Charitable Wedding Registry

Ditch the traditional gifts and start off your relationship in a meaningful way with a charitable wedding registry. Read on and find out how to do it.

By Rachel Varina

Charitable Wedding Registry
Photo by Zola

Getting married is a very exciting time, and many wedding guests want to gift something to help the newlyweds start their lives together. Brides often wish to have a wedding shower registry, so that they can enjoy an intimate event with close friends and/or family, and receive trinkets before the wedding. Some couples want to celebrate their new bond with an epic trip with their honeymoon fund. Meanwhile, others prefer to do a cash wedding registry to buy a home or stock their house with essentials that they haven’t yet gotten.

Some couples, however, would prefer to give back. If you’re looking for a way to start your relationship off in a meaningful and impactful way, a charitable wedding registry is a beautiful choice for couples who would prefer to ditch traditional gifts (or in addition to them) and instead, help those in need.

Table of Contents:

What Is a Charitable Wedding Registry?

While the idea of a charitable wedding registry might seem pretty foreign, there’s been a major uptick in the trend in recent years. Part of the reason is that many couples are either getting married later or have lived together for some time. They already have many of the traditional items that normally have a spot on a gift registry (why get another toaster when you already have a great one?). As more and more couples and individuals are not only volunteering but also seeing the result of devastating events such as Hurricane Harvey, many views their weddings as a great time to give back in celebration of their love.

Is There Really a Charitable Wedding Registry Etiquette?

Instead of creating a traditional registry (or perhaps in addition to it), a charity wedding registry is a great way to spread your joy and get your guests involved in organizations and causes that you care about. That said, it can be a touchy topic because you’re essentially asking your guests for money.

Ensuring that your contributors not only feel respected and safe in donating but also don’t feel like they’re obligated to give is essential. From how-tos to charity suggestions, to personalizing your registry, to tactfully spreading the word, we’re breaking down everything you need to know to create the perfect charitable wedding registry that can do the most good.

Part 1: Charitable Wedding Registry Etiquette: Everything You Need to Know

It takes a little bit of finesse, creativity, and compassion to plan a wedding that fits a charitable wedding registry, but it’s a gift that will truly make a difference.

Whether you already live together and have all the pots and pans that you could ever need, you share a passion for volunteer work, you aren’t a big fan of gifts, or you just prefer to start your marriage off on a love-filled note, a charitable wedding registry checks off all the boxes in your wedding planning checklist. Here’s everything you need to keep in mind when creating your charitable wedding registry:

What Information Should You Include?

First and foremost, you’ll want to let your friends and family know why you’ve decided to create a charitable wedding registry. Did you meet while doing volunteer work abroad? Are you passionate about giving back to your community?

Do you want to celebrate your marriage with a grand, philanthropic act? In addition to why you’ve decided to opt for a wedding charity registry, you’ll want to let your contributors know what charity (or charities) you’ve chosen, why you selected those specific organizations, how the organization will receive the funds, what the funds will be used for, and how they can get involved beyond a contribution if they find that they want to support the cause(s) further.

Should You Put Your Charitable Wedding Registry on Your Invitations?

It’s never proper etiquette to include registry information on a wedding invitation or save the date. As a guest, no one is required to give the couple presents or funds—their presence is the gift. So, putting registry details on your paper goods isn’t appropriate. That said, the majority of your guests do want to know where you’re registered/how to give you gifts to celebrate your union. Utilize your wedding website and ensure that friends and family members have a link to your charitable wedding registry so that they can personally send it out if someone asks for it.

When to Create Your Charitable Wedding Registry

From the moment you get engaged, friends and family will want to start gifting, so it’s important to set up a honeymoon fund or registry ASAP. Be sure that this is at the top of your wedding checklist.

In addition to gifts for the actual wedding, people like to give items to celebrate your engagement and during showers, so having your registry set helps direct anyone who wants to get you something special for an event leading up to the big day.

While you don’t need to have your entire registry completed the day after the proposal, it’s a good idea to set a proper wedding planning timeline and get started as soon as possible, to avoid receiving random gifts that you don’t want or need.

Should You Have a Traditional Registry in Addition to Your Charitable Wedding Registry?

While plenty of guests will be more than happy to contribute to your charitable wedding registry, some might feel strange about gifting cash or would prefer to get you something tangible instead.

That’s why we always suggest adding a few items in case someone feels strongly about wrapping up a present. This is especially important for wedding showers and engagement parties since a main part of the festivities usually involves watching the couple open their gifts, and personally thanking each guest for their presents.

Luckily, Zola makes it easy to register for everything, from charitable donations to honeymoon funds, to physical gifts, all in the same place. Even if you’d prefer guests donate to the charity (or charities) of your choice, consider adding 20 or so items that friends and family can purchase, in case they’d rather get you something tangible.

These could be items that you need to be upgraded around the house, new sheets, and towels, or items for your honeymoon. Additionally, you could reach out to the charity that you’re looking to benefit from to see if they need anything. Perhaps canned goods, building supplies, or even water bottles would be a big help for them, and your guests could purchase and gift wrap those items if they wanted to physically present you with something.

If you really would rather avoid tangible items, consider tying your shower theme with your charitable aspirations to easily incorporate the cause into the celebration. Guests could share causes that are important to them, their hopes for the world, or (instead of the traditional opening of gifts) get the run-down in person from you as to why the charity is so important, as you thank them for their contributions.

How Do You Ask for Donations?

What’s great about creating a charitable wedding registry is that it’s not an all-or-nothing choice. You could have a mix of both physical gifts/donations for yourself, as well as donations to multiple causes that are important to you.

While it’s not appropriate to share registry details on paper goods, your guests will head to your website to learn where you’re registered. Share all of the details there to help your guests understand why the charities you chose are so important to you. Additionally, instead of traditional favors, you could donate to the charity and place a card on each guest’s seat explaining the donation you made and providing information if they want to donate more.

Finally, if the money dance is an important tradition to your family, you could have your MC mention that all proceeds would go to the charity fund, and provide more information for those who want to give.

Part 2: Creating Your Charitable Wedding Registry

Now that you know the proper etiquette surrounding your charitable wedding registry, it’s time to start creating yours. Here’s how to build the best fund that your guests will be eager to contribute to, and raise awareness for causes you care about:

Select Your Charity

The very first step in creating your charitable wedding registry is to decide what causes or organizations you’d like to support. Not only will this determine the best way to accept the donations, but it will help your guests feel involved. Sit down as a couple and determine not only why you want to accept donations to charity, but what sort of causes are important to each of you. If you already bond over a shared philanthropic mission—great.

Find the best organizations and resources out there to support the cause. If you’re unsure what causes to donate to, come up with a list of options and narrow it down to one to three choices that matter to both of you as a couple.

Decide How to Accept/Transfer the Donations

There are multiple ways that you can accept/transfer donations, and all are made easy through Zola. First, some organizations already have a system in place that allows guests to donate directly to them.

This can give contributors peace of mind that their contributions are going to the stated cause. Reach out to any organizations that you’re interested in to get started, and be sure to include the details and link on your wedding website so that guests can easily donate.

Additionally, by creating a cash fund at Zola, you can add different amounts for different charities and donate the funds under your name. You can register for CharityChoice or GlobalGiving gift cards that can be used for a wide variety of charities and organizations. Your guests will feel at ease knowing the funds are going to good causes, and you won’t have to stress about transferring funds.

That said, if you’d prefer to physically donate the money yourself, you could always set up a cash fund and withdraw the money to then give to your chosen causes. The first transfer usually takes up to 10 business days, all following transfers shouldn’t take more than two to four business days. Make sure to check with the charities that you're interested in donating to to see if they have any preferences or stipulations.

Add Charity Items to Your Registry

Once you know what organizations/causes you want to support and the best way to donate the funds, you’ll want to consider breaking up the donations into different categories. If you can donate funds toward specific aspects of a charity (such as food or running water), raise funds based on what the biggest need is and what areas you feel most passionate about.

If, however, the organizations you love just take lump sums, be sure to outline exactly what the cause is, what the funds will go toward, and why you care about this organization in your descriptions. This will help your guests understand why you’re forgoing a blender for providing better healthcare for children in need. Zola has a wide variety of options, and from charity gift cards to cash funds, there are many ways that you can give back.

Add Additional Gifts/Experiences

While you might prefer your guests donate to your charitable wedding registry, some friends and family would rather give you something tangible. Even if you hint that you want contributions to the cause you love, chances are there will be a few people who (virtually) head to the store to get something you can unwrap.

To avoid being gifted items you don’t want or won’t use, register for a few gifts in addition to your charitable wedding registry. Think about things you might use on your next philanthropic trips such as travel pillows, luggage, or plug converters; or, reach out to your favorite organizations to see if there’s anything they’re low on. By registering for some items, you’ll give guests the chance to purchase something tangible, while still supporting your charitable goals. At Zola, you can register for charitable causes, cash funds, and actual gifts all in one convenient location.

Consider Your Placement

As you’re adding items to your wedding registry, it’s important to pay attention to where they land on the page. How you organize your registry items might play a major role in what people purchase/contribute to. Place the gifts or causes you care most about at the top right and the bottom because as people read from left to right, they’re more likely to remember the items in those spaces. Additionally, guests are more likely to remember the items that are at the top and bottom of your registry, so sort your items to ensure that your causes get the most attention.

Mention Tax Deductions

It’s not too often you can get a tax dedication for giving a wedding present, but that’s one of the big plus sides for guests who contribute to your charitable wedding registry. If you register for charity gift cards such as GlobalGiving, your guests will be making a US-tax deductible donation they can write off.

Additional Fees

Zola not only makes it easy to create a charitable wedding registry cash fund, but also to utilize it. Since all credit card companies charge a fee to transfer money online, you can expect whatever company you utilize to charge a service fee.

If you decide to utilize a cash fund for your charitable registry, Zola’s is officially the lowest service fee at 2.4 percent (and we never take anything extra or make money off your funds), so you can be assured that your causes will get the most money from the donations. You can either have guests pay the fee with their contribution or you can absorb it on their behalf. Either way, rest assured that you're getting the best rate around at Zola.

Part 3: Your Wedding Website: The Complement to Your Charitable Wedding Registry

Your wedding website is the end-all-be-all wedding resource for your guests. Not only does it make all the information about your wedding accessible (especially if someone misplaces their paper goods and forgets the ceremony details), but it’s a great way to help your guests to know more about you and your relationship. There are many free wedding websites available for you to choose from. So, don’t miss this step.

In addition to adding details such as the wedding venues, schedule, and travel information, spend some time outlining your relationship and why supporting your chosen causes is important to your bond. Your friends and family will be more likely to contribute to your charitable wedding registry if they know more about why the organizations matter to you as a couple.

Explain Your Love Story

Did you meet while volunteering at a soup kitchen, or did you bond over your shared passion for giving back? What makes you excited about incorporating charitable donations into your wedding? Is helping the community integral to your relationship, or is this a goal of yours as a new family?

Your guests will feel much more connected to your cause after learning more about your relationship. Does your SO walk shelter dogs every Saturday? Do you run a 5k each year supporting an important cause? Explain what makes your bond special and why philanthropy is a big part of it for anyone who might not know you as personally.

Talk About Why You Chose a Charitable Wedding Registry

Deciding where to forgo a traditional registry (or in addition to it) and opt for a charitable wedding registry is a big deal, and chances are that your guests are eager to learn more about your decision. They’ll be much more likely to donate if they know why you care about these specific causes and what led you to the organization, so don’t hold back.

Outline what your charitable journey has been like so far, what makes you feel inspired to help these specific causes, and what your charitable goals are for the future. Explain how you decided to opt-out of gifts and why their support will mean so much to you. Chances are, there will be a few people who support the same cause and would be happy to donate, whereas others might be eager to learn more about the organizations you support and find more ways to get involved beyond their donations.

Tell Your Guests About The Charity or Charities

What is it about your chosen causes that resonate with you as a couple? Did a family member beat cancer and receive aid from the organization, or did you fall in love while doing volunteer work abroad for this nonprofit? Explain what these specific charities and causes are important to you, and outline what makes them so great.

What are the funds used for? How are they used? How much has the organization raised so far, and what makes them stand out? Your guests want peace of mind when donating, so offer as many details, statistics, and resources as possible so they can contribute stress-free.

Part 4: 4 Ways to Personalize Your Charitable Wedding Registry

Yay! You’ve decided to create a charitable wedding registry, and you’ve already chosen the organizations/causes you want to support, as well as how you’d like to donate, whether it’s via gift cards, a cash fund, or physical items. You’ve come a long way, but before calling it a day, take some time to make your charitable wedding registry stand out. By adding specific details, giving your guests insight as to why these causes matter, and showing them just how much their contributions mean to you, you’re more likely to get donations to help those in need.

#1 Be Honest and Passionate

Being honest and vulnerable is the best way to connect to your guests, so as you’re building your charitable wedding registry, be sure to open up. It can be hard, but letting them know why it’s important to support these causes will not only encourage them to donate but might spark their philanthropic interests too.

#2 Explain Where the Funds Would Go

Not only do your guests want to know about the causes you care about, but they want to learn how their donations will be used. Gifting money and donating to your chosen charity is a very personal decision on their end, and wanting to know how the cash will be used is probably a major factor for them.

Find out what, exactly, the funds are used for within the organization, offer information about the charity’s validity, and be willing to answer questions/put guests in contact with a representative of the organization if they would like further info.

#3 Keep Your Guests Updated

Your guests want to know that the charities and causes they donated to are receiving the funds, so keep them updated. If you’re withdrawing the cash and donating the contributions in person, snap a photo to send with your thank you notes. If you’re utilizing gift cards or direct links to organizations, let your guests know once the organization has received the donations, and thank your guests again for being a part of your philanthropic mission.

#4 Talk About Your Charitable Plans

If you plan for a lifetime of giving back, let your friends and relatives know about your goals. Will you volunteer at a food drive every Thanksgiving? Do you plan to take a philanthropic trip each year to build schools abroad? Inspire your guests to keep giving back after their initial donations. You never know; you might just turn a few of your loved ones into new, inspired philanthropists.

Zola: The Ultimate Charitable Wedding Registry Tool

Deciding to have a charitable wedding registry is a personal and noble decision. While the concept is still fairly new, more and more couples are opting to create charitable wedding registries, as opposed to (or in addition to) traditional registries.

Whether you decide to forgo tangible items altogether or you select a mix of both, Zola makes it easy to register for everything—from gifts to charitable donations—all in one convenient location.

GlobalGiving and Charitable Choice will direct your guests’ cash gifts towards charities working for an end to world hunger, disease prevention, disaster recovery, and education, as well as many other causes. Plus, every Zola registry comes with a registry advisor who can answer any questions and help advise you when creating the best charitable wedding registry possible.

Whether you upgrade your kitchen or donate to your favorite causes, all that matters is that you find the best way to celebrate the start of marriage together. When in doubt, a charitable wedding registry will ensure that you’re starting the next chapter of your life together on a good foot, by sharing your love and luck with the world.

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