What does your wedding list say about you?

By Matilda Macduff 17 January 2011

Sky News reported yesterday that Prince William and Kate Middleton are considering opting for a ‘charity wedding list’ when they tie the knot in April. Rather than the usual bounty of household items to set them up for a life of domestic bliss, they are said to be debating whether to ask guests to donate to a charity on their behalf.

Until today I had never come across this idea, but it seems like a sensible option for the couple who have everything. For many couples today who live together before they get married, wedding lists are an odd tradition which can leave them stuck with a mountain of unnecessary kitchenware. Choosing a charity, or a selection of charities, to receive a donation on their behalf allows their guests to give them a present which won’t be kept in a cupboard for the next ten years, and more importantly could make a real difference to someone’s life.

There are a host of websites which offer this kind of service—google ‘charity wedding list’ and you’re greeted with weddinglistgiving.com and the Alternative Wedding List, which allow guests to select from a list of popular charities to donate to online. Oxfam’s successful Oxfam Unwrapped gift service also offers a wedding list option. There are various methods for choosing which charities receive the money. One site offers a London-specific wedding list, featuring charities which work throughout the capital. Other sites allow you to narrow down your list of charities based on your area of interest—charities working with young people or animals for example.

But if you’re going to go for a charity wedding list, why not go a step further and build your own? Couples could identify causes they’re really passionate about and find the most effective charities working in these areas. Small local charities which people might have personal experience of can sit alongside national giants. Not only does this ensure their guests’ money is put to the best possible use for a cause that really means something to the bride and groom, but it’s also a fantastic chance for them to promote their favourite charity to a captive audience, and maybe secure it some new long-term supporters. A charity’s corporate message rarely moves someone to donate in the way that a personal recommendation from a friend can. A ‘homemade’ charity wedding list might require a little more work on the part of the bride- and groom-to-be, but it will give them and their guests a more satisfying experience of giving. And I’m pretty sure the finished list would tell you far more about the couple than any traditional wedding list ever could.

Of course, most people aren’t in quite the same position as William and Kate when it comes to material wealth, and might not relish the idea of giving up their wedding presents. But their decision does provide a little food for thought for all those upcoming Spring weddings. I hope the rumours are true, and I hope they do take the time to think about the charities they’re asking their friends to donate to.