Green Weddings: Big Love, Small Footprint
Jun 28, 2012 02:21PM
By Beth Davis
These days, planning an earth-friendly wedding doesn’t mean sacrificing style or elegance. Thanks to a growing number of resources and information, going green on the big day means getting to have a truly creative, unique and sustainable celebration that guests will remember for years.
Why go green? According to GreenBrideGuide.com, a website dedicated to all things green for brides and grooms, each one of the more than 2.5 million weddings that place each year in the United States will produce an average of 62 tons of carbon dioxide and 400 to 600 pounds of garbage. That is a lot of waste. The good news is that nearly every aspect of a wedding has eco-friendly options worth considering. From the invitations to the dream gown, even a few small eco-adjustments can make a big impact on the planet.
For those interested in planning a greener celebration, Natural Awakenings has put together some ideas for a memorable, yet socially responsible day.
Location, Location, Location
Choosing a venue helps set the stage for any event, and a wedding is no exception. Traditional spaces, such as hotel ballrooms and resorts, typically use not-so-earth-friendly products to put on these glamorous affairs. However, green hotels can help lessen the impact. Find those properties that have been designated by the Florida Green Lodging Program, a voluntary initiative of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection that recognizes lodging facilities that make a commitment to conserve and protect Florida’s natural resources. Choosing a green hotel may have a large impact because aside from the wedding and/or reception being held there, a number of guests may stay there as well. It is also beneficial to hold the ceremony and reception in the same location—or at least within walking distance—to minimize guest travel. Many houses of worship have banquet halls, or ask the officiant to come to the reception location for the ceremony.
For the ultimate green wedding, get married outside. Consider a park, the beach or lakeside to take advantage of natural beauty that requires minimal or no embellishments.
Be Brave with Bling
Search for eco-conscious jewelers that use recycled materials (such as stones and metals), as well as conflict-free diamonds. Family heirlooms, vintage or antique pieces are not only sustainable options to consider, but often have the most meaning. Louise Moon, author of The Natural Wedding Book, suggests using broken jewelry to make something new such as a tiara or bouquet, or using oversized vintage earrings as brooches.
Wooden wedding rings are gaining in popularity for making a symbolic statement to the couple and a positive impact on the Earth.
Millions of trees are toppled every year to make paper products, and the process of producing these items pollutes the environment. Recycled and post-consumer waste paper, tree-free paper and soy inks offer beautiful ways to reduce resource consumption. Some invites are even embedded with seeds. Guests can plant them and the paper will turn into flowers, plants or herbs instead of ending up in a landfill. Or, couples can forgo paper altogether and stick to electronic invitations or create a wedding web page.
What to Wear
Mothers preserved their wedding dress for a reason. Before hitting the bridal shops, give the family heirloom a try. If it’s not an option, check out upscale consignment shops and vintage boutiques for pre-worn dresses, including the bridal gown. It has long been a tradition for the men to rent tuxedos for weddings, but women can also rent formalwear.
For brides that prefer to wear a brand-new dress, many designers are now creating gowns made from sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton, peace silk and hemp. Purchase from a local formalwear shop to keep the money in the local economy.
After the big day, the bridesmaids—and the bride—may consider donating their dress to a good cause or selling it and giving the profits to a local charitable organization.
What bride doesn’t want to be pampered before she walks down the aisle? Rejuvenate mind, body and spirit before taking the plunge with a day of relaxing spa services such as organic facials, skincare and body therapies. The day of the nuptials, indulge in a chemical-free manicure and pedicure, use all-natural beauty and hair products, or seek out an eco-friendly salon guaranteed to make any bride feel naturally beautiful.
Food and Favors
Moon says planning the menu around local, seasonal foods is the most environmentally friendly choice for a wedding, as it will decrease the carbon footprint of the meal while supporting the local economy. Choose a caterer that sources ingredients locally and can handle common dietary requests, such as vegan or gluten free. For the cake, the same rules apply. Request the use of organic ingredients and go local. A sustainable wedding cake topper is a must and many choices exist—including edible toppers, organic flowers, sustainable wood and more. One green solution is to reuse a topper that a close friend or family used.
If possible, provide beer, wine and other beverages made in the area. Or, offer organic and Fair Trade beverages, such as coffee and tea, that are readily available at local health food stores. When serving, avoid using disposable dishware. Instead, use china dishes, flatware, cloth napkins and glasses instead of plastic cups. Not only will it save waste, but it will look more elegant. If disposables are a must, choose recycled paper options or compostable, plant-based dishes and cutlery.
Mireya Navarro, author of Green Wedding: Planning Your Eco-Friendly Celebration, says party favors are optional and are often destined to be discarded. “I wouldn’t buy some trinket. A green favor would be something edible, like organic chocolate. Or many people donate in the name of their guests to causes they believe in. Couples should be creative and do things their way. They don’t have to adhere to any wedding rules.”
If giving guests a takeaway treat is a necessity, GreenBrideGuide.com recommends non-wasteful favors like small potted plants, seedlings, soy candles or jars of jam or honey from a local farm. Table decor can double as a favor by taking the form of small perennials or baby bushes that can later be planted by guests. Edible centerpieces have also been taking over tables. Fill tall vases or pedestal bowls with apples, oranges, lemons or pears to make an elegant, understated focal point.
Flowers and Décor
When it comes to green décor, something as simple as reusing ceremony floral arrangements at the reception is recommended. Choose a florist that purchases flowers from sustainable growth farms and from farms that use fair labor standards. Because 90 percent of florist greens come from Florida, it is easy to find one that buys locally.
Moon says couples could grow their own big-day blooms. “Even if you are a novice gardener, it’s relatively easy to grow your own flowers to cut and arrange in vases or raise plants and herbs to display in their pots,” she notes. “If you are planning a year ahead, see what’s in bloom the month you are marrying; friends may have established plants in their garden or be happy to plant some for you.”
Using the location and the season for inspiration will provide a number of natural décor ideas such as collecting shells from a nearby beach. Other ideas include using 100 percent soy or vegetable wax candles, rented plants, potted plants or rented or secondhand lights.
Capturing the Occasion
Most photographers have now gone digital, offering a paperless and chemical-free way of capturing the memorable event. Images are typically available online or provided on a DVD or flash drive. Green photographers take it a step further by using rechargeable batteries, non-toxic inks, 100 percent post-consumer waste paper, LED and CFL bulbs and recycling.
Whether a couple incorporates just one or two earth-friendly elements, or goes completely organic from the dress to the food, it is important to remember that every green choice makes a difference.