If you're getting married this year, get a head start on an eternity of happiness by helping preserve the world you live in. An environmentally conscious wedding treats Mother Earth like she's a special guest. Simple swaps for everything from invitations, to florals, to dresses, to food make it easy and affordable to make the wedding of your dreams a little more green.
According to the Going Zero Waste website, the average wedding results in over 400 pounds of trash. Wedding planner Ashley Chamblin has seen plenty of wasteful weddings. "There are three major areas where we see waste in the event industry: flowers, food, and paper," she is quoted as saying on the Mind Body Green wellness website. "And there's actually a lot you can do about each."
While snail mail paper invitations (ideally made of recycled paper) are traditional, there are more environmentally friendly ways to disseminate information to your guests. It is permissible to email save the dates. Another recommendation is building a wedding website via The Knot, Squarespace, Wix or Riley & Grey that includes the invitation, your personal couple story, information on hotel reservations and your wedding registry. You can password-protect it so only your invited guests have this information. Not only will you save trees but you will also streamline communication, save money on stationary, and avoid hours of licking stamps and printing labels.
A big opportunity to green your wedding is location, location, location. Choose one that is convenient for most of your bridal party and guests, instead of a faraway destination that will force people to fly and drive long distances. Think about getting married in the great outdoors, where the most energy you'll use is the sun and gentle breezes. And with a beautiful backdrop of fields and flowers, your decorations will nearly be done. If this is a public site, you'll need permission, or possibly a permit. For a more intimate outdoor setting, use your own backyard or that of a family member instead. Just start manicuring the lawn and planting decorative plants as early as possible. In either a public or private environment, you'll need seats for your guests, restrooms and an alternative indoor site in case of inclement weather.
Enroll the venue and catering service into creating the least amount of food waste possible at the reception. Ask whether they can avoid single-use plates, glassware and implements. Locally grown foods should be featured, which will help cut emissions from food transport and support local farmers. Ideally, they can serve foods that only require minimal cooking and heating or none at all. If the former, look for low-energy methods. Lastly, coordinate ahead of time to donate leftovers to a local food bank or shelter. So long as your vision is shared in the early planning stages, arrangements should easily be made.
When looking at venues for your special day, don't be shy; ask management about the commitment to using sustainable decorations and locally sourced food. Use natural materials for centerpieces, such as stones, shells and potted plants that can be transferred to a garden. Other decorations that can reused, like candles and vases, will lessen waste. Send your guests home with any of these decorations, as well as something natural like seed packets for party favors.
A common wedding woe is only wearing your outfit at one time. The Good Trade digital media and lifestyle brand offers a staff guide to green wedding dresses, saying: "choosing a made-to-order design with high quality natural fabrics will only result in a dress you wholeheartedly adore. And for those who are less attached to their dresses, secondhand shopping and rental services are an excellent option!" Reformation and Wear Your Love have ethically made designs, and sites like Rent the Runway have beautiful pre-used designer dresses for rent. Purchased dresses can be re-sold or donated to charities that provide wedding gowns to brides in need, such as those in hurricane areas. Choose locally grown flowers for your wedding bouquet, bridal party flowers and boutonnieres; or even better, create bouquets of paper flowers or leafy vegetables. Wedding jewelry should be chosen with care to avoid things like conflict diamonds, ivory and coral jewelry. Bridal party gifts can be eco-friendly as well, such as wood, naturally shed deer antlers and other naturally occurring products. You can be thoughtful about your bridal party and the environment at the same time.
It's easy to go green for your big day without sacrificing style. All it takes is being mindful and getting creative, you have the added bonuses of saving time, money -- and peace of mind. You won't regret saying yes to making these conscious choices.