Wedding favors that give back to more than just your guests

When Courtney Phillips was browsing guest favor ideas online, she saw the usual suspects: prepackaged donuts, sunglasses, bubbles, balloons. And none of those worked for her wedding vision.

“With the whole wedding, I wanted to make sure that we had as little an impact as possible on waste,” says Phillips, who's studying wildlife science and pre-veterinary science at Columbus State Community College.

So she started brainstorming ideas for gifts that would have a positive effect on the environment, landing on pollinator-friendly flower seeds. With her personal interest in bees and concern about worldwide pollinator decline (about 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species are in danger of extinction, according to a recent U.N.-sponsored report), the seed-packet guest favors were the perfect fit for her Aug. 13, 2016, wedding to Quentin at a family friend's farm.

And she's not alone. With the rise in Pinterest-inspired and DIY weddings in recent years, many brides are getting creative with guest favors, putting a personal and philanthropic spin on the tradition.

Ashley Stephan was split between favor ideas. “We loved the champagne ideas, but we were also wanting to donate to a cause,” she says. So when she stumbled upon a photo of One Hope wine bottles on Instagram and found out that the Napa Valley winery donates a portion of its profits to charity, she was sold. “It meant a lot to us to be able to do both,” she says.

Stephan and her now-husband, Kevin, chose mini-bottles of brut sparkling wine for their May 29, 2016, wedding at the Columbus Museum of Art. Each One Hope product is associated with a different charity, and donations from brut purchases go to WhyHunger, an organization with a mission to end hunger and poverty.

In addition to the One Hope charity, people can donate to another nonprofit of their choice through their wine purchase. Stephan chose Nationwide Children's Hospital, where she had surgery to close two holes in her heart in 2006. “It was a way of giving back to an organization that helped me personally,” she says.

For both brides, finding favors with a philanthropic slant that guests could also take home made the gifts more meaningful.

“Just being able to make one small change can have, I think, a big impact,” says Phillips.