By Lindsey Madsen
These days it seems everywhere you go you hear words like; organic, going-green, eco-friendly, carbon footprint, up-cycling and many more that 15 years ago would have sounded like a foreign language to most people. The “green” movement to protect the earth’s resources and reduce our impact on the planet has become as mainstream as sliced bread. Many people are making life changes in order to help take care of the earth anyway they can. So how does this translate to the eco-conscious Bride and Groom wanting to have an “Eco-Friendly Wedding” without sacrificing any of the elegant details they have always dreamed about? Have no fear, with a little help and know-how from the right wedding professionals you can keep Mother Earth happy AND have everything on your wish list.
What is a GREEN WEDDING?
First things first, it’s important to know that having a “green-wedding” doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice anything. Many wedding vendors offer eco-friendly options, fine recycled papers for invitations, full organic menus loaded with delicious options and even compostable dishes and “plant-able” wedding favors. Just by being aware of your needs and requests, most wedding vendors will happily jump on board and offer you several earth friendly options. If they can’t, don’t be discouraged, just look at other areas of the event where you can make less of an impact on the earth, and then don’t forget…every little bit helps.
Go for Natural Elegance in a High-impact Location
When looking at venues for your event think about using a beautiful outdoor space. Nothing says ‘welcome to our earth-friendly wedding’ than being surrounded by Mother Nature herself. Talk to your wedding planner about looking for a location that speaks to your personality as a couple and the over-all design for your wedding. Perhaps a park surrounding a glistening pond or flowering backyard garden or grove of mature birch trees, even an apple orchard can become a natural and elegant location to host your wedding. As your guests arrive and are surrounded by nature they will be instantly transported to somewhere out of a story book. Mature trees and wildflowers can make a perfect backdrop for a wedding ceremony, and then provide a lush (and free) canopy to dance under as the evening progresses. Just be careful that the location you choose is set-up to host an event or the damage caused by cars and guests can quickly undo all of the good you originally set out to do.
Unique Décor Using “Found” Objects.
At the root of the green movement is the familiar mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle,” and its simplicity is really what it’s all about. Creating an ethereal ambiance using “up-cycled” and “found” objects can be both fun and rewarding. An afternoon hike into a local grove of trees can produce many useful natural elements. Fallen trees can be cut up into stumps and used for seating around your guest tables or dance floor. If you are careful you can salvage the bark from the fallen trees and use it for unique table runners or even create birch bark chargers to complement each guest’s place setting. Old dried out branches can be perfect for creating over-the-top table decorations, and with a little skill and the right tools, you can burn the table numbers right in to slices of tree trunk– adding immediate style to your guest tables. Repurposing fallen trees is just the wonderful beginning, “found” items like river rocks can become adorable personalized place settings, reindeer moss can be used anywhere a colorful accent is needed. Discarded deer antlers and dried pods can become beautiful additions to your floral decorations, and your florist will have a field-day incorporating something different and distinctive into your centerpieces and bridal flowers. Your wedding vendors will LOVE the opportunity to come up with earth-friendly designs.
Thinking Outside the Box can Save you a Bundle of “Green”
You don’t always have to go far to find fabulous recyclables. Family and friends can be a great source for one-of-a-kind items to incorporate into your wedding. Wearing a vintage veil, hair comb or unique jewelry can be a great way to showcase important heirloom pieces. Borrowed tea lights or mason jars can create soft natural lighting throughout the evening, and by mimicking individual lightning bug habitats, create a magical environment for your guests, especially the little ones! Using borrowed items is a great way to involve the loved ones in your life and anytime you have the opportunity to reuse over going out and buying NEW will help ease unnecessary waste and the pressure on your pocketbook.
Don’t Forget the Food & Organic Delicacies.
These days organic food is available pretty much everywhere. From grocery stores to restaurants, even many fast food joints carry a variety of organic menu items and wedding and event caterers are no exception. Many caterers work with local growers and farmers markets to provide the freshest organic ingredients. You might think that this would limit your menu options, but in fact it is quite the opposite. Allowing caterers to create delicious entrees using seasonal ingredients opens up their ability to create a unique menu tailored specifically to your event. Items like a quinoa cranberry salad with field greens topped with fresh goat cheese can start the meal, followed by an entrée using grass-fed, organic proteins and locally grown vegetables, finished with the earthly sweetness of a seasonal pear tart. How could even the pickiest of pallets complain about a menu like that? Why, even the bakers have jumped on board and offer many organic options in their bakeries. Wedding cakes are being made with organic flours and natural flavorings as well as artisan bakers choosing only the freshest organic ingredients to go into their breads and pastries. Using organic menu items can be a tasty and earth-friendly choice as well as provide income for local businesses and organic farmers.
Where to draw the line on “going-green”
The options for an eco-friendly wedding are truly endless. With internet access, options like recycled metal wedding bands, plant-able wedding invitations and stationary, bridal gowns made from sustainable natural fibers and even bridal registries set-up to plant forests instead of flatware are right at your fingertips. So with endless possibilities available to earth-conscious Brides and Grooms you wouldn’t think there would be anywhere that we would suggest drawing the line, but once in a while tradition and etiquette trump being eco-savvy. First, be aware that your views are not always the views of your guests and that a wedding is better left as a joyous occasion and may not be the best platform to get too preachy. Let them enjoy the atmosphere you have created and see for themselves that in no way did SOPHISTICATION or STYLE have to be sacrificed. Second, you may think that after the event is done a quick email is the earth-friendly way to thank your guests, but tradition and etiquette still say that a handwritten note is the most appropriate form to give thanks. This is a tradition that shouldn’t become lost. Talk to your stationer about creating thank you cards from recycled paper or the possibility of using one of the many tree-less options.
A “green wedding” requires couples to think about choices and alternatives at each step of the planning process. Being earth conscious isn’t a FAD or a TREND, people world-wide are focusing their efforts on trying to save the environment and becoming more eco-friendly in everything they do. This focus has raised the bar in the wedding industry, designers and wedding vendors are coming up with new and exciting ways to “GO GREEN” without sacrificing any of the luxury or opulence of a customary wedding. Stick to your convictions and with all the amazing options available to you the outcome will be both elegant and earth-friendly.