While making their wedding plans last year, Sarah Ramsay and her finance, Michael, discovered a unique opportunity to give back to animal welfare by raising money for the Humane Society of Golden Valley in Minneapolis, Minn., which had united them with their beloved Poodle-Shih Tzu mix, Lucy.
“We both knew that we had very little need for gifts and felt strongly that our wedding was ‘consumerist’ enough without having to add to it, so I started looking up charitable foundations online,” Sarah said. In the New York Times, she came upon the I Do Foundation, a charity allowing wedding guests to make donations in lieu of traditional wedding gifts.
The Ramsays represent a growing majority of engaged couples who live together before marriage and already own the toasters and silverware one typically finds on a registry. Increasingly, couples welcome the opportunity to offset the $125 billion spent annually on weddings by giving back to charity, while allowing them to further personalize the event by choosing an organization close to their hearts, in this case animal welfare.
“We are forever thankful that the Humane Society was there so that Lucy could find her way to us,” Sarah said. Of the three charities that Sarah and Michael chose to include in their wedding registry, she noted that the Humane Society was “by far” the most popular among their guests.
Although the Ramsay’s found love before Lucy’s time, many couples owe finding their mate to their pet—all the more reason to honor the canine companions.
Branching out Melissa Balfour noticed broad-reaching organizations like the I Do Foundation, and was inspired to launch the Biscuit Fund Wedding Registry and Favor program as part of the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 2007. “I’d seen it done with other charities and thought, why not for animals?” One way to support the fund, which covers veterinary costs of homeless, injured and wild animals, is for couples to offer donations in lieu of party favors for their guests.
“This is a really popular aspect of the program,” Balfour said. “Some couples use it as a way to include a family pet in the celebration by making a donation on Fluffy’s behalf, while others find it to be a sentimental way to remember a former family pet that has passed on.”
Great for guests
Besides supporting a great cause, charitable registries offer guests a simple solution to finding the perfect gift, one that happens to be tax deductible. Couples registering with the Biscuit Fund send a notice of their wishes alongside their wedding invitations, directing guests to a Web site that generates a tax receipt once a donation is made.
“The best part is that they could give online and immediately receive a tax-deductible receipt, making the whole experience very simple,” Ramsay said of the I Do Foundation, which operates similarly.
Everyone wants to take part
Charitable weddings are becoming so popular that even the animals themselves are doing it. In October 2007, Barb Emmett, of Mohnton, Pa.’s “Godfrey’s Welcome to Dogdom,” planned a wedding honoring two dogs in her dog playgroup. Traditional wedding fare including a photographer, food and decorations were all donated and $10 tickets were sold, $5 a dog, to witness the unusual celebration. In the end, the event raised $1,400 from ticket and raffle sales, 100 percent of which went to the Berks County Animal Rescue League. Not just for dogs and cats
In 2007, the World Wildlife Fund noticed the burgeoning trend of environmentally conscious weddings and, joining forces with JustGive, launched its own charitable wedding registry. While JustGive offers couples the opportunity to compose individual registries similar to the I Do Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund is the only organization they have partnered with to design an exclusive service.
“Todays couples are aware of issues affecting the world around them and want to affect change,” said Terry Macko, vice president of membership and partner marketing for the World Wildlife Fund. “Instead of getting a truckload of items they don’t really need, many couples are deciding to use the occasion to tastefully raise funds for a cause they care about.” As part of its environmental conservation mission, the World Wildlife Fund works to protect endangered species like tigers, giant pandas and whales.
If a couple is interested in making their wedding a charitable occasion, but don’t have an organization in mind, JustGive allows a search by category to find the perfect match. One might discover the International Bird Rescue Research Center, which treats aquatic birds harmed by recent oil spills. With weddings averaging 165 guests, the bride and groom are in a unique position to raise awareness of timely issues.
For all occasions
A wedding is a great place to start a lifelong celebration of a favorite animal charity, and JustGive offers gift certificates usable for any celebration. “Michael and I felt good about what we had done,” Ramsay said of her experience. Including a charity in life’s special events is not only a great way to give back, but also a great gift for you.
Reviewed by Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS and John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhD
By Barbara Sharnack fro WebVet