Weddings offer an amazing opportunity to make a difference. In addition to saving energy, conserving resources, and decreasing pollution, imagine what a boost green brides and grooms can give to sustainable businesses. Other than a house, a wedding is generally the most expensive thing a young couple will ever “buy”. Brides feel a lot of pressure to make everyone happy and are willing to spend whatever it takes — the average cost is around $27,000 these days — to make their wedding “perfect.” Many couples even go into debt to pay for their weddings. Part of having a green wedding is conserving resources — including money.
These days, you don’t need to sacrifice style or beauty to have an eco-friendly wedding. As celebrities like Natalie Portman have shown us, the only difference between a green bride and a bride who doesn’t know about eco-chic alternatives is that creating her fabulous wedding has less impact on human health and the environment.
In the fall of 2006, when my husband Barry and I began thinking about planning our own green wedding, we were surprised by how little information was available to assist us. I read every article and book I could find on the topic and spent hundreds of hours surfing online for green ideas, supplies, and vendors. Although the process was oftentimes frustrating, we were overjoyed with the results! To save others from the trouble, I compiled all my efforts into The Green Bride Guide: How to Create an Earth-Friendly Wedding on Any Budget and later launched greenbrideguide.com.
A green wedding does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. If you can't find an organic lipstick in the right shade, all hope is not lost. A green wedding is about making sustainable choices where possible and practical and doing what you can to lessen the impact of your event.
Make small changes, like filling decorative vases with shells, flowers and even fruit to fill in the empty spaces instead of mass-produced plastic filler. Edible décor options can be eaten throughout the reception and then taken home to enjoy after the wedding.
Searching for green vendors? Call up your local environmental department and ask if they have a list of approved vendors. You can also find vendors near you in Green Bride Guide's vendor directory.
Find local food vendors by frequenting farmers markets, co-ops and health food stores in your area. Many of these vendors are green or know of other caterers and businesses that are eco-friendly.
When it comes to dessert, even if local bakers do not advertise themselves as green, you can always ask them to change their ingredients for your cake. Swapping out regular flour for organic flour only costs $5 more in most cases. And who knows, the bakery may end up changing their ways once they know how affordable it can be to green a cake!
Use biodegradable serveware for your dinner reception, organic cotton linen napkins, and recycled glass candleholders. Not only are you using green products, but you’re also able to reuse these items again after your wedding day.
Do your best, enjoy the process, and know that every green element you choose makes a difference.
By spending your wedding dollars on green goods and services, you send a signal to companies that it is time to change their ways. By simply bringing your awareness of environmental and social issues to the negotiating table with you, you can affect the impact of every purchasing decision you make and have each dollar you spend work to support your beliefs and values. The process of planning a green wedding may also inspire you to incorporate eco-friendly elements into your daily routine and can influence the choices your guests make in the future as well.
In addition to conserving resources and supporting green businesses, having a green wedding is a way to infuse one of the most important days of your life with meaning and purpose beyond your union.
You do not have to sacrifice style, comfort or your budget to be eco-friendly. Congratulations on your engagement, and best wishes for a happy and green future!
—Kate Harrison, creator of greenbrideguide.com