How to Have a Green Wedding
by Tracy C.
These days it's growing more popular to have a green wedding than a white one. With our guide to How to Have a Green Wedding, you'll learn a multitude of ways to up the eco-chic factor.
- If you're more biodiesel than bridal gowns, like many an engaged couple these days, a green wedding could be the right choice for you. As bridal magazines begin to put green wedding issues together, even your favorite television characters are getting hitched surrounded by pesticide-free flowers. As the marrying kind increasingly demand environmentally friendly products ranging from locally grown organic food to compostable dinnerware, there are myriad ways to go waste-free without going style-free. And while you certainly can follow each and every step, below, greening up even one area of your wedding—choosing organic food, for example—will make a positive impact.
Step 1: Start with the Rings
- You don't want the symbols of your union to be anti-environment, or worse.
- Choose a jeweler who specializes in conflict-free diamonds, or lab-created diamonds.
- Consider buying a vintage ring. You could also have a vintage ring re-set to your liking (without requiring new materials to be mined).
- Look into finding recycled or repurposed gold. Find jewelers such as Green Karat, who use recycled gold, and others at No Dirty Gold.
- You may not even need to buy a new ring once you get past the hyper-marketing that is the diamond industry. Consider using a ring you already have to wear on your left ring finger.
- If you know you still want a diamond, ask your jeweler where he gets his stones and ask for certification that they have met conflict-free standards according to the Kimberley Process.
- Also consider alternatives like moissanite or adia, gems that look like diamonds but are created in labs.
Step 2: Green Invites
- Your invitations are your first opportunity to go green and let your guests know that you've made it a priority to reduce wedding waste.
- The easiest way to reduce your wedding day impact is to invite fewer guests.
- Regardless of how many people you choose to invite, there are a number of organic paper choices, many of which are recyclable. Look for paper that is at least 30 percent post-consumer waste and that is non-chlorine bleached.
- You can also try to find a vendor who will print your invites with soy-based or vegetable-based ink (which doesn't use petroleum).
- Consider the bulk of your invitation—do you really need tissue inserts between each piece of paper? Try to use a single card, or, better yet, create a website through which you can communicate all wedding details to your guests.
- Hire a local calligrapher to address your envelopes, which eliminates printing waste and supports local business.
Step 3: The Dress
- What you wear will send a message to your guests and is a great way to showcase your personal style, likely at a fraction of the cost.
- Buy a vintage wedding dress. Scour eBay for vintage dresses, as well as local resale shops. Higher end vintage stores will often carry gowns that could be stunning on your wedding day. Try shopping in spring and summer, when you are more likely to find a dress in white.
- Wear your mom's wedding gown if she still has it. A few alterations and you could have a gorgeous, and meaningful, wedding dress.
- Search for dresses made from natural materials, or find a place that rents wedding gowns.
- Consider finding a dress made from hemp silk. Check out hemp silk gowns at Get Conscious and Threadhead Creations.
- Have bridesmaids choose their own dresses so you know they will wear them again (or perhaps they have something in the closet already!). They will appreciate this idea.
Step 3: Green Reception Ideas
- Your reception offers tons of opportunities to go green, ranging from the menu, to the favors, to how your guests will arrive at your big day.
- Again, you may not want to adopt each and every one of these ideas; focus on the areas in which you think you can make a difference.
- Where you choose to get married is your first step in catering to your green needs.
- A backyard or garden wedding is lovely and doesn't require decorations.
- Try to use local companies whenever possible (caterers, florists, hair and makeup team, etc.), as this will cut back on driving costs and delivery costs (never mind all those associated travel and shipping fees).
- Forget the golf club, which uses exorbitant amounts of energy watering and mowing grass. Try supporting a non-profit you already believe in by hosting your wedding at a local park or museum.
- More and more couples have recently hosted weddings on local farms, which not only provide one-stop shopping for your menu, your flowers, and the reception site but may draw interest to an important local industry (does Aunt Jane really think about where her milk comes from?).
- Wherever you choose to get married, be sure to speak with the site's administrator to see what your options will be going forward. If you've opted for a more traditional reception venue, see if you will have a choice of caterers so you can find one serving organic food.
- Also think about hosting the wedding close to the majority of your guests. Travel costs (not just for your guests, but for the planet) can skyrocket when a couple chooses a remote location inaccessible by public transportation (a transcontinental flight, plus a rental car, plus a long drive, plus a hotel that may not have the environment in mind = serious energy costs).
- Once you determine where you will have your wedding, encourage guests to carpool, and find places for them to stay that will abide by your commitment to the environment.
- Consider having your ceremony and reception at the same site to reduce transportation between venues. Why not rent a capacious beach house, have the wedding there, and let everyone sleep over?
- You can choose locally grown organic foods to cut down on associated fuel costs and support nearby sustainable farms.
- If a particular food is important to you, get married when it is in season.
- Although organic food can mean a higher price tag, most caterers will work with you to cut costs in other areas if eating organic is important to you.
- This means avoiding foods like Chilean sea bass or kobe beef, which have to be flown in from afar and are heavily packaged.
- Also try to find vendors offering cruelty-free meats and fish that hasn't been farmed.
- Use organic flowers to decorate the cake instead of traditional plastic cake toppers.
- You also don't need to print out a menu for each guest. Try placing one or two at each table.
- Also choose organic wine and drink garnishes that are locally sourced. You could even grow your own mint leaves for mojitos!
- Rent plates, glasses, and flatware that can simply be washed and reused.
- If you must use disposable serviceware, find pieces that are bio-degradable or easily composted. Who doesn't enjoy eating off a plate made out of sugarcane?
- Then make sure these pieces are composted or disposed of properly. (Be sure to check with your venue ahead of time to determine what their facilities for recycling are.)
- Yes, Japanese orchids are beautiful, but think of the fossil fuel costs associated with their transport.
- Eco-chic expert Emily Anderson recommends locally grown flowers that don't have to be flown in for your big day.
- And because pesticide regulation laws vary between countries, choosing local blooms will likely guarantee them to be pesticide-free.
- Try using easily sourced branches or other plants as accents to your flowers.
- Use potted plants instead of traditional centerpieces, and encourage your guests to take them home and plant them!
- If you choose to marry in a field or garden, you may not even need more flowers.
- What you give your guests reflects your hopes for the event and the environment.
- Simply foregoing favors (did you really need that minuscule tin of candy?) is the easiest way to cut out waste. As long as people are having a good time, they won't notice you've decided against favors. Just don't run out of champagne.
- You could also decide to donate to a carbon offset program once you've determined how far your guests have traveled to celebrate with you.
- Or you could donate in your guests' names to a favorite non-profit organization.
- Other ideas to keep green going:
- Give each guest a CFL.
- You could make a donation to a program that will plant trees in your guests' names. Try The Green Guide's Nursery Forest.
- Make handmade gifts like soap or beeswax candles. See The Handcrafted Wedding's list of ideas for more inspiration.
- Collect local shells, horse chestnuts, or autumn leaves to place at tables or to use as placecards.
- How you capture your special day is yet another opportunity to reduce waste.
- Try going digital for your wedding photos. This will save chemicals and paper, plus digital images are easier to send around to your friends.
- You can also investigate traditional photographers who engage in low-toxic printing processes.
- Try renting a shuttle bus to cut down on too many individual cars. Then what about finding one that's fueled by biodiesel?
- And what about the wedding party's transportation? If you are living in Southern California, for example, you could call up EcoNation, which is an upscale chauffeur service that uses alternative fuels and hybrid cars. It seems the stretch limo could be on its way out of style.
- Although your guests will likely still incur travel costs to your wedding, you can try to offset them. Calculate your guests' emissions (you can do this for your honeymoon too) at Native Energy's Wedding Emissions Calculator.
Step 4: Registering Green
- There are so many places offering bridal registries these days, why not choose one that deals in green goods? Do you really need that fifth crystal bowl?
- Some eco-friendly registry options include:
- If registering for major appliances, choose those with the Energy Star.
- You might also incorporate a volunteer honeymoon (to do environmental work, or to provide humanitarian aid), which you can register for using The Big Day, a site that allows couples to customize their travel desires into an online registry. What guest doesn't want to help you survey Bahamian reef coral?
Your Gifts to Each Other
- Many brides and grooms exchange gifts the day of their wedding or shortly after, and often give gifts to their wedding party, as well.
- Consider making a donation to a favorite environmental group as a couple.
- Decide to buy something you will both use to benefit the planet, like a compost bin, new recycling receptacles, or solar panels for the house you will live in.
- In your gifts to each other and to your wedding party, choose items that use minimal packaging.
Step 5: After the Wedding
- You've pulled it off: a green as green could be wedding, and you're hitched to boot. But it's not over yet!
What to Recycle
- Your dress. Resell it on eBay or, even better, Craig's list to save shipping costs. Or donate it to a friend or younger sibling whom you know will want to wear it.
- The flowers and decorations. Donate flowers and/or decorations to a close by nursing home, assisted living facility, hospital, or homeless shelter.
- Bottles and cans. Check with your caterer or facility to make sure they recycle. If not, ask them if you can provide bins for them and have someone come pick them up the day after the ceremony.
- The food. Donate leftover food to a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen.
- You could try taking a volunteer honeymoon.
- Travel to eco-friendly resorts and be sure to research your options for lodging and transportation to be sure they abide by green practices.
- Consider going somewhere close by to reduce flight costs, or try taking the train.
- Buy carbon offsets from sites like TerraPass for travel afar.
- And don't forget eco-friendly lingerie!
Resources for How to Have a Green Wedding
- The New York Times: "How Green Was My Wedding" (February 11, 2007)
- Grist: A Nice Day for a Green Wedding
- TIME: The Global Warming Survival Guide: Have a Green Wedding
- MSNBC: Hottest Wedding Trend is Going Green
- Treehugger: How to Green Your Wedding
- The Sierra Club: Ten Steps to a Green Wedding
- The Knot: Green Weddings
- The Knot: Hiring a Green Team
- World Wildlife Fund: Green Wedding Tips
- The Knot: Are Your Rings Earth-Friendly and Conflict-Free?
- The Knot: Create an Earth-Friendly Menu
- The Knot: Organic and Earth-Friendly Reception Tips
- The Knot: Invitation Ideas and Tips
- Business Week: Nice Day for a Green Wedding
- Grist: Deplored of the Rings
- wikiHow: How to Have a Green Wedding
- Wedding Channel: Eco-Friendly Registries
- ABC News: Green Wedding for Soap Opera
- Eco Chic Weddings: How to Have an Eco-Chic Wedding
- The Handcrafted Wedding: Resource for Handmade Wedding Items
- The Daily Green: "Wedding (Or Any Night) Eco-Friendly Lingerie" (July 17, 2007)
- The Knot: Alternative Flower Ideas
- Green Elegance Weddings
- Great Green Wedding
Green Wedding Vendors
- EcoNation: Alternative Fueled Chauffeur Service
- TerraPass: Carbon Offsets
- Get Conscious: Green Wedding Attire
- Rawganique: Hemp Dresses
- Threadheadcreations: Hemp-Based Clothing
- Green Karat: Ecologically Minded Jewelry
- Local Harvest: Find Your Nearest Organic Food Source
- Adia Diamonds
- The Green Guide's Nursery Forest
- Organic Bouquet