Charity begins at weddings

Young couples are asking their guests to direct the money spent on presents, bouquets and gift coupons towards causes they support
Srinidhi and Prashanth
Srinidhi and Prashanth

CHENNAI: Weddings are an expensive and flamboyant affair. But, the months leading to the D-day don’t just comprise a fat bill. From relatives sending thoughtful gifts for the couple to set up their dream home, friends making surprise reservations for the soon-to-be-newlyweds’ honeymoon, bridal showers and what not — the big day bursts with energy and support of all kinds. Noticing an abundance of thoughtfulness, several couples have started tapping on it for the greater good — to give back to society. Be it donating for a charity instead of crockery sets or contributing for a cause in place of other wedding favours, engaged couples seem to promote selflessness.

Lessons from family
A year ago, when city-based couple Srinidhi and Prashanth were standing on their wedding dais, dreaming of their happily-ever-after, guests were making a beeline to congratulate the newlyweds. But instead of bearing bouquets and gifts covered in shiny wrappers, the guests came empty-handed, wearing big smiles on their faces. The couple had set up a charity registry in place of gifts. “Donating to charities during special occasions is a concept both our families have been following for decades. So when we started planning our wedding, we knew that we will be giving back to society in one way or the other. This is when we came across Wedding Wishlist and the charity registry service it offered,” says Srinidhi. While friends of the couple had made use of the platform’s service to furnish their homes, the young couple decided to choose the charity option. “Initially, it was quite hard to convince family members. They thought it would be rude to tell guests what they should give the couple — be it gifts or for charity. But after persuasion, they agreed. Several people came forward and contributed to all the four charities we had listed in the registry site,” she says.Prashanth adds that it also became a platform for people across the globe to connect and help the NGOs. “We had guests who were from other parts of the world too. So, when we told them about these charities, they not only contributed in cash but also wanted to work along with the NGOs,” he says.

What couples want
Kanika Subbiah, founder of Wedding Wishlist, India’s first gift registry platform, says that this trend can support several non-profits. “There are different kinds of couple profiles who sign up with us. They are clear about their needs and wants. One specific profile of couples is of those who know their gift needs — anything over and beyond that, they want the guests to contribute it to a cause/charity they are passionate about,” she shares.Now, the platform is also sketching a plan to launch a portfolio of charities that both couples and guests can contribute to. “Overall, since the start of our company, 14.5 per cent of couples have added charities to their registry. In fact, over the last three months alone, 22 per cent couples have added a charity to their registry, and as we move towards the wedding season at the end of the year, we see this number growing significantly,” she says, adding that the trend is rapidly growing in Chennai. According to Wedding Wishlist, while the average amount spent by a guest on a charitable contribution is `4,314, the highest single transaction by a guest towards a charity has so far been `30,000. “The registry that raised the maximum money collected `4,95,000 towards charitable causes,” she says.Unlike the western world where weddings have only about 100-odd guests, Indian weddings average around 500. So more the festivity, a lot more the contributions, say couples.

Nithyasri and Yeshwanth tied the knot earlier this month and embraced the four ways of life of the Sanathana Dharma as part of their wedding. “I am a huge fan of the Vedic literature. So, understanding marriage in its timeless sense was important to me. I have been fortunate enough to meet someone willing to share my vision to explore life with the same infinite vision. We narrowed in on four causes including river revitalisation, caring for cows, a youth empowerment programme, unlimited food for education and to support India’s soldiers,” she shares. Though there was hesitation from their families to instruct guests to donate, as soon as the charity link was sent out, they were flooded with overwhelming messages of kindness. “Everyone appreciated the effort and thought. More people have warmed up to the idea of having a charity registry and now even want to integrate it during their respective weddings,” she says.

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