Three years ago, I attended my FSIL's wedding and she and her husband donated to Doctors Without Borders instead of giving the traditional favors. I remember thinking that it was the coolest favor ever! Don't get me wrong, I can awe over the tasteful handmade soap or the delicious pieces of chocolate as a token of the couple's gratitude (take a look at my previous wedding porn posts about oh-so-cute favors), but I also appreciate knowing that the efforts and money that would have gone to all of that were put toward a worthy cause. So if you've been reading my blog, you'll know that we are not doing the traditional favors. We decided that there wasn't anything we wanted to give 100+ guests on our measely favor budget that didn't scream tacky, cheap or completely useless. So we decided to nix favors completely and spend our time and efforts in donating to cancer research and support and awareness programs (the 1000 cranes we spent three months and nearly a 100 hours making will be donated to the Wedding Co. who then will donate 50 cents per crane to a cancer research organization. Do the math and that's a pretty penny going toward a worthy cause!).
But apparently, there's an arguement within the wedding industry and the blogoshere on whether or not donations in lieu of the traditional favor is a good idea at all. For some, not sending guests home with homemade soap or chocolates and then telling them where their favor went instead is incredibly rude. The first arguement is that a donation going toward something else other than me, is not a gift to me. And telling me that you did it in my honor is baloney. I get the logic, especially if I had no say on where the donation went. But on the contrary, I did see my FSIL and her husband's donation in lieu of a favor as a gift to me, because I truly felt much better with the knowlege of where the money went to instead. Let's face it, you're not always going to care for the favor -- the porcelain figurine or monogrammed shotglass is thoughtful, but I really don't have a place to put the figurine and um, I don't drink shots, much less hard liquor. With a donation, it felt good knowing that money that would have gone toward a gift with little functionality or short shelf life that I, too, had no say in, was spent on something with more lasting impact. I also knew that the favor came from the couple's heart and was meaningful to them (they're doctors). In a way, I feel like I did share in the donation because without us the guests, a favor wouldn't have been an issue. Without us there, the donation would not have been made. No, the favor does not affect me personally, it's not something I can hold, see or personally use. But I can see how the favor will do more good in the bigger picture and how it will affect more people than myself. The thought is rewarding in itself, and I'm happy the couple chose that favor for me.
The second argument is that not everyone will agree with the cause or charity organization, no matter how harmless and worthy it may seem (read further into the comments of the Manolo post and you'll see how some might even consider donating to cancer research offensive). True, someone's objection to a cause or charity might trigger a more sensitive response than a lousy picture frame would. If you are making a donation in lieu of a favor, it is important and wise to stick to a cause that would be less controversial. But, in my mind, I still can't see how giving a cupcake or candy is somehow better than a donation to what most would consider a worthy cause such as cancer research, relieving global hunger, natural disaster aid, etc. One commenter implied that it's better to give a cheap favor that will get tossed in a day or two to avoid ruffling the feathers of one or two guests (I read the few comments against donations to cancer research, and while I do feel for their reasoning, I did not feel it was enough to not consider donating to what I truly feel is a just cause).
Lastly, I don't think it's rude to let people know about the donation. Favors are usually far from my mind at a wedding, but I think it would nice to know about the donation and it would make me feel better knowing that something thoughtful was done on my behalf. So no, the statement "in lieu of favors, we have decided to donate to ___________ in your honor" would not offend me at all. On our cards for our guests, we did not explicitly state "in lieu of favors," but we did say that a donation was made in their honor. Perhaps if I felt I was entitled to something tangible or a something edible that I can call all mine, I would be annoyed by it. But as in any favor or gift, not everyone will appreciate the thought. From a guest perspective, I think a donation favor is very rewarding, not just for me but potentially for many people. To me, that's one of biggest favors I can ask for!