A wedding is one of the most important celebrations in any lifetime. Usually they are sparkling affairs filled with old friends and families, wine, dancing, dresses, cake and. of course, love. Yet these ceremonies, consummating our romantic trajectories, can evolve into costly, wasteful, polluting and fossil-fuel-consuming events that cause big problems for the Earth in a very short period of time. Thankfully, it is now possible to significantly minimize the environmental impact of your wedding, allowing you to make clear not only dedication to your spouse-to-be, but to the ecology as well.
Tradition or religious beliefs may demand a cathedral, but if possible, consider having an alfresco ceremony at an organic farm, community garden or park. By holding your "Earth wedding" at one of these outdoor settings, you’ll be using less electricity and supporting an organization that works to maintain and preserve nature. The Oz Farm in California is one such site. You can browse Rural Bounty to find a farm or similar natural setting close to you.
When evaluating locations, take into account the lodging options for guests, including camping. Even if you desire a church or indoors ceremony, you can still limit the event’s footprint by working with green venues and hotels that recycle, have water catchment systems, and are powered by alternative energy. The EcoHotels of the World directory is an excellent resource for finding such Earth-friendly housing.
Perhaps the most crucial element for the bride is the gown. Many designers nowadays will work with reclaimed or vintage fabrics, and many stores and websites specialize in vintage dress sales. Rather than spending thousands of dollars on unrecycled materials that will be used only once, look at Near Sea Natural for sustainable fabrics, or Vintage Wedding and Cherished Bride for the more ecological option of vintage wedding gowns and bride’s maids’ dresses.
Green grooms, you too can bring sustainable fabrics to a designer, and your local tuxedo shop should provide rentals.
Better Wedding Bands and Engagement Rings
The purchase of an engagement ring and a wedding band raises concerns—such as worker exploitation, child labor and warfare—not applicable to other elements of the ceremony. Because extremely precious and beautiful stones for engagement rings thrive in some of the world’s poorest and most politically unstable regions, many oppressive political factions and dictators have taken extreme measures to control them, often resulting in death and enslavement, sometimes on a grand scale.
For your green wedding, make sure to reduce exploitation and violence by purchasing conflict-free diamonds for your engagement ring. Nowadays, you can request to see conflict-free certificates from jewelry stores. Additionally, GreenKarat manufactures with sustainable metals, and Brilliant Earth donates 5% of its profits to communities it feels have suffered from the industry.
Other options include substituting another precious gem—such as an amethyst, sapphire, ruby or even turquoise—for a diamond, using an imitation diamond made of cubic zirconium or forgoing a gemstone entirely due to the anti-environmental impact.
If you throw the event at a farm, ask the organizers if they will provide a catering menu using ingredients from the farm. If not, make sure to request that they use foods and wines with the lowest carbon footprints (organic and local) and to go meat-free, if possible. If you hire your own caterer, consider a vegetarian/vegan/green caterer like Two Brothers Catering or browse the Happy Cow directory for a list of animal-protecting caterers in your area. There are even bakers like Nana Pearl’s that specialize in delicious vegan wedding cakes.
For invitations, contract with a green printer who uses recycled paper, vegetable inks and low-energy presses. Or send electronic invitations from an online service like Evite Postmark. You’ll save paper (read: trees) and give people the chance to access the invitation via Blackberry and iPhone, which could prove helpful when guests are in transit.
Eco Gifts and Favors
Instead of creating a registry at a home décor store, give guests the option of making a contribution to one or more of your favorite environmental groups. For guests, fair-trade chocolates in reusable bags, mini-solar power generators or solar cellphone rechargers make delightful, eco-friendly party favors. See EcoHearth's Eco Shop for some ideas.
A Green Honeymoon
As in choosing an environmentally sensitive location for your wedding, celebrate your newfound status with a green honeymoon at an Earth-friendly hotel. Or truly minimize your carbon footprint by camping. If you think camping could never be romantic, Romantic Camping will prove you wrong. And Ecohearth offers many other ideas for making your travels more eco-friendly.
So the next time an eco-conscious couple in your life (or yourself) announces plans to wed, incorporate these green wedding ideas to minimize your ecological impact, reduce your marriage expenses and draw attention to current threats to the environment. By supporting other nature-lovers and environmentally responsible local businesses in your celebration, you’ll reveal the true extension of your love beyond your spouse—literally to the very ground he or she walks on.
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