Turn your white wedding green

Tying the knot but still want to be environmentally friendly?  There are many ways to make your white wedding green.  Here are some tips to make your special day sustainable as well as unforgettable:

Weddings are a multi-billion dollar industry.  In the U.S. alone, nearly two and a half billion people get married each year.  They are often unnecessarily costly on a personal level as well as an environmental one.  Fair-trade issues show up in areas ranging from flowers to the after-dinner coffee. When you start planning the big event, think about ingenious ways to make use of resources.  For example, while purchasing products, look into using borrowed, rented, or secondhand items before purchasing new ones.  If new items are purchased, consider buying products from companies and countries that do not use child labor, or support companies that donate a percentage of their profits to environmental causes.

Invitations and Programs

When the time comes to create invitations, consider printing them on recycled or recyclable paper.  Use a reply postcard, which needs no envelope, and forgo the inner envelopes, saving paper and money.  An alternative to paper invitations is to email or telephone guests.  Use an eco-conscious provider such as Working Assets or Earth Tones.  You can also create a website with details about your wedding-directions, hotels, other weekend events, to avoid having to print this information out for everyone.  If you do use paper invites, encourage guests to recycle their invitations, or have seeds embedded in the paper so that guests can plant the invitations and enjoy the flowers that grow from them.

Have the order of your service printed on 100% recycled PCW paper that has been processed without chlorine.  Use your program to let your guests know how significant the environment is to you, and all the ways you have considered the earth in planning your wedding. This will educate your loved ones and inspire future bride and grooms to be.  Collect programs at the end of the ceremony and recycle them.

Flowers

Flowers are a huge part of any wedding ceremony.  One way to consider your environment is to select an organic flower source or consider growing your own bouquets.  When the ceremony has ended, recycle flowers by giving them to your bridesmaids or local hospices.  Use potted plants in place of cut flowers for centerpieces.  These can then be given as gifts or enjoyed in your new home together.

Wedding Favors and Gifts

It’s also a positive sustainable statement to avoid disposable items in the details of your wedding.  Plastic cutlery, paper plates, disposable cameras, and tacky wedding favors are nice ideas but most guests will most likely throw them out anyway.  If you are going to be buying gifts for your wedding party, consider non consumptive options like massage therapy gift certificates, useful gifts like wine, soap, and fair trade coffee. Soy candles make lovely gifts and set a fragrant mood.  Decorate with soy candles and then let your guests take them home.  They also burn cooler and longer.  A small bag of organic tea in a cute paper tea-cover makes a healthful gift.  And like the nuptials themselves, something that grows is an ideal wedding favor from the green bride and groom.  Give potted flowers.  Try sunflowers, marigolds, poppies, or morning glories. These gorgeous blooms can beautify your reception and make the perfect favor.

Food and Drink

Serving organically grown food, will put fewer fertilizers and pesticides into the    environment and into your body, as well as promote sustainable agriculture.  You may want to consider a vegetarian menu.  Plant proteins use fewer valuable resources, meaning less land and water- per pound than livestock.  Buy organic champagne.  Another idea is to prepare your own food or have a pot-luck reception.

The Ring

If a diamond is a girl’s best friend, choose a conflict-free one.  (Many diamonds come from Angola or Sierra Leone where rebel military groups terrorize the people, and profit from mining operations).  Buying a vintage diamond is another option.  If your heart is not set on the precious gem, nix the diamond altogether and opt for a simple band or other type of ring that has value to you.  Visit http://www.greenkarat.com for alternative ideas.

The Dress

Look for a wedding dress made of organic materials or buy a previously-owned gown. Some boutiques have obliged by actually designing wedding gowns in hemp and other light-on-the-earth fabrics. Other brides take great satisfaction in giving their mother’s gown a second run.  Another idea is to choose a simple dress that you’ll enjoy wearing again.  When the ceremony is over, if you don’t have nostalgic ties to the dress learn how you can donate it to charity at http://www.idofoundation .org.

Familial and Friendly Involvement

Perhaps one of the best ways to stay “green” while tying the knot is to recruit friends and family to get involved.  Do you have a friend with a knack for simple flower arrangements?  Perhaps your mother’s old veil is just waiting to make an appearance after living in the closet for decades.  Surely an aunt or sister would be honored to make a homemade wedding cake.  Do you have photographer friend who will take fabulous photos?  A musician friend who plays Spanish guitar?  You’ll be surprised at how many people are happy to play a part.  The wedding then becomes more intimate and interactive, and less of a spectacle.

Venue

When selecting a venue, choose one where you can have both the wedding and the reception.  You may be able to have a beautiful wedding on the property of a friend or family member’s home.  Gardens are gorgeous locales as are places overlooking bodies of water, mountain vistas, etc.  Perhaps a small wedding in the comfort of your own home is possible.

The Honeymoon

If you have the time and the resources for a honeymoon, be mindful of your destination.  If you simply wish to relax on your honeymoon, consider finding a hotel in an exotic locale that has adopted sustainable practices.  Look for a “green hotel” at http://www.greenhotels.com.  These hotels have programs that conserve water and energy.  Another option is to travel locally.  You may be so tired you’ll be glad you didn’t travel far, and you can put the extra money saved toward your future home.

After the Ceremony

When the ceremony has come to a close, give away as much as possible: donate flowers to a local hospital, send leftover food to a homeless shelter, take your dress to a re-sale shop, etc.

In creating your new life together, practice making sustainable choices in your daily life together.  Invest in socially responsible companies when planning for your retirement and financial future.  If you are still establishing a home, think about registering with an eco-conscious retailer to minimize receiving unnecessary trinkets from guests who aren’t sure what you need.

Simplify wherever you can without compromising your sacred day.  Fewer details will translate into less stress, less over-consumption, and more fun for you and your loved ones.  Be ingenious.  Create your own traditions.  It’s certainly worth it!

(I previously published this piece in “Alive” magazine.)

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kate
    Jun 06, 2010 @ 14:24:00

    Registering for eco-friendly gifts is another great way to go green. Check out the green wedding gift registry at http://www.greenbrideguide.com or Vivaterra. Both are great!

    Reply

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