Celebrations at which gifts are traditionally given are opportunities to redirect spending towards charitable causes. In 2013, the typical wedding gift cost between $75 and $125, according to CBS News; multiply that figure by 100 guests, and you have a substantial donation that could benefit a local animal rescue or food bank. Asking for charitable donations in lieu of a gift is tricky. However, if your heart is moved to help others instead of receiving presents, don't let tradition get in the way.
Take a light tone. On the invitation, something like, "Instead of bringing a gift, making a donation to your favorite charity is the perfect way to honor the occasion." Avoid asking for a specific dollar amount, as you don't know the financial situations of your guests. It also helps if you let your guests know before the invitations go out that your celebration is going to be gift-free.
Ask for material donations if you'd like to help a specific cause. Ask for all the guests to bring a bag of dog food if you want to make a donation to your local Humane Society, for instance, or clothing if you want to donate to a homeless shelter in your area. An example of how to word this is: "Instead of buying gifts, we're asking everyone to bring non-perishable food items to benefit the school's free lunch program."
Create a request that is occasion-appropriate. For a couple getting married, it's OK to ask guests to invest their hard-earned money in a cause rather than buying them favors. On the other hand, a young child anticipating a birthday may be confused if his friends brag about the presents they receive; whereas, all his gifts go elsewhere. Make sure the person in question understands and agrees with his gift benefiting a cause rather than himself.
If a guest brings a gift anyway, be gracious and accept it.
- CNN Living: The Charitable Wedding: "I Give" Instead of Just "I Do"
- Educational Alliance: Sample Message Requesting Donations Instead of Birthday Gifts
- Etiquette Daily: No Gifts Please: What to Say on an Invitation
- The New York Times: Cake, But no Presents, Please
- CBS News: Wedding Gift Etiquette: What to Give and How Much
- Brad Killer/iStock/Getty Images