After over fifteen years in the wedding business, Beth Helmstetter, a top destination wedding planner recognized by Harper’s Bazaar, Travel + Leisure, and Martha Stewart Weddings, discovered that weddings create an incredible opportunity to give back to the community during a time celebrating love and family. As a way to make giving back simple for couples, Helmstetter founded The Good Beginning, an online charitable donation registry. Through this site, couples can ask their guests to join them in supporting a cause they care about—natural disaster relief, animal rescue or one of countless others. Here, Helmstetter shares how to go about giving back during your big day, from utilizing sustainable decor to building a charitable registry and more.
What prompted you to start The Good Beginning?
The Good Beginning came from working closely with couples over the last 15 years and understanding so much about how they wanted to start their lives together. In 2010, I traveled to Haiti with my church to help those who were affected by the area’s devastating earthquakes. My personal drive to give back was amplified by the overwhelming need I saw in communities throughout my travels around the world. The prospect of charity was something that resonated with many of my clients, but they seemed unsure of where to start. The Good Beginning was designed with couples in mind, to handle individual contributions from guests while inspiring a ritual of generosity.
Why is a wedding a great time to think about supporting a cause?
The memory of a wedding will linger long after the day is over. More than just the floral arrangements and food, couples will treasure the overwhelming feeling of love that surrounded them from friends and family. That sense of generosity can certainly inspire a deeper desire to give back and spread that virtue.
If a couple wants to support a charity through their wedding, but don’t know which cause to support, how can they go about choosing one?
Consider the things that you and your partner find purpose pursuing – the essential components to your happiness as humans. The Good Beginning is set up in a way to encourage exploration of a variety of causes, but also welcomes couples to add a new organization that has brought meaning to them, like a nearby animal shelter you’ve volunteered at together, or a wildlife preservation fund you give to annually.
If a couple is environmentally conscious, what are some ways to put together a sustainable wedding?
Especially for those planning a destination wedding, consider infusing your wedding with local cuisine, native flowers and beautiful handmade textiles and decor rather than ordering and shipping abroad. The purchase of those unique, one-of-a kind pieces will not only be memorable for you and your guests but will also help support the local artisans and families in that community. Artisanal small-batch favors that pay homage to the culture are a great way to further support the community while giving guests a special memento of their travels.
With so many stunning historical and horticultural properties around the world, couples have the opportunity to host a unique celebration and help preserve a beautiful landmark in the process.
Consider opting for sustainably sourced materials like recycled paper for invites and menu cards, locally-grown flowers for reception arrangements, and reclaimed vintage furniture for tasteful lounge seating.
What should you put on the menu at a sustainable wedding?
Many boutique catering companies will craft a menu around seasonality of ingredients and any partnerships with local farmers they may have who could offer something special. While your personal taste should be the driving force behind what you serve guests, also be mindful of the quality and source of that food. Use the guidance and insights of the chef to understand what kinds of meat, cheese, fish and vegetables will be at their best for your wedding day. As for the bar, using locally-made spirits and seasonal garnishes will ensure the best quality tasting cocktail for your guests.
Are there any design details that can further the theme of sustainability?
Choose a venue that you find beautiful in its own right. You’ll feel less of a need to drape every treetop with lights or cover every corner with flowers when you find it charming all on its own.
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