[This post was originally published in Mosaic, the blog magazine of Ten Thousand Villages in the US. We liked it so much we thought we would share it with you. It’s reprinted here with permission.]
Weddings inspire generosity on a level that few other occasions can reach. And why not? Two people have chosen to spend the rest of their lives together “for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health,” and that kind of commitment takes support and encouragement from a loving community. After all, aren’t we stronger when we stick together? Whether support finds its way to the happy couple by means of gifts, advice, or time, you know it will be heartfelt and generously given.
Generosity is something that you should be prepared for. Accepting gifts graciously, whether you were expecting them or not, can be challenging at times. Setting up a registry can seem a little overwhelming, and choosing the perfect ‘thank you’ gifts for your bridal party or wedding favors for your guests can feel like a challenge. But, don’t despair! There are ways to give and receive in the days leading up to your wedding without losing sight of what the occasion is really about, all while consciously choosing to keep the well-being of you, your guests, and the world in mind.
1. Create a Conscious Registry:
The first thing your guests will want to know is the date and location of the wedding. The second? Where you’re registered. Building a registry is a lot of fun, and it’s the perfect opportunity to make mindful choices. Requesting things that are fair trade, locally produced, or built to last is one of the easiest ways to be a socially conscious bride, and it’s becoming more common. Gone are the days when you would be limited to what the big box home goods chains have to offer. Have you had your eye on a set of recycled glass tumblers, handmade table linens from India, and a stainless steel crockpot that’s built to last? You can add them all, and any other item from any store in the world, to the same registry by using services like MyRegistry.com. Simply put the ‘add to my registry’ button to your bookmark bar on your computer, and start creating your list! This is especially convenient for your guests, because they won’t have to look on multiple registries or fight traffic and crowds to find your perfect gift.
2. Use Your Registry for Good
Simply put, registries are an anticipated part of wedding etiquette. You can expect to receive well-meaning (but sometimes unwanted or duplicate) gifts if you don’t help to guide your guests toward items you can actually use, so it’s often best for everybody involved to embrace the registry tradition. However, don’t feel obligated to request things you don’t need. If you and your beloved already have a well-stocked linen closet and more appliances than you can shake a stick at, feel free to ignore tradition and register in a way that gives back to others. Consider registering on behalf of a charity you hold dear. The Good Beginning will help you choose a charity (or five!), and create a registry where your guests can easily give a gift that can change a person’s life, a community, or a landscape an ocean away. Your loved ones can help you incorporate social responsibility into your wedding day in an easy and rewarding way.
3. Personalize Bridal Party Gifts
Chances are your bridesmaids and groomsmen will go above and beyond for you in the months leading up to your wedding. Whether it’s helping make DIY decorations or volunteering to pick relatives up from the airport, your personal posse of loved ones will be working hard to make sure your special day goes smoothly. Show them how much you appreciate their thoughtfulness by presenting them with a gift that is as unique as they are. Make it personal and fun by choosing an item for each recipient that truly reflects their interests and personality. Is your Maid of Honor an aspiring fashionista who has a penchant for adventure? Choose handmade jewellery made in the country she enjoyed exploring the most. Does one of your groomsmen wind down in the evenings with a dram of Scotch while trying his hand at poetry? He would probably enjoy stone drink cubes and a fresh journal more than a set of cufflinks. Your friends are all wonderfully different, and you love them for it! Choosing a personalized gift for each is the perfect way to show your gratitude for years of loyal support.
4. Say Thank You with Wedding Favors
Wedding etiquette may have changed a lot over the years, but saying thank you never goes out of style. Favors are a fun way to show immediate gratitude to your guests for helping you celebrate your nuptials, and there are a lot of creative ideas out there to choose from. It’s probably safe to say that nobody on your guest list has been hoping to receive a shot glass with your initials and wedding date etched into it, so use this as an opportunity to send them home with something meaningful. The personal touch will truly go a long way, and it will be worth the effort. If you have a spring wedding, packets of seeds or tiny potted succulents are a charming way to say thank you. If tea is your thing, glass bottles of dried mint leaves with directions on how to properly steep them is a lovely idea! Fair trade chocolates or cookies from your favorite local bakery are always crowd-pleasers. If you want to do away with wedding favors entirely, and this is not uncommon, donate the money you would have invested in gifts to a charity of your choice. Make a sign that introduces the charity and its work, and thanks your guests for being part of positive community growth. They will love it!
Planning a wedding can be a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. The same holds true for marriage. Like everything in life, there will be challenges, sacrifices, and bumps in the road. But the joy, laughter, comfort, and love that is a product of a successful relationship is worth the effort. Best wishes for years of happiness, and all the anniversary celebrations and milestones ahead!