Eco Local Guide

Nice Year for a "Green" Wedding

photo courtesy of Capture Light Photography, Ballston Spa

There are 2.5 million weddings a year in the United States, making up a $70 billion dollar industry. The impact on the environment from these celebrations is substantial and many couples are searching for environmentally friendly options. How can eco-conscious brides and grooms-to-be plan their special day without sacrificing style or the environment? Ecolocal publisher David DeLozier recently talked with Kate Harrison, author of "The Green Bride Guide," to get answers.
David: First off, what is a green wedding?

Kate:  A green wedding is any wedding where the couple tries to decrease the impact of their event on the planet - and there are many ways to do it!  Every part of a wedding - from invitations to flowers to the favors - has eco-friendly options worth considering.  

David: Why would a couple want to have a green wedding?  

Kate:  I think having a green wedding has environmental, economic and spiritual benefits.  

With 2.5 million wedding a year in the United States the environmental impact from these events is enormous.  Here are a few fun facts to put things in perspective:

•    The amount of paper used to make invitations every year could cover the island of Manhattan.

•    If every wedding used a disposable aisle runner and they were laid end-to-end it would circle the globe twice.

•    The amount of gold used to make just one ring produces 2 tons of mining waste - the equivalent of 12 elephants!

The bottom line is that every green choice makes a difference - no matter how small.  
There is a myth in our society that in order to be green you have to be willing to spend more.  In fact, having a green wedding can save you up to 40%!!  How is this possible?  Well, let me illustrate with a few examples from my own wedding.  First there were the flowers.  The average couple spends about $2000 on flowers.  My husband and I had a fall wedding and asked all of our friends and neighbors to donate hydrangea and other seasonal flowers from their gardens.  We then bought $200 worth of organic dahlias from a local flower farm and that was that.  Another example was my dress.  Most gowns cost around $1300.  I bought a damaged gown (the train was stained) for $600 and spent another $100 to have it tailored.  I had the seamstress turn the salvageable material from the train into a matching shawl and after my wedding donated both to Brides Against Breast Cancer.  For my shoes, I bought once worn white silk Vera Wang shoes on eBay for $50 and resold them after my wedding for the price - so I only paid for shipping.  Simple choices like these are not only better for the environment, but can help stretch your wedding dollars.

Social Benefits
Finally, there are the social benefits. When you start talking to vendors about what you want to do you, and explain your choices to your guests, you change the way people in your community think about what it means to be green.  You make being green seem possible and help get the word out about sustainable alternatives.  
David:  How do people explain this choice to their family?

Kate: I think people today are more aware of the environment and conservation than they were even a few years ago.  Although you may get a few odd looks, most family members and guests will not only be supportive, but will actively applaud your efforts.  By making your day not just about the two of you, but about your future and your relationship to the greater world, you add a level of meaning to your wedding that is very moving.  You are saying, "Our wedding is going to be sustainable, just like our marriage."

David: A big part of the green movement is making a positive impact to our local communities and environment.  How can a green wedding play a part in this?
Kate: A big part of going green is going local.  When you choose local seasonal flowers and foods you not only decrease the environmental footprint of the event (because nothing has to be imported which produces emissions and contributes to global warming), but you are also supporting local business and your community.  I always recommend couples serve local delicacies and give locally made favors.   It is a great way to create a sense of place for your guests and to make your wedding more unique. 

David: What if I can't find a green option?  Is it "cheating" if my limo isn't a hybrid?  Do they even make them?

Kate:  In some parts of the country (New York and San Diego for example), you can indeed find hybrid limo companies.  But to answer your question, one of things I really stress in the book is that you don't have to be puritanical.  If you can't find something, or you don't want to choose the green option at every turn, that is OKAY.  I think of it this way - if every couple just included one green option in their wedding it would be 2.5 million green choices a year! So don't fret too much - and don't let anyone try to convince you that if your wedding is not green through and through you are being hypocritical.  That's ridiculous.  Just do what you can, and know it makes a difference.
David: My big view on the whole green thing is emphasizing locally grown, locally made, and locally independent.  Dollars spent locally have the biggest impact in our communities, and supporting local merchants and artisans keeps our communities strong.  If the local cake-baker does not use organic sugar, but uses locally sourced flowers to decorate it, it's part of the success.

Kate: I totally agree.  Although I think it is great to try to get local vendors to make substitutions when you can.  In the back of the book I offer vendor worksheets - which are checklists you can use to talk to vendors about green services they can offer.  This also goes to your earlier question about what to do if you can't find local green vendors.  For example, you may not be able to find an organic baker, but you can ask bakers in your town if they are willing to substitute in organic flour and sugar, cage-free eggs - and you will have a green wedding cake.  You will quickly find out who is willing to work with you, and who knows - maybe it will even change the way they do business in the future! 

David:  Is there anything else you want to share with readers?

Kate: Yes - I want to encourage them to take a look at my website.  In addition to finding pictures and stories from real green weddings, they can find links to local products, services and vendors.  The green community is a grass roots movement and everyone's help is needed.  I hope all of your readers will come back to the site and share their experience with others.  The more examples people have of ways to go green, the easier the choice will be. 
Green wedding veteran and environmentalist Kate L. Harrison offers the most comprehensive green wedding book on the market, The Green Bride Guide: How to Create an Earth-Friendly Wedding on Any Budget. It's the perfect resource to help couples make sure their big day is memorable, but doesn't leave a lasting impression on the Earth. The Green Bride Guide includes hundreds of sustainable choices in one handy reference, and it's also a practical resource for budget conscious couples. Kate provides low, medium, and high-end choices in every category, and proves that you don't have to break the bank to have a gorgeous green event! Kate and her husband Barry planned their own green wedding in 2007. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Leave a Comment