Requested charitable gifts we don't agree with.
September 3, 2011 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Bride and groom are requesting charitable donations in lieu of wedding gifts. We like the couple, but aren't on board the charities they've chosen.

We have just received a wedding invitation from a couple my husband knows at work. We've met them socially a few times and quite like them, and are very happy they are getting married. However, instead of traditional wedding gifts they would like guests to donate to one of three charities, all of which support political causes that are opposite our own leanings.

I feel like giving them wineglasses when they've asked for these donations is a direct repudiation of their request and won't go over well. On the other hand, I can't reconcile myself to writing a check to any of these organizations, and getting myself on whatever mailing and call lists might be associated with them. I absolutely do not want my name popping up on a list of donors anywhere.

What to do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Give them the cash in a card. If you know them well, you can say that you'd prefer not to be on a mailing list for their charities.
posted by RedEmma at 7:23 AM on September 3, 2011

Send them a card with a gift certificate to the nicest restaurant in your area....or a donation to a neutral charity.
posted by brujita at 7:24 AM on September 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

You know, you're not required to give a wedding gift at all. If that's all they want, just don't give them anything.
posted by KathrynT at 7:24 AM on September 3, 2011 [18 favorites]

Skip the wedding; send a nice card. Don't encourage them.
posted by Scram at 7:26 AM on September 3, 2011 [5 favorites]

Do any of their charities appear here? Maybe you can give them a gift card, and then they can figure out where to donate it. I'm with you - I have a hard time giving my money to causes I don't believe in. It's not about my name showing up under the "Donors" page in their newsletter... it's the general squickiness that goes supporting their cause at all.
posted by honeybee413 at 7:26 AM on September 3, 2011

Cash money! (Or check.) You could give cash or check in the amount you're comfortable with along with a note in the card that says something to the effect of: "To donate or use however you choose as you start your new life together. Congratulations!"

If the three charities really are all political and lean in one direction, you won't be the only person doing this.
posted by dayintoday at 7:26 AM on September 3, 2011 [11 favorites]

How will they know if you've donated or not? Surely they won't quiz you about it - just give the amount you would have donated to a charity you do support.
posted by shiny shoes at 7:28 AM on September 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

I completely understand where you're coming from.

Make a donation to their college/university in their name. You're fulfilling their request in spirit (donating to charity), and you're helping someone go to college who might not have been able to before (can't imagine you have any objections to that!).
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:30 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

A registry is a suggestion of what they might like to receive. Some people buy gifts that are not on a registry. I think the same rules would apply here.

I think it is okay to buy them what you want and skip donations to political causes you do not agree with. But don't tell them why...that would be rude.
posted by murrey at 7:31 AM on September 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Donate to something else entirely.

I recently did a Donor's Choice wedding gift where I donated to schools in the bride and groom's hometowns and the town they currently lived in. I knew them well, so I did projects that resonated with their values (gardening), but you could just donate to a school in your city for basic supplies. Nobody can argue with that.
posted by k8t at 7:31 AM on September 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

It would help to know what the charities are (though I understand your reasons for not posting them), and your feelings about them..

It sounds a little presumptuous on their part: Using your wedding as a way to socially pressure people into supporting causes they don't like is not so cool.

I like dayintoday's suggestion. Give them cash, with the accompanying note. It's true that, in this case, the money will likely still go to the charity you don't like. But that seems fair - they are allowed to do whatever they want with the money they get from their wedding. They're just not allowed to tell other people to express political views they don't have as a wedding gift.

(All this is different of course, if the charity is actually repugnant to you, rather than just distasteful. If they are giving money to the Ku Klux Klan, the right answer is as scram suggest - just skip the whole thing: you don't want to be friends with them...)
posted by ManInSuit at 7:35 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Request for clarification: did they request that you donate only to one of those three charities, or were they merely the only suggestions listed?
posted by matlock expressway at 7:38 AM on September 3, 2011

Asking guests to donate to political causes? They have put you in an awkward situation. Honor the spirit of "We have plenty of stuff already" by making a donation to the Red Cross or United Way, or buy them some really great wine, restaurant gift care, or other consumable that fits their tastes. The Red Cross and United Way are pretty generic, do pretty good work, and are highly involved in their communities, so they should be safe choices.
posted by theora55 at 7:46 AM on September 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

It was not thoughtful of the couple to only list charities that people might have objections to - it would have been more thoughtful to list at least one "neutral" charity - such as a scholarship fund or something that no reasonable person could object to.

I would donate a neutral charity, one that you are comfortable supporting and that you are certain they will also approve of.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:03 AM on September 3, 2011

All they are doing is saying: we don't need gifts. It's a nice thing they are doing. Consider that these are "suggested" and not mandated and do one of these other things if you are so inclined to gift.
posted by amanda at 8:18 AM on September 3, 2011

I understand your position. However, since the donation to the charity is in lieu of a gift to them, it seems that you should be able to set aside your distaste for the charity and make the donation anyway. After all, it kind of defeats the purpose of it being a gift-equivalent if it has to be something you support.
posted by jayder at 8:31 AM on September 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

... so make the donation anonymously.
posted by jayder at 8:34 AM on September 3, 2011

They're never going to know if you donated or not, so just don't donate.

I will bet that this is the route most people are going to take, because everyone stresses about buying wedding gifts and not having to give one would be a great relief. I know I would take that option, but depending on how bad the charity was I'd be tempted to make a counter-donation to an opposing charity.
posted by winna at 8:46 AM on September 3, 2011

I also would be very uncomfortable giving money to a charity that I object, even if the donation is in someone else's name. We suggested charitable donations as part of our wedding registry, to our local animal shelter, our alma mater, and a fairly bland environmental charity, IIRC, and we chose them with a mind to picking causes that any of our friends and family would support. (Nobody took us up on these suggestions, incidentally. Instead, we have an ice cream maker. :) )

Don't worry about "repudiating their request." Among the mannerly, registries aren't a request, they're a suggestion. We weren't upset that nobody donated to our animal shelter; we were happy that they were able to join us in celebrating our special day.

Pick a neutral charity, or get them wine glasses. You won't be alone; there are a lot of people who can't imagine not giving someone a material wedding gift.
posted by BrashTech at 8:47 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think there are a lot of good suggestions and ideas here. Giving to a "neutral" charity seems good.

One thing, though: If they specifically request "no gifts", it seems like you should respect that and not buy them a gift.
posted by ManInSuit at 9:16 AM on September 3, 2011

To the people saying "they won't know if you donate or not"- that's not necessarily the case. We did this charity-in-lieu of gifts thing at our wedding and the charities we chose would send us a card saying "so-and-so gave a gift in your honor." It did not say how much (obviously) but we did know exactly who gave, and where they gave it.
posted by ambrosia at 9:50 AM on September 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

They've put people in an awkward position re: the charities having a political bent, but it might be more of a smack in the face to buy them a gift when they specifically said don't. If you feel you need to give something, why not give a cash donation in a card with a note that said "we wanted to leave it up to you to decide!" or something like that.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 10:15 AM on September 3, 2011

If you have any inkling of what their tastes in, say, home furnishings are, here's what I'd do- I'd go somewhere like a nice antique store or boutique and buy them a nice vase or whatever, and say in the note that you saw it and immediately thought of them and wanted them to have it. It's not QUITE honest but I wouldn't call it a lie either. I don't think there's any way they could take something like that badly. (This might not work for something more 'generic' like wine glasses, though.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:29 AM on September 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

If I give a random donation to an alma mater or United Way that's going to look like we saw their charities, rejected them, and did something else entirely. I don't think this would be so charged if it wasn't linked to my husband's job. It's important that we not offend these people.

In that case, how about making a very small donation ($5? $10?)- enough to trigger the "we received a gift in your honor" notification, without really be much help- and then giving a larger gift to a charity you DO support, perhaps one that is on the side of that issue that you support, or just a neutral one, to balance things out? (Without the notification, obviously.) Not unlike the way corporate PACs frequently donate to both Republicans and Democrats.

You want to avoid offense. But what these people are doing is really presumptuous, and I would do only the bare minimum (if you want an alternative to dayintoday's suggestion that you just give them the money and let them do with it as they will. )
posted by ambrosia at 11:16 AM on September 3, 2011

Is there any park etc. nearby where you could plant a tree in their honour? This respects their desire not to receive "stuff," and you could give them a card in which you liken the growth of the tree to the growth of their relationship.
posted by Bergamot at 12:06 PM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think this would be so charged if it wasn't linked to my husband's job. It's important that we not offend these people.

If this is the really important part, then focus just on this and don't get too overly personal about it. Donate an equal amount to a charity you DO support if that helps you in your decision, if not donating anything to their charities isn't an option.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 12:27 PM on September 3, 2011

Give them a check with a note to the effect, "we wanted to make sure none of these worthy causes was left out, so please give this to whichever of the three charities got the fewest donations from other guests." That way, you have a completely neutral reason for not having given the money directly to the charity.

Also -- I definitely get your not wanting to donate directly to the charities you dislike, for the pragmatic reason that you don't want the charity or the outside world to perceive you as a supporter. But if you do wind up donating indirectly, don't feel you've somehow betrayed your principles. Not really any different from, eg, buying a happy but benighted couple a $50 frying pan -- after all, if you gave them the pan, then they wouldn't have to buy one, so they'd be $50 richer, and could donate the money themselves.

Some of the proposals above suggest that you donate to a charity you like, instead of the ones they'd like. Don't do this. It was thoughtless of them to transform their wedding into a game of Identity Noise, but it would be even ruder if you were to respond by "giving" them a "gift" that they would view as an attack on their identity if they knew about it. I'm not sure in what possible sense that would be a gift to them.
posted by foursentences at 1:37 PM on September 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you make this donation, then if/when this couple find out that you don't really share their beliefs they will think you have been rather two-faced.

I would get your husband to mention to them that you really aren't comfortable with any of the 3 charities and ask if they would be happy with a donation to the Red Cross or something else instead.

If they take offence just because you don't share their political views, well c'est la vie, sometimes you just have to be yourself.
posted by Lanark at 2:30 PM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

A check won't offend them. Really.

If you feel like you need a "cover story", perhaps a gift certificate to a restaurant nearby that you "just love and want to share with them..."?

(I think it's charming that you're so invested in giving them what they specified. Most people don't really give a shit what the couple registered for, in my experience.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:05 PM on September 3, 2011

Nthing cash or a check. That way you've avoided the issue entirely.
posted by sunnychef88 at 6:10 PM on September 3, 2011

Just give them cash. There's no such thing as a "neutral" charity.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:14 PM on September 3, 2011

It's important that we not offend these people.

I guess the question you have to answer, then, is what is more important to you: not offending these people, or not violating your own politics/values? And I second the person who said that you need to differentiate between charities that are actively offensive to you and merely distasteful. If it's the former, you may have to potentially cause some offense by refusing to donate. Because you say you quite like them, I am guessing it's more distasteful rather than offensive.

I don't like the cash/check option. You know it's just going to go towards one of those charities anyway, so it seems disingenuous to dance around that fact by pretending that cash is really any different than donating directly to that charity.

It doesn't sound like you are intimate enough with them to have a heart-to-heart about your values and your reluctance to support these particular charities. If you're going to make the decision to donate, own it and don't try to get off morally on a technicality.

I agree that gift registries are merely suggestions, not requirements. But it seems pretty clear that these folks are making a statement by the charities they selected, and by specifically asking guests not to purchase gifts. I do think they may be offended if people don't donate.

This might be one of those situations where there are only a number of bad options and no really good one. You might have to just accept that any decision you make won't be totally satisfying.

All that said, I personally would no way no how donate to charities I was personally opposed to. I wouldn't send cash. I would try to stay in the spirit of not buying material gifts. If I knew some of their other interests, I would try to find charities related to those.

Good luck. I'd be interested in an update on what you decide to do.
posted by parrot_person at 7:55 PM on September 3, 2011

I also wonder whether you could support some part of the spirit of their request without violating your own values. For example, if the charities are right to life organizations, for example, maybe you could donate to a charity that helps young mothers learn parenting skills.
posted by parrot_person at 7:59 PM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

They're asking for gun rights-specific charity.

This is not a wedding, this is a fundraising event for a side you don't support.

I hate to say it, but don't go.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:19 PM on September 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

You are the gift giver, and while it is obscenely rude to tell someone what they must give you, a kind of compromise exists between the practicality of gift registries, and the rudeness of suggestion. A key part of that compromise that gift suggestions are suggestions only.
No-one gets to dictate gifts. Them's the rules.

I would just note on the card that in lieu of a gift, a donation to charity was made in honor of their union. Just leave it at that and simply not specify which charity (none of the suggested ones). If they ask you which charity (they'll probably forget - 50+ wedding guests is a lot of gifts/card to keep track of), you could say "no, no details, just a donation to a charity that supports your cause". Which, using your NRA example, might be the Red Cross, because both organisations support gun safety.

Most causes, no matter how misguided, at least aim to do good - planned parenthood and anti-abortion campaigners share the goal of reducing abortion, for example, so perhaps you can just pick one that aims to do a similar good, using less objectionable approach, and keep it to yourself.

If they pry (which is getting rude), then laugh it off - "it's no use - my gift is that somewhere, somehow, you've done some good in the world. Whenever you see something awesome happen - for all you know, you helped!"
posted by -harlequin- at 10:16 PM on September 3, 2011


I have some friends of different political persuasions, and if I ever got a request like this, there would be two classes of such friends:

1. The ones I value well enough to tell them how offensive their "registry" is
2. The ones who I no longer call friends

Even if I agreed with their politics I'd be offended. They are trying to coerce support for a divisive political stance out of your friendly goodwill. Or, more likely, they don't think any "good" people would oppose their causes. Either way, if you aren't going to call them on it now I think it's only a matter of time before you do on something else.

Just give them cash. They may think you're lazy but they won't think you're cheap or deliberately trying to snub them. Don't write anything about donations; just wish them happiness.
posted by bjrubble at 12:38 AM on September 4, 2011

Humans being humans, if you give them cash, I doubt most of that cash will end up going to their charities, so I'd definitely go with that if I really hated the idea of donating to those causes.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:38 AM on September 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

Their request is ridiculously rude.
posted by mediareport at 11:07 AM on September 4, 2011

You are way overthinking this. Yeah, their request is kind of weird and rude but it's just that, a request. Nobody expects to always get exactly what they ask for at their wedding and unless they're complete and total psychos they're not going to go through the list of which guests gave them (or their chosen charities) what and dole out retribution accordingly. The only reason I'd vote against getting them wineglasses is that they might already own some. Get them something kind of unusual or something you can never have enough of, like wine, for instance.
posted by Jess the Mess at 2:54 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding 'their request is rude'.

Wedding gifts aren't just monetary value they deserve for getting hitched -- they are meant to congratulate and help a couple start their lives together. That's why shit like wine glasses and kitchen appliances are common gifts. It's not just cash money they get to spend any way they please -- asking for their guests (especially WORK acquaintances) to just give them money they can reappropriate to their political agenda is not only manipulative and offensive, it goes directly against the point of wedding gifts in the first place.

If they are an established couple with a fully-stocked home, a gift certificate for a nice dinner somewhere would be a very appropriate gift. Noone can fault you for not getting them the thing they asked for if it's not something they directly need.
posted by custard heart at 12:56 PM on September 12, 2011

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