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Ah, weddings! Generally extravagant and lavish affairs, couples often consider their wedding as one of the most special days in their lives. Weddings, however, aren’t easy to plan, and often involve a high level of stress. Due to this, even people who are environmentally and socially responsible in their everyday lives can forget to adhere to their principles while planning a wedding.
Sadly, our special days can have many environmental repercussions, and that’s why it’s important to try and keep these wonderful occasions as eco-friendly as possible. The consequences of our environmental neglect are steadily building up—not only in terms of physical changes such as rising sea levels and drought, but also in terms of economics where experts have found that environmental neglect contributes to overall recession and job loss.
Here are some tips you can follow to make sure your wedding is sustainable. Implementing these ideas is actually quite easy. By taking these seemingly small steps, you will not only have a wonderful wedding, but also help sustain our beloved environment.
Send invitations and envelopes made from recycled paper. Recycled paper can be very beautiful, and this way, each guest will receive a one-of-a-kind invite, since you can find recycled papers that are unique in shade and texture.
Rather than having details printed on the recycled paper, get a local calligrapher to write out the invites for you. By eliminating printing, you will be saving lots of energy and toxic chemicals that would have been used in the printing process, simultaneously creating stunningly delicate invites with a local finish.
If you’re willing to forego paper invites altogether, then sending out electronic invites is a great way to lessen your impact on the environment. These days, it’s so easy to customize beautiful email wedding invites online. Electronic invites make RSVPing so much easier, and can include everything from links to destination maps to photos of the happy couple to a special romantic song!
Did you know that most brides spend upwards of $1000 on a wedding dress? There are much cheaper and more sustainable ways of obtaining a wedding dress than buying one brand new.
Upcycling a gown used by a someone in the family or a close friend into something unique that is fit for your wedding is a great option. You can also find amazing vintage dresses at thrift stores, if you look carefully. By upcycling, you will be lowering your environmental footprint, saving money, and wearing something that carries meaning.
If you can’t let go of the thought of having a wedding dress that is only “yours”, then considering buying one from a label that specializes in eco-friendly clothing, or a designer that specifically makes sustainable gowns.
A lot of jewelry is the subject of controversy due to the ecologically disastrous mining of precious metals, and “blood diamond” conflicts around the world. You will treasure the jewelry you wear on your wedding day, so it’s best to make sure it is ethically sourced and produced.
Consider choosing jewelers like BrilliantEarth, Leber, or Ingle & Rhode that offer sustainable wedding jewelry, ensuring that the majority of the materials used to create your rings are ethically sourced and recycled, which keeps the mining processes to a minimum.
If you receive a piece of jewelry that was handed down to you, use it. Having a family heirloom is special, not to mention cheaper than buying something brand new. Jewelry purchased at an estate sale or antique shop is another environmentally responsible option. If the style doesn’t quite suit you, you can often have it reworked by a good jeweler.
Most cut flowers are not grown organically, nor do the flower farms always treat their workers well. To make sure your blooms are as sustainable as possible, look to companies that are local or farm-to-table, like The Bouqs Co. (and less refrigeration time means less electricity use!).
Ask your florist about in-season and local flowers—this will save you money, too. If you have your heart set on a flower that isn’t local or in season, look for flowers that are VeriFlora-certified. This means that they aren’t grown with chemicals or under harsh working conditions.
After your celebration, don’t throw those flowers away! Work with a company like Rebloom or Repeat Roses that will pick up the arrangements are reuse them. Another eco-friendly choice is to choose potted blooms, plants or topiaries as centerpieces. This way, your guests can take them home and replant them after the wedding.
Food and Drink
When choosing your wedding food, the greenest option is to go local. Rather than spending tons of money on flying in food grown in various parts of the world, stick to your local and seasonal produce. Not only does this immensely reduce your carbon footprint, but the local farmers and growers will thank you for the positive effect your choice has on their businesses and community.
As a scuba diver, I’ve witnessed first hand the implications of what bulk exports of seafood (that has usually been unsustainably fished and harvested) can do to the local ecosystem—and let me tell you, the repercussions aren’t pretty. So try and stick to seafood from sustainable fisheries, and if it isn’t in season, then swap out the seafood from your menu entirely. You’ll be surprised to find that some of the tastiest items are those that don’t really travel far, but are freshly picked and minimally prepared.
Rather than investing in a fancy spread of buffet dishes, most of which will probably go to waste, plan out your menu carefully according to the number of attendees. Consider having a serviced three-course meal instead of a buffet spread, as research shows that buffets result in much more wasted food.
Instead of throwing away the leftovers, donate them to your local food bank or to those in need—a great way to give back on your special day!
Even though it’s something we don’t think about often, weddings consume a lot of fuel. From guests traveling a long way to attend your special day, food being brought in from various locations, to possibly flying to your honeymoon destination, fuel consumption at weddings is much higher than we acknowledge. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t invite guests from afar, or give up on your honeymoon to lower fuel consumption, but there are certain things you can do to reduce your transportation footprint.
As fun as a “destination wedding” might seem, all those friends and family members taking airplanes to a faraway land for your marriage is not only expensive, but also extremely unsustainable. Try and pick wedding and reception locations that are within close proximity for majority of your guests. Encourage guests to carpool to and from the wedding, rather than driving separate cars, or, if possible, offer a shuttle bus.
In terms of food, try to serve as much local and in-season produce as possible. As mentioned above, with the increasing popularity of the farm-to-table style of eating, your guests will be sure to enjoy curated, local cuisine.
Finally, make sure your getaway vehicle as you ride off into the sunset (a.k.a honeymoon) is as environmentally friendly as possible.
As you can see, there’s a lot you can do to make sure your wedding affects the environment as little as possible. Most of these tips are easy to execute, and are based on principles you might already be familiar with.
Though simple in nature, including these ideas in your wedding planning processes will have seriously positive consequences on your surroundings and your budget, and I guarantee they will leave you feeling satisfied and fulfilled after your big day!