One of the most oft-discussed topics on this board are donations in lieu of favors. The discussions have gotten fairly heated in the past, so I thought it would be a good idea to create a sticky with some of the best advice this board has seen.
If you're considering this option for your reception, the two posts below encompass two rather different points of view on the topic, and will provide you with fabulous advice on this controversial topic.
The only thing I will say personally on the subject is that, if you do choose to make a charitable donation and advertise it at your wedding, give serious consideration to the organization you choose. For example, weddings are not, in my opinion, the place to advertise political or religious donations that could spark unpleasant conversations during your reception.
Make your donation. I believe in donations. I make them myself. I think they're a good thing to do.
But don't pretend that they're a favor to your guests. Because they're not. They're a favor to the organization, and to you. You're taking the money you'd spend on a little something for your guests and giving it to someone else. How do you figure that's a favor for your guests?
Honestly, I don't need a favor. I don't really want a favor. You're already giving me food, drinks, entertainment. I don't need a matchbook or m&ms (although I LOVE m&ms) as a thank you.
But please don't in any, way, shape or form think that giving $$ to a charity is somehow doing something for me.
I'd liken it to a guest coming to your wedding and giving you a card that says "In honor of your marriage, I have given a donation to the "eastern micronesia tsunami prevention fund". It may be important to your guest, but it probably doesn't mean anything to you. So it's not really a gift for you, is it?
Okay, I'm gonna go against the grain here (again). We did a donation IN LIEU of favors (meaning instead of, because the ladies are right, donating to a cause YOU support is not a favor to anyone else.)
I don't think there's anything wrong with doing donations as long as you follow a few guidelines.
1) make it a charity that is important to you and that you have some sort of connection to outside of the wedding. Just making a random donation because it's your wedding day definitely reinforces the "this is about looking good" vibe.
2) Don't do cards for every table or every place setting or whatever. If you want to announce it, do one discreet sign that is in a high traffic area (like cake table or guest book table) and be done with it. Plastering announcements all over your reception is very "look at how awesome we are" and also makes your wedding look like a fundraiser.
3) Do not put anything about the donation being "in honor of" your guests or in their name. First of all, it gives the impression that you have now publicly linked your guest's name to a charity that they had no say it, which is rude at best and can be REALLY bad if it's a charity they oppose. And secondly, it's a lie. The charity does not need or ask for a list of your guests' names.
4) Don't do a favor on TOP of the donation that is themed to it, even if given out by the charity. Wristbands, announcement cards, etc all cost the charity money to produce. So by accepting them, less of your money is actually going to that charity. If the charity is really that important to you, then spend the money for the DIY cards or hershey's kisses with tags or whatever on said charity as well.
ETA: Also, don't mention it in relation to favors. Just say "Bride and Groom have made a donation to blah blah blah. They would like to thank you for coming and sharing their special day." or something to that effect.
5) Realize that this is a controversial topic in the real world too, not just on the knot. So, there's a good chance that at least 1 person who attends your wedding will secretly sideye your choice to do this. If you can live with that, then go for it. But do not convince yourself that the ladies on here who oppose are just bitter evil hags and YOUR friends and family are all better than them and would never see it as a bad thing. That's naive and incorrect.
**i'm a little drunk on you and high on summertime**