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?

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