Say “I Do” to Doing Good: Four ways to be charitable at your wedding.

It can be very easy to lose sight of what a wedding is all about. Sifting through vendors, cute Pinterest ideas and breathing in and out over general wedding sticker shock can make it easy to shift your focus on the business of weddings rather than the meaning behind them. A great way to keep you grounded and focused on what really matters is to infuse some giving into your wedding. Now I’m not suggesting that you depress the wedding guests with a Sarah Mclauchlan sountrack-ed ASPCA video prior to cutting the cake, this is, after all, supposed to be a happy occasion. There are some great ways to do some good for others as you say “I do.” And it’s great way to kick off your life together! Here are four ways to pay it forward during your wedding season.

White wedding dress hanging on a shoulders

Donate your Dress
Rather than spending a ton of money to preserve this worn-one-time outfit in the off chance that someone will one day unearth it out of a closet and want to wear it again, there are many places that you can donate your wedding dress for a great cause. A majority of charities that accept wedding dresses do so to sell at a discount for money for their organizations. Other projects aim to provide gently used gowns to brides who are going through a financial hardship of some kind and cannot afford their own. Research charities in your area that accept wedding dresses and see which pulls on your heartstrings the most. One charity that has made national news lately takes wedding dresses and repurposes them to create angel gowns and/or blankets for families who have experienced the loss of a baby.

Extra Food
A lot of times weddings end up with a ton of leftovers from the caterer. Everyone that stays later than the bouquet toss gets a doggy bag of leftover chicken tenders, beef wellington pastries and some wedding cake. How great would it be to, arrange ahead of time to have the leftover food distributed to the homeless in your area. Maybe it’s something you would book a later flight out for the honeymoon in order to participate. Take the food and spread the love of this special day with those who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. If you are worried about not having a lot of leftovers, buy extra food from the caterer to keep in the back or have your bridal party make up sandwiches the day before. Logistically, yes, this seems like a lot to take on in addition to the wedding itself, but think of the beauty of this gesture as well as the avoidance of so much wasted food.

Bring a Donation
While it may not be reasonable to ask you to write, “in lieu of gifts, bring a donation,” on your wedding invitation, you can ask your guests to bring smaller items for a specific cause. Maybe they can bring small toiletries and other items for soldiers gift boxes, school supplies for kids who can’t afford it or even canned goods for the local homeless shelter. These items are small and often inexpensive, but when combined in one effort can make a huge difference in the lives of a few and most people won’t mind the added request. You and your guests can feel great about your wedding day. Don’t forget to tally up the donations, tell them about the great cause and thank them for their generosity at the reception! Also, don’t forget to donate yourself…never ask people to do something that you are not willing to do yourself.

Bride and Groom Gift
It’s become a popular tradition to bestow a token on each other before the wedding. It can be something sentimental or something expensive. But imagine if you and your spouse, in secret, chose to do something for someone else instead. In the midst of trying wedding cakes and choosing table decorations, you and your soon-to-be could have a great deal of fun finding a charity to donate money or supplies. Maybe a family in the community has been hit hard with a cancer diagnosis and they need a few bills paid, maybe you are both animal lovers who would like help end abuse or maybe there is some great environmental cause to give to. Decide ahead of time that your bride and groom gift to each other will be looking at the world around you and helping out those in need.

Paying it forward is a great way to add perspective to the stress of planning a wedding. There are so many great ways to do something awesome for others in the midst of the craziness. Still maybe your wedding is incredibly overwhelming to you and it’s simply not feasible to add one more thing to your list…that is completely understandable. I do challenge you, however, to make a commitment to your spouse that your marriage will always include a joint effort to look up every once in a while and lend a hand those who are struggling. You will never regret the decision to give.

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