‘Tis the season for giving! And it may be inspiring you to make your wedding another reason for giving as well. I applaud you! There are so many people and places in need of your charitable heart that any opportunity you have to give is a worthy one– but your wedding day is an even more momentous occasion having an even greater impact.
For those of you who haven’t encountered the concept of “in lieu of favors” at weddings, it’s pretty simple! Instead of giving a tangible token of your appreciation to your guests, you give a charitable donation. It’s usually noted somewhere in the reception, like on the menu, with the phrase, “in lieu of favors” and noting which organization you’ve chosen to receive your monetary gift.
It’s a little backwards when you think of it– instead of giving your guests a thank you gift, you’re not giving them anything at all! Rather, you’re giving on behalf of them. Some guests may feel slightly slighted by the gesture, knowing it’s a kind one, but not really feeling thanked. Some guests will love it, knowing they don’t need another tchotchke with your initials on it. Of course, either way, no one can really take offense because you’re doing something good in the world with your wedding! One suggestion I have, if it’s in your budget, is to offer a little extra something inside of the reception as an additional experience of your gratitude. Be it a photobooth (classic or creative), sweets for guests to take home, an ice cream truck pulling up at the end of the night: the extra little surprise lets them know you’re so happy they’re there.
I think the key to giving favors-with-a-cause is to find a charity that you believe in and support in your everyday life. Any cause that is dear to your heart is worthy. You don’t have to qualify or cater to anyone’s expectations. The added bonus in giving to a favorite cause is not only that it lets your guests see a passion of yours, but also encourages, even educates them, to give in their lives too! I’ve picked some main topics for giving and have some creative ideas for you. Note: they are not inclusive (or exclusive!) in the least, just some ideas that I hope will inspire you to give and give from the heart! One popular place to give is to pet shelters and pet rescue services, so we’ve got a bunch of happy puppy photos to make you smile extra today!
One way you can impact the world in a big way is to give locally. A local animal shelter is featured here, but take a look at the world immediately around you-- who is in need? Most towns and cities have an area that is particularly in need, is yours: homelessness, inner city schools and families, military, poverty, restoration projects, disaster relief, etc.
Your heart strings may want to give on a global level, which is completely legitimate, and in the case of charity, give where your heart leads you. But for those of you who see the need just outside your door, or even have a religious organization, a cause that's helped you in your life or a family-tie that inspires you to give locally, know you don't have to give on a grand scale to meet a universal need. Was your beloved Grandpa a Veteran? Give to the local VA Hospital as a way to pay homage to him. Or a national organization that helps Vets locally like Hire Heroes or Fisher House, both doing amazing things on large and small scales. If there isn't a place that particularly resonates with you, but you want to give locally, your Rescue Missions, safe houses and Food Banks are likely eager for your generosity. Whether you give financially, or meet a specific need, (like blankets, canned goods or cover the costs of a person's housing0, you are doing big things for your community.
Hunger is everywhere. Every small town, every rural community, every mid-sized city, every metropolitan area is desperately seeking to serve their hungry and find ways to eliminate hunger. On a larger scale, hunger is an epidemic in third-world countries. How cool is it to take the occasion of a wedding feast and in turn give a meal (or many) to those without? I think that's awesome.
Here are a few of my favorite huger-helping charities:
Feeding America: Did you know 42 MILLION Americans are facing hunger right now? Feeding America is tackling this need head on, not only could you help the National need, but you never know if that kid around the corner could know what it's like to have three meals a day.
Food for the Hungry and other awesome child sponsor charities: Not only could you sponsor a child or family, I love the idea of buying animals for families/communities to give them resources for continued food opportunities! Think chickens, bees, gardens, a whole farm of animals! Think of the income possibilities for a community who can sell their additional produce as a result of your gift!
Feed My Starving Children : This organization uses local hands to package food for global hunger. You should see what their influence is doing by giving nutritious food to starving children and just how quickly they are thriving from it!
An incredible amount of people (663 million people) in this world do not have drinkable water within reach. That's hard for us to imagine with our imported bottles of water and water filters attached to our faucets. I can't imagine having to walk all day for water enough to drink, let alone bathe. If you want your wedding donation to have a big impact, how amazing would it be to give a community in a third world company a well?! A well! Think of all the people at the wedding that have poured into your life, and as a result of your wedding, you can pour into the lives of countless individuals- wow!
Charity: Water is an incredible organization with a mission to bring safe and clean water to people in developing countries. A notable 100% of all public donations go to the cause, they are a super clean organization and are profoundly giving hope of education, thriving business and health to people in need. Talk about impact!
Arts & Education
I put these two big topics together since they have a lot in common, but they also are big individual causes worthy of your generosity. I'm particularly fond of the arts, I believe the arts shape and define our country and our lives, and especially now are in desperate need of funding. Your local community is likely eager for your assistance, be it the symphony or opera, the museums, historical restoration initiative, local and professional theaters, ballet companies, even old movie houses! So many times the arts go hand-in-hand with education because so many of us learn well through creative learning, especially kids. If you're looking for a larger organization than a local charity/organization, check these out:
Americans for the Arts: Mega organization with loads of branches and places to put your money. If you have an area of particular interest, searched by topic or program, you can donate there.
Arts in Education: this organization likely influenced your education in grade school. It's an awesome way to give back!
First Book: A very awesome cause getting quality books into the hands of you readers. Help fight the cycle of poverty and illiteracy by giving aid to the communities that lack the resources. For the book lovers out there, this would be a meaningful way to donate -- just an idea: you can get creative and make your "in lieu of favors" card a book mark ;)
Disease & Medical Organizations
This category is HUGE! So I'm not going to try and narrow it down for you, as it's likely if this is your area of passion, you know where you want to give. All of us are sadly effected personally by some kind of disease that has challenged or compromised us or a loved one. From cancer research to the cure of HIV/AIDS, from advancements in surgery to breakthroughs in medical science, there is so much to choose from! So, what stirs you? What gives you cause to express your gratitude for life or give you fuel to fight? It's likely whatever disease, cure, or medical organization you are passionate about, has it's own foundation you can give to. But if you're not quite sure where to give, here's a super helpful resource of charities:
Global Giving: It's a comprehensive resource for real time needs/projects are posted as well as profiles for hundreds of charities to choose from. National and Global causes put their needs front and center, making it really easy to see just what those needs are, some being very specific and poignant. Having an idea of a topic or area you're particularly fond of will keep you from getting overwhelmed by just how much need is out there.
Kids are our future and worth investing into! What about your upbringing makes you want to give back? Did you love lacrosse and what to give to a low-resource school so they can compete this season? Do you have a heart for special needs kids? Donate to the Special Olympus and then go sign up to participate in the local chapter's event this year! One of my favorites is Make-a-Wish... the list can go on and on. Here are some fun one's if you're looking for a fun tie-in:
Ka BOOM! : Building playgrounds and active areas for underserved areas!
Shoes that Fit : Love shoes yourself? Spread the love!
Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation : Fighting and finding cures for kid cancers, this kid's heart has left a legacy for future survivors to come! (Especially easy to tie in for all you summer lemonade sippin' weddings!)
There is no limit to giving! Sure a favor may cost $2-20 dollars depending on your budget and multiplied by the amount of guests, that gives you an idea of what your donation may be in lieu of favors. But, hey, if you've got more to toss in, do it! Generosity is the gift that keeps on giving, and your heart will grow exponentially as a result! (...cue How the Grinch Stole Christmas.....) Happy giving!