10 Steps to a Green Wedding
Going green is a great way to make your wedding unique and meaningful. Plus, you get to show friends and family just how fun, beautiful, and delicious a sustainable lifestyle can be.
- Vintage rings, whether a family heirloom or an antique find (you can even have old gold melted down and refashioned).
- Lab-created diamonds (greenKarat's are set in recycled gold).
- Diamonds mined in peaceful Canada or Australia, like those from Brilliant Earth, Cred Jewellery, or Leber Jewelry's Earthwise line.
- Diamonds certified as "conflict-free" under the Kimberley Process, an ongoing effort to reform diamond mining in Africa (ask your jeweler the questions in Amnesty International's buyer's guide).
- Choosing a setting that's convenient to the majority of the guests to minimize travel impacts.
- Having the ceremony and the reception at the same place, or providing eco-friendly transportation between them.
- Picking a unique local spot - like an art gallery, nonprofit space, organic restaurant or farm, green hotel, botanical garden, or green-roofed building - that supports a cause you believe in.
- An outdoor setting that will infuse the event with a natural sensibility (and require less decorating).
- Arriving at the ceremony in a cycle rickshaw or hybrid car.
- Offsetting your guests' travel (or asking them to do it as your wedding gift).
- Recycled, handmade, or plantable papers processed chlorine-free and printed with vegetable- or soy-based inks.
- Tree-free paper made out of hemp, banana stalks, bamboo, kenaf, or organic cotton.
- A printer that uses paper with a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content.
- Papers that aren't metallic or plastic-coated (these characteristics that make them difficult to recycle).
- Opportunities to reduce paper use, like sending a postcard (instead of multi-enveloped notes) for your save-the-date, or using online invitations and a wedding blog to let people know about the bachelor/ette parties, rehearsal dinner, and gift registry.
Extra points: In your invitations, tell guests about the local ecofriendly hotel and transportation options, whether it's hybrid rental cars or public-transit directions to the ceremony. And don't forget to pick up green paper products for your guestbook, place cards, and thank-you notes. (You will be writing thank-yous, won't you?)
- Stay local. You'll cut out the travel emissions, plus you get to spend more time with your friends and less dealing with transit stress.
- Offset your trip if you choose a "destination" party.
- Travel by train (and start the party early in the bar car).
- Indulge in organic wine- or beer-tasting or an organic spa treatment.
- Take a class and learn to make your own wedding flowers or jewelry.
- Do something low-impact and outdoorsy like camping, surfing, sailing, or kayaking.
- Go vintage (update your look as necessary with tailoring and modern shoes and accessories).
- Pick clothes made from hemp, bamboo, or organic cotton or silk - or find a dressmaker who will make a one-of-a-kind item out of these sustainable fabrics (men's suits and shirts come in organic cotton or wool too).
- Borrow an elegant gown from a stylish friend.
- Buy something you'll wear again and let your bridesmaids do the same.
- Accessorize with a unique recycled purse and antique jewelry.
- Use vegetable dyes on your shoes or go barefoot for a beach wedding.
- Beautify with all-natural makeup.
- Donate attire to charity after the event.
- Opt for organic flowers.
- Find a florist who recycles packaging and sources locally grown flowers.
- Have bridesmaids carry matching purses or silk bouquets instead of cut flowers.
- Decorate with branches, dried grasses, grains, greens, berries, or live plants (potted or dried arrangements can double as favors).
- Choose beeswax or soy candles over those made with paraffin, a petroleum byproduct.
- Move decorations from the ceremony to the reception.
- Use leaves or other natural objects as place cards.
- Throw biodegradable confetti or organic rose petals instead of releasing butterflies or birds.
- Donate the flowers to a hospital or rest home at the end of the day.
7. Eat, drink, and be merry
Showcase green gustatory pleasures (and spoil your guests) by basing your menu around local, organic, and seasonal foods. Don't forget the organic wine, beer, and spirits, and the free-trade, shade-grown coffee and tea. Some tips:
- Ask the venue's preferred caterers and bakers if they can work organically.
- Find a local organic restaurant that does off-site catering.
- If your wedding won't be complete without a specific type of food, get married when it's in season.
- Find a caterer you trust to pick the best seasonal selections, since you may not be able to taste those items ahead of time.
- Consider vegetarian selections and seek out cruelty-free meats.
- Make sure the venue offers comprehensive recycling facilities.
- Have your cake decorated with organically grown flowers or other natural materials instead of plastic toppers.
- Rent real glassware, dishware, and linens instead of using disposables.
- Go for a chic-eclectic look by mixing and matching thrift-store plates and dishes (and donating them back when you're done).
- Use biodegradable utensils and dishes made of cornstarch, potatoes, wheat, or sugar cane - if your venue can compost them.
- Donate leftover food to a local food bank or homeless shelter.
8. Lasting memories
Whether you prefer film or digital photographs, hire a photographer who will do digital proofs to save paper and chemicals. Avoid single-use cameras, but ask friends with digi-cams to share their photos with all the guests online in a free Flickr or Snapfish group.
- Asking for gifts to charity instead of material things.
- Registering with the I Do Foundation or another site that gives a percentage of gift purchases to your chosen cause.
- Registering with stores that offer local, fair-trade, handmade, organic, or other ecofriendly products like Branch, Gaiam, Greenfeet, GreenSage, Ten Thousand Villages, UncommonGoods, or VivaTerra.
- Registering for outdoor gear or contributions to an ecofriendly honeymoon.
- Creating a custom wish list of planet-friendly items like organic linens or gardening supplies, park and museum passes, gift certificates to organic restaurants, and subscriptions to socially conscious publications or memberships in green causes.
For favors, give gifts your guests will use and enjoy, not disposable plastic souvenirs. Some ideas:
- Gourmet organic chocolates or another organic or local food item
- Attractive bags of fresh or dried organic herbs
- Seeds in a commemorative container
- Reusable cloth tote bags
- A small plant
- Natural soaps
- Soy or beeswax candles
- A compact fluorescent light bulb
- A downloadable playlist of your favorite songs
- A small charitable donation in each guest's name
- Place cards made of seeded paper that can be planted at home
For your helpful, loyal attendants, you'll want to up the ante a little, perhaps with:
- Gift baskets of organic skincare products
- Antique jewelry, wallets, handbags, or drinking glasses
- Organic coffees, teas, and chocolates
- Recycled-paper journals and stationery
- Bottles of organic wine
- Going somewhere local (you're going to be spending a lot of time in that hotel room anyway).
- Engaging in ecotourism, which can be as rugged or luxurious as you want it to be. Find listings that suit your style through Conservation International, National Geographic, Planeta.com, or ResponsibleTravel.com.
- Taking a trip that benefits an environmental group; perhaps boating in Florida's Dry Tortugas, birding in Alaska, or walking the Italian Alps with Sierra Club Outings.
- Skipping the cruise and taking a relaxing, romantic train trip.
- Renting bikes or taking public transportation at your destination - the better to enjoy the sights instead of arguing about your new spouse's driving habits.
- Staying in a family-run B&B or inn, a luxury teepee or yurt, or a green hotel that works to save resources and reduce waste.
- Offsetting your trip's carbon emissions.