So What is a Charity Wedding Registry Anyway?

So What is a Charity Wedding Registry?

Let’s start by stating the obvious. A “charity wedding registry” gives guests the option of donating to a charity as their wedding or engagement gift. In the past decade or so, we’ve seen these skyrocket in popularity as more and more couples choose to use their wedding as an opportunity to support a cause close to their hearts. Beyond the readings, rituals, and reception playlist, this is another way to express who you are as a couple.

And you don’t have to sacrifice the cutlery or bedding of your dreams. Many couples are integrating charitable options into a larger registry that includes more traditional gifts, an option which popular online registries like Zola allow you to do seamlessly.

Should I do it?

To be honest, most couples won’t, and that’s okay! There are so many ways to engage meaningfully in philanthropy and service, and many folks feel like their wedding just isn’t the time. Plus, if you provide this option within a larger registry, you have to be comfortable with people, well, taking it. Which means you might miss out on some of the homewares you were expecting (or even financially depending upon).

That said, for couples who have most of their material needs covered or are just excited about the option, this is a fantastic way to pool resources toward a cause you care about. It’s a form of self-expression, helping you and your partner identify and announce your shared values as you venture into this next stage of life.

Acts of service like these can also be a fantastic way to ward off pre-wedding anxiety and intrusive thoughts: it’s easy, spending so much time and resources on a single day, to feel a bit guilty, particularly if your wedding happens to fall shortly after a newsworthy disaster — natural or political.

In these situations especially, prioritizing the charity wedding registry is an excellent way to communicate your values without distracting from the big day. Whether it's reproductive rights or environmental justice, the causes that matter to you deserve a seat at the table.

Okay, but how?

Given the charity registry’s increasing popularity, companies like Zola have begun to offer seamless ways to set one up, including options to donate directly to pre-approved recipient organizations.

Other companies, like The Good Beginning, are devoted specifically to charity wedding registries and offer an easily navigable and wide array of registered organizations, benefitting causes from the Arts to Education. They also allow you to add a specific organization that may not be currently available on their website.

Another option is to register for a charity gift card through Charity Choice or Global Giving, which allows you to raise money from guests, then donate it to the registered 501(c)3 organizations of your choosing. This can allow you to donate to multiple charity organizations, according to desire or need, and has the benefit of reducing the complex logistics involved in crowd-sourcing cash donations. Plus, it’s a tax deductible donation for gift-givers.

Picking an Organization That's Right for Your Charity Wedding Registry

Done right, choosing the recipient organization for your charity registry can bring you and your partner closer. That starts with open communication:

What causes — from animal rights to disease to disaster relief — touch your heart?

Think about it, separately and then together. This is an opportunity to communicate honestly, and hopefully align on values that will remain relevant for years to come.

Once you’ve determined a focus, the next step is to select an organization.

Some questions to consider:

  1. What geography or demography are you most interested in?

Finding a smaller, local organization that does community-based work can be uniquely impactful, given your donation dollars are likely to have a greater relative impact than with large, better funded organizations. That said, many people prefer to support larger organizations with a national (or global) reach and more name-recognition with guests.

  1. Seeking out organizations that are transparent about the use(s) of donation revenue allows you to understand exactly how the money will be used and to communicate this to your guests.

To vet a charity you haven’t given to in the past, consult Give Well, Guide Star, and Charity Navigator, which offer data-backed insight into the relative effectiveness of different organizations working in the same arena. This will enable you to make decisions based on results, not advertising.

  1. Consider how you can contribute, beyond dollars.

Of course, giving isn’t all about money. Many organizations offer other opportunities to get involved in their work through volunteering, which can be another transformative way to support and connect to your partner or community. Platforms like Volunteermatch and GiveGab can help connect you with in-person opportunities to volunteer as a couple, or even a whole wedding party. Beyond being kind, this can be a fantastic and unforgettable way to deepen bonds with your friends and larger community.

How To Message to the Guests

We know, it can be awkward, essentially asking your guests for cash, which may be heightened if the charity you choose is politically divisive. In messaging your charity registry to guests, you should aim to mirror the values of any great non-profit by leading with authenticity and transparency.

One crucial step is to express (over email, on the website, in person) why you chose the charity. A moment of heart-felt honesty will allow guests to connect with the cause through their love for you, the couple. And it may bump some of those donations up a decimal point ;)

When writing the personal note, many couples choose to provide information about their relationship to the organization, as well as specific uses of the money (often outlined on the charity’s website or public filings). Such transparency helps guests comprehend the impact of their donation.

And afterwards, following up with a thank you that speaks not only to your gratitude but the important work the recipient org is doing can be a warm reminder. The “gift that keeps giving,” and all that jazz.

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