Weddings are expensive, both to the pocketbook and the planet. If you’re lucky in love and planning a wedding this year, why not make it simple and sustainable?
Here’s a few money-saving, eco-ideas to get you started:
Buy simple invitations printed on 100-percent post-consumer recycled paper. Before ordering them from a large-scale company, research printing shops in your local community. You’ll get the personal attention and detail that you won’t through a commercial company, and your dollars will support a local business.
Save some money and make your own (printed on recycled paper, of course). Many software programs now enable the easy construction of creative and aesthetically interesting invitations.
Or, take it a step even further (this may be an option only for the most techie or super-eco of us all) and send an Evite. It’s free, it’s an easy way to keep track of RSVPs and it requires no paper!
Outside! Outside! Outside! Enjoy and celebrate upon the planet that you strive to protect. Plan the ceremony in a garden and surround yourself with beautiful, fragrant flowers without making the extra floral purchase. Opt to be married on a beach in the early morning or at sunset. Maybe get married on a farm (I really like this idea), in a vineyard, in a field or on a mountaintop. Talk with your partner about the natural places that appeal to you both, consider the needs of your guests and select a location that represents your collective connection to each other and the Earth.
Local food and flowers
Stimulate your local economy, reduce C02 emissions caused by food and flower transport and enjoy some fine, fresh food on your big day. Depending on season and availability, local, organic foods can be slightly more expensive than their conventional counterparts. BUT, this is your wedding and if you’re going to splurge a little, I suggest that it’s on the food.
If possible, buy locally produced flowers as well. Local flowers are easier to find certified-organic because the chemicals required for the transport of imported flowers is generally not necessary. Contact a farm and see if you can buy flowers in bulk. Then, solicit your friends and family members for the use of their vases (the different styles of vases will look great on the tables). Delegate a member or members of the wedding party to arrange the flowers. When I was married on a lake in New Hampshire three summers ago, we requested the help of our wedding party in lieu of gifts. It saved everyone money, it engaged the wedding party and it was fun!
If you must buy imported flowers, please select flowers that are eco-labeled or certified under a certification scheme like VeriFlora. These certification schemes ensure the fair working conditions of developing world cut flower laborers and most mandate the restricted use of pesticides.
Weddings generate a lot of trash, so being mindful in advance can significantly divert waste from landfill. If you’re using chinaware, be mindful of how many plates, bowls, silverware and glasses you’re using. Cut down on rental costs and encourage water conservation by asking guests to keep track of and use their one bowl, plate, fork, etc. for multiple courses.
If you need to use disposables, opt for biodegradable products, which can be ordered through companies like Gaiam and composted with your food scraps.
Buy keg beer, serve punch in a big bowl and consider giving away pint glasses with a special sentiment or image representative of your union. They can be used for drinks at the reception and, unlike the many wedding favors that we’ve all received throughout the years, these will be reused and prompt the memory of your wedding day.
Favors for guests
If a commemorative pint glass isn’t your thing, opt for a wedding favor that people can reuse. Packets of organic seeds make a sustainable and relatively inexpensive gift. Maybe a plant or a small tree. Brainstorm with your partner, friends and family and get eco-creative.
Ah, the wedding dress. Although I understand its cultural and romantic significance, it astounds me how much money women are willing to pay for something that they’ll only wear once. And, while I understand and appreciate the search for the perfect dress (greenies like to look good, too!), it can be done in a sustainable and affordable manner by hitting thrift stores, yard sales and vintage shops. There are millions of beautiful, slightly used dresses to be found. And, it doesn’t have to be the perfect fit or even style. If you love the fabric, bring it to a tailor and have it altered or redesigned to show off your own personal style and shape.
If you absolutely must have a new dress, opt for one made from organic fabric by people paid fair wages for their labor. And, when the big day has passed, upcycle the fabric into something that you’ll use again. You’ll get the most out of your money and every time you wear the scarf or slacks upcycled from your wedding dress, you’ll be reminded of that special day.
And, guys, keep doing what you’ve been doing for ages now and rent your tux. It’s the sustainable option and far less expensive than buying something new. If a tux isn’t your style, follow the ladies’ lead and browse second-hand stores and yard sales. Oftentimes, if you’re persistent, you’ll uncover a treasure.
Encourage sustainable transportation like the bus, bicycle or foot. If your wedding is off the beaten path, encourage your guests to carpool. Set up an e-mail list or Facebook page so your guests can make plans amongst themselves, or delegate someone in the wedding party to tackle the transportation issue.
Have a beautiful wedding and live sustainably ever after…