WEDDINGS

6 Ways Your Wedding Can Actually Make The World A Better Place

03/11/2015 07:06 pm ET | Updated Mar 11, 2015
Nerida McMurray Photography via Getty Images

Weddings can be expensive. In many states across America, couples are spending over half of their yearly income on the big day.

But there's a way to extend the life of your pricey celebration beyond the hours-long party, and that's using your wedding as an opportunity to give back to the community. The organizations listed below help couples donate some of the most important elements of a wedding after the last guest has left the building. After all, there are many people who can benefit greatly from a donated gown, used flowers and even leftover food.

Check out the list below for different ways you can use your special day as an opportunity to give back.

1. Donate your dress to breast cancer patients.
wedding dresses
Brides Against Breast Cancer is an organization based in Sarasota, Florida that accepts used wedding gowns (dated from 2009-present) and donates them to women who are battling breast cancer. All gown styles, slips and veils are welcome. Garments can either be dropped off at one of their upcoming events or can be mailed to the headquarters in Sarasota.

2. Donate your wedding flowers.
wedding flowers
Organizations like Floranthropy (in Seattle, Washington) and Random Acts of Flowers (in Knoxville, Tennessee) collect floral arrangements from weddings and bring them to shelters, hospice care centers, retirement homes and even schools for other people to enjoy. Sure, many brides might want to keep their bouquet, but think of all the other flowers at a wedding that can be recycled. On average, Random Acts of Flowers donates over 2,700 bouquets a month.

3. Instead of pricey wedding favors, make a donation instead.
wedding table
The I Do Foundation empowers brides and grooms to skip out on expensive wedding favors and instead put the money toward a good charitable cause. Place little notes on the tables at your wedding explaining that a donation has been made; your guests are bound to be touched and inspired.

4. Donate your gown to help families grieving the death of a newborn child.
nicu helping hands
Often, babies who don't make it home from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of a hospital are so small that they don't have the proper clothing to be buried in. Lisa Grubbs of Fort Worth, Texas came up with the idea to use the fabric from donated wedding gowns to make smaller garments for the babies to wear. Grubbs is married to a specialist for premature babies and calls the mini creations "angel gowns." Brides can donate their wedding dresses to NICU Helping Hands and families and hospitals across the country receive the angel gowns free of charge. Due to the generosity of many, the organization is currently at capacity and is not accepting new donations, but brides can resume their giving on September 1, 2015.

5. Donate leftover food
wedding table
Two Caterers in Columbus, Ohio transports leftover wedding food (as long as it meets safety guidelines) to local organizations like the YWCA or the Ronald McDonald House. Ask your caterer if they have a donation program and if they don't, maybe they are willing to start one.

6. Help provide a wedding for the terminally-ill.
wedding rings
You loved your wedding day, so why not help make others' wedding wishes come true? The organization Wish Upon A Wedding provides weddings for couples facing terminal illness and serious life-changing circumstances. "Most of our couples have less than five years to live when we grant their wedding wish. Time is of the essence," Kasey Skobel-Conyers, National Wish Coordinator for Wish Upon A Wedding, told The Huffington Post via email.

"The reality is that their married life may only be a month or a year together before one of them is no longer with us. That's why when we grant a wedding wish, we want to make sure their day is one that they can think back on and remember all the joy and love they felt that day with no worries about illness, treatments, medical bills, or the short amount of time one of them has left to live." There are many ways to get involved -- find out more here.

Keep in touch! Check out HuffPost Weddings on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Also on HuffPost:

  • iTunes
    Like an online dating site, VolunteerMatch pairs your volunteer interests with similar opportunities in your area. From grant writers to pro bono jobs, you can browse the variety of options or tailor your search for a specific cause or organization.
  • iTunes
    A nifty rewards program for volunteering, Cause.it give you a certain amount of points for an everyday act of advocacy, volunteering, or social activism. In return, you can redeem your points at the participating local businesses, scoring shopping deals for your good deed.
  • iTunes
    A small action can have a big impact. That’s the idea behind this app, which suggests a daily act of altruism and encourages you to “pay it forward,” by inspiring others when you share good deed through Twitter, Facebook, or email. To see the impact of a single act of kindness, you can view the app’s worldwide map, a feature which demonstrates completed good deeds all over the globe.
  • A networking app that connects you to local Kiwanis clubs, this program provides a variety of service projects in areas such as education, poverty, and disaster relief. User-friendly, this app tracks both your time volunteered and dollars raised; with its fun Piggy Bank option, it also allows you to record virtual dollars you could donate by giving up luxury expenditures (like that extra chai latte).
  • Making global service more accessible, the Maranatha app utilizes videos and photos to broadcast available projects across the world. Primarily dedicated to constructing high-demand buildings, such as hospitals and schools, the Maranatha organization successfully mobilizes volunteers through its app.
  • This musical app lets you virtually experience the bell ringing tradition by inventing your own Salvation Army song. Use the 12 musical notes to create a unique tune or play a favorite holiday jingle. As a fun option for those too busy to ring in person, the Salvation Army Bellringer app also includes an option to make a donation to the Salvation Army.
  • iTunes
    Giving you extra incentive to exercise, the Charity Miles app rewards your workouts by donating 10¢ per mile when you bike, and 25¢ when you walk or run to the charity of your choice.
  • iTunes
    Johnson & Johnson’s creative app harnesses the charitable potential of our shutter-happy society. For every photo you share through the app, Johnson & Johnson donate $1 to the charity you choose from its trusted list of causes.
  • iTunes
    This self-described “micro donation platform” from Australian creators allows you to “shout,” or virtually pledge, an everyday item to the non-profit or cause of your choice. For example, shouting a cup of coffee donates its actual dollar amount, making giving a simple part of your everyday routine.
  • iTunes
    Partnering with the Global Gaming Initiative, a company that connects mobile games with charity causes, Sidekick Cycle is an obstacle course game where you ride a bike through an African landscape, earning coins for tricks and stunts. 50 percent of in-app purchases contribute to the nonprofit World Bicycle Relief, which provides much-needed bikes to people in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. Charity Miles
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