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Published on December 18th, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans


Eco Chic Green Weddings

Something old, something new,

Something borrowed, something blue.

This Victorian-era good luck poem for a new bride symbolizes continuity with family, the future, the trust of a happily-married friend and the color of love and fidelity.  Almost two and a half million weddings take place every year in the United States.  With an average cost of $20-30,000 per event, weddings have a huge financial impact on the economy.  And as one of the most consumptive, product- and service-oriented industries, the ecological footprint is also huge.

It’s time for a new poem that better suits our modern day realities.  Perhaps something like:

Something vintage, something organically grown and locally harvested,

Something rented or recycled, all of it green.

Okay, so it may not rhyme, but according to a leading, bridal-industry magazine, interest in green weddings (also known as eco-friendly weddings or sustainable weddings), has “blossomed over the last five years,” moving well beyond the token vegetarian menu option, all the way to the lofty goal of “making sure the entire celebration won’t contribute to the depletion of natural resources.”  Not coincidentally, a sub-industry of green-minded wedding consultants, products and Web sites is beginning to thrive.

From the relative simplicity of selecting a venue which recycles its bottles and cans to purchasing renewable energy certificates to offset guest’s transportation emissions, there is now opportunity to incorporate eco-principles into every moment of one of the most important and expensive days in a couple’s lives.  Let’s begin.

The Guest List

Love in the SandThe most obvious (but certainly not the easiest), way to reduce a wedding’s environmental footprint is to keep the guest list short.  Simply put, more guests equate to more fuel used in transportation, more food and beverage containers used, more waste produced.  For those with international or bi-coastal friends and relations, more than a few couples are choosing to host far-away guests at a local venue, connecting the two parties via a web cam and computer screen, thereby drastically reducing the hydrocarbons emitted due to transit.

If the thought of not inviting the second-cousin-once-removed is too politically or emotionally difficult, eco-savvy couples may be able to offset the transit vehicle’s carbon emission generated by purchasing green power or tradable renewable certificates (TRC’s) from their local energy provider.  According to several environmental industry watchdog groups, “500+ regulated utilities spanning more than 30 states offer green pricing programs, allowing you to support a provider’s investment in renewable energy by paying a premium on your bill in order to help defray the costs of acquiring renewable energy resources.” As one groom put it, “I think of it as an altruistic investment in clean air for our future children.”

Invitations, Decorations, and Venue

Recycled paper, soy-based inks, and non-foil lined envelopes are all readily available for the asking.  A save-the-date e-mail or e-vite saves one round of printing, paper usage, and waste.

An emphasis on seasonal, local and/or organically grown flowers and other decorative items is becoming increasingly common in bridal couples’ decoration decisions.  As mentioned before, outdoor venues offer the greatest opportunity for both the reduction of purchase items and the celebration of place.  Searching out non-petroleum-based candles, scouring thrift stores for vases, giving out seed packets of your state’s flower as favors are all ideas within the realm of a green wedding.

Size and location are two good starting points when choosing a venue: Can the ceremony and reception be held there, and how far do how many of the guests need to travel to each?  Holding the ceremony and reception in the same location significantly reduces transportation emissions, not to mention headaches for the guests.  If that’s not an option, shuttles could be used to transport the guests between the two locations.  If most of the guests live on the East Coast but the bride and groom live on the West, holding the wedding in the East might environmentally outweigh the inconvenience to the bride and groom.

Holding the ceremony and reception in the same location significantly reduces transportation emissions, not to mention headaches for the guests.

Consider holding your eco-friendly wedding in a historic building, often owned and operated by non-profit organizations, allowing the rental fees to go to charitable or environmental causes.  Local organic family farms, public spaces such as museums, beaches, parks, and other unique outdoor venues help to ensure that one’s money supports a good cause, not to mention also requiring minimal decoration. couple’s decoration decisions.

The Meal

Not so very long ago it was considered quite alternative to offer a vegetarian selection during a formal dinner reception.  Couples are now frequently requesting organic (for the lack of pesticides), seasonal (to reduce transportation emissions), and/or locally grown fare (stimulates local economy, supports local agriculture and, again, reduces transportation emissions).  Organic food can add as much as 20% to a food budget since small farms do not often receive government subsidies.  This fact might point a couple in the direction of serving hors d’oeuvres instead of a five-course meal.  If fish is to be on the menu, talk to the caterer about using species not endangered or overfished.

Organically and/or locally grown wines are also an increasingly common choice, and many venues offer beer served on tap in lieu of all the bottles and cans.Rental companies and caterers can supply everything you need in the way of tablecloths, glassware, tableware, dishes, even centerpieces—the environmental footprint shrinks dramatically since these items are frequently reused.

The Clothing and Jewelry

While a wedding dress made of recycled paper may be at the far end of the extreme for most, it’s available—as are dressesWedding Bands made of organic cotton, organic silk and hemp blends.  Many green wedding brides are choosing to go vintage, wearing or redesigning a family dress, or opting for one from a vintage clothing or secondhand store.  The cost-saving is significant; the environmental impact somewhat less so.  Some brides choose to donate their dresses for resale by a charitable organization.  Renting a tux or suit has always been a good option for the groom.

Hollywood has recently made us contemplate the potential negative human and environmental impact of the global mining industry, dulling the sparkle.  While many retail jeweler’s are hastening to provide appropriate mining documentation, vintage or estate jewelry shops, both online and off, are plentiful and offer the opportunity to create a truly unique ring set through re-sizing or re-setting of the stones.  Family rings are also a wonderful way to preserve continuity and celebrate tradition.

The Gifts

So many couples already have so much.  Many couples deciding on an eco-friendly wedding now provide guests with alternative ways to give, including opening a bank account so the guests’ contributions can be used as a down payment on a house.  Some are inviting their guests to sign up for renewable energy and reforestation projects to counteract their energy consumption, or to sign on to an environmental groups’ donation registry.  However, common sense and proper etiquette require this option be conveyed as a choice, not a demand.

The Result

People are making purchasing decisions in all areas of their lives based on environmental concerns, and a wedding is no exception.  Going green on your wedding day doesn’t mean compromising style—green weddings are now an ultra-chic and responsible way to move beyond the traditional consumption to create a truly personal celebration that guests will remember for years.  Now that’s poetry.

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