Written by: Norah Simmons
Having an eco-friendly wedding is a great concept that undoubtedly sounds appealing, but many couples don’t even know where to begin the process while others are scared off by images of the bride wearing brown burlap and guests having to duck into outhouses. The reality is that, through a series of simple choices, it is fairly easy to lessen the impact your event has on the earth.
1. When selecting a venue, be upfront about your intentions of having a “green wedding” and ask what steps the place can take to help you reach this goal. Some suggested factors to take into account are the locale’s recycling policy, what kind of lighting it uses, whether the resident caterer uses local, organic and ethically cultivated ingredients, what kind of sprays and pesticides they use on the grounds, whether they have low-water toilets, and whether the cleaning substances used are environmentally-friendly and nontoxic. Hotels and other establishments are designed to please the clientele and make money so, by making it clear that couples like the two of you are passionate about preserving the earth, it will encourage venues to take further steps to become increasingly ecofriendly.
When considering various locations, take into account how accessible it is to your guests. Is it near public transportation or will hundreds of people need to jump into cars and drive an hour-and-a-half to reach the chosen spot? To reduce your carbon footprint, coordinate a carpool or offer a shuttle to attendants that are located nearby one another. Furthermore, hold the ceremony and reception in the same place to skip the unnecessary traveling.
2. Limit your usage of paper products, starting with the invitations. Design the invites to be postcards rather than letters requiring envelopes and use emails to send out save-the-dates and receive RSVP’s. To be ultramodern, you can take the leap to make the process entirely paperless by sending out beautifully designed, affordable emailed notices from Greenvelope. For items like programs, menus and place cards, have them printed on recycled materials. Additionally, ask your photographer for electronic versions of your photographs and print only a select few to be mounted on the mantel.
3. Utilize locally grown, seasonal flowers instead of those that have to be shipped. This is suggested because having the blooms flown in contributes to air-pollution, and most have been cultivated in warehouses that use harmful pesticides. To take being green an extra step, decorate with potted plants that can be later placed in the earth. Once the reception has passed, consider donating them to nursing homes or hospitals instead of immediately trashing them.
4. With vintage being back in style, you’ll be able to find a secondhand, gorgeous dress that can be altered to fit you like a glove. Another alternative is to select a dress that is made from organic materials like hemp and cotton. And don’t forget that there are plenty of vegan shoes available too! After wearing your dress, don’t be so hasty to haul it to the dumpsters. Reflect on the possibility of having it hemmed and dyed to be worn at a later date. If this prospect holds no appeal, donate it to a charity so its use extends beyond one day. On a similar note, grant your bridesmaids flexibility to select dresses that they’ll want to wear multiple times.
5. No matter how much thought and effort couples put into selecting wedding favors, they often end up piled in the trash. One idea to sidestep creating unnecessary waste is to set up a spread of edible favors from retailers like American Bridal and Wilton and, providing guests with empty bags, let them pick and choose what they personally fancy, and you can donate the unopened leftovers to numerous nonprofits. Another angle is to let your favors communicate your green priorities with ideas like birdseeds, herbs, birdfeeders and organic candles. One growing trend is to forego favors entirely and to make a charitable donation on behalf of guests.
6. Look for opportunities to use natural lighting and, when such options are limited, make the most of candles and LED lights. Additionally, skip the throwing of confetti or rice. Not only is it wasteful, but there are so many more beautiful options – imagine the two of you departing as your guests raise sparklers or blow bubbles.
No wedding is going to be entirely without waste or carbon emissions. Therefore, consider doing what more and more couples are doing and “offsetting” the carbon footprint of their big day by making a charitable donation to nonprofit organizations that seek to green the planet. And remember, no matter whether your efforts or big or small, every little bit we can do to improve the natural world is important!
Photo courtesy of American Bridal.