Meet Beth Helmstetter, Founder of The Good Beginning
Beth Helmstetter is a top-rated destination wedding planner in the country by Harper’s Bazaar, Travel & Leisure, Martha Stewart Weddings and more. She’s the CEO and Principle Event Designer of Beth Helmstetter Events, a full-service design and planning studio specializing in intimate and approachable events throughout the world, and the founder of The Good Beginning, an online charitable donation registry where couples can support a meaningful cause and start their marriage with the ritual of giving back. We recently sat down with Beth to learn more about the inspiration behind The Good Beginning, her critique of the wedding industry, and her favorite moment in any wedding ceremony.
Tell us the story behind The Good Beginning. How did you get your start in the wedding industry and what opportunities did you see to improve it?
I’ve always been deeply invested in the nonprofit world and started my career in corporate fundraising and event planning, which led to my later position as a dedicated planner at the Grand Wailea Resort on the island of Maui. I started Beth Helmstetter Events in 2007, which has given me the unique privilege of being able to travel around the globe and connect with the people who have so graciously hosted myself, my clients and their guests.
Sadly, many of those communities were underserved, impoverished and in need of some serious support. But, despite their struggles, they were committed to the tradition of hospitality and service, which spoke volumes. In conjunction with personal volunteering missions to Haiti and Nicaragua as well as several domestic projects over the last 15 years, my desire to find a way to help continued to grow. Unfortunately, I came to discover many popular charity programs were simply unequipped to properly accept and track multiple donations from small groups of people.
Giving back was a challenge of logistics and accessibility for both couples and their wedding guests, and a solution truly didn’t exist. I was committed to finding a way to help couples, both clients of Beth Helmstetter Events and others, find a way to start their marriage with a sense of purpose and with a positive impact on the world around them.
Billions of dollars are spent every year in the wedding industry - $60 billion in the United States and more than $300 billion globally. Redirecting just a small portion of that spending could have a substantial impact in the nonprofit sector. How does The Good Beginning serve as a bridge between these two industries? What are your goals for growth?
The Good Beginning was officially launched in early 2016 with a charitable database of just over 100 organizations, from well-known to specialized efforts all around the world. Since then, we have expanded the reach to more than 130 global charities and counting, with the help of so many couples who have embraced this unique registry. Many couples use The Good Beginning to complement their traditional wish list, while others use it to completely replace conventional wedding gifts.
Over the last few years, the mainstream lifestyle market has experienced a cultural shift towards more conscious living - sustainable food sourcing, ethical fashion, fair trade goods, etc. For those committed to fulfilling a similar lifestyle built on citizenship and generosity, The Good Beginning fits nicely into that mission. The high-level of adoption and overall response from couples and their guests has been overwhelming, and continues to inspire our mission daily. Since our launch, couples who have created a registry with The Good Beginning are projected to contribute over $250,000 to worthy causes around the world. We only hope to see this response grow and gain more attention in the mainstream market.
It makes sense that brides and grooms everywhere might want to extend the love and generosity surrounding their wedding day to the causes and organizations they care most about. What other ways are you seeing the wedding industry innovate and incorporate social and environmental values? What trends are you noticing?
As those larger trends trickle down to the wedding industry, more vendors are encouraged to adopt similar practices. The popular farm-to-table catering trend amplifies the bounty that comes with using local, seasonal ingredients. With the resurgence of craft breweries & distillery brands, building a custom and sustainable bar is easier than ever before. Ethically-manufactured bridal lines are becoming more mainstream as are responsibly-sourced gems and recycled metals in nuptial jewelry lines. Many destination wedding venues and honeymoon hotspots have also combined eco-friendly operations with luxurious experience for their guests.
The Good Beginning's blog, The Daily Give, is where we curate content that encourages conscious living for our couples and their guests to enjoy.
As an event producer and designer, you are constantly working in partnership with other brands to pull off beautiful and unique celebrations. What other businesses would you recommend for individuals looking to incorporate social and environmental consciousness into their wedding day?
Our friend Katie Frederick Jacobson started Ever After Honeymoons and can connect couples with hotels and honeymoon experiences that give back. Repeat Roses will take the flowers used for your wedding day and donate them to local hospitals, nursing homes and cancer treatment centers. Consider reaching out to the local food bank closest to your venue that could use the leftovers of your meal.
I also love the idea of sourcing groomsmen and bridesmaids gifts that give back a portion of proceeds to a charitable cause or small-batch products made from a local artisan - a thoughtful way to show a deeper connection and sense of appreciation.
What is your favorite moment in any wedding ceremony?
I personally love the actual ‘meat’ of the ceremony - it’s where the substance lies. The words of the officiant and the vows shared always put love and life into perspective for me. I always feel like I take the guiding sentiments offered by the officiant and apply them to my own relationships with both my family and friends.
And last but not least, we obviously have to ask - what does the wedding of your dreams look like?
Having planned and been apart of nearly all types of weddings, with varying styles and arrangements, I personally love a small ceremony. I wouldn’t be opposed to an elopement with my pastor officiating the marriage for just the two of us, but there’s also a piece of me that would want my very close family and friends there to witness and support our union.
That said, I would like have 20 to 30 people in a small church ceremony or even in my backyard. I love the idea of standing under an overgrown arch of climbing roses in deep reds with a gospel choir to sing songs like Heavenly Day by Patti Griffith, Down to the River to Pray by Alison Krauss or maybe River by Leon Bridges. I just love the way you can feel gospel music in your bones.
After the ceremony I’d envision guests at one long, very intentionally designed dinner table that is thoughtful yet approachable, under a canopy of sheer organic fabric. I’d literally want 500 or more candles hanging everywhere, nestled between saturated reds and aubergine blooms overflowing down the center of a beautiful vintage wood table. Most people in my inner circle are relatively simple people overall, so for food, I would choose casual, comfort food served family style. I love wedding cake, so I would go for a wedding cake with a very homespun look for dessert. Dancing is tentative, but I’d enjoy a great motown band!