Charitable Registries

By Sharon Naylor

April 16, 2010 6 min read

A bride and groom spend much of their engagement and wedding seasons receiving -- everything from good wishes to parties to gifts -- but a skyrocketing number of couples have decided to balance their good fortune by giving back. One way in which today's brides and grooms are sharing the love is by creating charitable registries. It's now the norm for wedding couples to have two or three different gift registries, so many are adding a charitable gift option to their guests' present-giving options.

A charitable registry works in two primary ways, either by allowing donations to be made directly to the cause or by working in tandem with the purchases of gifts through a traditional registry. Consider it the best of both worlds, giving both you and your guests the opportunity to choose the give-back gift option that works best for you.

*Why Charitable Registries Are Hot

Grant La Rouche, executive director of the I Do Foundation, says couples are choosing to establish charitable registries for several reasons. "Lots of people are marrying later in life, or they may be planning their second or third weddings, so they may already own the things that would be given as wedding gifts." Couples who already have houses filled with fine china, linens, cookware and small kitchen appliances are increasingly choosing charitable registries to ease their concerns that they might be seen as wanting more "stuff" than they need.

"There's also a heightened social awareness built around the concept of giving back," La Rouche says. "When couples see that they're spending close to $20,000 on the average wedding these days, they wonder what they can do to give a little back. Everyone is greatly aware of all the need out there, and we have had couples contact us to express their wishes to have their charitable donations help out in Haiti, for instance."

And seeing as weddings are all about personalization these days, couples are using their charitable registries to tell their friends, family members and community about the causes that are closest to their hearts. Perhaps the bride has had relatives who have battled breast cancer, and she now wants to give back to breast cancer organizations to assist in the search for a cure. If the couple met through their involvement in environmental charities, that may be their natural choice of a charity to support through their wedding registry.

*Why They Work Well

The I Do Foundation is just one of the philanthropic registries out there, and even with an extensive list of participating charities, the foundation understands that couples wish to check out charities thoroughly before making their selections. "We have a set of charities that our board of directors has evaluated and recommended," La Rouche says. Some of the leading charitable categories include cancer groups, animal adoptions and fostering, education, child and adult literacy, the environment, women's shelters and local initiatives, such as saving a neighborhood playground or park.

IDoFoundation.org recently merged with JustGive.org, one of the founding leaders in the charitable registry realm, and the foundation also has partnered with wedding Web site The Knot to facilitate charitable giving through purchases of essential wedding items, such as favors. Additional wedding Web sites, such as WeddingWire and WeddingChannel, also offer the opportunity to have a percentage of your wedding purchases -- such as invitations -- donated to the charity of your choice. And of course, a big trend right now is to make a donation to your favorite charity in lieu of wedding favors.

If you still would like to register for traditional gifts -- such as an upgraded coffee maker, Egyptian cotton sheets, good bakeware, top-brand towels, chef-quality knives, party platters, serveware and stemware -- you can arrange through WeddingChannel or a Web site like it to set your registry account to donation mode, in which 3 to 8 percent of each gift purchased from your list is donated to your chosen charity. So when a guest buys you that coffee maker, a percentage of that purchase is sent to your cause automatically. Guests love to give you what you need, and they love that their gifts also give back to important causes.

*How They Work

Charitable registries are easy to set up, requiring just a few minutes to register and select your chosen causes and add personal notes about why you chose each of the charities that will benefit. Guests then see your charitable registry link on your personal wedding Web site. Many guests especially love -- in this recession -- that they can make more budget-friendly donations than they would have written out in wedding gift checks, and the amounts of their gifts can be kept confidential. The bride and groom receive an e-mail notification of each donation with no denomination included.

Philanthropy registries provide additional information on how to donate your gown, bridesmaid gowns and even the food and flowers from your wedding according to important rules for such item donations and tax benefits, so they're creating a wave of giving for more and more elements of your dream day.

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