Green Wedding 101

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Married in June 2009, Katie McIntyre and her husband Trent planned a wedding that reflected their eco-friendly lifestyle. Photo: Nora Bohanon Photography

Bride-to-be Paige Jarvie will be married in Chicago in May 2011, and she is planning to do everything she can to make her day as green as possible.

“A wedding should reflect not only our love for each other, but it should also reflect our beliefs,” she says.

“We are as eco-friendly as we can be in our daily lives, and weddings are inherently wasteful. We are trying to find many ways to streamline the occasion so it doesn’t leave a big footprint.”

Jarvie is also keeping a record of her venture on her blog, My Green Dream Wedding in hopes that others can see how rewarding and fun it is to explore eco-friendly options.

According to Kate Harrison, author of The Green Bride Guide, “The average wedding produces 400-600 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of CO2.”

“There are 2.2 million weddings a year, and over 70 billion dollars is spent on the weddings alone. Every choice makes a difference, and if each bride funnels just a fraction of that money to good causes and good companies, it will really add up quickly.”

Katie McIntyre, who was married this past June, also did all that she could to ensure a green wedding day.”The theme of our wedding was ‘green’, and therefore, we tried to focus on the meaning of the celebration and incorporate eco-friendly elements into the entire celebration.”

From invitations to centerpieces to registries, both Jarvie and McIntyre worked hard to ensure that their weddings would be as green as possible. Here are some of the many ways they accomplished this, and some of resources they used along the way.

Put on your research hat

Jarvie found many of her ideas by browsing the Internet, reading The Green Bride Guide, and asking potential vendors what they would be willing to do to help make her wedding more sustainable.

“While many may not advertise it yet, those that I spoke to were very open to offering eco-conscious choices.”

Harrison echoes this sentiment saying, “With more than half of couples looking for eco-friendly choices, there has been an incredible proliferation of green options with thousands of green wedding vendors offering a variety of options for different tastes and budgets.”

Invitations that leave no trace

Both Jarvie and McIntyre used the Internet to spread the word about their wedding. McIntyre’s guests were given save the date information and were asked to RSVP at the wedding website.

Jarvie plans to do the same with the initial wedding details, and her invitations will be printed on recycled paper with seeds embedded, so guests can plant the invitations when done with them. Jarvie also plans to print the programs for the big day on 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper.

Harrison says invitations are an easy way to add an eco-friendly element to your big day and recommends several options including Earthly Affair and Twisted Limb Paperworks.

Location, location, location

Choose a location that reflects your commitment to each other and to living lightly on the land. Even if your chosen locale is not an organic restaurant or eco-lodge, look for a place that will embrace your conscientious ideals.

Talk to the proprietors about their willingness to help you find an organic caterer, use reusable or recycled materials and decorate and clean with non-toxic products and recycled products. Also think about choosing a location that will require the least travel for the majority of your guests.

Although Jarvie and her husband are based in Los Angeles, most of their guests live in the Midwest. They have decided to have their wedding in Chicago at Cafe Brauer at the Lincoln Park Zoo, and half of their deposit will be donated towards conservation efforts.

McIntyre and her husband held their reception at a state park and used compostable plates and cutlery.

Your dress has to be perfect, but that doesn't necessarily mean brand new. McIntyre purchased her dress from a consignment shop. Photo: Nora Bohanon Photography

Embrace local fare

A wedding is the perfect occasion to celebrate with local, organic food. Jarvie’s caterer is going to use produce from Chicago’s Green City Market and local, free-range meats for the entrees.

McIntyre’s dessert was a strawberry shortcake made with local, organic strawberries and produce and meat both came from local farms.

Remember that even if your caterer or restaurant doesn’t specialize in sustainable fare, most are willing to use organic and local produce if asked.

Centerpieces to remember and reuse

Most florists are willing to work with brides to create centerpieces from local plants and flowers. Consider using plants that your guests can take home as favors.

Jarvie plans to use local, pesticide-free flowers as well as succulents that will double as gifts for her guests.

McIntyre used twig lantern centerpieces, which were made from borrowed votives and Mason jars, soy candles and twigs her florist collected.

What to wear? Why green, of course!

Of course, your dress must be perfect on your wedding day. However, there is no reason why it can’t have been someone else’s perfect dress too.

Jarvie is going to have her mother’s wedding dress tailored, and her bridesmaids dresses will come from an eco-designer.

McIntyre purchased her dress from a consignment shop, which is an excellent place to start your search.

There are also many eco-friendly designers who make wedding and bridesmaid dresses including Conscious Elegance, Conscious Clothing, Gwendolyn Gleason, and Chrissy Wai-ching.

Instead of traditional bridesmaids dresses that are all the same, you can also ask your bridesmaids to get a dress in the color of your choice (Jarvie is going with green!) that they will then be able to wear again and again. When you are done with your dress, you can also recycle it by reselling it and donating the proceeds to a charity of your choice.

Gifts that keep on giving

According to Harrison, more than 20 billion dollars is spent on wedding gifts every year, so an eco-friendly gift registry is an easy way to make a big difference.

The registry at The Green Bride Guide makes it easy for almost-weds to register for everything from eco-friendly furniture to garden accessories. Some couples also opt for a donation in their names to the charity of their choice or other non-material gifts such as contributions towards their honeymoon.

McIntyre and her husband went this route. “For those wishing to give a gift, we asked them to share their talents towards making the big day come together or donate to our honeymoon registry,” she says.

Read more from Libuse Binder at Weekly Way and Ten Ways. Homepage image courtesy of Green Brides Guide.

Related article:
Hey Brides, Here’s Your ‘Something Green’

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  1. This green article is so fitting during this season as green is in and wedding season is now upon us. An addition piece of advice would be to use recycled paper for your wedding invitations, if you plan to use invitations at all. An even greener way to go, is to just have a website for all of your wedding news.

    – Maurizio Maranghi –

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

  2. We wanted to be “green” during our wedding so I bought a used wedding dress on ebay, got a suit my husband could wear over and over again, and we eloped! I recommend it to everyone! No stress, less money and environmentally friendly.

  3. A great option I found in eco-friendly gifts for my friends getting married this summer are gift sets from Sustainable Sourcing They have gourmet gift sets of Himalayan pink salt, HimalaSalt/organic peppercorns and another with organic bath salts and massage stones. I love that Sustainable Sourcing uses eco-friendly business practices and donates money to environmental causes.

  4. Does the church have a hall or school? find out how much it would cost to have your reception in the church hall? Hire a caterer and dj. Drive to church and park. Staying a few hours in one place will certianly be better than driving across town and adding to the carbon footprint.

  5. Hi! We’ve specialized in green weddings for 15 years — and we are so glad that there are so many fabulous options now.
    Paper has only been made out of trees for 125 years – and it can be made from about 500 different plant fibers, including after harvest materials like corn husks and sugarcane.
    So, it really helps to support the fledgling papermakers that are trying to change things toward using sustainable fibers and materials. It’s also really important to support the approximately 3 paper mills in the US that are making 100% PCW high grade paper. Currently, about 97% of all the recycled paper that is picked up curbside across the US, gets shipped to Asia.
    This is truly deplorable.
    These super modern and sophisticated invites we make are made from treefree fibers and 100% PCW paper:
    Thanks and keep up the good fight!

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