A marriage ceremony and reception are among the most memorable celebrations in a person’s life. Traditionally, weddings evoke memories of lavish flowers, extravagant gowns, sparkling diamond engagement rings, elaborate meals, wedding favors, and guests from around the world. What most people don’t envision is the immense cost financially and environmentally that “perfect weddings” incur. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to reduce the environmental impact of a wedding and consequently save some money while maintaining the “I’ve-dreamed-of-this-day-my-whole-life perfection.” Here are some suggestions to help you on your way to planning an ecologically and financially mindful celebration:
Buy ethical and environmental engagement and wedding rings. Mining degrades ecosystems, requires intensive energy inputs and generates waste. Instead of buying new rings, consider using heirloom or estate jewelry or have a jeweler recast existing jewelry. There are also companies that sell ecologically responsible jewelry, such as greenkarat.com.
Focus on simple and classic themes. Much of a wedding’s style is created by the location. By choosing a venue with classic beauty, one can eliminate clutter and the need for additional, often times disposable, decoration. Once an ideal location is chosen, focus on simple, reusable decorations such as local artisan’s ceramic vases, a display of interesting rocks, or candles. You could also opt for a location with natural beauty, like a local park, and add personal touches, like potted trees and seasonal flowers.
Amber Pfeifer, from Wisconsin, chose to decorate the tables at her winter wedding with small potted pine trees instead of flowers. Guests took a tree as a favor to plant as a symbol of Pfeifer’s new marriage. The planting of these trees partially balanced the carbon emissions associated with traveling to the event.
Choose local, organic, and seasonal foods and flowers whenever possible. Some caterers already use local, organic foods in their dishes because they often taste better. Choosing local, seasonal, and organic foods that are lower on the food chain reduces the carbon footprint of your wedding dinner. Added benefits include supporting the local economy and reveling in the bounty of native soils. Consider creating a table card that explains your food choices. This may become a conversation starter for your guests.
Research which locally available flowers will be in bloom at the time of your ceremony, and locate a florist who will be willing to provide these-or grow them yourself. For example, the wood anemone is a spring-bloomer while roses often peak in midsummer and sunflowers grow into the fall.
Purchase recycled content, reusable, or recyclable products. Traditionally, couples send out engagement announcements, save-the-date cards, thank-you notes, wedding invitations, and reply cards. Reduce unnecessary paper first. Then, save more trees by sending correspondence that is made from recycled paper or other natural fibers, and request recipients to recycle them. You can also cut down on paper correspondence by creating a wedding website for friends and family for replies, directions, and other information.
Reusable decorations can double as practical wedding favors. For example, purchase glass vases and candles to use as centerpieces instead of flowers. After the event, close guests or relatives can each take a vase to keep as a memento of the wedding.
Choose a wedding dress, suit, bridesmaid dresses and tuxes that can be reworn. Brides can choose to rewear a friend or family member’s dress or buy a new dress that could be shortened and reworn. For bridesmaids, consider choosing a color scheme and letting each choose a dress style of her preference in the correct color and fabric. They will be more likely to wear the dress again if it’s a style they like.
Register for gifts at environmentally friendly stores or ask for a donation towards a larger item(s). Keep in mind that gift wrap is not recyclable. Ami and Andy Voeltz-Schakel requested donations to an animal shelter or towards the supplies for a cedar strip canoe. Use the invitation or website to describe why you chose these types of gift requests.
Remember that when the flowers fade and the honeymoon is over, the marriage remains. Planning an earth-sensitive wedding that reflects the couple’s personal morals is the perfect way to begin a marriage.
Eco-chic Weddings, by Emily Anderson, Hatherleigh Press, 2007.
Green Weddings That Don’t Cost the Earth, by Carol Reed-Jones, Paper Crane Press, 1996.
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