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Weddings are often an extravagant affair, with much money, care, attention to detail and time being lavished on creating the ultimate day for the bride and groom. If you are an environmentally and socially conscious couple, you may like to consider sharing your eco-savvy and social awareness with your family and friends by actively demonstrating how it is possible to "green a wedding" and still maintain the essence of elegance and sophistication many expect from such an important event.
- Make recycled invitations. The invitation and the envelope can be made from recycled paper. Better still, if you have the patience and ability, make your own paper and include pressed petals in the paper. Rather than printing the invitations, have a local calligrapher write them for you. This employs someone locally and the effect is stunning.
- Use a green bridal registry. Some bridal registries have gone green - look for them online. Alternately, when you choose the items for a bridal registry, choose only eco-friendly items. If there is a store that sells a lot of eco-friendly items but it doesn't have a bridal registry, ask if they would mind setting one up for you. It might just be the impetus the store needs to do it regularly! Or, if you want the registry to be less focused on giving gifts to yourself and your new spouse, and more focused on directing resources toward those in greater need, you can consider having the registry be a list of donations to charitable causes. Tell your guests that, instead of giving you gifts, they should donate that money to a charity that protects the environment. There are many options. They could donate to the WWF, a water reservation organization, or buy a few acres of rainforest land in your name.
- Recycle or rent your wedding clothes. You will wear these clothes once, so there are several possibilities that might suit your needs. Renting a dress or suit is one response. Recycling a friend's or family member's wedding clothing is another option. This is a great way to reuse and recycle! Or, you could search the shelves of consignment stores or thrift stores and have the item altered. Some people find a perfect solution in finding a dress or suit that can be used again with a little altering. If this is the case for you, go for it and be happy that the clothing will continue to be useful for years to come. Another option is to make your own wedding clothes out of green friendly fabrics.
- Encourage others to follow your recycle, rent, or reuse clothing decisions. Talk to the bridesmaids, matron of honor, best man, and anyone else with significant roles in the wedding, and have them do the same. Get them to wear simple clothes and only choose a precise color theme if this ensures simplicity. If not, be a little flexible and allow a range of colors that fit within a theme. Brides can always check out the bridesmaid's choices in advance to ensure that continuity is maintained.
- Use recycled gold for your wedding rings. The mining of gold leaves environmental devastation in its wake by leaving arsenic residues and other problems associated with mining. Diamond mining also has negative environmental consequences. There are many jewelers now recycling gold and turning it into wedding rings. This is not only a great method for recycling but it is also a wonderful connection with the past and the loves and lives of those who have gone before us. Or instead of gold, consider a wedding ring tattoo.
- Select a wedding venue close to home. The closer the venue, the less distances required to travel and the less energy consumed. Also consider a venue that has natural sunlight streaming in, so that you can take advantage of the sun's highlights and not have to rely on internal lighting. Other considerations include the ability of your venue to withstand hot or cold temperatures without having to turn up the heating or air-conditioning too high.
- Choose your transportation carefully. The traditional horse and cart is efficient, romantic and it doesn't burn gas. Think of innovative forms of transportation. Arrange for carpools among the wedding party and encourage guests to do the same.
- Use a carbon calculator. How many guests are coming to your wedding and where are they coming from? Include a request in the invitation for them to offset their travel by calculating their carbon impact from travel and purchasing an offset.
- Keep the wedding small. More guests equals more impact from travel, costs and quantity requirements from the venue size to the amount of food to be prepared. Moreover, can the bride and groom really focus on 200 people? It is highly unlikely. Go for the more intimate affair and treat all of your family and friends with your attentiveness.
- Use locally grown floral arrangements. They travel less, they arrive fresher and you are supporting the local community. You will also be better able to discern whether or not the flowers have been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides, something that is best avoided.
- Choose fair trade flowers. If you want special floral arrangements that require roaming further afield, consider fair trade flowers. The floral industry is currently under scrutiny for its poor working conditions and fair trade flowers help to ensure that consideration of the worker's conditions is taken into account.
- Reuse the floral arrangements. Arrange for someone to take the floral arrangements from the wedding venue to the reception venue. It is a logical solution to otherwise wasting the flowers and it reduces your costs.
- Select organic and locally grown produce for the reception food. Supporting local growers is a great way to cut down on costs and travel distances. It can also provide you with an opportunity to showcase local specialties that many of your guests may not be aware of or had not realized the extent of availability. Organic food is symbolic of an intention to start married life together with a focus on creating a health-conscious and informed way of living. Ask your caterer to shop at farmers markets and order as much of the food as possible directly from local farms.
- Do not over-cater. A lot of food gets wasted at large events and weddings are no different. Calculate the food needs carefully. If there are leftovers, ask the caterers to package items and freeze where possible; where this is not possible for hygiene and safety reasons, ask them to compost as much as possible.
- Keep the wedding cake simple. A simple cake can still be elegant and convey all the same meanings as a more expensive, resource and labor intensive one. Use simple themes and avoid that tacky plastic wedding couple atop the cake! What about locally grown, organic edible flowers instead?
- Use utensils and plates that can be washed. Avoid disposable items. Serviettes should be cloth. Use glasses and cups in place of disposable items. If you are using a caterer, make your needs clearly known to them on this count. And don't forget to include the serving platters and utensils to ensure that these are also reusable items.
- Take an eco-considerate honeymoon. Consider eco-tourism for your honeymoon destination. Or travel close to home and have a local honeymoon while discovering more about your own backyard.
- Consider a low-meat or meat-free reception menu. Meat production has a high environmental cost, and highlighting some delicious vegetarian choices at your wedding could give guests new ideas for different foods to try. Consider lots of vegan appetizer stations made with foods that even meat eaters consume on a daily basis.
- Use digital cameras for your candid photos instead of disposable table cameras. In the United States alone, more than 24 million disposable cameras are used just once then thrown away each year. Developing those photos also requires a great deal of chemicals, which aren't exactly eco-friendly either. And they take very low quality photos. Consider using digital camera rental for your guests to take candid photos. You'll end up with a lot more photos that are much higher quality, plus most companies that offer this service provide website hosting of the photos so all of your guests can enjoy the memories they helped you create.
- Some dressmakers are now specializing in reworking wedding dresses into everyday evening wear or even daywear. They can remove bows, sequins, lace, puffy sleeves etc. and rejuvenate the dress into something you can wear often.
- Think outside the square - outdoor weddings open up an enormous vista of possibilities for your guests to have a great time. Get married under the trees and then "set your guests free" by allowing them to take advantage of the location to explore, play sports, take a walk, or share a wedding picnic together. Such active weddings are becoming more and more popular and reflect the spirit that the occasion is about truly involving the guests in celebrating your shared consciousness about the importance of a healthy planet for healthy people.
- Hire vendors who are already green. You can find green wedding DJs or green photographers or videographers, who already reduce their carbon use by using low powered high output equipment and offset any remaining carbon use.
- There will be naysayers. There will be some people who complain about this being the only event in your life where you should splurge and not worry about the consequences. However, if you truly believe in an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, giving in to such complaints will not only betray your passion but will also not provide an opportunity for creating a space that gently raises people's awareness through demonstration of the possibilities.
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