For the Couple Who Has Everything

How wedding gifts can give something back

When Hilary de Lyon and Martin Webster asked their wedding guests to donate money to charities in lieu of gifts, St. Mungo's Parish reaped enough funds to keep two London-area homeless shelters open for several months until additional funding was found. More and more couples, especially those remarrying or who already have established homes, are making this request.

"Since we didn't need anything for our combined household, it seemed logical to request that gifts be made to our favorite charities," said Emily McAlpine, a board trustee at World Neighbors, an Oklahoma City-based charity. The suggestion was a big hit, judging from the long list of donations received by World Neighbors in honor of their recent wedding.

"The gifts have given much happiness to Roy and me," said McAlpine, whose organization works with the rural poor in 18 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. "We are blessed by the generosity and caring of our friends and family."

Lisa Brown of State College, Pennsylvania, inspired by Mother Teresa's charitable way of life, forewent a fancy wedding gown and a professional photographer so she could personally get in on the giving her October wedding generated. "I've decided to have all the guests at my wedding donate the money they would have spent on gifts to the Missionaries of Charity," she wrote to the organization, which reaches out to the sick and poor in India.

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Nationally and worldwide, the trend is growing. Many of the 2.3 million American couples who marry each year prefer to donate money that would have been spent on guest favors or wedding-party gifts to charities needing a hand up. Others are sending leftover reception food to local shelters and food banks.

Another newlywed couple donated their wedding gifts to the India Development & Relief Fund, Inc. (IDRF), an organization working with the needy in India; the money helped pay for a mobile medical clinic. To further their donation of gifts, which topped $20,000, the young couple (not named by IDRF) celebrated their first wedding anniversary by transferring stocks worth $14,600 to the organization, officials said.

Celebrities are giving instead of receiving as well. Singer Celine Dion, a renowned supporter of charities with her husband, Rene Angelil, requested that more than 500 family members and friends write checks to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The couple's wedding gift reportedly totaled $200,000. "I didn't need another iron, and I didn't want their money," said Dion, whose 16-year-old niece Karine Menard died of the disease. "I wanted people to do something that would make them feel good, and I wanted Karine to be a part of the most important day of our lives."

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Mary Owen
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