Registry Idea: The Goat Project

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.

If you are interested in registering for goats or learning more about The Goat Project, you can e-mail

(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

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  • ley

    There’s also one called Heifer International that does the same in terms of setting up families with everything from trees and honeybees to llamas and water buffalo. Charity registries aren’t always just asking for people to donate money to a research fund or something…there are many that offer givers the chance to provide things like livestock for families, or trees for the environment, or even education for young girls in third world countries. :)

  • Thats lovely! Our wedding, and thus registry, is recently over with, but what a fantastic program! I am going to buy a goat today. Seriously. I’m a social worker/therapist, and this is just an amazing program. Finally, a program that strives to help people with special needs without trying to transform a whole culture into a US or Europe copycat in the proccess.

    Madam blogger, this post is win. I hope sincerly that your posting it has just led to a major betterment in a childs life.

  • This is such a great program. Our wedding has passed but I am definitely going to tell my family and friends about this program. Thank you for sharing!

  • What a great idea. Minh and Aimee strike again. I’m still single so if I ever have teh fortune to marry, goat purchase will be required for entry to the venue. Also I will have the wedding rings hanging from a goat’s neck as a concrete reminder of all the good we’ll be doing through the act of matrimony!

  • That’s fantastic! I was going to mention Heifer International ( but Ley beat me to it.! :-) I love this idea. I’ve used it for Christmas, but I didn’t think of it for a registry!

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    What a fantastic idea. I think that choosing charities that mean something to you is important if you’re going to go down the charity gift route.

    We chose an online registry that combined household things we needed with charity gifts. The most meaningful gift we got was a donation of antibiotics to a children’s charity in Africa.

  • I love this. Its tangibility makes it feel like a real option for you and David, too.

  • Thank you for highlighting such an important and..(dare I say it?)..PRACTICAL solution to a bizarre problem ( the problem being the whole wedding registry world of materialistic surplus in an unstable economy and yet one where I have everything I need..within reason. Somedays I NEED something pretty!) I love the idea of the goats and the continuing gifts that they give. I will definitely be adding this to our registry!

  • Beautiful idea!

  • I was lucky enough to attend Aimee and Minh’s wedding. It was a beautiful affair. When it came time to choose a gift, I immediately responded to the goat idea. My girlfriend and I donated a goat, then printed a receipt and made a card with it. Since the goat was only $45, we also got Aimee and Minh a serving tray from their registry. All in all, it was a great way to give to the couple, and give back to the world. I got so into the idea, I even considered renting a goat and bringing it to the wedding. But my lady said, “It’s me or the goat.”

  • rachel

    what a fantastic idea! i have heard of heifer international before, but i especially appreciate the intentions behind this particular charity :) like terry said, a wonderful way to bring value to disadvantaged members of a community!

  • Mo

    I love this idea and may have to steal it! Thank you for sharing it with us.

  • One Love Photo

    Wow, so cool. I know what a few of my Christmas gifts are going to be for my goat loving friends. perfect. just perfect!

    wonderful writing and explanation.

  • What a wonderful idea ! I live in East Africa (Tanzania) & I can honestly say that goats are very valuable parts of the family here and are appreciated very much by the families who own them. The gift of a goat can make a huge difference to a family living in poverty – so bless you for including this wonderful idea on your blog !
    Bye for now
    Lynda, Kilimanjaro, East Africa

  • Wonderful idea! It’s all too easy to get overwhelmed with the ‘self-centered’ nature of weddings. Good to inject some charity and good will into the mix!

    I’ve tagged you at my blog!

  • Kit

    Sooooo cute! I love the charities in which you can donate animals to African villages, but this is even cooler since the animals not only help feed people but make special needs kids members of their societies. But the best part of this is getting to see the goats and their families!

  • I would definitely buy a goat if I was attending your wedding. :)

  • riley

    My fiancee found Zankyou and it was the best registry option for us. We were able to put all our wishlist in the registry and received the cash equivalent of the gifts. We only paid 2.85% and we highly recommend it.

  • June

    I love the charitable registry idea and love the goat idea. Almost a decade ago so e friends of mine were married and were the first people I knew of to list charities on their registry. Our wedding is about a month away and we have listed 4 charitable organizations for folks to donate to. I was so happy about this idea and felt it was a decent gesture towards making a social impact, even in light of our relatively reasonable wedding. We did not do a traditional registry. My fiancé and I are in our early and late 40’s, We don’t feel we need a whole lot of kitchenware and such, especially considering we have just combined our 2 households into one.

    My Mom continues to remind me that people would really like to buy us SOMETHING. So for my parents, close cousins, aunts and such I created a small wish list at an environmentally friendly company. However, much to my dismay it has become a HUGE issue between my mother and me that I do not WANT a lot of things! This may be bleeding into the area of dealing with Moms and weddings. And I am sparing some details of how she’s told me how I should respond should gifts come our way. I guess she has probably had to field a lot of questions from our very traditional east coast families about gifts. Nonetheless it has been hard. I feel heartened by all the positive responses about the goats and charitable registries. This is something I really felt good about in the bottom of my heart and what to do when it has soured because somehow my choices are not measuring up. Any words of wisdom out there?

    – June, soon to be married

  • I know this an old thread, but did something happen to this charity? We mentioned the goat project on our wedding site, and we just got a message from a guest asking for a direct link, because it wasn’t working from our site. All the links to the charity from this posting are broken, and I’m not finding the site when I google it.

    If anyone knows what happened, or if there is a comprable charity that helps children with special needs, I’d love to hear about it.