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My Big Fat Charity Wedding

IN India,  weddings give us the opportunity to celebrate our culture through elaborate customs and rituals. We all know what wedding season really means though: extensive guest lists, extravagant jewellery, ornate venues and exorbitant amounts of food.

Considering India hosts around 10million weddings annually and spends more than 100,000 crore on everything from invitations to honeymoons, many people end up spending 1/5 of their lifetime wealth on marriage ceremonies.

That’s not to say it’s wrong to celebrate, but a wedding day can be made even more special by incorporating a philanthropic aspect into the festivities.

The New Trend

In many Western countries where couples already established in their careers and homes are marrying later in life, the idea of guests contributing to causes rather than bestowing unnecessary items upon the newlyweds has become popular. Even among the couples who still need the presents to help them start their new life, some choose to donate what they would spend on wedding favours to an NGO instead.

However, millennials are the ones ensuring this trend’s longevity. Melissa Berman of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors told The New York Times that millennials have really pushed this concept to the forefront: “I think there’s a growing awareness among millennials that what you do with your whole life should reflect your values.”

From Glamour To Giving

In this vein, many Indians are starting to make news for dialling back the grandeur and upping their impact on society.

Some choose to do this by cutting out the waste while others direct the money they’ve saved to where it can do more good. One merchant from Aurangabad used his daughter’s 70-80 lakh wedding budget to build 90 houses for the poor instead of on a lavish ceremony.

However, it’s not just the wealthy instituting new traditions.

A police officer couple opted for a more modest event for close friends and family so they could donate 2 lakh to charity. A 22-year-old from Madhya Pradesh requested that her in-laws spend the money they would otherwise use to buy her gifts to plant 10,000 saplings. One 20-something Marathi asked guests only for blessings, requesting any cash gifts to be donated to the Mumbai Animal Association. Another young Mumbaikar invited guests to register themselves as blood stem cell donors for Datri.

Changing Course

Many parents may balk at not hosting the wedding they’ve always imagined, so here are a few ideas that may make the transition more appealing for the more traditional:

  • Use the Small Change platform to collect cash gifts to benefit a cause meaningful to you.
  • Encourage guests to purchase gifts from an online registry that gives back. Smile.amazon.com donates 0.5% and Goodsearch donates 3% of purchases to a charitable organisation of their choice.
  • Many museums, historical sites, and botanical gardens have amazing spaces and are also registered NGOs. See if your local tourist attraction rents their property out for events.
  • Be creative with your return gifts. Succulents or saplings are a green way to say thank you. Support local artisans by purchasing handcrafted items directly from them. A healthy alternative is to gift fresh pots of honey collected by Bee the Change – an organisation whose goal not only benefits agriculture but also provides rural women, youth, farmers, and tribes with skills to boost their socioeconomic standing.
  • Don’t waste leftovers. Find a local foodbank to donate uneaten food or invite a local NGO to share the delicacies with their beneficiaries. Recycle food not fit for human consumption as cattle feed.
  • Hire a dance troupe or musician from a cultural centre or NGO to perform at your party.
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