Couples find a bigger purpose on wedding day

If charity starts at home, and forming a home often starts with a wedding, why not turn the wedding into an event to raise money for charity?

And more to the point, why spend money on silly party favors like magnets inscribed with the couple’s initials, or mugs embossed with their, uh, mugs?

“Party favors are such a waste,” said Allyson Stone, 27, the marketing director at City Winery, an event space in New York, who is to marry Isaac Hattem on Nov. 14. “A lot of people don’t even take them.”

Instead of dropping big bucks on something that cannot be properly regifted, and with the goal of “doing something for a greater good,” Stone and Hattem are making a $1,000 donation in honor of their guests to the Blue Card, an organization that provides financial assistance to Holocaust survivors.

The charity had personal resonance for the couple: The maternal grandparents of Hattem, 28, a business development associate in New York, were incarcerated in concentration camps, and his mother and aunt volunteer for the Blue Card.

“Couples want to feel like there’s a bigger purpose to their wedding day — that it’s not just about them,” said Kim Forrest, the editor of the website WeddingWire.

“If giving back is an important part of the couple’s life together, why not incorporate that into their celebration?”

CHARITABLE GIFT registries, of course, allow guests to donate to causes close to the couple’s hearts. But more wedding couples are putting up their own money and making donations in honor of their guests. An informal, unscientific survey by WeddingWire of users of its site who had a wedding in the last six months found that 12 percent made donations to a charitable organization as part of guest favors.

Before Kaleigh Hussey-Tomich and Matt Corbett were married in 2012, they had sponsored a child in Amri, India, through World Vision.

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“We thought, how cool would it be to give a monetary donation to the community that our sponsored child was in?” said Corbett, a United Methodist pastor who serves at the Bishop Janes United Church in Basking Ridge, N.J. “I made up these tiny cards with pictures that said where the money was going to in honor of our sponsored child.” The couple sent $300 to World Vision’s project in Amri.

Jenna Luka-Kapello and John Kapello had a small wedding ceremony in Pittsburgh in May. At the reception, their guests received the gift of a stemless wineglass with a card affixed noting that the couple had made a donation to the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.

“It was important for us to do something nice for someone else on our wedding day,” said Luka-Kapello, 35, a finance counselor at a university in Pittsburgh. “And our guests knew that by being part of our special day, they did something nice for someone else just by being there.”

Forrest said some large organizations offer their own wedding favor alternatives, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the American Diabetes Association, which can provide items noting donations such as bookmarks, stickers and place cards.

But she has seen a rise in the use by couples of smaller charities that have special significance to them — the animal shelter from which they adopted their dog, say, or an association that helped a loved one.

Maya Silver, 29, a magazine editor, and Casey Coleman, 29, a paramedic, made a wedding-related donation to the Foundation Fighting Blindness. They were inspired to do so when Silver learned that her 92-year-old grandmother, who has macular degeneration, was unable to travel from her home in Baltimore to the couple’s May 24 wedding in Boulder, Colo.

“When I found out my grandma couldn’t officially come, I knew I wanted to do something,” Silver said. “I felt so guilty that I wasn’t having the wedding in Baltimore, where she is.” The couple made note of their $300 donation to the foundation on their wedding website.

BRYAN RAFANELLI, an event producer in New York who planned Chelsea Clinton’s wedding to Marc Mezvinsky, and that of actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson to Justin Mikita, said that when clients bring up the dreaded postnuptial knickknack, he often suggests — gently — that they give to charity instead.

“Think about how powerful that is,” Rafanelli said. “It’s one of those great pay-it-forward stories.”

According to Candy Culver, a spokeswoman for the I Do Foundation, an organization that helps those preparing to marry with charitable favors and the establishment of charitable gift registries, the average wedding in which I Do participated raised $703 in 2014, up from $689 the previous year.

Others are pairing their unions with charitable giving that has a political point of view.

As gifts to each guest at their July 2012 wedding, Ferguson, 39, and Mikita, 29, a lawyer, designed a bow tie that they purchased from Tie the Knot, the foundation they started to raise funds for LGBT equality. They handed them out to guests as they were leaving.

“There was no question for us about making donations to a marriage-equality charity,” Mikita said in an email.

Some couples, like Steve Yee, 54, and Erich Theophile, 56, who own a design firm in New York, decide to forgo not just wedding favors, but also the big wedding ceremony. Instead, in November 2013, the couple opted for a quick ceremony in front of Justice Milton A. Tingling in New York, followed in February by a cocktail party and dinner for 60 friends, at which they announced they were endowing a lecture series about marriage and family issues at Brown University, Yee’s alma mater.

“Our thinking was, how do we get more people to talk openly about same-sex marriage?” Yee said.

The first lecture March 5 featured two lawyers, David Boies, a Democrat, and Theodore Olson, a Republican, who had teamed up to argue before the Supreme Court in favor of same-sex marriage.

EXACTLY ONE year ago, Nicole Bassi, 31, and Matthew Adam, 37, made their vows at Chateau La Mer in Lindenhurst, N.Y. Their 130 guests left with a five-pack of minitruffles tied with a ribbon announcing donations to the Wounded Warrior Project and the American Cancer Society.

“I’ve been to a ton of weddings, and I don’t seem to ever use the favors people give us, although they’re very thoughtful,” said Bassi, who works in the credit department at the Macrolease Corp., a fitness equipment finance company in Plainview, N.Y.

“I wanted to make a donation, but I wanted to have something tangible to give guests,” she said. “This made sense, so they could eat it and not shove it in a drawer.”

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