Along With 'I Do' Comes a Chance to Say 'We Care' - New York Times
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JENNIFER VAN ZANDT'S wedding in Key Largo, Fla., had all the trimmings: Friday night party, Saturday celebration, drinks, dancing and merriment. And something else: rather than taking home a commemorative box of chocolates or a trinket, the guests helped save a few manatees.
When Mrs. Van Zandt and Derek, who is now her husband, started planning their nuptials last year, they knew that they wanted to put the money they would have spent on favors to better use. "We thought it would be nice to give to a charity rather than an item that no one looks at again," said Mrs. Van Zandt, who works in asset management in Manhattan.
Mr. Van Zandt's mother had died from a painful battle with lymphoma over the winter, so the couple considered donating the money to cancer research in her memory. But his mother, an animal lover who lived in San Diego, would have chosen a more cheerful outlet, they thought.
So in lieu of wedding favors, the bride and bridegroom donated $203.91 to the Save the Manatee Club, a Florida charity that rescues the endangered species. The couple's 130 guests each received a sugar cookie in the shape of a palm tree with an attached message about the charity.
The Van Zandts are one of many American couples who are now including charitable giving in their wedding celebrations.
According to the I Do Foundation, a nonprofit online organization that links engaged couples with charities, 10 percent of all such couples this year will include some form of philanthropy in their wedding, be it a donation to a charity instead of favors or giving a percentage of their wedding registry spending to a charity.
The organization, founded in 2000, expects to handle at least $600,000 in donations this year, more than three times the donations it received in 2004. That amount is most likely to be higher than the couples had originally planned to spend - $26,327 is the American average now, although the total tends to be larger in cities.
"There is enormous excess in planning a wedding," said Sharon Elaine Lewis, the publisher of Washington Weddings, a bridal magazine covering the District of Columbia and its suburbs. Americans are marrying later in life now, and the princess-for-a-day bridal culture has given way to a more divalike atmosphere, where brides in designer dresses demand far more than a reception at the fellowship hall, and nearly anyone can spot a Bridezilla at 20 yards.
With the large wedding bill comes an awareness of the potential excess, said Bethany Robertson, who is the executive director of the I Do Foundation.
"Today's couple is already living together, has furnished their kitchen and is looking to do something special."
Brides are also opting to donate their dresses to resale organizations, with profits going to causes like breast cancer research or financing a homeless shelter.
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