At any simcha (happy occasion), we say, "May this good fortune be for us and for all of Israel" – the simcha is not a private celebration but the good fortune of the whole community. One way to concretely express this is to use your wedding as an opportunity to give tzedakah (charity). There are numerous creative ways to do this.
- Since many people marry at an older age, some couples already have dishes, pots and pans and the like. For some couples, a donation to a charitable cause in their honor is a much meaningful gift than a vase or bowl. They may elect to invite guests to donate some or all of what they would otherwise give to the couple to some charities of their choice. These charities can be listed on a slip of paper accompanying the invitation or distributed on tables at the wedding.
The Jewish Fund for Justice has a special wedding fund that can be established in honor of the couple. Established with a minimum gift of $1,500, a Wedding Fund is spent down over three years. Each year the couple selects one pre-approved group to receive a portion of the corpus. See http://www.jfjustice.org/prod02.htm#Wedding%20Funds.
- Some couples decide to give a percentage of what they spend on the wedding (Mazon recommends 3%) to a charitable cause.
- Leftover food can be packed up and often picked up by an organization that will deliver it to a local homeless shelter. Other organizations accept donations of bridal dresses for brides in need. Flowers can be taken to a local hospital or nursing home. (Other couples choose to replace the floral centerpiece with a note saying that the money which would have been used to purchase flowers has been donated to charity.
- You may want to consider giving to charitable organizations relevant to the occasion of a wedding: organizations that work for gay rights (since gays do not enjoy the privileges of legal marriage at this time) or organizations which fight for agunot (Jewish women who cannot remarry because their recalcitrant husbands refuse to grant them a religious divorce).