Green Weddings – Good for the Planet and Your Pocket
The average U.S. wedding creates 400 to 600 pounds of waste, according to Kate Harrison, author of The Green Bride Guide and publisher of The Green Bride website. And with nearly 2.2 million weddings in the United States every year, that’s a huge environmental impact.
“It often saves you money and that sends a good message in this economy,” says Harrison. An eco-friendly wedding also conserves money and can promote social justice.
How can adding a touch of green make a difference? Heather Teague from Dream Green Weddings suggests that a green (or at least partly green) wedding can do the following:
- Save energy, conserve resources and decrease carbon emissions
- Reduce your wedding’s carbon footprint
- Limit waste produced by traditional weddings
- Educate and inspire others to make greener choices
- Champion green businesses
- Support charitable organizations
There are endless ways to make your wedding green, beginning with the invitations. If you plan to have paper invitations, have them printed on recycled paper. Teague also recommends using vegetable or soy-based inks.
“These days, you can usually get recycled paper that doesn’t look recycled,” says Dana LaRue, who began authoring the blog The Broke-Ass Bride during her engagement in April 2008.
Also, distribute certain aspects of the wedding invitation electronically.
“Depending on how fancy your wedding is, you can use the Internet instead of almost every piece of paper,” Harrison says.
For example, use e-vites for a wedding shower or bachelor/bachelorette party. Encourage wedding guests to use electronic reservations by providing links to useful sites for hotel reservations, car rentals, and a map to the ceremony. You can even ask that they send their R.S.V.P. by e-mail. You’re not only likely to get quicker responses from more people, you’ll also save a whole lot of paper and postage.
What to Wear?
For brides who want to wear a brand-new dress, hemp or organic cotton fabrics are earth-friendly options.
Consider purchasing a dress you can wear again, says Katie Martin, owner of Elegance & Simplicity Wedding and Event Designers, Inc. Martin advises buying a more casual dress that has a dual purpose, and finding shoes that are multifunctional.
If a brand-new dress isn’t possible because of budget constraints, don’t overlook “the power of negotiation,” suggests LaRue. She faced this dilemma when planning her own wedding. Her dream dress, by local, eco-friendly designer Deborah Lindquist, was too expensive for her budget, so she bartered with the dressmaker. She worked off the remaining cost by using her computer skills to work for the designer. LaRue recommends bartering and negotiation for all aspects of planning a budget-constrained wedding.
“In this economy, vendors would rather give a discount than lose business altogether.”
But a new dress isn’t the only option. Deciding on wedding apparel is a great opportunity to incorporate items that have already been used. “Try to create nothing new,” advises Harrison.
eBay is a great place to buy bridal jewelry, shoes, and veils. Or, consider renting jewelry rather than buying it for your special day. “It’s great because you can wear something fabulous for cheap,” Harrison adds.
In The Green Bride Guide, Harrison advises brides to consider re-wearing their mother or grandmother’s dress. Vintage looks are coming back into style, and a good tailor can always re-work the dress.
A Fab Green Décor
Sourcing local flowers that are in season is a great way to be environmental and to save money, says Harrison.
“It’s much less expensive to buy flowers that are growing at that time,” she says. Buying locally also eliminates the carbon that would be emitted from shipping flowers long distances, such as from South America to the U.S.
There are also great ways to cut flowers from the wedding but still have the big day look fabulous. In Harrison’s book, she recommends putting floral arrangements on every other pew instead of every one; it’s the same effect for half the cost.
LaRue went a step further and didn’t use flowers in her bouquet at all. Instead, she used feathers and still got compliments on how beautiful it was.
Centerpieces aren’t green because they’re placed on every table and contain a lot of disposables. For centerpieces focused on flowers, Harrison recommends using as few flowers as possible, like a single stem or just petals in water.
Her book has many great ideas on how to make centerpieces more sustainable. Instead of using the green floral foam, which is neither compostable or reusable, she recommends using small rocks or marbles. When it comes to candles, she advises using soy, palm, or beeswax instead of paraffin because they burn more cleanly.
LaRue used flowers sparingly from a local flower mart. Any vases used were from recycled glass.
Besides centerpieces, wedding favors are a source of disposables. Teague tells brides to look for favors made from organic or sustainable materials. One idea is to distribute small trees as wedding favors, which guests can plant in your honor. Bamboo favors are another option, because they’re symbolic for good luck and are earth-friendly.
LaRue chose to forgo disposable wedding favors altogether and instead had a photo booth for guests to use. However, she did provide reusable canvas totes as out-of-town bags, hoping they’d be used for future trips to the grocery store.
“I really think it’s about being creative,” LaRue says about making small changes to conserve money and resources. “Be untraditional.”
Both Harrison and LaRue discuss a wedding co-op. According to The Green Bride Guide, in a wedding co-op, brides pool their money to buy items that can be used at all of their weddings. Possible items include glassware, folding chairs, and table cloths.
Harrison recommends collecting reusable items by asking friends or relatives who are recently married.
“You can get a lot of things you would have paid for by just asking around,” she says.
LaRue started a wedding co-op site herself (Bride $hare) after being inspired during the planning of her own wedding. She even shared unique items such as lanterns and mason jars. Bride Share is a social networking site where brides can find other brides through user profiles. From there, they can share, swap, or sell items such as décor or apparel.
It’s also less expensive and more sustainable to buy food grown locally and in season, according to Harrison’s guide.
“Work with the caterer to find a couple of locally sourced dishes,” says Harrison. “It influences how delectable it is- it’s really fresh!”
The Green Bride Guide discusses the positives of serving vegetarian dishes. Vegetarian food is more ethical because factory farming is damaging to the environment. And, it’s less expensive.
Harrison understands that brides may not want to go completely meat-free for their weddings. She recommends mixing and matching meat with meat-free dishes, perhaps by focusing on a single meat entrée and having the rest vegetarian.
But a wedding is also a great time to showcase personal beliefs.
“It’s a good time to show that it’s possible to have delicious vegetarian food if that’s important to you,” Harrison adds.
When the party’s over, tons of leftovers are typically thrown away at the end of the night. Teague recommends finding an eco-conscious caterer that will donate the leftover food to a charity.
Eco-friendly Wedding Planners
Martin helps brides plan eco-conscious weddings. Besides owning Elegance and Simplicity, she also owns several sister companies: Green Love Events, U.S. Green Wedding Consortium, and U.S. Couture Wedding Consortium. Her e-zine, Eco-Beautiful Weddings, launched last month.
“When people don’t know how to plan a green wedding, they often double or triple their budget,” she says.
Wedding planners help brides avoid this dilemma because a wedding planner works within a given budget. The communication factor is key, she notes.
“The money people spent on wedding planning typically is returned in the savings from the other wedding professionals that they recommend,” says Martin. “A lot of people see the investment in wedding planning.”
Many brides who want to be green still want their big day to be fabulous and high end. Eco-conscious wedding planners show that it’s possible.
Besides helping brides stay within their budget, they also save brides tons of research. Martin says that on average, it takes between 400 and 500 hours to plan a wedding. A lot of brides can’t spend the time planning because they have to be at work.
To save carbon emissions, Martin communicates with a lot of her clients via Skype.
Her best tip for saving carbon emissions (and money) is limiting the number of out-of-town guests. She also recommends having the ceremony and the reception at the same location.
“People have come to see that weddings are a personal statement of their life,” says Martin, adding that weddings have also become highly stylized.
According to a Martha Stewart survey, approximately 60 percent of brides want their wedding budgets to go to a greater good, Martin says.
So, lately, a lot of wedding vendors have been changing their mission and donating a portion of their profits. Martin explains that brides and grooms can sometimes feel guilty spending so much money on eight hours of their life, but feel better when they know some of the money is going to a greater good.
For More Information
Visit any of the following for help in planning your own green wedding.
The Green Bride Guide — Kate Harrison
Dream Green Weddings — Heather Teague
Bride $hare — Dana LaRue
The Broke-Ass Bride — Dana LaRue
Eco-Beautiful Weddings — Katie Martin
Chennergy Wedding Photography — LaRue’s photographer
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)
Green Weddings – Good for the Planet and Your Pocket (Top of Page)