It seems more and more brides and grooms are building charitable giving into their wedding plans, whether to honor a loved one who would have been part of their special day or simply because their own cabinets and closets are already well equipped. "Whatever the reason, incorporating charitable giving into their wedding lets couples share what's important to them," says Bethany Robertson, executive director of the I Do Foundation, a group that sets up such registries.
If the idea of setting up a charitable registry appeals to you, but you're not sure what organization you'd like to support, you can do some research on websites such as CharityNavigator.org or JustGive.org. Giving to charity comes with an added bonus -- a tax deduction for the donor.
GlobalGiving.com: Love animals? Provide shelter for neglected horses, or help feed orphaned baby cheetahs.
IDoFoundation.org: Crazy for kids? Give to the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, or gift children with books.
JustGive.org: Eco-minded? Support your national parks, or even donate fruit trees to underprivileged families.
Alternatively, you can contact a charity directly and try to strike your own deal allowing guests to make donations; be sure the organization will notify you of contributions so you can acknowledge the gifts. Under both scenarios, "the person who gets the tax deduction is the one who writes the check," says Greg Rosica, a tax partner with Ernst & Young in Tampa.
Despite your good intentions, some guests might feel more comfortable buying a tangible wedding present, so it's a good idea to set up a traditional registry with at least one store. But even those gifts can yield fruit for your cause. Many retailers, including Macy's, Target, Linens 'n Things, and Sur La Table, have partnered with organizations like the I Do Foundation to give 3 percent to 8 percent of your registry sales to your chosen charity. For this to happen, guests must access the retailer's registry through the I Do Foundation's website (but in this case, they cannot claim a tax deduction).
Since it's not appropriate to include registry information in the invitation, you can share it on your wedding website, if you have one, or just let guests know should they ask.
Rather than doling out classic favors, some couples designate that portion of the budget to charity, and make a donation on behalf of their guests (here, the couple gets the tax write-off). Many nonprofits have programs in place to accept this kind of contribution; in exchange for the donation, they give a couple printed cards to distribute to guests stating that a gift has been made. The American Cancer Society, for instance, will even let you personalize the wording.
Giving money isn't the only option. You might have your best man drop off the centerpieces at a hospital or retirement home after the reception, or ask your caterer to arrange a pickup of leftover nonperishables for a food bank. And your gown or bridesmaids' dresses may be put to good use by a women's group. When all is done, you may discover that the rewarding feeling you get from giving is as valuable as any keepsake.
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