Say “I Do” to a Green Wedding

White may still be the most popular color for wedding gowns, but when it comes to planning a wedding, many couples are starting to think green.

Almost three million couples tie the knot every year in the United States, spending an average of $31,000 on their weddings. In the midst of planning, brides and grooms are looking for ways to combine their love for each other with their love of the planet.

The growing interest in green weddings means couples have more options than ever for choosing environmentally friendly elements for their special days.


Start With a Plan

It’s called wedding planning for a reason: It takes a lot of coordination to host a wedding – and green weddings are no exception.

It helps to set a few top environmental priorities, like supporting organic agriculture, minimizing waste, or shopping local to help narrow the options and remain focused during the planning process. This also makes it easier to select vendors that specialize in those areas.

Consider starting with a venue. Non-traditional venues like botanical gardens, farms, apple orchards, and parks will be more flexible about allowing couples to select their own vendors rather than choosing from a list of pre-approved vendors who might not share their commitment to the environment. If an indoor venue is a must, look for LEED-certified buildings that are guaranteed to meet rigorous environmental standards.

Emphasize the 3 Rs

It’s possible to reduce, reuse, and recycle without sacrificing style.

Start with invitations. Look for options that are printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks. Or forgo paper invitations – and all the paper that goes along with the invite, including reply cards and envelopes – in favor of emailed or electronic invitations and RSVP cards.

A wedding website is another low-impact option for sharing wedding registries, directions, hotel reservations, and other important information with guests without sending reams of paper.

Instead of purchasing brand-new decorations, consider renting tablecloths,centerpieces, banners, cake toppers, and twinkle lights or purchasing them secondhand. Most venues have décor items available for rent, or you can check out party rental shops, which have huge selections of decorations that can be rented for a few hours.


Focus on the Flowers

Flowers are often the centerpiece of a wedding celebration. From the bouquet the bride carries down the aisle to the centerpieces on the tables at the reception, flowers help create a theme at a wedding.

Organic blooms are beautiful, in part because each colorful stem is grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, thus minimizing their impact on the environment. Ask your florist about organic options or go to your local farmers market to find vendors who sell organic flowers and ask if they will take orders for special occasions. Bonus: Unlike most of the flowers sold through local flower shops, which are grown overseas and shipped thousands of miles, blooms sold at farmers markets are locally grown, further reducing their eco-impact.

After the wedding, donate the flowers to a local nursing home or hospital or encourage guests to take them home.

Serve Organic Food and Drinks

When it comes to planning the reception menu, choosing grass-fed, pastured meats, and organic grains and vegetables are popular options at green weddings, especially when the foods were grown or raised on local farms. Vegetarian and vegan options also help lower the carbon footprint of a meal.

Ask caterers to provide sustainable menu choices, and ensure that extra food is donated to a food bank or shelter and that food scraps are composted.

Go organic on the drink menu, too. There are lots of options for organic wine, beer, and champagne. Purchasing beer in bulk – in kegs instead of bottles – also cuts down on packaging. At the end of the evening, ask the bartenders to recycle any bottles and cans.

Rethink the Dress Code

Even brides who seek out green venues, organic flowers, and farm-fresh foods are often reluctant to put a green spin on their wedding attire.

Unlike grooms who rent their tuxedos – the ultimate green choice because the formalwear is reused for multiple occasions – brides have fewer options to rent dresses. It’s possible to find beautiful secondhand wedding dresses online. In addition to being an eco-friendly option, renting a wedding dress or purchasing one secondhand is less expensive than shopping for a brand-new gown.

If a new dress is a must, consider donating it to charity after the wedding. A number of nonprofit organizations accept donations of bridal gowns and resell them to fund their charitable work.

There are also opportunities to minimize the environmental impact of engagement and wedding rings. Look for conflict-free diamonds and alternative or manmade stones that don’t require environmentally damaging strip mining.


Green Gifts

When it comes to wedding gifts, think green.

Register for eco-friendly housewares like organic cotton linens, bamboo kitchenware, and decorator items made from recycled materials. Or register with companies that have environmental missions or that donate a portion of their profits to charities. Generous gifts of cash can be used to fund honeymoons to eco-destinations or reserve a room at a green hotel.

Green gifting goes both ways. Instead of giving wedding favors, couples can make donations to environmental charities in their guests’ names.

With a little planning and attention to detail, it’s possible to plan a beautiful wedding without sacrificing a commitment to the environment.

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