Green Party

Seven easy ways to green up your wedding.

By: Lynne Shallcross

This article is from the 2009 edition of Bride & Groom. For more wedding content, head here.

Move over white. Green is the hot color for weddings.

Think eco-friendly weddings are just for tree-hugging, crunchy-granola brides? Think again. More Washington-area brides and grooms want to minimize their mark on the environment, wedding planners say. “Being green has crept into our social consciousness,” says Allison Jackson, owner of the Northwest DC—based event-planning firm Pineapple Productions. “Whether people state it or not, they’re making decisions that consider the environment.”

Planner Katie Martin, of Elegance & Simplicity in Bethesda, estimates that half of her clients in the past two years have expressed a desire to plan eco-friendly nuptials. Many of those who didn’t ask for a greener wedding got one anyway. Martin, who’s writing a book about green weddings, is steering her business toward eco-friendly practices. She and her team drive gas-efficient vehicles and order flowers from growers who use environmentally friendly herbicides and compost their organic floral waste.

Planning a wedding that’s green in every aspect can be challenging, but planners say couples can make small changes that make a difference. “Going green doesn’t necessarily mean wearing Birkenstocks and a hemp skirt anymore,” says planner Laura Weatherly, owner of Engaging Affairs in Alexandria and author of Stop! Don’t Plan a Wedding Without This Book. “Brides shouldn’t think of having to green their wedding as having to sacrifice.”

Want to plan a greener wedding without starting from square one? Here are a few ideas to help make your big day a little kinder to Mother Earth.

Food

Buying local food can help minimize the energy spent shipping or trucking it to Washington. Organic food choices are increasingly available, with many area caterers offering organic menus. Another culinary consideration is sustainability, says Pineapple Productions’ Allison Jackson. “If you’re serving fish, make sure it’s not a fish that’s being over-harvested at that time,” she says. Alcohol can be green, too. Consider serving local Virginia wines or creating your signature cocktail with organic vodka.

Flowers

Everyone loves them at weddings, but cut flowers create a lot of waste. Brides who are flexible can buy in-season blooms from local growers. One of Jackson’s brides is decorating her wedding with potted plants and boxwood topiaries. The pots can be taken from the ceremony to the reception, and afterward they can be given to a charity or replanted. If freshly cut flowers are a must, try to work with a floral designer who buys organic and local flowers.

Invitations

Save paper by skipping the inner envelope or using recycled products. There are many stationery companies with lines of recycled-paper products, from invitations to menu cards to programs. “The more of that that can be recycled, the better,” Weatherly says.

Wedding attire

Shop around and you’ll find designers making wedding gowns out of organic or reclaimed fabrics. Planners suggest letting the dress have more than one life. For example, buy a consigned gown or sell or give yours away after your wedding. Planning on saving your dress for your daughter to wear at her wedding? “I’ve been doing this for ten years and have done over 3,500 weddings, and I’ve only seen three brides use the dress their mother wore,” says Martin. If you decide to clean and save the dress, Martin suggests using an environmentally friendly dry cleaner.

Venue and transportation

Holding the ceremony and reception at one location saves guests from traveling between venues. Another hint: Rent a shuttle bus to ferry guests to and from the hotel, putting just one vehicle on the road instead of many. One Virginia bride provided her guests with flip-flops and encouraged them to walk from the ceremony to the reception; she even hired a jazz band to lead the guests in a parade.

Wedding favors

With all the paper, plastic, and packaging involved, favors can add up to a lot of waste. If forgoing favors won’t ruin your party, skip them. Otherwise, Martin suggests, set out reusable glass candy jars with small treats and have guests fill their own biodegradable bags with sweets to take home. Flower or plant seeds in biodegradable packets are another eco-friendly favor idea.

Donations

Requesting that guests make a monetary donation to charity in lieu of wedding gifts is becoming a popular choice among green-minded couples. Choose an environmental organization, Weatherly suggests, to offset the impact of your wedding.