Feeling dismayed about spending so much money on themselves for their wedding day, Abdal and Rebecca came up with a generous idea to give newly arrived former refugees a helping hand. Abdal and Rebecca decided to set up a gift registry for their wedding and donate all the gifts to Hamilton’s newest residents.

The newly married couple live in Tauranga, but their stories bring many cultures together. Abdal’s grandfather fled the war in Palestine in 1948 and sought safety in Lebanon where his father was born. Abdal’s dad married a Lebanese woman (Abdal’s mother) and together they came to New Zealand to start a better life. Rebecca is herself half Kiwi, half American – she’s the one who suggested setting up a gift registry specifically for former refugees.

“We asked Red Cross what items were needed and then we created a wedding gift registry online. We sent a note about it with the wedding invitation. Some guests followed the list, others bought other things for the families. We received so much support and all our guests got behind it. We think people were more generous than if the gifts had been for us!” says Rebecca, laughing.

Abdal and Rebecca's mention of the wedding gift registry in their wedding invitation.

Abdal and Rebecca received 200 gifts worth around $3,000. Items such as microwaves, vacuum cleaners, plates, toasters, children’s bicycles, cutlery, duvet sets were given to Red Cross in Hamilton to pass on to the new arrivals. When former refugees arrive to New Zealand, their Red Cross Refugee Support Volunteers set up their home and look for furniture and items to turn the house into a home, so these new items made a big difference emotionally for the new Hamiltonians.

“My favourite aspect of the wedding was the gift registry,” says Abdal.

“It’s a symbol to look back on. Doing this for our wedding marks how we want to live our future life as a married couple.”

Abdal and Rebecca’s thoughtful idea has been hugely appreciated by the families who were pleasantly surprised to have brand new items in their house. 

Abdal and Rebecca on their wedding day.

Get involved

If you’re feeling inspired by Abdal and Rebecca’s story, you don’t need to get married to help families settle in Hamilton! Here are different ways you can get involved: