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The Bride Who Gave Back

By Lesley Nash Walker | Photography by Chezley Royster Photography

Posted: Monday, Mar. 01, 2010

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Weddings are a time of joy and bliss, the culmination of love wrapped in decadent lace and extravagant flowers. While every bride wants her wedding to have that "wow" factor, so often it becomes a very self-centered process that can become excessive and wasteful. The average Joe, or should I say Joanna, will drop about $25,000 on this rite of passage. What if, as part of that sum, you were able to extend your joy to others in need?

That's exactly what I did for my big day. I was so grateful that I was able to celebrate my wedding surrounded by my friends and family - and be able to afford it - that I wanted to give back to my community and spread the word about how others can give back, too.

Flowers

I wanted to give mine to Hospice in celebration of my aunt, who brings smiles to family members in pain. What was I really going to do with all of those flowers after the wedding, anyway? Press them? Dip them in wax? Flowers only live a few days at the most, and when you spend hundreds - or thousands - of dollars on flowers, why not let someone else enjoy them?

To pull this off, go shopping before the wedding for affordable vases that your bridesmaids will use to transport the flowers to your donation location. (Oftentimes, the florist owns the vases that come with your flowers.) I went to the Dollar Store and picked up about 20 vases for a mere total of 20 bucks. They were cute, weren't breakable and cost a drop in the bucket compared to the total cost of the wedding florals.

Next, make sure the vases you have bought get to your reception site. I dropped them off the week before my wedding. After the reception, have your bridesmaids take a handful of vases, transfer the flowers and drop them off at your site of choice. And, if you happened to have purchased the vases with your flowers from the florist, then send them right on out of there! When I told my florist I was donating my flowers to Hospice, she was so moved she let me keep some of the vases so the drop off would be seamless.

Here are a few other great places to donate your own flowers:

Maternity ward
Sick friend or family member
Teacher
Hospital
Children's hospital
Retirement homes
Red Cross
Cancer services

Cake & catering

With the flowers checked off my list, the quest for a caterer began. I came across a vendor who gives all of their profits to charity, and their entire staff is made up of volunteers. And, because you can tend to end up with tons of leftovers at your wedding, they made sure all of the food that was not eaten was taken to the homeless shelter.

I honestly had no idea a vendor of this kind even existed. This will take a tad of research on your end, but there are groups out there like this. When I found what they were all about, I was over the moon to say the least. Not to mention they were not as expensive as other vendors and the food was really tasty. It was a win-win.

If your caterer, however, does not offer this service, it is still really simple to execute. Have all of your left over food boxed up by your caterer, then have your wedding planner or some friends drop it off at a local homeless shelter. And don't forget - you can do the same with your cake! Using the box the baker gave me, I had my mother drop off the second layer of our cake to a local ministry the day after the wedding.

Photos, favors and more

Next I found a photographer whose art was not only amazing, but who donates her time to several charities. I wondered, Could this really be happening? So far, the flowers, food and photos all had the fundamentals of giving. In that moment, I knew I was no longing driving this bus; something was pulling me. I had to give back every way that I possibly could.

For my wedding favors, I chose sheets of wildflower seeds that guests could take with them to plant and brighten their gardens through the coming year. For my dress, I donated my gown to Brides Against Breast Cancer. My mom, sister, hairdresser and a few bridesmaids also decided to donate their dresses as well. And while I did accept gift at showers and parties, if you are fortunate enough to have everything you already need, chose a designated charity that your guests can donate to or host a "giving party" instead of a shower.

On my voyage these past few months, I have had the honor to be around people who want to spread their kindness and talents. My hope is that I will inspire brides to incorporate at least one element of giving into their weddings. Maybe then we can help make the world a better place, one wedding at a time.

Lesley is currently collecting wedding stories with a giving message for her new book. You can submit your tales to thebridewhogivesback@yahoo.com

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