Have fun and give freely with these charitable wedding favors

January 28 | Guest post by Sophia Snyder
Photos by Maureen Cotton Weddings
Photos by Maureen Cotton Weddings

I originally got the idea for our charitable favors after a Buffalo Exchange shopping trip. Buffalo Exchange has a program called Tokens for Bags where, if you bring your own shopping bag, they’ll give you a 5-cent token to give to one of the three charities they’ve picked. I thought I could use that concept for wedding favors: instead of giving people a physical favor, I gave them $3 to donate.

favors for charity

Max and I picked three charities that we love: Médecins Sans Frontières, the Sierra Club, and the Animal Rescue League of Boston (where we adopted our beloved kittycat).

I made the tokens and envelopes myself for minimal cost; I already had a ton of origami paper, and I got a 500-pack of the wooden circles for the tokens from CraftParts.com. I stenciled the hearts onto the tokens with colored Sharpies.

charitable favors 2

Each guest got three tokens and a sheet of instructions. Here’s the text of the instructions:

Charitable Favors

Instead of traditional favors, we’ve chosen to do charitable favors! You get to choose which charitable organizations will receive your favor donations.

Your envelope includes three tokens; each token is worth one dollar. At Max and Sophia’s table, there are three jars representing different charities. Choose which charity jar to add your tokens to; spread them out or donate to just one, it’s your choice! We will make a donation to each charity in the amount of the total tokens placed in each jar.

The charities we’ve chosen are:

Animal Rescue League of Boston, dedicated to rescuing domesticated animals and wildlife (and the place where we adopted our kitty!)
The Sierra Club, the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, founded by legendary conservationist John Muir.
Médecins Sans Frontières, delivering emergency medical aid to people around the world affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural or man-made disasters.

Have fun and give freely!

Max and Sophia

charitable favors 3

Throughout the reception, guests came up and added their tokens to the labeled jars on our sweetheart table. (This had the added bonus of helping us see and socialize with everyone while also getting a chance to eat!)

charitable wedding favors

After the wedding, we simply screwed the tops back on the jars, brought them home, and counted the tokens the next day!

We ended up donating $71 to Animal Rescue League, $123 to Médecins Sans Frontières, and $58 to The Sierra Club. I was much happier spending the money this way rather than buying traditional favors, and I think my guests were too!

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  1. Great idea! My dad's company did this one year at their holiday party. The party planners came in $21,000 under budget so they decided to donate the rest to charity. They gave each party guest some fake money and let them "donate" it by placing it in a jar. I think they had about 10 choices. The employees enjoyed getting to choose which charities to support.

    3 agree
  2. LOVE this idea. We were trying to figure out away to incorporate a philanthropic element into our wedding, and this is perfect!

    2 agree
  3. We're doing this, too! Only we plan to use their escort cards as the "tokens," so that they have a double purpose. Definitely makes us feel better about the whole favors/no-favors conundrum (no "junk" to take home, but still a gift), and our guests can choose based on their personal philosophies.

    We also plan to have a small blurb describing the mission of each of our 5 charities, so that folks can make an informed decision, and are including links to them on our wedsite/including additional donations to the same charities as part of our registry options.

    Last but not least, if you're not sure where to start, try CharityNavigator or a site like it to help you to find out if the charity/charities you're supporting are reputable and use their money well. : ]

    5 agree
  4. I'm going to be the dissenting opinion.

    Charitable donations in lieu of favors always sounds good in theory and lets the couple sound so magnanimous. The problem is that the money for said charitable donations always seems to come out of the guests pockets (so to speak) rather than the couple getting married. Favors aren't required so if you don't want them, don't do them. If you want to make a charitable donation that's fantastic, but why must it come from the Guest Favor line on your budget and not, say, the flowers or the dress?

    2 agree
    • Some communities, my observant Jewish one, for example, have a long tradition of giving to charity in someone's name as a gift. You see it all the time in the Synagogue newsletter. Donation made to xx fund in honor of yy event. That event can be a graduation, marriage, engagement, birthday, new job, etc. It is considered a high honor. We included three charities on our "gift registry" when we got married and I LOVED getting the cards from the charity that so-and-so made a gift in honor of our wedding. We wrote thank you notes the same as if they'd given us a blender or cash. It was a real honor. I love to think we made a difference in the local food bank as part of our wedding. We didn't do favors (except for the benchers– prayerbooks that are typical in our community) but I would be honored if I went to a wedding and that was a favor. I'd actually like it better than a trinket.

      9 agree
  5. Very cool way to shake up the traditional notion of wedding favors– knowing that your ceremony goes towards contributing to a greater good makes it feel win-win.

  6. I LOVE this, too. My fiance and I agreed months ago we didn't want to traditional favors for our guests, and agreed that making a charitable donation was something we would much rather spend $2/guest on. We were originally planning on making a donation to 2 charities near and dear to our hearts, but I love that with this idea, you're letting the guest decide which of those charities is meaningful to them as well. I can't wait to show my fiance this idea!

    1 agrees
  7. Love this idea! We're doing tiny jars of jam as favors (will cost us about $50 for all our guests), but I've been searching for something else to do and instead of giving people more junk (I've thrown out every wedding favor I've ever gotten), I think this is brilliant. Thanks for such a marvelous idea.

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