When Justin Tinsley and Natalie Kekaualua married on October 2nd, 2010, they honored her late grandfather and his late grandmother by forgoing wedding favors and making a donation to the COPD Foundation instead.
Kekaualua’s grandfather, Joseph Nalimu Iokepa Kekaualua II, suffered from COPD. Tinsley’s grandmother, Roberta Stoklosa, suffered from Alzheimer’s. (The couple also donated money to the Alzheimer’s Foundation.)
“It was a nice gesture to have them there in some sort of presence,” she says. “Our families were really touched. When we looked around the room while our guests were seated, quite a few of our family members had tears in their eyes from seeing the donation cards.”
Tinsley says more and more couples are doing this these days.
“As much as everyone appreciates cute wedding favors, usually they’re something that they’re not going to use in the future. We thought, ‘Why not give back to something that’s directly affected us personally,'”he says. “It’s just a little more sentimental, more touching, rather than spending the $1,000 on something that’s going to be put in a box.”
Tinsley and Kekaualua say their guests loved the idea.
“That’s what it was all about – great friends, who are generous anyway. We wanted to put these notes on the table to inspire people that there are organizations out there who are doing research and need funding to promote awareness with the end goal of finding a cure for this disease,” Tinsley says. “The place card was to get people to pay attention and to [perhaps] make a donation anyway they can, monetary or whatever. We wanted to give back to two organizations that touched us.”
The newlyweds say they both had close relationships to their grandparents while growing up.
“I spent a tremendous amount of time with my grandparents. They were two of the most positive people in my life,” Tinsley says.
His grandparents, Roberta and husband Harry, lived on a farm in West Virginia, where Tinsley spent a lot of time.
“My grandfather took care of the whole property there, and I’d always learn a lot of things, and a lot of the values I gained in life are from them,” he says. “They are two of my favorite people in the world.”
Kekaualua says her grandparents raised her from birth until she was five years old, when she moved in with her mom and stepdad after they got married.
“My grandparents were like my parents and my relationship with them was very close,” she says. She even wanted him to possibly share the responsibility of walking her down the aisle along with her stepdad.
Both Tinsley and Kekaualua idolized their grandparents and say they hope for the love their grandparents found in their marriages to be reflected in their new one. They wanted their grandparents to be present at their special day, and made sure of that with their thoughtful donations.