First published April 2007, updated April 2011
With weddings often being extravagant affairs, many couples wanting to tie the knot are looking towards making their nuptials more environmentally friendly.
Weddings are generally a nightmare of hyper-consumption and produce a great deal of waste. There’s invitations, decorations, gifts, travel, clothing and the list goes on. Many of the items used at a wedding are only used once.
There’s an old saying in connection with weddings believed to have been coined in the Victorian era. It refers to the bride and how she can bring good luck to her marriage by wearing:
“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a silver sixpence in her shoe”.
Superstition perhaps, but there’s some very green advice in that.
My wedding was held on a local beach, a few miles outside of town. It had a total of 2 guests (the witnesses) and a celebrant. No marquees, no fuss, no catering, just a beautiful setting – you really can’t improve on nature. It’s just the shame the subsequent marriage didn’t last too long, but I can assure you that had nothing to do with the green, if rather frugal, ceremony :)..
Still, such a small bare-bones wedding certainly isn’t for everyone, so with that in mind, here’s some green wedding tips!
Invitations and paper
– Use recycled paper wherever possible for wedding invitations; most companies can offer this option. Also consider treeless paper made from materials such as bamboo, hemp and kenaf. Even the type of ink used for the invitation should be taken into account as some inks can be toxic.
– Weddings can generate a huge amount of paper consumption, so give careful thought to items that can be reduced. For example, instead of a program for everyone, perhaps one per couple or group.
– Throughout the leadup to the marriage ceremony, you’ll no doubt have news to communicate with your guests about progress, venues etc. Instead of mailouts or bulky inserts accompanying the invitation, consider starting a web site or blog. This can also be very cost effective also as services such as Blogger.com can provide a blog for you for free. If you’ve had no experience with setting up a site or blog, companies such as Blogger provide easy to use tools. If you can use a mouse and a keyboard, you can run a blog!
– Where possible, use an organic catering company that sources local ingredients.
– Minimize the amount of meat on the menu and maximize the use of in season fruit, vegetables and local dairy products.
– Flowers used at weddings and receptions have a tendency to be out of season and therefore imported. Transportation and care of these flowers requires extra resources. Try to use locally sourced flowers.
– Perhaps use potted flowers as these can make a great addition to your home or garden after the big event.
Venue and travel
– As mentioned, I chose to have my wedding on a local beach. There was a good deal of luck involved weather-wise; but I can’t think of a much more beautiful setting than one provided by nature!
– When selecting a venue, also consider where your guests will be travelling from. Try and find a middle point if possible. The less your guest have to travel, the cheaper for them and the less oil consumed.
– If you decide to hold the event indoors, try and select a venue that makes the best use of natural light.
– Encourage guests to purchase carbon offsets for their travel. Explain to them what an offset is and how they can purchase them.
Car or van pooling
– Instead of having everyone drive from their hotels/motels or wherever they are staying to the wedding or reception venue, perhaps organize a car pool or hire vans to transport everyone to and from your wedding venue. A great deal of fuel can be saved this way, not to mention it will help ensure those who have imbibed in the spirit of the occasion a little too much will get back to their accommodation safely.
– Everyone likes a photographic record of a marriage ceremony, so instead of sending out hundreds of paper based photographs, save on postage, processing and toxic chemicals by storing digital images on your wedding blog for family and friends to download as they please; printing out only what’s absolutely necessary.
Cutlery and crockery
– Disposable plates, cups, napkins and cutlery can create masses of waste at large wedding receptions. Consider hiring non-disposable cutlery and crockery instead. If that’s not viable, try to use recycled paper products or treeless disposable crockery options such as bamboo.
Wedding dresses and clothing
– Does your wedding dress really need to be new? Consider a pre-owned dress – you can save a stack of cash by doing so!
– If you do wish to purchase a new dress, try to ensure that it is made from natural, organic materials such as organic silk, organic cotton or hemp.
– If you have no desire to keep the dress after the wedding, donate it to a charity who can sell it, creating funds for them and perhaps saving someone else from needing to purchase a new dress.
Gifts and favors
– Weddings can generate all sorts of well-intentioned but unwanted gifts. Consider setting up a green wedding gift registry; which is basically just a wish list of earth friendly products you’d like.
– Ask for no gifts be purchased, but donations made to your favorite charities or environmental groups.
– For wedding favors, i.e. gifts you give to guests, make those earth friendly too. It could be a carbon offset to go towards their travel, a donation on the guest’s behalf, a tree planted in their name or a gift basket of green products.
– The amount of natural resources and energy that go into creating wedding rings is incredible. Consider very simple rings, or perhaps a re-fashioned pre-owned ring and for the truly adventurous; maybe a wooden wedding ring – that may sound a little strange, but these are amazing and very individual creations!
– Instead of having paper confetti, rice or seed, use flower petal confetti as a beautiful and easily biodegrable option.
– Ask your baker to use organic ingredients only. This shouldn’t present too much of a problem and is unlikely to increase the cost of the cake considerably.
– Whoever you are hiring to clean up after your wedding, ensure that they will separate recyclables from non-recyclables in order to minimize the amount of trash that winds up in landfills.
Greening your marriage ceremony and reception is sure to be a talking point among your guests, so it’s also an opportunity to educate your family and friends about earth friendly living!
Good luck in planning for your green wedding, for the big day itself and may you be luckier than I was and enjoy many years of wedded bliss!