Leverage Your Wedding to Give Back with These Vendors
Hiring vendors with philanthropic components in their business plans lets you do good with your big day.
This story first appeared in the spring/summer 2022 issue of Columbus Weddings, published in December 2021. The original version of this story included a reference to Eleventh Candle Co., which has since gone out of business.
Since day one as the director of Fiori Florals, Kristen Pulcheon has been advocating for a way to give back. For the past four years, Fiori Florals has been the exclusive in-house florist and design studio to BTTS Holdings, which operates Edison 777, WatersEdge, The Estate at New Albany, Brookshire and The FIG Room. Having reached their 300th wedding of the year by mid-October, Pulcheon and the Fiori team were consistently left with many post-wedding blooms that were still in good shape—and the question of what could be done with them.
Pulcheon found her answer through Food Rescue US – Columbus, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing food waste and insecurity, which began partnering with BTTS Holdings in August to distribute unused food from events at four of its venues. (Leftovers from the fifth, Brookshire, goes to M.A.S.H. Pantry and Resource Center, a veteran-focused nonprofit in Central Ohio.) BTTS Holdings estimates that in a year, these donations will provide approximately 13,000 meals to those in need.
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For the company’s floral arm, leftover product receives a similar treatment: After each wedding, the Fiori team sorts through the arrangements, finds the flowers in good standing and recuts each stem before putting them back into water. Every Monday, Food Rescue picks up the buckets of flowers and delivers them to Columbus Colony for Elderly Care.
“[The residents] are able to get joy out of these flowers post-wedding, and it is wonderful to see the flowers living a second life,” says Pulcheon.
Also bringing smiles to seniors in the Greater Columbus area is LifeCare Alliance, which provides health and nutrition services to seniors and medically challenged individuals to keep them in their own homes. For the past 18 years, LifeCare has operated L.A. Catering, which invests its profits back into the community through its parent company.
“During an average year, the profits from [L.A. Catering] pay for roughly 500 individuals to get Meals on Wheels for an entire year,” says LifeCare Alliance President and CEO Chuck Gehring.
LifeCare Alliance also owns and operates The Levee Event Center on Harmon Avenue in Franklinton, and L.A. Catering recently began serving as the exclusive caterer for nearby Station 67. The caterer also is a preferred vendor for more than two dozen area venues, including another Franklinton spot: the National Veterans Memorial and Museum.
Opened in 2018, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit is a first-of-its-kind tribute to veterans of all U.S. conflicts across all branches of service. The building has been nationally recognized for its architectural design and houses several spaces that are available for weddings.
“Our goal is to lead the conversation, on a national level, about the impact of service and the sacrifices veterans [and their families] go through,” says Lauren Schirtzinger, the museum’s event sales coordinator.
Events such as weddings help fund the museum’s mission, community outreach programs and veterans’ services, like health care. While many guests have likely not served themselves, Schirtzinger says that hosting a wedding at the museum helps its mission of spreading awareness and presenting veteran stories and challenges.
“It’s something that’s so easy—if you’re going to pay to rent a space, why not do it in a mission-forward way?” says Schirtzinger. “It’s something that, even as a non-veteran, couples could do to help support our mission.”
Other vendors are getting in on the giving game, too—like Maykell Araica, owner of Peak & Sparrow Creative. Philanthropy has been a part of his business model from day one, he says; originally he partnered with Help-Portrait, a nonprofit that gifted portrait photography to people in need. When the nonprofit arm of that organization shut down in late 2017, “I started thinking, ‘How can I do [more philanthropy] and make sure that my couples know that the work that I do and the money they pay for this makes a larger impact?’”
The answer, it turns out, was closer to home than Araica realized.
Born in Nicaragua, Araica moved to the U.S. in 2009 at age 19. “I left everything behind; the only family I have here is my dad,” he says. “I have very, very deep, strong connections to Nicaragua.” Those connections, and his memories of the intense poverty experienced by many in his home country, sparked Araica’s current method of giving.
“Even while I was there, I was doing work that was altruistic in a sense,” he says, referring to partnerships he had with missions and orphanages in the country. “That made me decide: For everyone I book, 10 percent is going to go to helping a family in need in Nicaragua.”
The process is simple: Araica sends that 10 percent, which he likens to a tithe, to his mother, who still lives in the Central American country. She then uses that money to purchase groceries, medicine and other supplies, which she distributes to families in need in the community.
“In Nicaragua, most poeple live on under a dollar a day,” Araica says. “It’s extreme poverty in most cases, so $100 can buy groceries for some people for a couple weeks. It can be a tremendous help.”
Araica credits his dedication to giving back to something his grandmother used to say.
“‘You only receive as much as you give,’ is the closest translation of what she said, because she said it in Spanish,” he says. “I apply that to my business. It’s more than showing up to take pictures of your wedding; it’s taking what you’ve trusted me with and making something bigger out of it.”
Say ‘I Do’ to Doing Good
Even if a philanthropically minded vendor isn’t in the cards, couples can advocate for their favorite organizations and causes through carefully selected wedding favors. Coffee bags from Bottoms Up Coffee help reduce infant mortality, and buckeyes from The Buckeye Lady support dog rescues and shelters. Couples can also opt to make a donation to their favorite cause in their guests’ names in lieu of a favor, either by donating directly or through National Charity League Inc., America’s Charities or Charity Navigator.
Guests can also help make a difference through couples who set up a wedding fundraiser in lieu of a traditional gift registry. Resources like JustGive, Changing the Present and Zankyou make creating a charity registry to support a chosen organization or cause simple and easy.
Emma Frankart Henterly contributed to this story.