Plan an Eco-friendly Wedding

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How to green everything from the wedding dresses and rings to the reception

You’re already living an eco-conscious lifestyle, so it’s no surprise that you want your wedding to be a reflection of that. Luckily, there's a movement towards helping new brides and grooms find  the support and alternative items they need. With lots of wedding shows showcasing green vendors and reading books like Green Wedding (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009) by New York Times staff writer Mireya Navarro you will be in a great place to start planning a truly green celebration.

“It all stems from a want to avoid waste and excess,” says Navarro. “Being green keeps couples in check as far as not overspending and not overdoing it.” The key is to follow the principles of the three Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle—and apply that to every aspect of your wedding.  

Planning a wedding for 2009? Follow Navarro’s advice to plan a truly eco-friendly event—from the engagement to the honeymoon. It’ll be worth it. After all, the average cost of a wedding in Canada, according to Weddingbells magazine, is $17,300. Why not spend it on sustainability? 

Engagement

Go for recycled gold, which is not fresh-mined, says Navarro. It may take a little searching but there are companies out there that work exclusively with recycled gold. Looking for something more sentimental? Collect old rings from family and friends, and have them melted down into one, incredibly meaningful piece of jewelry. Or ask your grandmother or mother if they have a vintage ring you can use as your own. And lastly, when purchasing a diamond, always ensure it’s mined without conflict. (Bonus: All Canadian-mined diamonds are conflict-free.)

Invitations

To keep things personal, Navarro stops short of suggesting electronic invitations. “Etiquette experts agree you should still send paper invitations,” she explains. Luckily, there’s an entire market of recycled invitations out there. And, for all your stationery needs beyond invites and thank you cards, she suggests creating a wedding website. A simple website with a personal URL can be set up for less than $100 for the year and everything from RSVPs to directions can be posted there.

Ceremony

Want to save on the cost of flowers? Say “I do” at a botanical garden or outdoor park and let the venue’s natural backdrop act as your (free) decor.  

Reception

Try to bring the wedding to your guests, suggests Navarro. Reduce travel by holding your wedding in a city or venue that’s easily accessible for the majority of your guest list. “You don’t want your guests to travel far,” she explains. “Transportation has a huge impact and leaves a huge carbon footprint.”

Favours

“Favours are more optional than ever,” says Navarro; in fact, many couples are deciding against them altogether. But if you are going to hand out favours at your wedding, ensure it’s something that won’t go to waste, such an edible treat such as homemade jam or chocolate. Many forward-thinking couples are also opting to donate to a green cause on behalf of their guests in lieu of favours.

Wedding Dress

Though this should be one of the easiest ways to be green, Navarro admits it’s often the hardest. “Many women have a very specific idea of what they want to look like [on their wedding day],” she says. Perhaps the simplest way to green your gown is to buy something you’ll wear again. If you look at it honestly, she says, it’s a total waste of resources to spend thousands of dollars on something you will only wear once. Another option is to buy your dress second hand. (If the thought of buying something pre-loved doesn’t sit right with you, borrow one from a friend who is already married.) Finally, if you must buy brand new, ensure your dress has a second life. Donate it to an organization that takes wedding dresses or sell it yourself. “Just be sure to keep it moving along,” says Navarro.

Honeymoon

Luckily, you don’t have to sacrifice luxury to enjoy earth-friendly travel. In fact, there’s a whole industry built around eco-tourism. When planning your honeymoon, Navarro recommends choosing natural destinations, places where the people and the environment will benefit from your visit. And always ensure you’re being a responsible tourist by making sure the products and services you purchase will benefit the local economy (for example, ensuring the souvenirs you buy weren’t made in China – unless, of course, you’re honeymooning in China).

Need help getting started? Consult the Green Living Guides’ “Green Events & Weddings” section to find a sustainably-minded planner right in your own city.