Brides and grooms everywhere are usually showered with all kinds of wedding gifts, often duplicates, or items the couple doesn't want. Many American couples make the process easier with a list of desired gifts, which their guests may choose from. But, instead of soliciting china, linens and electric appliances, a growing number of newlyweds are asking their wedding guests to make donations in their honor to charities.
Weddings have changed a lot in the ten years since Carley Roney co-founded a wedding party planning company.
"The average wedding in American now costs about $25,000 and it can easily be double that in a big city. So people have to save up to have the wedding that they want," she says. "They've got their own style, and they've got their own money because they have been working for a while. So their weddings are very much their events, versus in times past when weddings were their parents' events."
But, Roney says, the gift registry remains a useful tool, facilitating the process for everyone involved in wedding gift giving. "The bride and groom go to their favorite store, whether it is a store that has china and housewares, or a store that has linens, and they pick what suits their taste," she says. "Then, the wedding guests can easily purchase that gift that's exactly what the couple wants. So, the guests don't have to look far and wide for a unique gift and wonder what the couple wants, and the couple gets exactly what they want."
Because Americans are getting married later, and often already have all the kitchen and home appliances they need, gift registries are expanding to new categories that reflect the life style of couples today. Many are registering at different kinds of stores, requesting tools, or camping gear.
And since September 2001, Carley Roney says, a new trend has emerged. "Couples today really want to show there is a deeper meaning to this event for them," she says. "So, we are finding that couples are involving charitable donations through larger organizations. There is an organization called the I Do Foundation where you can set up your registry through them. So every time someone buys a gift, the stores themselves where the gifts are brought are going to give a percentage of that money to a charity of your choice."
Bethany Robertson, spokeswoman for the I Do Foundation says they also offer another option called the Charity Registry where guests can make a donation in place of a gift. "So instead of buying a $110 blender, maybe they are going out and making a $100 donation."
In addition, Robertson says some couples choose to make donations in honor of their wedding guests instead of handing out party favors. "Traditionally, Americans give little gifts to their guests at the tables," she says. "That could be a votive candle, it could be a little picture frame, it could be a shot glass. It's a nice expression to the guests, to say thank you, but these items sometimes just get left on the table, or people take them home and don't know what to do with them."
Robertson says couples "love this idea of making a donation instead of a traditional favor." She says the I Do Foundation gives lets couples choose the charitable cause or groups they want donations to go to and prints a note for each guest that says: "Thank you so much for being part of our day. In your honor, we've made a donation.'"
"We see a lot of interest in groups like Doctors Without Borders, Children International," she says. "We also have a lot of couples who like to support the American Cancer Society, especially in honor of a relative who may have been affected by cancer. It's really across the spectrum. And what's really unique about the program is it allows people to personalize their giving."
Andrea Robertson - no relation to Bethany Robertson - is busy preparing for her upcoming wedding. She learned about Charitable Registries just recently.
"I was looking through a typical bridal magazine, trying to find ideas for a dress, and when I was looking, there was a tiny paragraph on one page," she says. "It was actually suggested for people who are getting married for the second time that maybe already had a household established and didn't need gifts, suggesting other ideas for them to do. But I thought it was a wonderful idea."
Andrea and her fiancé, William, got very excited about the idea and followed up on it.
"We have contributed through the I Do Foundation to their Social Justice Fund, which is a group of charities that are interested in civil rights, legal issues, women's education and those sort of issues," she says. "My fiancé and I are both very interested in equal rights for all citizens and so that's what we've targeted in our charity."
Andrea Robertson says most of her relatives and friends hadn't heard about charitable wedding registries either. However, she says, the feedback she has gotten from them so far is positive and encouraging. She hopes that she and William will be part of not just a trend, but a new wedding tradition.