arrange with your florists to drop flowers off at local children’s hospital or old age home, suggests Cara McLaughlin. Or, as Ashley Bourque suggests, appoint a groomsman or bridesmaid to drop them off the next day.
In certain places, there are also companies that come pick up florals after the reception and deliver them to nursing homes and hospitals. If you’d like to donate your wedding flowers, Here Comes The Guide provides a list of organizations to give them extended life:
- Purchase an ethical, fair trade, eco-friendly lab-grown diamond.
Check out why more and more couples are choosing beautiful, conflict-free eco-diamonds.
Donate leftovers to a food bank, shelter or animal rescue.
While most food banks and food redistribution programs generally only accept donations of unprepared foods or tinned foods (and other non-perishables), some homeless shelters are very happy to take the unspoiled leftovers off your hands. If you’re an animal lover, you can also arrange for the leftovers and scraps to be donated to your local animal rescue organization to help sustain our furry friends.
Contact the service closest to your wedding venue beforehand to find out the specific details of their program and how you can donate your wedding leftovers.
Here are some resources, including a number of great suggestions by Jenna Miller of Here Comes The Guide, to help find a food bank, shelter or animal rescue center near you:
- Feeding America: Find Your Local Food Bank (US)
- Rescuing Leftover Cuisine: Donate Food (US)
- Homeless Shelter Directory: Find Homeless Shelters (US)
- Women’s Shelters: Find Shelters for Women (US)
- ASPCA: Find an Animal Shelter (US)
- Homeless Shelters in Cape Town (South Africa)
- Homeless Shelters in Gauteng (South Africa)
Let us know if there are any ways to give back with your wedding which we’ve missed – we’d love to update this list with your suggestions! Use the comment box below, and then check out some more of our fave wedding planning tips and advice:
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