When you’re planning a wedding, it’s easier than you might like to admit to get bogged down in the details — like how to decorate your wedding tent or finding the perfect bridesmaids dresses — and miss the big picture. And even though the day is 100 percent all about you and your new hubby, it is possible to make it about those in need too. Insert Beth Helmstetter, a wedding planner, event designer and founder of The Good Beginning, an online wedding registry for charitable causes throughout the world. After noticing that many of the brides she worked with were looking for an opportunity to be charitable on their wedding day, she combined her MBA in nonprofit administration and her love for philanthropy to give brides easy access to charity programs by connecting them with their wedding registries.
B+C: Give us the scoop on The Good Beginning. How does it work?
BH: The Good Beginning is an online wedding registry for charitable causes throughout the world. In addition to (or in lieu of) classic china and luxurious cotton sheets, couples can now invite their guests to join them in supporting a worthy charity. Couples register for their wedding just like with a traditional retail registry by selecting an organization or by adding a new charity. For new charities being added, we do a background check for validation and security purposes. From there, the couple is given a personal domain name to their registry that can be passed on to guests individually or embedded into their wedding website or wedding app. Guests can browse The Good Beginning’s site for the couple and also read about each of the organizations we have in our program, in addition to a blog. Donations are made through the couple’s profile, and we handle the process of tracking all gifts and distributing funds as the couple and guest have allocated. Over 90% of every gift goes to the organization, we only reserve a small percentage for our operations.
B+C: You were inspired to start the company after a trip to Haiti. What was that experience like and how did it lead you to founding The Good Beginning?
BH: It may sound trite, but Haiti was life changing. Seeing families with very little to begin with, who had lost even that, be filled with such joy, gratitude and hope, made me strive hard to adjust my own perspective on life. We all have what we need (and more) and yet often we still have a hard time finding joy. I left Haiti wanting to find a way to do more, and I knew if I could find a tie-in with my couples, they would want to do more too. It took almost a year to figure out what that something would be, but it wasn’t long after introducing the idea to my couples and industry friends that I realized I was right. I love designing weddings and I’ve had many couples want to give back in the past, but it had always been challenging. The Good Beginning has allowed me to connect those two passions while providing an outlet to support worthy causes in a way that is accessible and spreads awareness.
B+C: What type of organizations do you partner with? Are we talking only US? Global?
BH: The Good Beginning streamlines the giving process by allowing couples to choose from over 130 organizations (from the well-known names to smaller specialized efforts in lesser known areas, including education, clean water, medical assistance and human rights), both in the United States and in developing countries. A few incredible causes at home include The Heart of Los Angeles/HOLA or Washtenaw Literacy, as well as organizations in developing countries (clean water, healthcare, women’s rights, education, etc.) like Freely In Hope, Global Footprint Network or the New Hope Initiative
B+C: Are you seeing brides mostly tack a charitable gift onto traditional registries or forgo Target and Crate & Barrel altogether?
BH: Many couples are choosing to add The Good Beginning to complement their traditional registry. Couples we work with want to start their marriage in a happy home built with the essentials but also the foundation of long-lasting purpose and generosity.
B+C: So, you’re a wedding planner by trade. How do those skill sets assist you with The Good Beginning?
BH: Over the last 10+ years in the wedding industry, I’ve come to understand the needs of couples. Much like a wedding website, they want something beautifully designed to present to their guests that can be a reflection of their personality and wedding day. I knew that The Good Beginning needed to have an equally beautiful interface that would make it something they were proud to share with their guests, and that in turn would engage users and encourage them to contribute.
B+C: For all the brides-to-be reading, why should they consider adding charitable giving to their wedding?
BH: Giving back is instinctual — something I believe you’re either pulled to do or you’re not. While it’s not something you can “sell” to a couple getting married, I do think there is something beautiful about starting your marriage off with the ritual of giving back. Being generous and creating awareness for a cause you believe in through your marriage is an impact that will last long after you break that salad bowl or the toaster needs to be replaced. It also sends a message of gratitude for the love you share together by finding purpose to help those in need.
B+C: What has been the most inspiring part of founding and leading The Good Beginning?
BH: When I started The Good Beginning, I was very hopeful that it would get a good response, but I didn’t really know. Seeing how many couples have identified with the mission and embraced the registry with excitement confirmed my hopes that people really do want to incorporate giving and generosity into their lives.
B+C: What’s your advice for fellow #girlbosses looking to leave their mark on the world?
BH: Finding what you’re truly passionate about and seeing that through will give you everything you need to leave a mark on the world. I would have never thought my little interest in party planning would lead me to not only create lifelong memories for couples on their wedding day but also give me the outlet to connect these couples with ways to change the world through that same wedding day. Living your purpose and loving what you do can take you on a path that’s not only much bigger than your initial intent but on a path that’s much greater than yourself.
B+C: Where’s the next stamp in your passport coming from?
BH: Bali, Indonesia
Did you give back at your wedding? Tweet us what charity benefited @BritandCo!
(Photos via The Good Beginning)