Bride Groom dancing

7 Ways to Hold a Charitable Wedding

Let’s all be honest here: weddings cost a lot of money for all parties involved.  The spending spree usually starts with the hefty purchase of the engagement ring, and continues beyond the honeymoon.  For some people the excessive consumerism required to plan a wedding is something they could do without.  Planning the “Wedding of the Year” doesn’t mean you have to be the biggest spender of the year. Of course, we all know there are some big cost involved, but many couples are now working to make their wedding less about consuming and more about charity. If you are looking for opportunities to use your special day to help improve the lives of those in your community, consider some of the ideas below as ways to hold a charitable wedding.

marraige proposal

Consider Making Your Bachelor or Bachelorette Party a Volunteer Event.  

Think about some of your favorite hobbies.  In what ways can you and your bridal party use those interests or skills to serve others?  Are you a huge animal lover or often get called “the dog whisperer”? The local animal shelters are always in need of volunteers to come out and help walk or spend time with lonely pups. Or maybe you have always wanted to help at your local food pantry, they usually need small volunteer groups to help organize their donations.  Take your bridal party out for a few hours of community service and maybe continue the party with drinks later that night.  It’s the perfect opportunity to blend helping your community with spending time with your favorite guys or gals.

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Host a Food Drive During Your Engagement Party or Bridal Shower.

If you are already anticipating a massive influx of wedding gifts, why not dedicate your bridal shower or engagement party gifts to charity.  Instead of having guest bring you a gift personally, maybe ask that they bring in a bag of canned goods or other non-perishable food items.  You can also ask friends who may not have time to attend the entire shower to just drop by, say hello and drop off donations as well.  Guests might be relieved to not have to choose the perfect gift to bring and have an even better time focusing on the actual event.

Bride and Groom

Use Amazon Smile When Making Wedding Purchases.

AmazonSmile is a great way to make sure that all your spending does some good too. AmazonSmile allows you to choose a charity and they in turn will donate a percentage of what you spend to your chosen organization.  To go a step further, if you have an amazon wedding registry you can ask your guest to use your charity when shopping for your wedding gifts to ensure that even more donations make it their way.

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Have Your Bridesmaids or Groomsmen Donate their Unwanted Wedding Attire to an “Operation Prom” Organization.

Okay, they don’t have to tell you upfront that they thought your choice of dress was hideous or that they can’t think of when they would ever wear it again, but making this an option for your special ladies or gentleman can help ease the uncomfortable thoughts they may have about the best way to get rid of that dress without you finding out. Give them the out they are so desperately seeking and let it go to some lucky teenage girl or boy who might not otherwise be able to afford a formal gown. There are several organizations out there that provide gently used evening attire to teenagers who are not able to afford a prom dress or tux on their own. A few to look into are “Project G.L.A.M,”   “Operation Prom” and “Becca’s Closet.” You can either have your wedding party bring clothes to change into after the reception and leave it in an available closet or box, or arrange for drop off after the wedding.  Either way, you make some gal or guy’s prom dreams come true.

Guests with food

Donate Leftover Wedding Food and Goodies to a Local Homeless Shelter or Food Pantry

Along with wedding attire, there is usually tons of leftover, unwanted food and wedding trinkets that family and friends of the bride and groom are practically begging guests to take as they walk out the door.  Even with all the pleading, much of it gets left behind and unfortunately thrown away. A great way to prevent this from happening and help your family and friend “clean-up crew,” is to plan to donate all the leftover food to people who really need it.  Local shelters and food pantries generally welcome all the help with extra food they can get.  Just designate someone (or a few people) in advance to be the delivery guys and feel good knowing you saved a piece of a landfill and you helped feed your community at the same time.

No gifts please

In Lieu of Wedding Gifts, ask Guests for Donations

In a day and time when many couples already live together pre-marriage, the same old wedding registry gifts of housewares are just not needed anymore.  If you have already outfitted your home the way you want, and have all you need, why not forego the registry altogether and have guests donate to a specific non-profit cause?  There are a couple of ways to do this, but first choose a charity that is important to you as a couple.  Then you can either have guests donate on their own, or use a website that allows you to create a “charity registry.” It’s a bit more like a “GoFundMe” than a Macy’s registry, but it gives you the opportunity to share the story of why you as a couple want to support this particular charity. You then share the link with guests, so they can donate. 

Resources for black brides

Use Vendors Who Give Back

If you have been planning your celebration for even a short amount of time, you know that not all vendors are created equal.  There are lots of reasons couples choose the vendors they want to work with, but a great way to help you decide is to find out if they are giving back. Many vendors are socially conscious and not only want to build their business, but they also want to build their communities.  I give 10% of my profits each year to a non-profit that I choose based on it’s connections to my clients.  This year, my beneficiary is the Girls and Boys Club of Lake Tahoe.  You can read more about my current and former recipients here Consider using a network of vendors like “Black Sheep Bride,” which I am a founding member of, to find charitable, like-minded wedding and event vendors, who you know are using some of your money for good works; after all, it may take a little bit of the sting out of the costs! 

Tahoe backyard wedding

Tahoe Backyard Wedding | Incline Village, NV | Dost + Nick

These two. 

I adore them. 

I’m so thankful to call them friends now.  They love music, and dancing, and laughter, and good food.  They are adventurous, curious and sardonic.  They say yes when I invite them to concerts by bands they’ve never heard of and they invite me to concerts by bands that I’ve never heard of.  They are willing to go to burlesque shows starring my former clients.  They like brunch (but, I mean, never trust a person that doesn’t).  They have some incredible moves on the dancefloor.

Dost and Nick wanted an intimate backyard gathering with their motley crew of far flung friends and family.  Their guest list was as diverse as they are, with folks coming from as far away as Turkey.  They rented a beautiful house directly on the water through VRBO for their Tahoe backyard wedding and as an added surprise, it decided to snow that week.  Bonus: Dost made good use of a thrift store fur coat that was perfect for the occasion, which is to say, it was fucking freezing that day and she had no choice but looked amazing in it.

We were all thankful for the tent and for the best DJ around Dave Berkman, who was willing to completely break down and move mid-day his entire setup inside so everyone could cut a rug the grass in relative comfort while it was 40 degrees out in Tahoe in September.

Dost and Nick have since told me that they were drawn to my work because they loved the way I capture movement and motion, which is something their dancefloor had plenty of!  I’m so incredibly honored to not only have been part of their day, but have new friends also.

Venue: VRBO | Caterers: Carson City BBQ | Rentals: Celebrations Rentals | DJ: Ascent DJ | Bride’s Attire: Maggie Sottero | Groom’s Attire: Paul Smith

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North Tahoe Lodge Wedding

North Tahoe Lodge Wedding | Truckee, CA | Agnes + Laurence

It’s freezing today in Tahoe.  Actually, it’s been freezing all week.  As I was trying to decide what amazing wedding to share from this past wedding season on the blog, the cold temps, banana bread in the oven, and the promise of fall from the chill in the air reminded me of Agnes and Laurence’s private estate North Tahoe Lodge wedding in Truckee from this past spring.  There was still piles of snow.  So much snow, in fact, that their guests spent an entire afternoon clearing the deck of snow for their ceremony.  

Agnes and Laurence wanted to have a small, intimate celebration surrounded by friends and family.  They wanted amazing food, lots of laughter, and great photos.  I have to say, that when you are one of two vendors, it makes you feel incredibly unbelievably special.  (I’ll try not to let it go to my head, Agnes).  

Agnes is Polish and customarily, at a Polish wedding, the father presents the couple with two glasses – one of vodka, one of water. They are offered first to the bride, who must make her selection without knowing which is which. Tradition says that whoever ends up with the glass of vodka will be the dominant partner in the relationship.  I think you can tell by the photos which way this ended!

Agnes and Laurence, it was an honor to be part of your day and even bigger honor to be so valued.  I firmly believe that your wedding day should be a day where you celebrate with the friends and family closest to you and that the pomp, circumstance, and traditions aren’t that necessary so when clients find me that not only believe, but exemplify the same values, it makes my heart sing to be part of the day.

Venue:  The North Tahoe Lodge | Caterer: Blend | Bride’s Attire: Glamour Closet | Second shooting service of the sassy shutterbug Shaunte Dittmar

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Edgewood Lake Tahoe Wedding | Julia + Mark

When Julia first hired me for her Edgewood Lake Tahoe Wedding, I wasn’t totally sure why.  She is the opposite of most of my couples: super type A, extremely hands on, incredibly attentive to minute details of everything.  I can only imagine what her wedding binder looked like.  She would write me essays of emails and I’d be incredibly confused.  As a super Type A person myself, it was baffling to get such lengthy discussions from someone because most people just (rightfully) assume I’m going to take care of business, because that’s what I do.  

And then I met her.  And then I fell in love with her.  I realized that’s just her innate personality.  When I met the two of them for their engagement session, I also discovered that her now-husband loves her for it because he jokingly and lovingly asked me how many lengthy emails she’d already sent me.  When I stayed late to hang out at their wedding party and finish out the night with them, simply because I wanted to, her dad asked me if he owed me anything extra and I said, “of course not.”  “But why?”  I answered with the first thing to come to mind, an echo of her sister’s toast earlier in the evening, “Because Julia.”  

“Julia demands excellence,” her sister had said during the toast.  It is incredibly true, but not entirely true.  For me, Julia inspires excellence through her demand.  I loved being part of her wedding day because I wanted SO badly to do an exceptional job for her.  Despite her lengthy emails and long questions, I was oddly convinced that she inherently trusted me completely, which is not would I would expect when you mix my personality with hers.  But that’s exactly what happened: Julia motivated me to produce the best I could for her that day.  

Mark and Julia are now my friends.  In fact, I’m writing this post from a coffee shop in Chicago, just down the street from where I am meeting her later tonight for wine.  I’m really happy with the work I did for them.  I’m thankful that not only did she hire me, but that she trusted me and emboldened me to produce work that I’m incredibly proud of.  A second big thanks goes out to Nicky Lockman who was my right hand lady that day and contributed excellent work to their wedding gallery as well, some of which is included in these highlight photos.

Mark and Julia, congratulations.  Thanks for demanding excellence and allowing me to arise to the occasion.  It was an honor to be part of your wedding day.

Venue and Catering: Edgewood Golf Course and Resort | Officiant: Rev. Ronald Sayed | Florist: Thran’s | Invitations: David’s Bridal | Bakery: Raley’s | DJ: Ascent DJ Productions | Harpist: Annie Roos | Bride’s Attire: Maggie Sottero gown from J’aime Bridal | Veil: Bel Aire | Bridal Party Attire: David’s Bridal | Groom’s Attire: Men’s Warehouse | Groomsmen Attire: Men’s Warehouse |Hair and Make-up: Tahoe Salon Be | Second Photographer: the incredible non-edible Nicky Lockman of Nemus Photography

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Sugar Bowl Wedding

Sugar Bowl Wedding | Truckee, CA | Kristin + Alan

Kristin and Alan both spend their summers working for a summer camp for kids and they warned me ahead of time that their camp friends get a little rowdy, like to dance party, and that rubber animal masks often make an appearance.  What they did not warn me about: that there would be a ninja turtle at the dance party.  Best reception surprise ever!

Their Sugar Bowl wedding featured the highs and lows that you would expect from any ski resort wedding – literally.  They were wed on the grass at the base of the resort, sent their friends and family up the lift for cocktail hour at the top of the mountain and then returned to the base for a beautiful dinner and reception on the deck of the lodge.

Because their summer camp roots are so important to them, the reception was camp themed and the centerpieces featured appropriate items like lanterns.  Take away gifts were custom ceramic mugs and table assignments were according to cabin names. It was a gorgeous day, an adorably themed DIY wedding and an incredible dance party.

Venue: Sugar Bowl Ski Resort | Officiant: Rev Channing Smith | Florist: Sugar Bowl Ski Resort | Bakery: Ikeda’s California Country Market | Musician: Megan Bigelow | DJ: Ashlee Sleek | Bride’s Attire: Trudy’s Bridal | Bridesmaids’ Attire: Dessy | Groom’s Attire: The Celtic Shoppe | Hair and Make-up: Daymaker Brides | Second Shooter: Annie Robillard

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Zephyr Cove Resort Wedding

Zephyr Cove Resort Wedding | Lake Tahoe, NV | Ana + Andrew

Ana and Andrew had me at pizza.

When we first spoke in 2015 about their wedding, over a year out, Ana was most excited about the pizza.  As a photojournalist, there are few details that I worry about on a wedding day.  I am, frankly, unconcerned with the pomp and circumstance and whether or not you’re going to have any traditions.  By all means, cut that cake and I will photograph it, but I’m not going to orchestrate your day or suggest that you do things you don’t want to for photos sake.  What I will get behind though: pizza.

The pizza was fantastic.

But the rest of their day, that was fantastic also.  From the tear inducing speeches to the cake in Andrew’s brother’s face, from the coordinated and choreographed first dances (Ana and her father danced to Time Warp!), everything about their daytime Zephyr Cove Resort wedding with a pizza buffet was right up my alley.

Venue: Zephyr Cove Resort | Coordinator : Stephanie Stugart | Officiant: Sharon Rusk | Invitations: Mighty Industries | Florist: Rose Petals Florist | Bakery: Tahoe Cakes by Grace | DJ: Southworth Entertainment | Bride’s Attire: David’s Bridal | Groom’s Attire: Men’s Warehouse | Hair and Make-Up: Tahoe Salon Be | Videographer: HeavenSide Studios | Second Shooter: Annie Robillard

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Chateau at Incline Village

Chateau Wedding | Incline Village, NV | Caitlin and Brad

Can all weddings have flower girls that clean up their flowers during the ceremony please?  For real.  Have you ever seen anything more adorable?

Caitlin and Brad met while attending the University of Arizona and now are loving living in Reno.  Mountains, athletics and four seasons are important to them and their friends definately did not let any of this, or their antics during college, escape their speeches at the wedding!  Brad’s brother actually kicked off the entertainment: he delivered, without a doubt, the most hysterical and amazing best man speech I’ve ever heard in the history of all weddings.  I could hardly take photos through the laughter induced tears.

Their Chateau wedding in Incline Village was graced with beautiful light, a kick ass dance party and plenty of laughter.  It was a beautiful day for a beautiful couple!

Venue: The Chateau at Incline Village | Officiant: Erica Jones | Invitations: Compass Rose Studio | Florist: A Floral Affair | Bakery: Dee’s Bakery | DJ: Epik Entertainment | Bride’s Attire: Bridal & Veil | Bridesmaid Attire: Jenny Yoo | Groom and Groomsmen Attire: Joseph Abboud from Men’s Warehouse | Hair and Make-Up: Tahoe Salon Be

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Valhalla Wedding

Valhalla Winter Wedding | South Lake Tahoe, CA | Mary + Scotty

Mary and Scotty are pretty much the raddest kids around with the best hair.  Until Scotty shaved his hair off on his wedding night.  True story.

Mary ascertained that he needed “marraige hair” instead of “bachelor hair.”  What I think probably started as an inside joke grew to actuality as the dance party went on into the night and the whiskey flowed.

Other reasons they are rad: they wanted a Viking themed photo booth because they were getting married at Valhalla.  Their Hope Valley engagement session featured golden light, stylish threads and dogs.  Their grandma facetimed them while they were getting ready.

Venue: Valhalla Estate | Wedding Planner: Tahoe Dream Events | Florist: Enchanted Florist | Bakery: Cakes by Grace | Catering: Blue Angel Cafe | Bride’s Attire: Nicole Miller from The Wedding Party | Groom’s Attire: J Crew | Second photographer: Nicky Lockman of Nemus Photography

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Landing Resort Wedding

Landing Resort Wedding | Lake Tahoe, CA | Lex + Michael

Lex and Michael’s image from their Hora may be one of my most favorite images ever.  The combination of surprise, concern and hands everywhere makes me incredibly happy.  I also couldn’t help but put a ton of their portraits in this post, which is unusual for me, but they are so ridiculously good looking and adorable that I couldn’t help myself.  This young couple has been together SINCE JUNIOR HIGH (yes, seriously) and their parents and families are already best friends.  What I expected to be a quiet, subdued Sunday brunch Landing Resort Wedding was the exact opposite: from a poignant ceremony, to tear filled speeches, to a pumped up dance party, this wedding delivered like no other brunch wedding ever has.

Venue: The Landing Resort and Spa | Officiant: Sharon Rusk | Florist: Thran’s | DJ: Ascent DJ Productions | Bakery: Tahoe Cakes by Grace | Bride’s Attire: Free People | Groom’s Attire: Men’s Warehouse

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Kirkwood Mountain Resort Wedding

Kirkwood Mountain Wedding | Kirkwood, CA | Lauren + Danny

Have you ever noticed how all my clients are all my favorite people?  How do I get such rad people in my life?  Lauren and Danny are two such kindred spirits that I want to keep forever as friends and ski partners.  Their Kirkwood Mountain Wedding was exactly my style: a relaxed outdoor affair, at my favorite ski resort, with outdoor games, tons of wine, decor that represented their love of travel, and, of course, an epic dance party.  They really won me over when they asked if I would be willing to take the chairlift up into the Devil’s Corral meadow under the Cirque for their portraits.  Clearly the answer is, “heck yes!”  Better yet, instead of a bouquet, Lauren tossed a Feminist coloring book at her friends (clearly amazing).  And as a final testament to their awesomeness, Lauren and Danny recreated the dance scene from Dirty Dancing for their first dance.

Venue: Kirkwood Mountain Resort | Officiant: Rev Josh Serrano | Bakery: DIY & Costco | Bride’s Attire: mother’s wedding dress, re-designed by Bonnie Hoffman | Bridesmaid’s Attire: Renz Rags | Groom’s Attire: Custom Made in Vietnam | Videographer: XOXO Video

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