The Ultimate Eco-Friendly Wedding: Rustic, Upcycled, and Natural

Okay, that’s a lie- this was not the ultimate green wedding, but it’s up there! Let me give you the low down.

For our June 29, 2012 wedding, I wore the same dress as my mother- with a few changes here and there! A friend of my mother’s made the adjustments I requested- and even made the dress convertible so that it could be shortened for dancing! A majority of the photos in the post were taken by the talented photographer, Raye Gillette-Whaley of Gillette Portrait Arts. She was so fantastic, took beautiful shots, and she’s a MICA Alum! My alma mater! I fully recommend her, as well as all the vendors I mention in this post!

Cloisters Castle is a gorgeous old summer home just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. It’s in my hometown (read: a short drive for most guests), is being adaptively re-used, and is nestled in a scenic patch of woods. We held the ceremony in the garden outside to save guests a second trip from ceremony to reception. Our officiant, Natalie Tyler from Weddings Quick and Sweet, performed a great handfasting ceremony for us- a Catholic-raised Pagan and an Atheist! During the ceremony, guests were served Persian Spiced Tea, courtesy of our caterer (credit given below), in compostable cups from Susty Party.

The decor was probably the most exciting element to plan for the wedding! I tried to ensure that all decorations were either recycled/upcycled, reusable, or something natural. Table numbers were made from a slab of wood, stained and painted. They are being donated to the wedding venue for future couples to use.They were situated on the tables alongside an assortment of moss and succulent terrariums. The terrariums have since been gifted, or are decorating my home- still alive. I am so thankful for such great family and friends to help with all my DIY ideas!

As few cut flowers were used as possible. A handful of individual stems were dispersed among a collection of wine and antique bottles. The bouquets used the most, of course, but our florist, Ellen Frost of Local Color Flowers in Baltimore, MD, uses native, local and in-season flowers to create their arrangements. They were absolutely beautiful!

You’ll notice in the photo above that all the bridesmaids were wearing different dresses and shoes. I wanted a range of colors, but more importantly I wanted the girls to pick dresses they’d want to wear again. They all looked so lovely, I hope they will!

The food, which we unfortunately don’t have too many photos of, was phenomenal. Many thanks to Chef Daniel Horwitz, our coordinator Jeannette Edwards, and all the professional and hardworking staff of The Pantry Catering. I can’t even begin to describe how delicious their food is!!! A seasonally inspired menu, consisting of mostly vegetarian items and many local ingredients, provided great nourishment to power the guests for a night of partying! For dessert, Kim Roil, of Roil Cupcakes, baked an absurd amount of yummy little cupcakes- many of them vegan- and a cute cake for my husband and I. We’re surprised it all endured the heat!! And guests could take cupcakes home in little recycled boxes!After eating, drinking, and being married, we all hit the dance floor to dance the night away! Music was DJ’d by Jamaal Botticelli of World Renown Entertainment. But the entertainment was provided by my bridesmaids and I (smirk)!

Buy Local Challenge

So this passed week was the buy local challenge. I planned to post about all my meals like I had done last year on my old blog (see the July posts here), but that never happened. Part of the reason is that it’s so much harder to buy local when you’re a vegan trying to substitute dairy products….even harder when you’re one of those still transitioning vegans who tends to have a difficult time sticking to it on a normal day. But I did what I could. The test of the challenge is to use one local ingredient in every meal for a week. For someone like me, who already has a very localized diet, it’s easy. But for people who are so used to shopping in the conventional grocery store- it is indeed quite the challenge.

Last year’s haul

Local milk was sooo much yummier than the over-processed stuff on most shelves. Alas, milk is a thing of the past for me

Last year I pressed myself to make as many ingredients as possible local, and I even ended the challenge week out of town on a family vacation- very tough but I did it! This year, I went on my trip to the store in hopes of returning with a local bounty worth photographing, but realized my purchase was pretty wimpy. I started the week with these local items in my pantry and fridge:

From the Burton Family farm stand on my corner:

  • Potatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Peaches
  • Plums

From Mom’s Organic Market:

And sadly….that was it. I couldn’t buy local milk, local cheese, local pasta, local yogurt….I did cheat and have a B’More Organic Mango/Banana smoothie (non-dairy)…but even though that’s a local company, I’m fairly certain they aren’t growing local mangoes and bananas…

I’m also broke, so I opted out of local soap and local granola since I didn’t need to buy those items- I also didn’t even eat at any local restaurants =(

Le sigh….a failure this week, but in general I pride myself on eat local as often as possible!

How To: Eco-Friendly Wedding

Despite the fact that it has taken me 5 years to successfully grow a tomato, I think I’d make a pretty great off-the-grid-living hippie. But the truth is, I’m very much connected to technology, people, and an urban lifestyle. So a lot of my time is spent trying to perfect the blend of “green” and modern living. When I feel like I’ve had a bit of success, I like to share my advice for others who wish to follow. This post’s topic?

An Eco-Friendly Wedding.

It’s been 11 days since my husband and I got married- go us!! [insert celebrity marriage joke here]. And I’m going to be candid here, it was a damn good wedding! To the best of my ability, I planned an Eco-friendly event that had guests raving! Considering the engagement and planning period lasted a stressful 21 months, I was so pleased to hear such kind compliments of the day. So, you’re surely wondering at this point what made it green? Well, let me go through it all- step by step!

One: Location, Location, Location!!!

In everything you do, location somehow manages to take precedent! Weddings are no exception. Before we could plan ANYTHING, we had to nail down the location- well, pick date first, but that hopefully wont take you 10 months like it did us! Our options ranged from old country Inn to nature center to local park to a grand manor! Doing it in a park (or better yet, the forest!) would be great! But consider all the strings you’ll need to pull to get guests out there, to keep food cool/hot, and to lug out all those chairs! A bit of a mark on a beautiful landscape! You can do it, but it may not be as green as you originally thought. So we abandoned the park and nature center and started looking at the traditional wedding venues. The location we (well, I) chose, is out of a fairy tale! Just outside of Baltimore, MD is a beautiful summer home built in the early 20th century. Nestled atop a hill in the forest, an old stone castle gave me everything I could have ever wanted- beautiful architecture AND breathtaking nature! Cloisters Castle (where Will Smith and Jada Pinkett had their reception!!) is green in more ways than one! First, this location was nearby to most of our guests, so there wasn’t excessive driving. Also, as an old home, this building has been recycled to find new uses! On top of that, this old building has no A/C- how green is that! (turns out, 107 degree heat was not so pleasant- but still a great night!)

Two: Know your stuff!

Okay, this could probably take the number one spot for importance, but this can come in time. In order to be an eco-friendly bride and groom, you need to know what makes a bride and groom eco-friendly! Do your research! Right- well, if you’re reading this, then you already are…but still! There’s plenty of literature out there! Since the local libraries didn’t have any, I bought all my books used and am now reselling them for other brides to benefit from! There’s great stuff out there- and oftentimes great events to coincide- I attended the Mid-Atlantic Green Wedding Showcase and learned about a lot of local and environmentally friendly vendors!

Three: Tell the World

Of course all weddings have traditionally been accompanied by a serious amount of paper- save the dates, fancy invitations with multiple envelopes and cards that you don’t even know why they need to be included, programs…. You could go digital and invite your guests via email! But that wouldn’t work for us because not everyone we wanted to invite uses email! So this is how we remained conscious of our paper usage. First, our Save the Date cards were DIY designed postcards printed on recycled kraftboard card stock- saves an envelope! Next, our main invitations were custom designs created by the bride’s brother and his boyfriend, printed again on recycled paper. Return envelopes and response cards (both also recycled paper) were kept small to reduce paper usage.

Finally, the shower invites were yet another custom design, printed on single-sided scrap card stock.

Four: You are what your guests eat!

I plan on writing about the relationship between food and the environment soon, but I didn’t feel like getting that elaborate tonight. The point is, however, that diets that favor local, organic, and plant-based foods have an incredibly positive impact of the environment. As you may or may not know, I am a vegan (on most days, I’ve just switched to veganism after 10 years of vegetarianism and it’s much harder than I anticipated- especially when vacationing!). Few, if any of the invited guests, are also vegan. But I insisted on having a menu that was at the very least 51% meat-free! Which it was! Our caterer also embraces seasonally inspired menus (meaning food that’s grown in-season, meaning without the aid of chemicals or without being transported thousands of miles first). I requested that as much food as possible be purchased locally. The Pantry served absolutely delicious food, and we had guests truly enjoying meat-free meals!

Five: The Beautiful Bride

Surely every girl who ever hoped to have a wedding has at least briefly thought about what they’d wear, right? Wedding dresses, however, are one of the least green things! Anything which is preceded by the word “Wedding” can usually be thrown in the anti-green pile. So the dress, you could go organic cotton, bamboo, or recycle it! I chose a recycled dress- specifically my mom’s. We had a friend redesign her May wedding dress to be June weather appropriate, and change the style to something that better suited me. It turned out perfectly!

Six: Outfits for everyone!!

And don’t forget the handsome groom, gorgeous bridesmaids, and dashing groomsmen! The bridesmaids wore dresses that they chose, in shapes that they’ll hopefully want to wear again. The groom and groomsmen of course rent their outfits, how green is that!? And the boutonnieres were handmade and didn’t involve chemical-laced flowers! (more about flowers later)

Seven: Decorate like crazy!!

When it comes to centerpieces and decorations, DIY and upcycled is the way to go! We made DIY terrarium centerpieces, used old antique bottles and a mix of wine bottles as bud vases, turned wine boxes into window boxes filled with rocks collected from a nearby stream bed, sliced wood from a fallen tree for a cake stand, and collected burlap coffee bags only to not use them! Mixed in to the upcycled collection were some new slices of wood for table numbers (which we’ve donated to the venue for other brides to use), as well as some store-bought wreaths, but most of what we used was natural and recycled.

As for flowers, I feel they should be seriously limited. Why kill something because it’s beautiful? Very selfish. That being said, I did indeed have flowers for my wedding day. They were indeed limited, but most importantly, they were local and organic. I didn’t choose what flowers I wanted, I chose what color I wanted. Whatever was blooming was what I got because that’s how nature works. In Baltimore, there’s a wonderful florist called Local Color Flowers who will pick flowers from local growers as they’re in bloom. They made the beautiful bouquets and provided the single stem cut flowers for the bottles.

Here’s my bouquet, which Local Color Flowers so kindly met my non-green wish of having a gardenia flower within it!

We didn’t have favors, not because we are cheap but because we know how such small trinkets tend to get tossed or go unused. We had the ceremony and reception in the same place to save travel. And we just appreciate nature and life in every aspect of that day. Not the most green wedding ever, but pretty green, I think! Can’t wait to post the photographer’s shots when they come!

What do you think? What else makes a wedding eco-friendly?