When I sent a email out to request wedding graduate guest posts, Aimee and Minh wrote me a post about one of the coolest wedding ideas I have ever heard in my life. Period. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve always felt a little strange about having a charity registry, since it feels a little like asking for cash, when I know people want to give us something tangible to help build our home. Enter Aimee and Minh with the tangible charity gift that you can mix in amongst the china. We are planning to participate in this project too. It won’t help build our physical home, but it will help to build someone else’s home, as well as the strong bedrock of values that we bring into our marriage. And, we’ll still get those shiny pots and pans. Take it away, you two….
Registries. Awkward, aren’t they? At no other time in your adult life do you openly ask for gifts, let alone post a comprehensive list on the internet asking for lots of gifts. But as anyone who has been involved in a wedding (as a guest or host) knows, registries are very practical. Luckily for us, one of our registry choices added an unexpected richness and depth to the wedding experience, so when Meg asked us to write a little something for A Practical Wedding, we knew it would have to be about The Goat Project.
Don’t get us wrong, we love shiny things as much as the next couple. (Especially bad ass samurai sword kitchen knives.) But we wanted to balance out the more traditional registry items with stuff that was more unique to us. We wanted our registry to be an opportunity. So we registered for goats.
We have actually been to a number of weddings that had charities listed on their registries and we thought it was a beautiful gesture. The key was to find a cause that spoke to us and reflected our sense of a larger global community. We considered several options, but ultimately decided on a unique goat program that Aimee saw personally while in Uganda. The program is run by TPO Uganda (a local Ugandan NGO that provides psychosocial support and mental health care to communities, families and individuals in conflict and post conflict settings), and administered in the U.S. by the Polus Center for Social and Economic Development.
You can read more about the program here and here. But here is the simple version: Children with special needs in refugee camps and rural villages throughout east Africa often are hidden from society, ignored or abused and considered cursed. An announcement is made in the villages that a goat will be given by TPO to any special needs child, which provides visibility to the families so that proper care and support may be given. Families are taught the actual potential and limitations of their children, and often realize they are not alone, as other families with special needs children also become visible. Community is engaged in dialogue and learning, and attitudes slowly transform. The goats provide nutritious and necessary milk and, after bred, food for families in dire straits. Finally, the child, who now owns a goat, has status within the family and community, and a small charge to care for and love. The ripple effects have been astonishing. All for a $45 goat!
Aimee saw the program first-hand while working in Uganda and was impressed by its simple nature, immediate, direct impact, and its efficacy. Although the Goat Project didn’t have a formal “registry” program, several characteristics of the program made it ideal for our alternative wedding registry.
1. Each goat costs $45, a reasonable, affordable amount, on-par (or less) than many traditional wedding gifts.
2. We’re connected to the project. Friends and family know about the program, our involvement, and that it is personally important to us.
3. A goat is a concrete, tangible gift. It is straightforward. When people give $45, they get a goat! They also get to see that goat and the receiving child/family (via a certificate and photo sent by TPO), as soon as the goat is purchased. This was, by far, the most important factor in our decision and we can’t stress it enough. Tangible items are great gifts. And our friends loved it. LOVED it.
Honestly, we never, ever could have anticipated people’s responses and enthusiasm. We created our own wedding website and then posted the link to The Goat Project under “registries” with a very short explanation. We left it at that, never knowing if anyone would actually see it, “get it” or get goats. We received goats all right, plus a ton of animated phone calls and giddy emails from our loved ones, telling us how excited they were about their gift to us. Even at our reception, right on the dance floor, we had friends and family eagerly sharing their goat gifts with glee! How happy is that?!
We also could have never anticipated the extent of our own excitement. The first time we received a certificate saying that our friends had donated goats in honor of our upcoming marriage, Aimee cried. We knew at that moment that our wedding was extending far beyond ourselves. For each subsequent goat we have received, there has been dancing around the apartment, shouts of delight, and general merriment.
Initially, some folks were skeptical, but in the end, the goats did not take away at all from the more traditional gifts that we did receive. On the contrary, having the dual registries allowed us to enjoy the beautiful household gifts that we received even more, because we know that there is also a herd of goats in a small corner of Africa working hard to change fortunes, attitudes and lives.
If you are inclined to go this route, there are myriad of options. We found that the Goat Project had particular attributes that make it ideal for a wedding, but we’re a bit biased. (Disclaimer: Minh was born in the Year of the Goat, so he is particularly biased.) Point being, there are so many amazing projects out there, and the key is to find the one that fits you as a couple. For us, goats were a great way to go and we’d do it again in a heartbeat. But whatever makes your heart beat, we wish for you to find it also in your engagement, in your wedding, in each other.
(A huge thank you to our exceptionally generous family and friends, and especially to the fabulous Meg for letting us talk about farm ani
mals on a wedding blog. You are awesome.)
The pictures are of Aimee and Minh’s amazing wedding, where the centerpieces were made from handmade baskets from Uganda that the couple already owned.
Photos by AHS Photography