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Giving Back on Your Wedding Day

Planning a wedding that gives back.
By: 
updated 8/29/19
Giving Back on your Wedding Day

Including just one charitable act in your wedding will make an impact. Love animals? Give donations to a local rescue in lieu of favors—your pup will approve

Your wedding day is all about you, your partner, and your guests, but it can be about giving back to others, too. With these charitable ideas, sharing the love can be as simple as popping a champagne cork.

When recent bride Madison Ward was planning her February 2017 wedding at Calhoun Beach Club in Minneapolis, she knew she wanted to do something that gave back. “We wanted to donate to a very Minnesota cause that affected our community,” she says.

They settled on Safe Hands Animal Rescue, the animal rescue organization where they had adopted their dog Libby. “There’s something about planning a wedding that’s so grand, it’s nice to give to others. You get so wrapped up in what you want to do for yourself, but there’s a whole world of other people,” she says.

“It’s a great idea,” says Rachelle Mazumdar, owner of Style-Architects Weddings + Events, “but it’s not that prevalent.”

Yet. Including just one charitable act in your wedding will set it apart and leave a lasting impression—and make an impact.

The Venue

Giving back can start with your choice of ceremony and reception venue. Renting from a nonprofit organization supports a cause that benefits the whole community. Don’t worry about sacrificing grandeur, either—many locations are stunning, such as the Landmark Center in St. Paul. The Science Museum of Minnesota, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and American Swedish Institute are other popular wedding venues that also happen to be nonprofit organizations. For a more rustic wedding, consider the venues at Three Rivers Park District locations.

The Registry

Some couples opt to register for charitable donations in addition to, or even in lieu of, gifts. The website SoKind Registry allows options for homemade gifts, charitable donations, secondhand goods and day-of event help instead of traditional wedding gifts. Or just make a note on your wedding website about your preference of charitable donation; share the info with close friends and family to spread the word.

The Dress

Donating your wedding gown afterward is a way to give back, Mazumdar says. “What are you going to do with it? A lot of time they just sit in the closet.” Let that beautiful dress be loved again through a nonprofit organization. “There are a lot of national organizations that benefit very worthy causes that brides can donate their dress to,” she says. Operation Glass Slipper accepts bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses and accessories at drop locations around the Twin Cities (your bridesmaids might want to donate, too). Brides Across America and Adorned in Grace are other organizations that accept wedding gowns for philanthropic purposes.

The Reception

When Simply Elegant Group wedding planner Kerry Hollenback got married, she decided to encourage charitable giving in honor of her dad, who was in remission for multiple myeloma. To get the couple to kiss, instead of clinking glasses, guests made donations to cancer research. “It could have been a penny—whatever people wanted to donate,” Hollenback says. All the pennies added up; Hollenback’s wedding raised $378 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Another way to involve guests is to donate the proceeds of a dollar dance to a charity.

The Favors

One of the easiest ways to give back at your wedding is to make a charitable donation in lieu of favors, says Mazumdar. Many couples create a sign to tell guests about the charity they chose and why it’s important to them.

Ward chose this route, but still wanted her guests to go home with a favor. Farina Baking Co. created cookies frosted with the words “Adopt, Don’t Shop.” A sign explained to guests that a donation had been made to a local animal rescue organization. “Everyone loved it,” Ward says. “Everyone knows Libby, so it was nice to have her be part of the wedding in that way.”

Share the LoveShare the Love

Add a sweet touch to your wedding with Pies with a Purpose. This couple went the extra service mile, dishing out the treats themselves / Photos courtesy of Sara’s Tipsy Pies, photos by Ben Saefke Photography

The Catering

If your venue allows outside alcohol, opt for brands that give back. Each variety of ONEHOPE wine supports a different cause, from clinical trials for breast cancer to meals for children to life-saving vaccines. Locally brewed Finnegan’s beer donates 100 percent of its profits to food banks.

When Sara Hayden of Stillwater founded Sara’s Tipsy Pies in 2012, she knew right away that she wanted her pie business to give back. Her charity of choice was the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota, inspired by her daughter. Her Pies with a Purpose, flavored with Finnegan’s Irish Amber Ale, are displayed at weddings with a sign that mentions the cause. Hayden recalls a memorable wedding where the couple further demonstrated their commitment by serving pies themselves while wearing their grandparents’ vintage aprons.

The Flowers

Floral arrangements can last up to two weeks, which is plenty of time to brighten up a nursing home or hospital room after the wedding. Some wedding planners may agree to deliver leftover blooms for you. “It’s something we’re definitely willing to do,” Hollenback says. Or ask friends and family to lend a hand. Floral designer Kim Harrison of Artemisia Studios offers this option to her clients as a service called Share the Joy. “It was sad to see flowers in the trash,” she says. “Why not let people enjoy them?”

The Environmental Impact

Another way to give back: Consider the environmental impact of the reception. Hollenback planned a wedding at Gale Woods Farm for a couple who wanted their wedding to reflect their eco-conscious lifestyle. “Everything was served on compostable dishware, and the tables had printed cards with information about keeping the environment clean,” she says.

The Leftovers

While it’s important to some couples that no food go to waste after the reception, Mazumdar says that some caterers will give you the leftovers, others won’t. So if this is important to you, check with the caterer on their policy before you book. If your caterer agrees to give you the leftover food, you’ll also need to find a shelter that will take it. It’s just a matter of doing the research and legwork, Mazumdar says.

Special E is a company that collects leftover food, flowers and décor for philanthropic purposes after events. For a fee and at least two weeks notice, they’ll take care of all the donation arrangements for you.

Choosing a Charity

When Hollenback was choosing which charity to donate to, she made sure that the money was actually going directly to research. “You want to find out: Is it going to administration or is it going to your cause?” But above all, go with your heart. “You want to make your wedding personal,” advises Hollenback. “I tell my couples to donate to something you’re passionate about.”

You’ll remember your wedding day forever—and by incorporating even one of these generous ideas, you’ll look back knowing that your wedding made a difference.

Bang for Your Charitable Buck

Not sure what organization to donate to? Charity Watch and Charity Navigator evaluate charitable organizations so you can see exactly where your donation is going. charitywatch.org | charitynavigator.org

Giving Back on your Wedding Day

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