Personalizing your wedding day to reflect who you are as a couple is one of the things that I love most about being a wedding planner – each couple’s love story is unique. It’s easy to find ways to incorporate your favorite football team or your cherished pup into your big day; but what if making an impact is what's important to you and your fiancé(e)? If giving back is something you love to do together (or if you’re looking to make it one), there are a number of ways to use your wedding day for good. Think about the causes that are important to you – what lights a fire under your soul? Perhaps there is a charitable organization that has played an important role in either of your lives, or maybe you are looking to support something entirely new in honor of this new chapter in your relationship. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to doing good. Here are some ways you and your love can make a difference.
You said yes! Next up: selecting a date and venue. There are countless beautiful locations to choose from, but one factor that we don’t typically think of is whether or not that venue is part of a non-profit organization. My professional background is event planning within the non-profit sector. When my fiancé and I discovered (and immediately fell in love with) The Washington at Historic Yellow Springs for our upcoming wedding, we were over-the-moon that our wedding would be helping a charitable organization. Museums, historical sites, and theaters are often good places to start your search. By choosing to host your wedding at one of these sites, you can trust that your rental fee is going to support a good cause.
Bachelor and bachelorette weekends are very popular these days, with a bride and her crew, or groom and his, often taking the full weekend to get away and celebrate. With a whole weekend to fill, there is plenty of time to take part in a new adventure together. Volunteering as a group for an hour or two is a great way to build community and bonding among your wedding party. When the big day does come around, your group will be able to laugh about that time they got covered in paint while painting the playground, or when they made 200 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (but forgot the jelly, whoops!).
This is perhaps one of the most well-known ways to support your favorite cause on your wedding day: in lieu of wedding gifts, ask for donations to your favorite charity. Now that is a wonderful plan – one that is especially helpful for those of us who do not need yet another set of dish towels – but maybe you still want to receive some gifts. Consider selecting one gift-giving event to make a positive impact instead, like your wedding shower that your co-workers have offered to host for you. If your guests would prefer to give physical gifts, but you don't want to end up with something you'll never use, there's a way to do that in a charitable way as well. Guests can bring non-perishable food to donate to your local food pantry, and then you and your new spouse can take a trip together to donate all of the goodies!
At some point during your wedding day, you may have some items in bulk that you offer to your guests for one-time use. If your ceremony is outdoors during colder months, perhaps you are planning on having a basket of blankets available for your guests to borrow. (“To have and to hold, in case you get cold,” anyone?) Let’s take that a step further. You probably don’t want to be stuck with 60+ blankets after your wedding – consider donating them to an animal shelter. For many shelter animals, a blanket is the difference between a night with something cozy to snuggle and a night on a cold concrete floor. To amp up your donation’s impact, wrap each blanket with a lead or leash. Let your guests know with a sign or section on your ceremony program that all of these items will be donated to the shelter of your choice. This is also a unique way to incorporate your furbabies into your day if they can't join you onsite. Another popular option is to offer flip-flops for guests to change into during the reception. Eventually, those flip-flops will finish their intended three hours of use. Consider giving a call to your local homeless shelter to see if they might be able to use them. Just make sure to sanitize them before donating!
Have you purchased wedding decorations and table linens that will likely end up taking up space in your garage after your wedding day? This isn’t one we think of often, but non-profit organizations host fundraising events and galas all year long – I know, because I’ve planned them! With such tight budgets focused on raising money for the cause, those who work in non-profit fundraising are often left with little to no budget for decor. Give those pillar candles a chance to live a new life (and get them out of your closet) by donating them to your non-profit of choice. Just be sure to call or email ahead of time to ensure that they have the ability to receive and store your donation.
Who doesn’t love little coasters with your names and wedding date on them? I wish it weren’t true, but all too often those precious favors that you spent hours putting together are left on the tables after the reception has ended. One way around this is to take the money that you would have spent on favors, and make a donation to a charity of your choosing. This is also a great way to honor a loved one, such as someone who passed away before being able to join you on your big day.
As an out-of-town guest who has just traveled for hours to get to your wedding, it’s lovely to walk into the hotel room and find a welcome bag from the happy couple waiting on your bed. It’s such a sweet touch to put together baskets of necessities for your guests to use during the reception, too. While you’re busily making these amenities, think about others who may also be in need of these types of items, and make a few extras. Comfort Cases works to provide children in the foster care system with a sense of dignity by giving them their own personal care items in an actual backpack, rather than just a trash bag.
I have a soft spot in my heart for a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. I can’t get enough of the fresh feeling they bring to my home, and they immediately brighten up any room. Your wedding flowers, while beautiful, are likely only going to be enjoyed for a few hours. But what if I told you that there’s a way to extend the enjoyment that they bring just a little bit longer? Floral repurposing organizations such as Forget Me Knot Flowers will restyle your wedding flowers into small arrangements that are hand-delivered to residents in community healthcare facilities. Your gorgeous blooms will be able to bring a bit of light to those dealing with illness or loneliness.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent way too many hours binge-watching “Say Yes to the Dress,” and what you’re going to wear on your wedding day is very important to you. After the big day is over, something that you spent so long dreaming about doesn't need to be stashed away in a closet. Brides Across America gifts donated wedding gowns directly to military and first-responder couples. Adorned in Grace Bridal and Formalwear sells gently used gowns so that all of the proceeds can be used to promote awareness and prevention of sex trafficking, as well as crisis support for trafficked victims.
You got married! Now’s the time to relax with your new spouse. Regardless of whether you chose to fly to your destination or not, you likely have some airline frequent flier miles sitting in your account unused. It’s a little known fact that the Make-A-Wish Program, which grants wishes of children diagnosed with critical illnesses, actually accepts airline miles. Your frequent flier miles can help a child battling illness ride Space Mountain at Walt Disney World, or explore the Grand Canyon.
It’s so important that the causes you choose to support on your wedding day reflect the values that you and your fiancé hold. Your new marriage is an incredibly exciting time in your relationship – it’s marking a brand new stage of “us.” Even if you’ve never volunteered before, now is a great time to start a new tradition together! Check out VolunteerMatch to explore opportunities in your area. Starting a new tradition of giving back is a wonderful way to strengthen the foundation of your marriage, while also making the world around you just a little bit better.
Wow, that was a lot! This list is not intended to be comprehensive, and there are certainly many more ways to make a positive impact with your wedding. Have any other suggestions, or thinking about incorporating these into your big day? I’d love to hear all about it! Feel free to find me on Instagram @stephanie.atbloom or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy planning!