Green Weddings 101
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A green wedding is any wedding where the couple tries to decrease the impact of their event on the planet - and there are many ways to do it without sacrificing style or elegance! Green weddings are eco-chic, which means they are every bit as gorgeous as conventional weddings, but without the waste. And, amazingly enough, going green can save you money. Every part of a wedding has eco-friendly options worth considering, and, there's a shade of green for everyone. Whether you incorporate just one or two earth-friendly elements, or go completely organic from the silk of your dress to the food you serve, remember that every green choice makes a difference.
Why go green in the first place?
Going green on your wedding day has environmental, social, and economic benefits.
- The environmental benefits: Each one of the 2.5 million weddings this year in the United States will produce an average of 62 tons of carbon dioxide and 400-600 lbs of garbage. That's a lot of waste! Consider all of the stuff that goes into conventional weddings: single-use bleached white dresses, chemically treated imported flowers, toxic makeup and skin care products, mined gem-based jewelry, and individual packets of rice, to name a few. It adds up quickly! Picture this: if every wedding this year used a disposable aisle runner and they were laid end to end, they would circle the globe twice. Similarly, the amount of paper used for invitations could cover the entire island of Manhattan. If every engaged couple made just one small green choice, that would be 2.5 million greener choices a year, and that is an amazing impact.
- The social benefits: The average wedding costs almost $40,000 and weddings are a $60+ billion industry. Having a green wedding is an opportunity to make a difference by supporting companies that actively incorporate social and environmental responsibility into the way they do business. When you start talking to vendors about green choices, and explain your choices to your guests, you support the green economy and change the way people in your community think. You can showcase how easy it is to be eco-chic and share your favorite eco-friendly products with your guests.
- The economic benefits: Being green usually saves you money, and in today's economy this is probably reason enough to do it! By making simple substitutions and eco-conscious decisions, like choosing a location central to the majority of your guests, you can easily decrease your impact on the planet and the cost of your event simultaneously.
As an engaged couple, you have a nearly infinite number of choices to make. Incorporating earth-friendly choices takes little, if any, additional effort when you have the right resources. Use our tips below to begin planning your eco-chic wedding.
Jewelry The average American couple spends over $7,000 on their engagement and wedding rings. This puts $16 billion a year into the jewelry market that could be infused into the green economy through the purchase of socially and environmentally responsible jewelry. Eco-conscious jewelers use recycled stones and metals, as well as ethically sourced diamonds, gems and metals to create breathtaking and unique items. Family heirlooms, vintage or antique pieces, or handmade items are also sustainable, and often less expensive options to consider.
Photo by: The Innovation Diaries
Invitations Throughout the wedding planning cycle, paper is used for save-the-dates, invitations, RSVP cards, seating programs, menu cards, seating cards, thank you cards, and more. Traditional papermaking is an energy-intensive process that creates a large amount of waste and uses harsh chemicals such as bleach. Recycled and post-consumer waste paper, tree-free paper, soy inks, and digital correspondence options all offer beautiful and elegant ways to reduce resource consumption. Many modern couples are finding ways to simply cut down the use of paper in their invitation suites. Instead of including separate papers for reception cards and maps and directions to the wedding, house all pertinent information on a wedding website. A number of chic invitation companies are now creating one-page invitations with a detachable response card. Most couples find the middle ground that best suits their style and their guests' needs.
Photo by: Wedding Aces
Attire The problems: Single-use bleached wedding gowns. One-time wear bridesmaids' gowns. But how does a bride with an environmental conscience and a stylish eye still get what she wants on her wedding day? It's not so hard when there are so many designers out there now offering eco-couture gowns made made from sustainable materials. An eco-chic bride and her wedding party can also incorporate items that have been previously used and/or can be used again. Buy vintage, have a family gown altered to fit your taste, or donate your gown after the big day. No matter what your style or tastes, there are countless ways to make your wedding attire greener.
Photo by: Adele Wechsler
Beauty and Make-Up The body's largest organ is the skin, acting as a protective barrier that allows some substances in while keeping others out. Still, the Environmental Working Group estimates 4 lbs of lipstick is absorbed into the body over the lifetime of the average lipstick wearer. Because many conventional cosmetics contain toxic chemicals, using all-natural beauty and hair products or seeking out a green salon for your wedding day will be much better for your health.
Photo by: W-Wedding Flowers
Flowers Over half of the florists in the U.S. use imported flowers that are sprayed with pesticides and fungicides. These chemicals can be harmful to your health and contaminate waterways and drinking supplies. Using local, seasonal and organic flowers, which are never sprayed with toxic chemicals, lowers fuel consumption and is often less costly than ordering exotic species, which must be shipped. You can also work with your florist to design simple arrangements that use less flowers, or consider using faux flowers that won't get thrown away.
Photo by: DK Designs
Photography More and more photographers are going digital. Digital photography offers a paperless and chemical-free way to capture your event, including being able to view online proofs before deciding which ones to print. Green photographers go steps further by using rechargeable batteries, non-toxic inks, 100% post-consumer waste paper, LED and CFL bulbs, and recycling. Ask potential photographers about their green practices to see if they are the right fit for your values.
Photo by: Elizabeth Anne Designs
Decor No matter what your budget or theme, putting a little extra thought into both ceremony and reception decor will reduce one-time-use items. Something as simple as reusing ceremony floral arrangements at your reception will eliminate the need to purchase as many flowers. Using your location and the season for inspiration will provide you with a number of natural, cost-saving decor ideas such as collecting sea glass or shells from a nearby beach for a summer celebration. Centerpieces made from vintage items or pieces collected from friends and family will add unique personality to your tables, and give your wallet a break, too.
Photo by: Cedar Wood Weddings
Food and Beverage The average American meal travels 1,500 miles. No matter how you choose to design your menu, using in-season local and/or organic foods will decrease the carbon footprint of your meal while supporting the local economy. Organic caterers and green restaurants create menus bursting with fresh, seasonal foods, but any company you choose should be able to work with you to add seasonal and/or organic elements where possible. When available, providing wine, beer, and other beverages made in the area adds some local flavor.
Photo by: Alden Blair Events
Gifts By registering with an eco-friendly company like the Green Bride Guide, you can support sustainable business while educating your guests about eco-friendly products. There are even organizations you can register through that donate a portion of the sales from your items to a variety of causes.
Photo by: Green Bride Guide
Favors Favors for all your guests can cost you hundreds of dollars, and often wedding favors are small trinkets destined for the trash can. Making a small donation for each guest to a cause that is important to you is a thoughtful alternative to a tangible, potentially wasteful favor. If you are set on giving a small gift, there are tons of non-wasteful favor ideas like edibles, small potted plants, seedlings or soy candles that will echo the values behind your wedding.
Photo by: The Knot
Transportation The EPA estimates that cars, trucks, and buses are the leading producers of air pollution, yet about 75% of couples travel to and from their wedding in a limousine. Holding your ceremony and reception at the same venue, or close by one another is one way to limit travel for your guests. If possible, make this a centralized location so that most of your friends and family will not have to travel far. Carpooling, renting an alternative energy bus or trolley, or talking public transit if available will not only make things easier for your guests, but it will also get them to and from your celebration while minimizing emissions.
Photo by: Juneberry Lane
Travel Many honeymoon hotspots, such as tropical reefs or national parks, are also ecologically sensitive areas. Ecotourism options, green hotels/accommodations, and carbon offsetting all help conserve resources and ensure the money that you are spending makes its way into the local economy. Sometimes a simple destination wedding can actually have a smaller environmental footprint than a large lavish affair at home. To even further lessen the impact of your honeymoon, explore local or volunteer vacation options.
Photo by: Every Last Detail
Now what? Ready to get started planning your eco-chic wedding day? Get inspiration and ideas by reading our Eco-Chic Style Blog. You can also shop for you wedding day or create your eco-chic wedding registry full of gorgeous, earth-friendly items at our Gift Shop and Registry.