Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are eschewing traditional wedding gifts in favour of charitable donations, it has been confirmed.
Just a few weeks ago, Kensington Palace confirmed that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry had sent out their wedding invites (each of which included a very clever reference to the Suits star’s American background).
Since then, further details about the nuptials have been revealed to the public – including how they intend to pay tribute to the prince’s late mother, Princess Diana, on their big day. And now the royal couple issued a request for all wedding gifts to be made in the form of a donation to a selection of personally selected charities, each of which holds a very special place in the royal couple’s hearts.
“Prince Harry & Ms. Meghan Markle are incredibly grateful for the goodwill they have received since their engagement, & have asked that anyone who might wish to mark the occasion of their wedding considers giving to charity, instead of sending a gift,” said Kensington Palace in a statement on Twitter.
“The couple have personally chosen 7 charities which represent a range of issues that they are passionate about, including sport for social change, women’s empowerment, conservation, the environment, homelessness, HIV and the Armed Forces.”
The charities include Chiva Projects, which supports children growing up with HIV and their families. The charity helps to create a more hopeful and optimistic future for them, ensuring they achieve their greatest potential.
Of course, in 1987, when many people still believed that a person could contract the disease simply by touching someone who had it, Princess Diana famously shook the hand of a man living with HIV.
“When that April she shook the hand of a 32-year-old man with HIV in front of the cameras, she knew exactly what she was doing,” Harry said of his mother’s actions at The Virgin Holidays Attitude Awards in 2017, while accepting the Legacy Award on her behalf for her work in HIV/AIDS activism.
“I often wonder about what she would be doing to continue the fight against HIV and AIDS if she was still with us, today,” he continued.
“I believe that she would be telling everyone across society, not just those most at risk, that with effective treatment being free and available in the UK that we must all embrace regular testing both for our own sake and for those that we love.”
Crisis UK has also been chosen by the couple.
Crisis helps people directly out of homelessness, working side by side with thousands of people each year to help them rebuild their lives and leave homelessness behind for good.
Next up is Myna Mahila, which empowers women in Mumbai’s slums by providing them with a trusted network, stable employment and the chance to grow as individuals and businesswomen. It also breaks taboos around menstrual hygiene – and Markle has been a long-time supporter of the charity, visiting the foundation in India last year to learn more about the issues faced by the young women and girls who live there.
“I travelled to Delhi and Mumbai this January with World Vision to meet girls and women directly impacted by the stigmatisation of menstrual health and to learn how it hinders girls’ education,” she wrote in a powerful essay for Time.com.
“During my time in the field, many girls shared that they feel embarrassed to go to school during their periods, ill equipped with rags instead of pads, unable to participate in sports, and without bathrooms available to care for themselves, they often opt to drop out of school entirely,” she continued.
The couple have also – in a nod to Harry’s veteran background – chosen Corporal Scotty, a charity that offers vital support and activities to children who have lost a parent while serving in the British Armed Forces, helping them to smile again.
Also selected is Street Games, a charity which uses sport to empower young people to kick-start a cycle of positive change in their own lives.
Prince Harry and Markle visited one of the charity’s projects together in Cardiff earlier this year, where they were given the chance to witness the award-winning Us Girls Wales and Doorstep Sport programmes in action.
The couple have also selected Surfers Against Sewage, a national marine conservation and campaigning charity, which inspires, unites and empowers communities to take action to protect oceans, beaches, waves and wildlife.
And, finally, there is The Wilderness Foundation UK, which promotes the benefits and enjoyment of wild nature.
Through the great outdoors, the charity helps build resilience in vulnerable teenagers, introduces rural employment to urban youth, and brings science to life.
Of course, Markle and Prince Harry are not alone in embracing the trend of the charitable wedding registry.
Speaking to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Candy Culver, director of marketing at the I Do Foundation, said that 242,000 couples have used the website to create charity registries — a twist on the traditional gift-giving mechanism — since it was created in 2002.
As a result, users have sent a total of $8.3 million (approx. £5,852,579) to charities, and the average amount raised per registry is $703 (approx. £495.71).
And, since 2011, the I Do Foundation, a division of the online-giving site JustGive, has seen a 130% increase in users and a 75% increase in the amount raised per registry.
Shifting demographics could be a factor, Culver said. The average age at which people marry climbed to 26.5 for women and 28.4 for men in 2009, compared to 20.6 and 22.5 in 1970. Market research firms put the current average age of marriage at 29 for women and 31 for men. So many people set up house before tying the knot that traditional gifts of serving platters and toaster ovens are less relevant.
“But I also think we need to give some credit to a more socially aware and active generation,” she said.
“They can be more committed and engaged in causes, I think to the surprise of a lot of people.”
While it might be easy to dismiss these charitable options as just one more request of guests who may already be spending a lot of money traveling to a wedding, the registries have the potential to be effective and to have a positive impact.
Melissa A. Berman, chief executive of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, added to The NY Times: “I think there’s a growing awareness among millennials that what you do with your whole life should reflect your values.
“Millennials have really pushed this into the forefront.”