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Uyen and Niko’s charitable wedding gifts

Uyen and Niko got married in 2009. After struggling with traditional gift registries, they decided to have an untraditional gift registry…full of classroom projects! Read on for the story of how they learned about DonorsChoose.org, and their advice for celebrating a wedding with DonorsChoose.org.
1. Uyen, thank you so much for taking the time to tell your story! First of all, we’d love to hear how you found out about DonorsChoose.org.
I first learned about DonorsChoose.org when it was featured on a news program over the holidays in 2006/7. It immediately caught my eye and it jumped out as the perfect holiday gift for my now in-laws (Mary and Mark). The news program had an uncanny timing because that year I was spending my first Christmas with them.
Mark is a retired grade school teacher and Mary was then an elementary school principal – and they are passionate about education. Mark still gets postcard updates from his former students telling him about their own kids and Mary would get thank you notes from parents as she would fight to get reading specialists at her school.
So that Christmas, I scoured the DonorsChoose.org proposals to find the perfect match for Mary and Mark. For Mark it was a set of children’s book that captured the imagination of students and for Mary it was huge post-its for a grade school classroom learning to write their ideas as they read along in a book. It was so much fun going through these projects and I could immediately see how with each of these projects I could match it with someone I knew. After funding these projects I created fake certificates (akin to a bond certificate) and pasted the text of the teacher’s request on them. I then rolled each “certificate” and tied it with a nice ribbon.  His parents were tickled pink by it and thought it was a wonderful gift – so much that 2 years later when Niko proposed they almost blurted out “About time!”
2. How did you decide to include DonorsChoose.org in our wedding?
Niko and I are both products of public schools and education is near and dear to our hearts. For Niko, his parents were both teachers and he had amazing teachers that encouraged him to keep pushing his potential. For me, my parents were war refugees who came to the US without knowing English or having any technical skills, and I too had amazing teachers that encouraged me to keep pushing my own potential.
As we were planning our wedding back in 2008 (we got married August 2009), the registry topic was a bit anxiety ridden. For me having a registry at all was foreign since in Vietnamese culture wedding gifts came in red envelopes stuffed with money – so going shopping with a scanner for things I wasn’t sure I quite wanted…was a bit odd. Niko insisted that we have some sort of wedding registry since it was a way for our guests to be sure that they gave us something that we really wanted. That was when I thought of having a DonorsChoose.org Wedding Registry! So, instead of picking out more vases, I started by picking a dozen projects that I felt were expressive of me and Niko.
Our registry was a hit with our guests. It was nice to every now and then check in to the registry and see how much was getting funded and why our guests chose the projects that they did with the “I gave because…” feature.  One of the more unexpected projects was from a college friend who is an all around tough guy, who specifically chose a project called “Glitter Makes the World Sparkle”.
3. What tips and tricks would you offer to others who want to celebrate with DonorsChoose.org?
If you are thinking of doing a DonorsChoose.org registry, definitely use the category feature as a way to make sure that your registry always has a few projects in it. Though it was nice to pick very specific projects, it turned out to be very hard to maintain because the speed in which your guests may give may not match up to when the teachers will need their projects funded.
Have fun talking about what types of projects would be most reflective of you in your Giving Page. If you think there should be more art taught in public schools, fund art projects. If you think that having field trips really opened your eyes to the world, fund field trips.
In your description of the Giving Page, say why you chose the projects that you did. All of my wedding guests really appreciated that the projects below meant something to us. Also, there is an option where our guests could search all DonorsChoose.org projects and just gave in our name, so that they chose projects that they felt connected to.
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