How to Ask for Charity Donations in Lieu of Wedding Gifts

Two hands holding pink breast cancer ribbons.

Once upon a time, wedding gifts were an essential part of starting “adult life.” Many couples were still living with their parents before saying “I do,” and as a result they had none of the trappings necessary for life on their own. No kitchen appliances, no home decor, not even a tasteful throw blanket for the living room! On their wedding day, friends and family wouldn’t just gather to celebrate their love—they would prepare them for living as a husband and wife.

These days, couples are often cohabitating long before they walk down the aisle. This means that many of them have flatware, small kitchen appliances, decorative vases for the mantle, and frankly they just don’t need any more!

So, what should wedding guests get for the couple who already has everything? One option is a donation to their favorite charity. As a bride or groom, here’s how you can ask your wedding guests to donate to a charity instead of hitting up a gift registry.

Choose a Charity that’s Important to You

The main reason an engaged couple might choose to have donations made to charity instead of registering for wedding gifts is because they want to feel good about their impact on the world. In fact, that’s one major reason why anyone donates to charity; according to the National Institutes of Health, donating triggers pleasure centers in the brain and gives you the warm fuzzies.

Therefore, it’s important that you choose a charity you really, really like—and that you explain your reasoning to your guests. Make sure everyone knows what the charity does, why they’re a valuable and noble organization, and how their donations will help make the world a better place. This information will make your guests more likely to donate, and they’ll be happier about it, too!

Include the Charity Info on an Enclosure Card with Your Invitation

A hand inserting a small red heart into a charity donation box.

When you send out wedding invitations these days, it’s common to include an enclosure card with information about your wedding registry. The card gives your guests the information they need, without putting the word “gift” directly on your invite (writing about gifts on the invite itself is considered poor etiquette, as it seems to make gifts the focus of your event).

If you don’t want any gifts, an enclosure card is the best way to ask your loved ones for donations. Simply write something like:

“In lieu of gifts, please donate to [insert charity name here], an organization close to our hearts.”

If there’s space, you can include a small blurb about the charity and what they do. Otherwise, you can simply put a link to their website! Then, use your wedding website to gush about your chosen charity and give your guests key information on how to donate (where to send checks, how to get receipts for tax purposes, etc.).

A quick note on donation amounts: when you ask for donations, you should NEVER dictate how large that donation should be. Your guests have the right to make that decision for themselves, based on their budget and comfort level. Any donation is a benefit to the charity, so make sure you accept donations of any size with grace and appreciation.

Be Ready to Receive Gifts Anyway

Here’s the thing: some people are just going to want to get you a gift. They’re excited for your special day, and they want to give you a token to mark the occasion! Maybe your great-aunt wants to knit you a blanket for the living room. Maybe your cousin wants to help stock your home bar. Whatever the reason, there’s bound to be people who will ignore your charitable request and come to your wedding bearing gifts. When that happens, your job is simple: accept the gift and thank them heartily!

If your friend or family member decides to get you a wedding gift, it is always proper etiquette to thank them for the kind gesture. Sure, it’s not specifically what you asked for, but it’s something they chose with you and your sweetheart in mind—and that means it’s worthy of sincere appreciation.

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