One couple shares their advice for throwing a “give-back” wedding.

Shelby Kiskis and Anthony “AJ” Johnson are using their July 21 wedding for the greater good. In our fall/winter 2018 issue, we detailed how (and why) they decided to turn the focus of their big day on someone else. Here, they share their tips for couples interested in making all or part of their wedding a “give-back” event as well.

Find Common Ground

Before you do anything, talk to your partner about what type of cause you’d like to support. Kiskis and Johnson quickly agreed that they wanted to help the population in El Salvador that’s served by the mission trips that their house of worship, Rock City Church, organizes. Kiskis, a nurse, and Johnson, a police officer, both have strong ties to programs in El Salvador. Focusing on that shared passion “creates a natural interest in the ‘give back’ theme and helps develop an even more exciting process,” says Johnson.

Do Your Research

Know your vendors and their motives before you approach any vendor about your give-back wedding. It’s important to vet those who may have ulterior motives, says Johnson, to ensure that your visions align and your goal of doing good is attainable. Find out if the company has a philanthropic focus already, says Kiskis, and if they have established causes that it supports as well.

“Make sure everyone involved in the wedding understands the reason for your ‘give back,’ ” Johnson adds. “If you feel a vendor or anyone else involved in the wedding has different reasons for participating, don’t be afraid to question them. This is your day!”

Offer an Opportunity

When you’re ready to approach a vendor, present the idea as an opportunity to do good, not an ultimatum that you’ll only book the vendor if they agree to donate product or services.

“You want to make sure that you can afford your vendor prior to asking them,” says Kiskis. “Make sure that if they say no, you’re still comfortable with who they are as a business.”

Don’t Lose Hope

Know that whatever you do, it is enough, Kiskis advises.

“For me, it was hard to feel like I’m doing enough. I felt like we needed to do more, go bigger and donate more money and give away all of our stuff, and I think then that gets overwhelming,” she says. “Sometimes, I think, people get in the mindset of, ‘Go big or don’t do it at all.’ And I think the biggest deterrent for people is that they feel like they’re not going to make a big enough difference.”

Kiskis and Johnson were able to secure enough vendor support to donate $5,000 to help support a new health clinic in the Salvadoran community where they volunteer. That money, coupled with a grant, was doubled to $10,000. But Kiskis doesn’t want anyone to feel that they need to convince last one of their single vendors to donate goods or services.

“We were very blessed to have this unfold. This was never our idea; this was all God opening up all these opportunities for us,” she says. “I think just having the mindset of ‘Hey, we want to incorporate something bigger than ourselves, because that’s what we want our marriage and our love to be,’ is selfless.”