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Wedding Favors With Heart

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Every bride wants her wedding day to be special and unique -- not only for her and her spouse-to-be, but for guests as well. After the financial investment and what can add up to (or feel like) years of planning for one day, who wouldn't want people to leave saying, "What an amazing wedding!"

As maid of honor for a Napa winery wedding with 200 guests, I was privy to a lot of the intricacies of planning... from linen color to banquet orders to vow editing. It's easy to get caught up in the onslaught of details when bringing a large event to life, become desensitized, and lose sight of what the day is all about. When really special moments happen, they give you pause, take you back to what matters, and you value them more. That's what happened for me.

On the evening of this vineyard ceremony, after the wine was poured, all of the toasts (and roasts) were made, and the food served, the groom, Sean, stood to thank a room full of guests. He directed our attention to the tented cards on the tables and told the story about his twin brother, his protector and best friend, who had died tragically in an accident at the age of 18. "I wish my brother was here to celebrate with me," Sean managed to choke out before sitting down again.

Instead of buying traditional favors, the family had donated the money to a scholarship fund in Sean's brother's name. And in that way, he was there with us. While it was difficult for everyone to hear of the loss, it was uplifting to know that our presence had contributed to helping others. This connected us to the couple and the family in a very intimate and memorable way.

Charitable favors are becoming a more popular part of weddings as a way for couples share their values. Not only to honor a special person, but also to support a cause that has touched their lives.

For Candice and Thomas Capasso of West Islip, New York, who have family members affected by breast cancer and autism, "It was more important for us to support a cause that can help people rather than spend money on a small favor that would only be thrown away. There will always be pictures and video to remind us, and those we care about, of our wedding -- but the gift of charity is priceless."

You can make charity favors unique to you and your ceremony. Consider a donation to a local charity or a loved one's favorite cause, recognize a friend's military service by supporting services for veterans, or selecting two organizations that mean something special to you and your partner.

For Shai Rasmussen and Tyler Moore of Nashville, Tennessee, charity gifts were the perfect addition to their day, "We searched and searched for a way to make our wedding socially chic. When we found I Do Foundation, we were thrilled. I know the girls at my school will benefit immensely from the chance we had to give."

For me and for everyone at Sean and Marina's wedding, the small token on the table had big meaning. They thought to give back on a day that's all about them, and it really conveyed the heart of their relationship. It's one small detail that made all the difference.

As you plan your special day, choose charity and take favors off your plate. Add your personal touch and make them truly memorable. It's a great way to thank your guests and share your love with the world -- giving them a favor that has a lasting impact.