Making Philanthropy Part of the Nuptials Some couples are making philanthropy part of the theme of their wedding day. Some couples register their gifts through a charitable gift registry program, while others are asking their guests to donate to selected charities instead of buying them gifts.
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Making Philanthropy Part of the Nuptials

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Making Philanthropy Part of the Nuptials

Making Philanthropy Part of the Nuptials

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Some couples are betting on I do. The average American wedding costs more than $25,000 dollars. Lavish spending sustains a multi-billion dollar industry. Some couples are surprising their guests by incorporating philanthropy into their nuptials.

Shia Levitt reports.

SHIA LEVITT reporting:

On a rainy Friday morning in Oakland, California, newlyweds Paige and Greg Flurry(ph), just finished giving their son, Shawn Joaquin(ph), his breakfast. Paige and Shawn are sitting on the kitchen floor, and she's reading him a quick book before she leaves for work.

(Soundbite of mother reading with a child)

LEVITT: When Paige and Greg began planning their wedding, they figured registering for gifts online would be a part of the deal. But then something started to not feel right to them.

Mr. GREG FLURRY (Oakland, California): We started looking at those things, and, high thread count sheets, okay, we already have sheets but we want higher thread count sheets? And we've got cupboards full of glassware, but we need more? But then it, I guess one day it was just kind of a revelation. We looked at each other and said, Why are we getting gifts? This is ridiculous.

LEVITT: So they chose a different route and joined thousands of other couples in deciding to direct gift money to a charity. Most of the guests liked the idea.

Mrs. PAIGE FLURRY: Everybody had a very positive response to it, and, some people who had recently gotten married said, Oh great, thanks for making us look bad.

LEVITT: Greg and Paige and in their 40's, and they already lived together before getting married; typical, says Kara Corridan, of the kinds of couples more likely to go for the latest nuptial trend. Corridan is the executive editor of Modern Bride Magazine.

Ms. KARA CORRIDAN (Executive Editor, Modern Bride Magazine): They have the traditional things that you might register for, so they may not use their wedding as an opportunity to get all the stuff that you would normally ask for, because they already have it.

LEVITT: But the trend is also happening among young couples, and Corridan says the number of philanthropic weddings across the country has been on the rise for the last five years.

Ms. CORRIDAN: It really became popular in 2001, and, you know, the aftermath of September 11th certainly had an effect on that, making people really evaluate what was important to them.

LEVITT: Bethany Robertson is the Executive Director of the I Do Foundation, an organization that helps couples plan charitable giving as part of their weddings. She says about ten percent of couples between May 2005 and May 2006 will incorporate some sort of philanthropy.

Ms. BETHANY ROBERTSON (Executive Director of the I Do Foundation): It may be a few dollars per couple, but when you have two million couples getting married a year, it has a significant impact.

LEVITT: The bulk of the I Do Foundation's couples participate through programs where they register for normal wedding gifts, and the stores agree to donate a small percentage of the money spent to the charity of the couples' choice. These charitable gift registries usually net about $30 dollars per wedding, compared with the closer to $500 dollars raised by couples who asked guests for donations instead of gifts.

LEVITT: Back at the Flurry household, Paige and Greg are playing with a giggling Shawn Joaquin.

(Soundbite of family playing)

LEVITT: Like many other couples planning philanthropic weddings, Paige and Greg picked a charity with personal importance to their lives. They adopted Shawn Joaquin from Guatemala two years ago, and now are preparing to adopt another Guatemalan child. They selected a charity that supports children and families in the country where their own children were born.

Mr. FLURRY: I don't know what prompted it, but maybe it was, you know, after playing with Shawn Joaquin and kind of looking around our house and saying, "Wait a minute, there's something that's much more important than, you know, getting wedding gifts."

LEVITT: The I Do Foundation is looking next to the idea of charitable baby shower registries, and the Flurry's say they're definitely interested.

For NPR News, I'm Shia Levitt, in San Francisco.

WERTHEIMER: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

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