Interview: How An Online Gift Registry Helps Connect The Betrothed With Charity
In an interview with PSFK, Beth Helmstetter, founder of charitable online gift registry The Good Beginning, discusses why couples are increasingly looking for more altruistic ways to celebrate their nuptials, and how her service helps design them a seamless portal for event-based donation
In an over-saturated world of social media images, consumers are increasingly in search of the original. Beth Helmstetter, founder of her eponymous events planning service, is increasingly see this demand from her clients, who look to create unique experiences like weddings that stand out from the crowd.
To complement her full-service planning studio, Helmstetter also launched an online gift registry called The Good Beginning, which lets clients parlay the generosity of their guests into charitable donations. In a podcast interview with PSFK founder and CEO Piers Fawkes, Helmstetter explains how her service lets clients choose any charity they like and designs a seamless online registry portal for them and their guests to make donations, as well as speaks to the trends she sees taking place in the weddings and events space.
Piers Fawkes: Could you start off speaking a bit about what trends you see taking place in the events space, as well as the luxury space? How are the two intersecting?
Beth Helmstetter: First and foremost, we focus on the high net‑worth individuals. Most of our clients are in the sector where they can just create their own fantasy wedding. What we see a lot is people hoping to create an experience that their guests haven't been a part of before.
That could be a destination very few people have been to, where we create a weekend‑long experience. It could be in their backyard where they want to introduce couples to a small town in the middle of the Midwest where they actually came from, but their guests may have no reason to have ever visited.
For the most part, we see multiple‑day events where the guests are forced to get away from their everyday life and just focus on what is happening for the couple and the marriage.
Has the consumer desire to create certain types of events changed? Could you describe any themes you see emerging?
As weddings have evolved in relation to blogs and the Internet, and with the added exposure the wedding industry is getting, people are starting to see the same trends over and over again for their wedding day. What is happening is couples want to show their personality a lot more. They want to do things that are a little bit different, and not things that have been seen all of the time.
I do think it's been evolving since people are so immersed. If you're paying attention at all, you get very immersed in what's happening in the wedding world. Things become almost trite and not personal.
These multi‑day events allow couples to show a lot of personality. It allows them to be creative, allows them to be really great hosts and things like that. That's where the pull comes from.
How do they ensure that they're going to create something original?
Ideally, that's where we come in. It's a lot of just finding out who they are as a couple.
It can be as simple as where do you guys go for brunch every weekend,. Can we serve those donuts as a late‑night snack as people leave because that's something you do every weekend? Or maybe it's about taking people to a destination that they went to on their very first vacation together. Then, maybe, they proposed there. Maybe, the bride spent every summer going there as she grew up.
It's just about learning who the couple is, what elements make up their history and how we can then translate it into creating a unique experience for the guests.
Can you describe a bit about how The Good Beginning's services work, particularly its ties to charity?
The Good Beginning is an online service that offers a wedding registry platform where couples can register for donations to their favorite organizations or charities in lieu of or in addition to a traditional wedding registry, where you might register for a toaster or espresso machine.
It's become a streamlined process where guests can log in, see which organizations they wants to support, make their gift, and then we get the funds in the right hands to execute those plans.
Do you have any insight regarding what's driving this desire on the part of your customers to be altruistic in this manner?
Our high‑net‑worth couples have everything they need. To ask guests to then give them a $300 sheet set or a $40 toaster—it's just not something they need. They either are able to buy it or, maybe, they got married a little bit later in life and they already have those things.
I was noticing it over and over with our couples, where they were like, “We just don't really need anything. We'd love to, maybe, support this organization we volunteered together with in college” or whatever the case may be, “We don't need stuff.”
Fast forward, there's a lot of things happening in our world today, a lot more exposure, whether they're international crises, or political statements, or whatever the case may be. People are pulled more and more to see how they can support and get their hands in there.
Weddings tend to be a very self‑focused time in their life. What we're seeing is a lot of couples pulling back from that moment of it being all about me, all about the things we can get and the stuff we want, and just trying to start their marriage off with something good and right, especially for those couples who already don't need things.
It started with them, but we are now noticing couples, especially more of a younger generation, who may want some of the material things yet also want to use their wedding for something good. In those instances, they might have multiple registries. We see a little bit of both.
It sounds like perceptions on weddings are shifting, perhaps?
Giving is attached to weddings, yet they're more multifaceted than they used to be. It used to just be about a celebration.
Now people are really using them as a creative outlet, a way to show people who they are as a couple. In many cases, that means again showing them their history, but also what causes they're pulled to support, what things that they are fighting for in the world and what good they want to do. Weddings are just becoming about more than just having a big party. This all ties in together.
Could you explain a little more about how clients go about choosing a charity and setting up a registry?
The client can let us know what organizations they want to support. This can be a small, grassroots organization from their hometown. It can be the Red Cross or anywhere in between as long as they are 501(c)(3), and they have all the documents to prove it.
Then we get it set up on the website. We announce it to the guests, whether it's in their invitation or their wedding website. Guests can then go in and make donations. At the end of the wedding giving process, all of it is raised for each organization that the couple has requested and donated accordingly.
Do you think this could become commonplace within all weddings in the future?
The little dreamer inside of me would love to see every couple do this. I just think it's a good practice to start your marriage, and your family, should that be your future, off by doing something that is bigger than yourself.
Obviously, not everyone thinks that way. We can only hope, but I would love to see us even donate $40 of every wedding to an organization where they still got everything else, all the other tangible gifts. That would be my goal is for every couple to use it.
Helping connect weddings with charity is just one example of how retailers can respond to new ways consumers are looking to express their generosity and care. For the full details, see PSFK's report The New Gifting Experience, and for more from Beth, listen to the podcast.