My name is Kathy Cheng, and I'm the founder of Thankful Registry, an online-only wedding registry site, and social responsibility is something I spend quite a lot of time thinking about. I know I'm not the only one who feels the wedding industry can and should do more to get outside of our bubble. But the question is: how can small businesses like mine make a difference? To get the conversation started, I'm sharing some ways I've tried to make Thankful a more thoughtful, less harmful, and more generous business. I hope it'll inspire others to apply the same ideas too.
By the way, this topic doesn't just apply to wedding businesses. If you're currently engaged and looking for vendors, maybe this list will help inform your decisions. Though if you're reading Catalyst, there's a good chance that you're already pretty well-informed!
1. We should dial back the consumerism.
Modern day wedding planning has somehow turned into a months-long project where you're working through a checklist of things you need to pay for and then figuring out how to pay for those things. (I'm speaking from personal experience here!) So much time and energy is invested in staging the picture perfect event with all the trimmings and making sure that all necessary do's and don'ts are being observed. My take: throw it all out and start over.
In the registry world, for instance, couples are encouraged to spend hours in a retail store adding dozens of impractical items to their wedding registry. It begs the simple question: why? Thankful's approach is that couples should take the lead when it comes to the kind of registry they share and not tick off categories on a store's registry "must-have" list. The result is couples may end up with fewer gifts, but they'll be much more meaningful, practical, or useful.
2. We need to use technology more responsibly.
In the wedding industry, we often talk about the crucial task of "acquiring couples" to sign up for our services. It means we're constantly hunting for newly engaged people to market and sell to. The problem with this? Some businesses can be relentless in their quest to build email lists, get advertising clicks, or generate business leads. And for couples, this all comes down to the issue of privacy.
In the case of wedding registries, many people don't realize that registries they sign up for with the big box retailers are public and searchable online. Then they can be found by registry aggregator websites that show the results whenever the couple's names are Googled. Think about how the media always manages to find the wedding registries of athletes and celebrities. A much more respectful approach gives couples the option to not index their registries with search engines or allows them to hide their registry list behind a password.
3. We should have a point of view when it comes to social issues.
The wedding industry gets away with existing in a sanitized world of make-believe. I only have to look at wedding-related Instagram feeds to get transported into a gorgeous, pastel-colored world of dresses, tiered cakes, and floral arrangements. But when it comes to reality, voices in our industry often stay quiet on social and political issues for fear of offending anyone. My approach? Politics be damned.
I believe businesses should communicate what they believe in and stand for. This lets couples make informed decisions about vendors they're hiring and supporting. And personally, it keeps me sane. That's why I love supporting businesses and social media accounts that keep one foot firmly in reality, like The Way We Met, Love & Latitude, and of course, Catalyst. At Thankful we take it a step further too: our open-platform registry approach makes it easy for couples to request gift donations to worthy causes that others might feel are too sensitive or divisive. Organizations like Planned Parenthood or Everytown for Gun Safety. In fact, we encourage it.
4. We must speak up about child marriage.
As a member of the global wedding industry, I have a hard time disconnecting Thankful from the global problem of child marriage. The ugly truth is one in three girls in the developing world will be married before she turns 18. And while it's hard to believe, child marriage is also an issue in the U.S., specifically in states where minors are allowed to legally marry. So every November during Thanksgiving, Thankful switches gears by raising awareness for this devastating problem.
In years past, we've organized campaigns to raise funds for Too Young To Wed. This year on Giving Tuesday, we made a lump sum donation to Too Young To Wed, and also sent donations to grassroots projects through the Girls Not Brides network. We also tweet and share articles on our social media channels about child marriage. I hope in the coming years other wedding businesses will join us. You can learn more about child marriage on the United Nations Population Fund website.
Thankful Registry, founded by Kathy Cheng, is designed for couples who believe gratitude makes the world go round. It's an open-platform, universal registry where you can host traditional gifts, honeymoon funds, charity donations, and experiences all on one page. A lifetime registry with Thankful costs just $30, so feel free to keep using your registry for special occasions long after your wedding day. Explore the features by starting a free one-week trial at thankfulregistry.com.