It's difficult to ignore the trend toward being green these days. But when it comes to your wedding, it might be hard to know where to start. The good news is that even small green choices can make a difference in decreasing your wedding's impact on the environment. Adding eco-details to your wedding is easier than you might think, and as an added bonus, going green is usually a money-saver as well! You have to make so many choices for your wedding day; why not make some of those choices with the environment in mind? Get started with these 10 easy ways to add eco-details to your wedding.
1. Think Vintage
Vintage elements are a hot wedding trend right now, plus they are eco-friendly and will likely save you money, too. Your jewelry can be vintage -- heirloom rings make gorgeous green engagement rings, and your grandmother's pearls are a special way to honor her on your wedding day -- but don't stop there! Infuse your day with a retro-chic look. Scour consignment stores for vintage mason jars, pitchers, tins or vases. You can fill them with flowers for centerpieces or load them with candy for a colorful and sweet display. Find vintage fabrics to use as your table covers, to wrap your bouquet or to serve as the backdrop for your photo booth. Buy vintage postage stamps in mint condition on eBay to use on your invitations. For the ultimate in retro-glam, find a vintage gown and have a good tailor fit it for you. The possibilities are endless!
2. Green Your Travel
The impact of wedding-related travel is significant. Consider a smallish wedding of about a hundred guests; even if four guests pile into a car (which is unlikely, as most cars will probably carry only two guests), that's twenty-five vehicles driving from one location to the next and contributing to global warming. One of the easiest ways to cut down on your wedding's travel footprint is to have your ceremony and reception at the same place, which negates those emissions and saves your guests the hassle of driving from one place to another.
If you must have your ceremony and reception in different places, consider hiring a bus or van to move everyone en masse. If you provide snacks and drinks onboard, a wedding bus can be a real highlight for you and your guests. A trolley could also be a fun option, and if you find a company that has electric trolleys, it's even better.
According to The Wedding Report, about 75 percent of couples travel to and from their wedding in a limousine, at an average cost of $674. What about a more eco- and budget-friendly option? Imagine the attention and excitement you and your intended would receive if you traveled to your wedding on some form of public transportation. Even better, consider the unique, arty photographs that could result from a ride on the trolley, bus or subway. More romantic and personalized options could include a tandem bicycle for the athletic couple; an elegant horse-drawn carriage; or a rowboat or sailboat for a wedding at the water's edge.
3. Use the Season
If your wedding is in June, for example, it's the perfect time to choose berry hues. Take your out-of-town relatives berry-picking as a fun and festive activity before the wedding and hand those freshly picked strawberries over to your baker for decorating your cake. Gather a group of friends to make berry jam and then gift your guests with the sweet treat in jelly jars that they can reuse at their homes. Baskets full of deep purple and brilliant red berries make a striking presentation and a delicious addition to your dessert table. You can use these ideas with any season's bounty: Think of orange and green gourds and gold and red leaves in the fall or deep green pine boughs accented with bright holly berries in the winter.
Be creative with what's available in your season, and be sure to coordinate your decor ideas with your florist.
Learn more about eco-wedding flowers from our interview with Ariana Lambert Smeraldo
4. DIY Details
Do-it-yourself projects can be a fun way to add eco-details and a personal touch to your wedding. Utilize your creative talents to decide what kinds of projects you can do, then green your DIY ideas by choosing repurposed, recycled or vintage materials. Have beautiful penmanship? Create your own place cards from recycled cardstock. Crafty with a sewing machine? Stitch purses using reclaimed fabrics and give them as bridesmaids' gifts. Have a penchant for paint? Repurpose old picture frames by painting them in fitting colors for your decor. Print or draw table numbers and menus on recycled paper to put inside the frame, or fill them with family or childhood pictures of you and your intended to decorate the ceremony or reception site.
5. Incorporate Natural Elements
There are so many ways to include nods to nature in your wedding decor. Coordinate the use of natural elements with the season of your wedding and you will have a bounty of options: richly colored leaves in the fall, pinecones in the winter, beach sand and shells in the summer ... you get the idea.
Wood pieces can be a great starting point for your natural decor. Fallen branches in the backyard can be collected and repurposed to create rustic ceremony adornments or cut to become surprisingly elegant name-card holders. You could even use a thin slice of wood as a uniquely beautiful ring pillow!
Using natural elements in your floral arrangements adds an unusual beauty and cuts down on the use of flowers overall. Moss, grass and driftwood are some options for creating beautiful bouquets and centerpieces.
Rocks and stones offer a variety of colors and textures to suit your wedding's style. Work them into centerpieces, line them up at the ceremony site to create an aisle (instead of a wasteful disposable aisle runner) or use a water-based paint pen on them to create place cards without paper.
6. Surf for Green
Because most couples choose to set up a wedding Web site these days, this one may sound like a no-brainer. However, utilizing the Internet is a great way to keep the environment in mind when you consider how much paper you can eliminate from your invitations and the wedding itself.
Use your wedding Web site to post all the important information your guests will need: directions, itineraries, carpooling options, lodging, menus and more. Make sure your guests can also RSVP directly on the site and there will be no need for the additional RSVP card. If you have relatives or friends who are not Internet savvy (and there are likely only a few), they can RSVP by phone.
7. Meaningful Favors
How will your guests remember your day? It can be hard to come up with a small gift to give to more than a hundred guests that will be a meaningful token of your appreciation and a fitting reminder of your day. More often than not, guests leave a wedding with a tiny trinket that eventually gets thrown in the trash.
Consider instead a wedding favor that your guests will be happy to see every day as they remember your special day. Plantable items, like seeds and tree saplings, are growing in popularity as wedding favors, especially because of the wonderful symbolism they provide: They grow and blossom, just like your love.
Edibles make perfect eco-friendly favors too. Chocolates are a popular option, but if you're looking for something a bit different, you still have choices. You could create a candy station and allow your guests to fill kraft bags with their favorites. Perhaps there is a local specialty that would be a delicious reminder of your wedding day, like a tiny bottle of maple syrup for a Vermont wedding or a miniature bottle of wine for a vineyard celebration.
8. Choose to Reuse
Much of the wastefulness of weddings comes from the multitude of single-use items that are associated with them. Clothing, decor pieces and even leftover food can find a use beyond the trash can if you plan ahead.
When you consider bridal-party attire, think with future use in mind. The men can purchase new suits that they'll wear again and again, or coordinate their look with formalwear they already own. If tuxedos are a must, rentals are the best option, since most men do not have a need for a tuxedo in their personal wardrobes. Women's attire can be a little trickier, but matching gowns in one color are the hardest type to reuse. Instead, bridesmaids and children in the wedding party can be given a color palette from which to choose something they already own, or to purchase something they will wear again.
The bride herself can consider refashioning a family or vintage gown or buying a once-worn gown on a site like Smartbride.net. If your heart is set on a new gown, you can consider reselling or donating it afterward. Bridal shoes are also typically a one-time wear. Like gowns, these can be bought once-worn and then resold after, or you can choose shoes in a color besides white that you are more likely to wear again.
Leftover food and flowers can also find another use after the wedding, but these details require advance arrangements. Contact local hospitals or nursing homes ahead of time to see if your flowers can brighten up their patients' rooms after your wedding. Arrange to donate your leftover food to a shelter or soup kitchen so none of it goes to waste.
9. Eat Your Decor
Favors aren't the only wedding item that can be edible! In-season apples in a variety of hues make bright, beautiful additions to your table decor. Add a name tag to a ripe orange or a juicy peach and voilà! You've created edible place cards. Fruits, vegetables and even herbs offer a rainbow of options to add color to your ceremony and reception decor. You can even work edible elements into your floral arrangements. Once the wedding is over, put these edible decor pieces on the menu for your farewell brunch the next day, or arrange to donate them.10. Give Back
Part of being environmentally aware is giving back. There are so many ways to recognize your favorite causes on your wedding day. You can include important charities by creating a charity registry through which guests are invited to donate in lieu of more-traditional wedding gifts. You can also make a donation in honor of your guests instead of giving individual wedding favors.
A number of organizations allow for brides to donate their dresses after the wedding. This is a great option for a bride who prefers a new dress for her wedding day; the charity resells the gown and uses the money for their cause. Brides Against Breast Cancer and the Bridal Garden are two such charities. Operation Fairy Dust collects bridesmaids' gowns and then redistributes them to young girls who cannot afford gowns for proms or formal dances.
One final eco-friendly option is offsetting the carbon impact of your wedding. You can use a carbon calculator like the one available at TheGreenBrideGuide.com to determine your wedding's impact and then purchase carbon credits through an organization like Brighter Planet.
Whether you choose just a few of these options or try to incorporate all of them, every choice makes a difference. You can make your wedding more personalized, share your green values with your guests, and likely save money, too.
The Green Bride Guide is a comprehensive and credible resource for eco-friendly wedding ideas, products and services. The site is a companion to The Green Bride Guide: How to Plan an Earth-Friendly Wedding on Any Budget, written by founder and CEO Kate L. Harrison after she planned her green wedding in 2006 - 07.