Give A Donation In Lieu of a Wedding Favor

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I’ve always thought the idea of giving a donation in lieu of a wedding favor seemed like a win-win situation. The couple doesn’t have to fret over what to give, and some worthy cause gets a nice donation that otherwise would have gone to buy truffles, scented candles or something else less meaningful/useful to wedding guests. But when I started asking around, I was surprised to find that donation wedding favors rub some people the wrong way!

The gripes generally fell into two categories; either the guest was offended by the choice of organization for political or social reasons, or the guest thinks charity is a private matter and that announcing the donation in lieu of a wedding favor is tacky. But with careful planning, I think there is a way to tastefully and tactfully structure these special wedding favors.

Choose Wisely
Your first step when planning to donate is choosing the charity. If you’ve lost loved ones to a particular disease or disorder, you may want to give donation wedding favors to an organization working to find a cure. Perhaps you’re a dog lover? Find an animal shelter in your area in need of donations. Crazy about kids? Your donation wedding favors could help fund a literacy program or send a child to summer camp.

While you want to choose a cause you’re passionate about supporting, keep in mind that not everyone shares your passions. So when giving a donation in lieu of a wedding favor, you may want to save the major political or social statements for another time.

Spread the Word
You certainly don’t have to tell your guests that you made a donation in lieu of a wedding favor, but for many couples this is an important opportunity to publicly memorialize a loved one, honor someone special or to celebrate something important.

A low key way to announce your donation wedding favors is to print favor tags or cards with a short message and leave them at each place setting. You might consider putting a note on the back of the menu or leaving a small edible treat with a tag attached explaining the donation in lieu of a wedding favor.

Some larger charitable organizations such as the American Cancer Society will even do the work for you by printing favor cards or tags announcing your donation. Often there is no minimum donation required for this service and the groups are experienced in helping craft tasteful ways to tell guests about this trendy, new idea in wedding favors that give back.

In Your Name?
Keep in mind that telling guests that you’ve made a donation in their name could ruffle some feathers if they don’t want to be associated with the group you’ve chosen. When planning your donation wedding favors making it “in honor” of a particular person or in celebration of a passion is a safe way to go. For example;

“Mother and Sister of the Bride, Mrs. Marilyn Kerr and Mrs. Susan Siebel, are dearly missed and forever in our hearts. In their honor, we’ve made a donation to FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer EmpoweredNational Ovarian Cancer Coalition and The American Cancer Society, in lieu of a traditional wedding favor.”

“In celebration of our love of all creatures great and small, a donation in lieu of a wedding favor has been made to the ASPCA. Thanks for sharing our day.”

Favors that Give
If you’re not completely sold on a donation in lieu of a wedding favor, consider buying a product that is tied to a charity. For example, when you purchase Plantable Pink Ribbon Favor cards, the Pink Ribbon Favor BoxesPink Ribbon votive candles or any selection of Breast Cancer favors a portion of the proceeds helps fund breast cancer research. Plus, your guests each get a cool paper card which they plant and grow a flower or tree so they are not only charitable, they’re green and Earth friendly too!

Final Tip
However you choose to present your donation in lieu of a wedding favor, the actual amount contributed should be kept private. Mentioning a dollar amount or directly collecting donations from your guests is considered an etiquette no-no.

In the end, will you ruffle any feathers with your donation wedding favors? Perhaps. But when the gift comes from the heart and is thoughtfully presented I think you have little to worry about. Enjoy your day, and enjoy the feeling of giving back.

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  1. Pingback: The Wedding Lens - Wedding Favors Blog

  2. Leah

    I want to make a donation to a children’s burn unit for my wedding that is taking place this July. When I was 9 years old, I was severely burned on my right heel and it took months of therapy to learn to walk again. I was wondering if anyone knew of a specific children’s burn unit I could donate to. I was treated at a children’s hospital, but would like my donation to be at a specific burn unit if possible. Any ideas will help, thanks.

  3. donna

    Leah – I’m sorry to hear about your accident.
    There are so many pediatric burn units in the United States. Perhaps call your local hospital and ask for a recommendation for a local burn unit.
    Here is a list of burn centers in the US:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_burn_centers_in_the_United_States
    Yours is a fine and generous gesture. Have a wonderful wedding and married life.

  4. Rosemarie

    This is a very informative article! I would like to add that bookmarks are a popular way for couples to tell their guests a donation has been made in lieu of traditional wedding favors.

  5. hanna

    i was thinking of using your suggestion above to have the ACS print the scrolls for us, however, it appears that they now charge $3/scroll on top of the $80 for printing up to 100 of them…

  6. donna

    I could see how that might seem pricey but it is for charity. I’ve seen wedding favors that cost more. I suppose the ACS has to cover their costs for printing and make a profit for the charity. Sorry it doesn’t fit in your budget. Maybe, if you have good handwriting, you can make a donation and print cards to let yourguests know. Maybe this could be done on your computer too.

  7. donna

    Here is an interesting quip from Miss Manners on suggesting charities to which to give in lieu of sending a wedding gift. http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/sep/07/charity-wedding-gifts-leave-reader-confused-about/

  8. Alexia

    My daughter has a rare disease that is life threatening. There is a foundation set up with the disease she has, and they offer for you to make a donation. I was wondering since it can ruffle peoples feathers on what charitable donation you make to what organization. I was wondering if it would be okay to do it in Honor of my daughter on behalf of out guest as our favors for our wedding in April. I think it is, cause it is for a good cause to help find a cure, and most all the guest know my daughter and our situation. Thanks

    Alexia

  9. Top Wedding Sites

    Alexia – I’m so sorry for your trials.

    Please go to Top Wedding Questions to post and you’ll get experts in the etiquette and wedding industry to answer directly.

  10. barbarap

    This is a great article.

    My mother died of breast cancer seven months before my sister was married. She had a local printer create angel shaped cards with a note about how much she was missed and the fact that in lieu of favors, a donation was being made to support FORCE: Facing our Risk of Cancer Empowered. This is a non-profit I”m a vice president of. Since all our friends and relatives knew of my Mom’s illness and that our family was at risk, this was very well received. Personally – I would MUCH rather have a newly married couple start their lives with the good karma of a donation rather than giving me a a little trinket :)

  11. Laura

    I whole heartedly disagree with the charity donation as wedding favors if the couple has a traditional registry instead of a charity registry.

    I have a friend getting married this summer. She’s a great person and it sounds like she’s planning a lovely wedding. I like most of her choices with one exception. She’s decided to donate to charity instead of doing wedding favors. Ok, so why does that bother me? Well, because she and her fiance are young and just starting out their lives and their registry has EVERYTHING on it from appliances to a grill to anything you need for the kitchen, house… whatever. They’re hopeful that people will be generous with them and help them start their new lives. So I find it kind of tacky to say “Hey, we need tons of stuff, but we aren’t giving you anything to keep in return.” I mean, it’s not like I need the little photo frame or the box of two chocolates. I do realize that wedding favors are often things that aren’t really used. But they are a memento and a token and I like seeing how each couple chooses to express themselves.

    That said, if a couple has a charity registry (and I’ve encountered this) and is not asking for gifts for themselves, then the charity donation instead of favor is a beautiful gesture.

  12. Top Wedding Sites

    Actually, Laura, favors are optional. Guests don’t have to be thanked for giving a wedding gift with a gift. That makes no sense since when will that loop end? I’ll give you a gift because you gave me a gift, and then you’ll give me a gift to thank me for giving you a gift? The favor is just a little something to thank the guest for joining the couple for the wedding, but it’s not obligatory.

  13. KAREN

    You folks that think it is wrong for bridal couples to donate to charity are cheap. Since when should the guests get presents? What generation are you from? I think most of th money spent on a wedding is wasted and so much more should go to charity. The USA is so wasteful we spend million on storage units to store stuff we don’t use then go to Walmart and buy more.

    And personally, I could care less if a guest is offended at my choice of charities.

  14. Top Wedding Sites

    Karen – although I agree with some of what you said, we should always care what our guest thinks. After all, we love and care enough about them to witness such a personal event. Without guests you would be standing alone in a reception hall. And, we should thank them, but it doesn’t have to be with gifts.

  15. Beth

    Laura I disagree.. You’re already providing guests a great meal, entertainment, and alcohol for those having an open bar. What’s so wrong with something doing something nice in the world and donating instead of wasting money on candy on coasters at a wedding? I just went to a wedding that had absolutely no favors at all. That, I disagree with. I hope other brides consider charity donations in the future!

  16. Top Wedding Sites

    Favors are an extra way to thank guests for coming to the wedding. No favors is fine since you’re already entertaining your guests and, hopefully, verbally thanking each and ever one who comes.

  17. Top Wedding Sites

    For my son’s wedding, he and his bride wanted to make a donation to 2 charities they admire and support. So, with the help of our long time client, Rimma Todd from MyDesignSensations.com, we created a little sign that explained the donation. But they also gave out small favors for the guests to take home.

    wedding favor donation

  18. Matt, PA

    Like my Mom said, we ended up donating to two different organizations. Once we committed to the idea of donating, it was hard to choose just two; there are so many great organizations out there. We ended up choosing FORCE, which is a cancer advocacy group, and the Mid-Atlantic Bulldog Rescue. Both were personally meaningful and I am glad we did it. I’m not going to get into the money, but donate whatever you can comfortably afford, and be proud of it.

    Other than consumables like candy, wine, etc. (which are great IMO), I’ve never been too impressed with wedding favors. A donation just made more sense to me. This is just my opinion, but if you are upset because I donated to a good cause instead of buying you some wedding nicknack, then I’m not sure how you got an invite in the first place…. but I digress!

    Rimma made us a beautiful sign to let people know about our donations, and in the end, these personalized special touches made the day that much more special. Don’t get lazy with the small details, they made a huge difference.

  19. Wedding Planning Books

    I think this is a really great idea, even though I do run a personalised chocolate business (where many people use as personalised wedding favours), and one I think deserves promoting. Having been around the Weddings markets for years, these days it seems to be one long gravy train. Something like this seems to me to be more meaningful. As for rubbing up your guests the wrong way…..hmmm, I personally wouldn’t worry too much if it was my wedding and my choice.
    Warm wishes,
    Caroline J

  20. stephanie

    Until recently, I’d never heard of making a donation to a charity in lieu of wedding favors….personally, i think it’s tacky and more for the couple than the guests…The whole point of the favor is to make your guest feel special. Sure, the wedding is not about the guests, but the couple. But, if people are making a special effort to travel to the wedding and give a nice gift, i think some sort of wedding momento is in order. Unless it’s a charity that will honor the bride or an important family member (for example if the bride or mother went through breast cancer). I also think it’s an easy way out for couples who don’t want to be bothered putting the time in to assemble favors. Really,at the least, how costly and difficult is it to assemble little bags of candy and tie them up w/ those tin wedding rings?

  21. Top Wedding Sites

    I agree with some of what you say, Stephanie. You do have to be careful when selecting a donation as your favor because the favor is a gift, and we should never give a gift and then give that gift away without asking. But, wedding favors are totally optional, additional gifts for your guests. After all, the guests are being treated to an evening of dining, dancing and drinks (in most cases), which is why it’s always expected to have some sort of reception following the wedding.

    Couples who give a donation, probably are not doing it because they’re too lazy to tie up a favor bag. It’s usually because they feel like a small trinket like that is wasteful (not saying I agree with it, just making note of what people tell me) and pooling what they spend on a favor into one donation would have some greater impact.

    The best way around this is to give both or none, or make the donation but don’t say it’s in lieu of a favor. In that case, perhaps it could just be a donation in honor of a person who is missing from the wedding, which can be mentioned in the wedding program as a memorial.

  22. Cara

    My fiance and I are planning to give a donation in lieu of wedding favors. My mother passed away from Ovarian cancer and her graduating class alma mater has created a scholarship in her name. My fiance’s best friend was killed after being hit by a car while riding his bike and has a charity race in his name each year that raises money for bicycle safety. We were planning to make a donation to each charity, but what do you think about the idea to completely leave off mentioning that they are in lieu of wedding favors and to just simply say something along the lines of “Mother of the Bride, “name”, and dear friend of the groom, “name”, are sorely missed on this special day. In their memory we have chosen to make a donation to X and X charities.” I am very shocked to read that donations rub some people the wrong way…how selfish in my opinion! My guests consist of our closest family and dear friends who I believe would love and support this idea as most of them know my mother and his best friend. I personally would be offended if someone were to say it rubbed them the wrong way after providing them with free food, an open bar, and live entertainment for an evening. One side note: I’m not sure if people include wedding party gifts as weddng favors but those to me are two separate things and 100% are gifts we plan to buy for our wedding party.

  23. Top Wedding Sites

    The idea that people might get “rubbed the wrong way” stems from giving to charities that your guest might not support (political donations is one that comes to mind quickly). Plus, it’s a bit like saying, I got you a gift (Ms Guest) but I’m giving it to someone else (who needs it more). My son and his bride decided to do both; give to charity and give a small favor, to cover all their bases, but I understand that many can’t afford to do that. (Don’t shoot the messenger here – I am just reporting. It’s not my opinion!) :-)

    I think your intentions are well meaning and from the heart.

    On a more personal note – My whole family has been affected by Ovarian cancer, so I really feel for you Cara. I know what it’s like to be getting married without mom – bittersweet for sure.

    After the wedding and when you’re all settled, check out this group that focuses on Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer They have some good information for those of us who have had to deal with the deadliest female cancer.

  24. Tara

    My fiance and I are making a donation to the National MS Society as this is something, I was recently diagnosed with. We did purchase bracelets that our guests will have the option of taking with as a memento as well. Most charities have bracelets, pins, etc that you could give as favors that tie nicely in with the donation. (plus that is more money for the charity!!!)

  25. Hannah

    This brings up a great idea. Why not give a donation to the couple’s favourite charity in lieu of a wedding gift.

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