As I recently got married (October 31, 2009), I thought I would share some reflections and advice I learned through the wedding planning process. As many brides may feel, the wedding industry oftentimes seems to be a consumerist-crazed, bombardment of information and neverending checklists. My now-husband and I tried to steer away from the 21st century wedding mold as much as possible, while trying to create a wedding that was uniquely us. In the process, we also tried to plan a wedding that would have a minimal impact on the environment. Here is a little bit of what I learned from classes, resources, and my own experience:
Ceremony Venue: How I even got interested in the topic of eco-friendly weddings was by booking the Las Vegas Springs Preserve as our ceremony venue. An outdoor museum and desert botanical garden, a portion of our booking fee went to support environmental education for children. If you live in the Las Vegas area, the Springs Preserve has also organized a Green Weddings Class and a Eco-Bridal fair with environmentally-conscious wedding vendors.
Engagement Rings: Reduce, reuse and recycle applies here. Green wedding advocates suggest using an heirloom ring, buying a ring made from recycled gold, and buying conflict free diamonds. Ben Bridge Jewelers sells Ikuma diamonds mined from northern Canada, a diamond mine also known for their sustainable and environmentally friendly mining practices.
Invitations: The best invitations for the environment are electronic and those that use tree-free paper. While an electronic invitation wouldn’t necessarily fly with my family, we decided to go with an unbleached recycled paper invitations with minimal enclosures. We bought the invitations at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve Gift Shop, where they also sold eco-friendly invitations that could be planted in soil to bloom flowers. Another good place to find unique invitations is through the website Etsy, where you will also be supporting independent artists and craftsters.
Flowers: The good news is that most flowers grown in the United States are organic, the bad news is that many wedding florists import flowers from abroad, which may not be organic and will have to travel a great distance to be used in your wedding. Because I live in the desert, it wasn’t possible to buy locally. My florist, Julie Reed, buys most of her flowers from regional vendors (California and such), and makes every attempt to use flowers in season. Julie also is an amazing artist, who creates one-of-a-kind bouquets to match individual brides’ styles.
Place Cards: Since we had assigned seating at our reception, my mom made place cards using wine corks personally drunk by our family (nearly 100 bottles of wine!). The idea came from Martha Stewart Living and a template can be found here.
Favors: Equal Exchange sells fair-trade chocolate mini-bars, although they were a bit too far out of our price range. For a unique favor that honors your guests while giving something back to the world, through Oxfam America Unwrapped you can buy livestock for people in developing countries to help them earn an income, support women-owned business, and purchase desks for school children. You can even purchase trees to be planted to help offset the carbon footprint of your wedding.
Further Resources: The Green Bride Guide: How to Create an Earth-Friendly Wedding on Any Budget, is a great resource on everything from the engagement to the honeymoon.
For about 20 bucks on Amazon.com I bought Tying the Knot: The Complete Wedding Organizer, which comes as a three-ring binder. The best part is that it isn’t jam-packed with loads of information, and it allows for creativity in the planning process.
My favorite wedding website was Indie Bride, a forum for independent-minded brides where you can post questions and find non-conventional ideas.