William and Kate

Money Lessons From the Royal Wedding

Amid all the royal wedding hoopla, did you notice what Prince William and his fiancée, Kate Middleton, have asked for in terms of wedding gifts?

Since this is one couple that truly does have everything, they’ve asked anyone wanting to get them a gift to consider making a donation instead.

The royal couple has set up a charitable gift fund to support five causes that are important to them, with 26 charities named under the five causes.

Will Charitable Giving Become the New Trend in Weddings?

According to a recent American Express survey, only two percent of Americans would ask guests at their wedding to donate to a charity, and I doubt that the royal wedding will change that.

Let’s face it, most of us commoners don’t have everything we need.

Sure, wedding gifts can get excessive, and if a couple truly does have most of what they need, or perhaps in the case of a second wedding where the friends and family of those getting married have already given them gifts, asking for charitable contributions in lieu of other gifts makes a lot of sense.

For most couples, though, wedding gifts can go a long way toward helping them set up their household.  Plus, gifts are a tangible way to celebrate such a special life event.  Jude and I have been married for almost 12 years, and whenever we use something we received as a wedding gift, it reminds us of all the love and support we received from family and friends.

Still, There Are Lessons We Can Learn from Prince William and Kate

I see two take-aways from the royal couple’s philanthropic mindset that are applicable to others. First is the importance of talking about charitable giving before getting married.  The fact that Prince William and Kate have selected 26 charities to benefit from their charitable gift fund tells me they’ve had a few conversations about this.

It’s important for all couples planning to marry to talk about charitable giving.  What has been each person’s pattern to date?  How much do they give away each year?  Is the amount chosen based on a percentage of income or through some other process?  What organizations does each person support?  Which ones will they support once they are married?

Setting Up Your Own Charitable Gift Fund

The second point, which is applicable to all, not just couples, is whether you’d like to create a foundation or charitable gift fund (also known as a donor advised fund) at some point. It may not be realistic to create such a fund when you’re young, but wouldn’t it be a great goal to create a charitable giving mechanism that continues to make a difference long after you’re gone?

We know one couple that has done this.  They thought about using year-end bonuses and appreciated stock to set up their own foundation, but discovered that using a donor-advised fund would be easier. They have chosen various charitable organizations to benefit from the fund and also have the flexibility to give from the fund as they see needs.

Since the organization managing their fund invests the money wisely, they found that even in a year when their personal income was down due to the economy, they were able to increase their giving.

Most of the big brokerage houses can help you set up a charitable gift fund, whether Fidelity Vanguard, T. Rowe Price, and others.  There are also faith-based organizations such as the National Christian Foundation and the Barnabas Foundation (the organization chosen by our friends).

You can contribute cash, stock, real estate, and other assets, taking a tax deduction in the year that you make the donation, but the money does not need to be distributed that year.  It is professionally invested.  Then you choose how much to contribute and to which organizations over time.

What are your thoughts?  Will the royal wedding spur more couples to ask for charitable contributions instead of wedding gifts? And what do you think about creating a foundation or a charitable gift fund at some point in your life?

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8 Responses to Money Lessons From the Royal Wedding

  1. Gail Parsons September 14, 2011 at 4:59 PM #

    I know that “trends” are leaning to directing people on what to give as gifts for weddings and personal events, but in the world of manners, this is highly rude and not recommended by etiquette professionals. That particular rule has not changed even in mondern times. It is an honor for someone to bestow a gift upon a person, and they are to be left to their own budgets and circumstances to decide what to give and what sentiment is to be conveyed. To intrude upon that very personal and meaningful decision is rude in my opinion, and is backed up by the professionals. We even verge on the cliff by listing retail stores where couples are “registered”…a very common practice. Although practical, again lacking manners.

  2. Financial Independence April 30, 2011 at 11:11 AM #

    I do NOT really understand fascination with royalties, particularly here in the USA.

    in the UK people paid for somebody’s wedding and they are made happy about it. How is it possible in the modern free world?

    What is somebody impose an additional tax on all Americans, so somebody would have a 500 K honey moon? I am truly puzzled.

  3. Laura DeVries April 26, 2011 at 12:21 PM #

    Because we all come into marriage from our own individual journeys, experiences and understandings…your comments provide great conversation starters for those preparing to walk down the aisle. I love the idea of helping young couples to think charitably TOGETHER at this point in their lives.

  4. Matt Bell April 25, 2011 at 9:47 PM #

    Melinda, I’d encourage you to contact the listed organizations directly and ask about their investment performance. With some, you have some choice in how the money is invested. But remember, once you provide the funds, they are no longer for your personal benefit. They are for charity.

    Also, as I mentioned in the article, my friends have had such a good experience that even in a tough economy, their charitable gift fund was managed so well that they were able to increase their giving. Had they “only” been giving based on a percentage of their income, their giving would have been down.

  5. Matt Bell April 25, 2011 at 9:38 PM #

    Brian, Thanks for the added insights into the benefits of donor advised funds.

    And Jim, thanks for sharing your amazingly encouraging journey with generosity. As I wrote this article, I debated about taking a stronger stand on challenging more couples to consider making generosity part of their wedding. But you did that far more powerfully than I could have.

  6. Jim Jackson April 25, 2011 at 6:28 PM #


    I love your encouragement of newlyweds to be thinking about charitable giving. When I was married twenty five years ago I had recently returned from a one year mission project in the Philippines, and my bride to be from Haiti. The we “needed” many things, in comparison to the Philippinos and Haitians we lived like royalty. So we decided to invite folks to give to two humanitarian agencies in honor of our union. As I see it, two really important things happened. 1) they gave a lot, meaning our register didn’t get filled. 2) Our wedding began our lifelong story of giving away as much as we can. Our commitment to one another is grounded in our spiritual beliefs, as well as to the many who now rely in part on our regular contributions. Some pretty cool accountability.

    We now have three children who are living the story as well, and recently our eldest was married. Right out of college it could be argued that they could justify a big long list of “necessities.” But instead they fashioned three lists. Having freshly returned form a season in impoverished Peru, they approached the “usual” list as minimalists. Their second list was an online document for hand me downs. They thought it more important that people give money to their third list, a list of needs in the community they served in Peru.

    SO our story goes on, and we are eager to see how it will unfold in years to come as all of us continue to learn how to treat money less as a possession, and more as a gift that has been entrusted to us.

    Thanks for inspiring us to keep on!!!


  7. Melinda April 25, 2011 at 5:45 PM #

    Is the donor-advised funds good when the stock market is so bad? What is the risk with this fund?

  8. Brian Cannon April 25, 2011 at 2:56 PM #


    Ronald Blue & Co. partners with the National Christian Foundation. I would encourage folks to consider donor-advised funds over foundations. While foundations may sound more impressive at a cocktail party, they are very expensive to set up and have annual reporting requirements. With the donor-advised funds those things are taken care of for you. Also, when giving appreciated securities, please keep in mind that if the client has held it for at least one year their deduction is the fair market value and they do not pay any capital gains tax on the appreciation.

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