Wedding Planner Chat with Katie Martin, Thursday, December 18 at 11 AM

Planning a wedding? Want expert advice? Thursday, December 18 at 11 AM, we'll be hosting a live online chat with planner Katie Martin. Submit your questions now.


Editor’s Note: Washingtonian Online moderators and hosts retain editorial control over chats and choose the most relevant questions; hosts can decline to answer questions.

Arlington, VA
Do you think it is more eco friendly to use fake flower opposed to real? Have you found reception venues are willing to recycle used bottles?

I think as a florist and an eco-friendly expert I can honestly say it really depends.  Most people love to keep their wedding bouquets after the wedding, so silk bouquets are great for that aspect.  However, for the rest of the floral designs, you may find it to be more expensive than actual fresh cut flowers.  Most silk flowers are not made by US-owned companies and therefore they are shipped in from other countries like India and China.  There are some vendors that have US made silk flowers but they are few and far between and tend to be more expensive.  Fresh cut flowers are purchased from farms that do nothing but grow and sell flowers year round. So florists, in general, are green vendors if they are using the right growers.  Flowers are a renewable resource whereas silk flowers, which are made with tons of plastic, are not!  So if you want something that is going to last for years and years like your bouquets - go for it...but leave the rest to fresh flowers!

 

As far as recycling bottles, most venues in the DC Greater Metro area recycle simply because local governments have recycling already set up.  The main thing is to ask your caterer to separate their trash from their recyclables in general.  Most well known caterers are doing this!

Arlington, VA
I feel like every favor I've ever gotten at a wedding has ended up, eventually, in the trash. Is skipping favors considered eco-friendly? Or just rude?
Most wedding favors come in plastic and paper packaging - so yes they are terrible in regards to waste.  Skipping favors is eco-friendly!  Not rude!  If you have a great wedding, people will not remember that there is no favor at each place setting!  
Washington, DC
In general, what's the most wasteful part/aspect of traditional weddings? If you can't afford a wedding planner, what are some simple ways to have a more eco-friendly wedding?
The most wasteful aspect of a wedding is a toss up between food and travel required by your guests.  If your caterer does not use local farmers and resources and does not do a good job of reducing the amount of waste during the planning process (paperwork, foods recommended and types of alcohol), then the amount of trash and wasted food is tremendous.  Find out ways to get your leftover food to where it will be most useful locally.  If you are having tons of out-of-town guests, flying from all over the world, you should consider carbon offsetting their travel.  Carbonfund.org has the best wedding calculator to offset your wedding guests' travel.  On top of your guests traveling from far-off lands, think about having your ceremony and reception in the same venue or at least within a 5-10 miles radius.  There are tons of ways to reduce the waste that both of these particular vendors tend to create.  The most innovative caterer in this regard in the DC area is Avalon Caterers (they have an eco-friendly section of their company called G3) and some of the larger caterers like Catering by Windows and Design Cuisine have some innovative approaches as well.  
Washington, DC
Can you give examples of ways to make your wedding green? Is is possible to be environmentally friendly while still having an elegant affair?

Easy green things to do:

Change your lifestyle - don't just have a green wedding!  Find ways in your life to be greener at home and at your office.  This will spur you on to the internet to find fun and exciting and ideas and then get your guests excited about your wedding before it even starts. 

Ask your vendors what they are doing to make themselves greener in their practices.  They should be able to give you examples and if they can't spout off at least 3 - move on to the next vendor!

Don't serve beef at your wedding...I am not saying have a vegan wedding - just not beef!  It is ridiculous how much energy is wasted on the production of beef...I could go on and on about this - but you can check out several sites online.

 Pick a fish that is not being over-harvested.

 Do a candy bar instead of favors - we do them with 100% green!  

 I could go on and on!

 

If you look at my website - I think you would say that our events are beautiful and elegant - more than 90% of the weddings on my website are green weddings!  SO YES!  You can have a beautiful elegant green wedding! 

 

 

Washington, DC
What do you suggest would be a good "green" favor to give to guests?

1 - Not do any at all

2 - Have an eco-friendly candy bar - we provide 100% eco-friendly candy bars in-house

3 - Do a carbon offset for your wedding at carbonfund.org and only do one sign about it - not one for every place setting

Find a local company that you love and purchase a particular product from their store for each couple and one per individual and tell your guests why you love it (especially if it gives back to the community that you are in).  Go for less packaging or packaging that is recyclable or biodegradable.  This might cost more, but your guests will appreciate it more. 

Fairfax, VA
What are some different or interesting ways to make your wedding stand out and be a little more eco-friendly?

I think if you can be innovative in all of your vendor choices - this will make a huge difference.  Talk about your wedding in a different way to your guests...talk about how they are going to have fun and not talk just about you.  Talk about a surprise green give away to get people excited.  Do a trivia game to see how eco-savvy your guests are and instead of giving everyone favors - spend that $400-600 for favors you have set aside on  a carbon offsetting gift  for that individual who wins that game (which is normally enough to offset a family for a year)!  You will spark a ton of people at your wedding to start thinking about the way they live their lives and how you would love to help them!  Get your guests involved and then your wedding will truly reflect who you are as a couple!

Again, as I mentioned above, ask your vendors about 3 things that they do that are green...if they don't know and are not excited about doing that for you - move on to the next person on your list! Your true green innovative vendors will make it happen seamlessly for you!

Bethesda, MD
Hi Katie, I know that often times buying eco-friendly products is more expensive. Can you suggest ways to be both eco-friendly and budget-conscious? Thanks!
I don't think that all eco-friendly products are more expensive.  The "green revolution" has been on its upswing over the past 4 years and therefore, there is more demand.  It is simple - supply and demand is bringing the cost of eco-friendly products down.  My main focus on being eco-friendly with any event that we do is to buy locally and be sure if you can't find something locally, make sure it is made in the USA.  You have to do you research or hire a wedding planner for specific parts of your wedding planning process.  If you cannot afford a full consulting wedding planner...find one that will sit with you for an hour and will give you follow-up information from your meeting.  We often meet with people by the hour to just give them ideas.  A lot of our floral design clients that can't afford full consulting will do exactly that!  We already know what they are looking for, so it takes less time during that hour to  get the ideas fleshed out!
Hyattsville, MD
Are there a lot of caterers who often eco-friendly options? Is it usually more expensive?

Yes there are a few that I mentioned above.  Keep in mind that I don't use a ton of different caterers though.  I like to use the people that are tried and true and that continually provide the best service and quality food.  However - I have not seen a crazy increase in price in doing eco-friendly weddings.  They are cheaper options like chicken and certain types of fish that can be served that are better for the environment than beef.  You must simply ask the caterer what they are doing in regards to their in-house green practices.  If they don't know, again, move on to the next caterer.

My favorite green caterer is Avalon Caterers as they really do focus on local, fresh, innovative food and they have an amazing chef that reuses everything!!!!

Large caterers that are always going to be ahead in this innovation department that do a great job of being organic and eco-friendly are Catering by Windows and Design Cuisine...however - I have used about 4-6 other caterers that are starting to grow in this aspect and do a great job! 

 

Washington, DC
Hi Katie. I know a lot of food can be wasted at the end of a reception - is there a way to donate it instead of throwing it out?
Yes!  Unfortunately most caterers do not have the resources and have liability issues where they cannot donate the food afterwards.  However, they can hand the food off to you at the end of the evening (ok -not you, but your planner, sister, friend, etc.).  Make a plan and donate to the nearest charity that accepts donated already cooked food.  This takes a little more research - but REALLY IMPORTANT to reducing the waste at your wedding or event!
Arlington, VA
What's one of the most surprising ways an aspect of a wedding can be environmentally friendly? Like is there an eco-friendly dress?

The most surprising thing to most people is that everything can be eco-friendly at your wedding (it just depends on the choices you make)! 

 There are eco-friendly dresses...some say they are just organic cotton or hemp dresses....but this is not true.  Go to I Do I Do - the best bridal consignment shop in the DC area and get a Vera Wang dress for $1500!  It cheaper, it is couture and it has only been worn once and you can sell it again after your wedding.  In the 10 years that I have been doing wedding, I think maybe 7-10 brides have actually worn or reused their mothers dress.  So don't be fooled into thinking that your little girl will wear your dress 30 years from now.  Ok - so hold on to it for a year - sell it at I Do or on ebay or donate it!  Making Memories is a great charity to donate your dress to.

 

You can also have eco-friendly dress by not buying dresses that are not cut in the US.  Many couture dress companies cut their dresses in India or China and then they are shipped to the States to have additions to them.  Be careful and ask your bridal salon about this.  We are featuring all US made dresses at our 2009 DCCWC couture bridal show on January 31, 2009 at the Decatur House - so come and see what a couture green dress is all about!  www.dccwc.com

There are few other items in regards to dresses - I have written an article that will be published on a few blogs online and you can see our spotlight article at www.sagemcgreen.com about green wedding dresses in general! 

Washington, DC
I'm not sure how much a venue can be "green" - are there DC venues that are especially eco-friendly?

A green venue is one that gives back to the community and fund art projects, etc. and that can also host your ceremony.  Also - some hotels are completely wind-powered now.  Sofitel in DC is 100% wind-powered!

 

The best green venues in the DC area - Woodend (Audubon Society), Decatur House, Chesapeake Foundation in Annapolis, Woodlawn, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Arts Club of Washington (that is where I got married!), Ronald Reagan Building (their chef has an all-new organic line of menus that use local and US based vendors), GW River Farm (American Horticultural Society).  The list is really endless - don't give up on a venue - just ask them!

 

Some you can even write off a part of the venue as a tax deduction! 

Bethesda, MD
Hi Katie. I read that your business is eco-friendly. In what ways can a planner be eco-friendly without a bride even asking for it? Thanks!
This is probably a question that can be better answered offline - We do offer green consulting services to other business and individuals with our sister company Green Life DC - www.greenlifedc.com - check it out and make an appointment!
Washington, DC
I'm hearing a lot about green weddings these days. With all the stress and expense of planning the wedding, it seems like so much additional work to "go green". Is it worth it?
I think you will see from my answers above - it is not more expensive...make your vendors work your business!  If they are truly green -  they will make it happen for you!
Washington, DC
Why do you think it's important to think green when planning a wedding?

I think if you just look at the news and see our economy and see how are earth is not being taken care of - I can't imagine why anyone would not want to do a green wedding to start their new green lives together.

 

Being green can actually save you money - if you do it right!

Washington, DC
How did you get into wedding planning?

Very long story and I am running out of time here!  Feel free to email me and I can let you know!

katie@eleganceandsimplicity.com

 

Louisville, KY
What about green honeymoons? Clearly that flight to Madrid my wife and I took had a negative impact on the environment, but short of staying closer to home or buying carbon offsets what could we have done to green our European honeymoon?

There are eco-honeymoons where you can do service projects!  We have a whole new plan for couples when it comes to totally greening your weddings, events, travel, homes and lifestyle.

In fact today - I am announcing for the 1st time that we will launch a new company called Green Love Events in January 2009! Green Love Events will be a subsidiary of Elegance & Simplicity, Inc. - which will be associated with Documentary Associates, Disk Jockeys On Call (they share office space with us), Love Life Images and MyDeeJay.com.  This new cooperative company will provide floral designs, stationery, calligraphy, photography, videography, DJ services, image consulting, lighting and a host of other similar services all under one roof!  We will be using reputable well-known companies as affiliates so brides can streamline their vendor selections and know they will have the greenest event possible!

 

I am sorry this is all the time we have for questions today!  Feel free to contact me directly about how we can better green your wedding!  katie@eleganceandsimplicity.com or 800.768.8814