Planning a wedding can be a delightful, stressful, exhilarating, frustrating, joyous, throw-up-your-hands-exacerbating, and a religiously epiphanic experience – just to throw out a few descriptive words on the subject.
So this is your special day, remember that as you are planning it; YOUR special day! You know you want the day perfect; or at least as close to perfection as possible. In all your plans and dreams, know there is absolutely no reason to go into major or even minor debt. It’s one WONDERFUL AMAZING DAY…AND it’s one day.
In this economic climate you and your beloved are doing your best to balance inviting all those people you love plus those you politically can’t not invite to stay a part of the family, where to have it, where’s the food coming from, the band, the D.J., the…this may be one of those moments you decide to challenge your invitees to track you through the woods and those that can actually locate you can be part of the festivities of gathering and preparing a wild edible feast. Okay so that won’t necessarily work but it can be a nice fantasy.
How to Green Your Wedding
It can be easy to be green when planning your wedding. And being green doesn’t have to mean spending more. In fact when the average in 2009 for wedding was $27,000, Frank and I had our wedding for $7,000. I know! Right?! And we had absolutely delicious food, entertainment including a giant Goddess Puppet and drumming, and opera singing for our cake cutting. Yes there are ways to save money and be green and have a GORGEOUS DAY! Really, you can have it all!
To green up your wedding take into consideration:
- Waste reduction; any throw away products you can avoid, do
- Resource conservation; whatever you can reuse, the better for you and the environment
- Pollution prevention
- Environmentally friendly products and services
- Support of the local economy
If you are a couple who has already moved in together and have enough toasters, consider the purpose of gifts coming from your attendees. Yes we all like gifts. I am not suggesting you give up your gifts. But if you already live together, ask a few friends to help coordinate the purchase of a coveted experience or bigger ticket item you can’t afford on your own. Whittle your list to items you both really need and want and that family and friends can put money towards. I had two friends coordinate the purchase of a food dehydrator and a massage table. What fun!
Eat, Drink & Be Merry
Personally I love potluck parties. I love new taste sensations and enjoying a variety of foods. And since Frank and I already lived together we felt we didn’t need much in the arena of gifts so we asked our local friends to bring potluck. It wasn’t that challenging to coordinate. But then I am a professional coordinator so you may want help if organizing is not something you enjoy doing. Ask a friend to do it for you. And bonus, any leftovers go home with your guests so there is less to pick up. Just make sure that you cater some food for those out-of-town guests who might have a hard time carrying their dish through customs. I mean how are they going to explain Plum Kuchen without it getting sampled and then devoured?
If you are going to work with a caterer, ask the business where and how they purchase foods for the menu. Request that they support local suppliers, buy from local farmers, and source as much of the food and drink from inside your state as is possible. One bride I worked with managed to get all of her needs met in state, even the wine. I was impressed! I was only responsible for sourcing food and flowers from Western MA but she had other coordinators working in Eastern MA and between the bride and her crew we did it!
Inviting Your Peeps
Though I wanted to go paperless and just e-vite with details on a website, Frank and I realized two things, one, not everyone on our list has email (my Grandma for one), and websites are not always as accessible to just your guests as you would like them to be.
So we opted for a compromise. The majority of our guests received an invitation via email. Our family members received a paper invitation on recycled paper with a return R.S.V.P. envelop.
There are a plethora of gorgeous 100% post-consumer recycled paper options as well as non-tree paper options for use as invitations, the wedding program, and menu.
And how to cut down on pollution associated with travel? For those guests coming in from faraway, you can purchase carbon-offsite credits through a number of non-profits or businesses. In choosing this option, check thoroughly to make sure your credits are actually making a positive impact. And where will those out-of-towners stay? You can check with the hotels and B&Bs in your area to see if they are green certified.
Regarding the bride and groom outfits, the best option is to find used treasures or buy or make something exquisitely enjoyable that you can wear again and again. What is with the concept of buying an outfit you only wear once and never get to enjoy again? Wear a dress only for one day? If I love wearing something I want to be able to wear it again. For me, I was so taken with having a dress made for me that I went with a local seamstress so we could co-design the gown and decide on best fabrics for it. I then bought the fabric at a local business, and had my seamstress make me my dream dress that I could wear again to special occasions. And I have and I LOVE IT!
I did not ask our merry men and women to dress in anything particular; just something they loved and looked beautiful and that they could wear outside on a warm day. However, if you do want your wedding party to color-coordinate, I do recommend you considering outfits that can be worn again to other functions. Again, why have a beautiful dress in your closet if you can’t wear it again?
What goes on the tables
Renting dish, glass, and silverware is probably less environmentally taxing than disposable items. However, another option is if your wedding is scheduled anywhere between spring and fall consider compostable dishware, cups, and utensils. There are many available on the market and some you can purchase locally if you have a food coop. You do need a place to put the food waste and compostable dishware so check with local farmers and gardeners if they able to accommodate you depending on the size of your party. Okay so yes our guests had to be creative and say, “clink, clink, clink” to get us to kiss, but it was fun to hear them all trying out ways to make themselves sound like silverware clinking on glasses. I was also able to have all my compostables composted right on-site with a local gardener using the site as a demonstration composting system for our town.
Now about those bizarre little party favors to thank your invitees for attending your party. Who came up with that idea? Yes, sure you can spend money on bulbs or native seeds as a meaningful gift that will live and grow like your love. Still, a friend reminded me that, “this is your wedding day. Your ability to receive from your friends is your gift to them. Revel in that.” WOW! What a concept. Give through your smiles, your laughter, your graciousness, your ability to completely appreciate your dear friends showing up to celebrate your love.
When making decisions about your floral arrangement you can check with local farmers and gardeners and look for flowers that are in season. We used wildflowers from friends’ gardens to decorate the tables and for the blessing ceremony and locally grown roses for my crown and the corsages. I remember one friend who had her wedding in the fall and the autumn theme of arrangements was gorgeous! Who knew you could do so much with mums? And a winter wedding? Did you know that if you bring your holly cuts in they will bloom with the cutest little white flowers? When you are buying flowers be sure to check if they are organic or IPM (Integrated Pest Management) certified for no or low pesticide spray. Last thing you need is to be sniffin’ poisons in your posies.
If your wedding is going to be outside in the summer like mine and Frank’s was, consider making up little spray bottles of natural “bugs-be-gone” from essential oils of lavender and rosemary and water. Healthier for you and the environment and you smell sweet but the mosquitoes aren’t as taken with you. And then if the little bottles get taken away as party favors, well you know they have been well appreciated.
Remember to enjoy the day and revel in each other. Feed each other sweetly. Dance together romantically. Laugh together exuberantly. Look deeply into each other’s eyes and choose to love each other each and every day!
Website Resources for Greening Your Wedding
Written by Arianna Alexsandra Collins
© 2009, Arianna Alexsandra Collins, © 2013 (updated)
I wrote this article originally for my local newspaper while I was planning my wedding to my now (ex)husband. (2014)