Photo: SimonShaw via Flickr.
In two months, I will walk across a lawn in taffeta and heels to stand beside my baby sister as she says “I do.” Which means I have spent the last several months planning parties, calming crises, and trying not to gawk at the huge price tag looming over this blessed event.
Weddings are a celebration of love and commitment, but they’re not often so loving on the earth — or the commitment to trim your budget. And trying to save green while you plan a green wedding can cause quite the nuptial nightmare.
Is it possible to have an eco-friendly “I do” on a budget?
Yes, but you’ve got to focus on reducing waste and upping simplicity, advises Green Wedding author Mireya Navarro.
“A green wedding means trying to come up with earth-friendly alternatives to all the traditional elements of a wedding,” she says. “If you follow all of the basic green principles — recycling, and reducing, and reusing — and apply that to a wedding, you’re going to end up saving some money.”
And it’s not that hard to do, she adds. “It’s just thinking in a different way, and you can still have a gorgeous wedding.”
Here are some tips for tying the knot without tying up all your resources — complete with estimated savings based on a survey by theknot.com that revealed the average U.S. wedding budget in 2008 was $29,334.
Throw away the throwaways
Tiny picture frames. Votive candles. Cutesy paper weights. Whatever the gewgaw, wedding favors are rarely what your guests actually favor — and you’re more likely to find them abandoned on tables than treasured as forever reminders of your special day. Why spend a few bucks a head on something that’ll end up tossed in a trash bin? Estimated savings: $352
Invites stuffed in envelopes that are stuffed in bigger envelopes? Really? Consider Evites, or at the least, simpler guest correspondence. Setting up a wedding website and distributing the link is a great way to stay in touch with your guests without forfeiting trees — or paychecks. Estimated savings: $538
Rethink the Three R’s
Reduce waste. Yes, this mantra sounds like a push for compost bins beside your banquet tables (and hey, that’s not a bad idea!), but it can be applied in a number of ways. Wedding planning too often gets mired in old-fashioned traditions — who says you have to have expensive centerpieces on every table or string after string of twinkly white lights? Choose a venue with natural beauty and let your lovely guests do the shining. Estimated savings: $1,924
Photo: Todd Jones Photography via Flickr.Reuse your wedding attire. Everyone knows men can rent their penguin suits, but did you know brides can rent gowns as well? Many bridal shops are offering this option now, and it’ll save you a bundle on the one piece of clothing you only wear once (fingers crossed). If you deciding renting isn’t right for you, consider buying secondhand or borrowing. And to help spread the green, think about donating — or Craigslisting — your dress once your day is over. Estimated savings: $1,032
Recycle old jewelry. Instead of sporting freshly mined metals or blood diamonds, look into vintage/pawn-shopped bling. Superstitious? You can have the gems re-cut and the metals melted and reformed to create a unique piece sans voodoo — for a lot less than a new one. Estimated savings: $900
Throw your shindig close to home to cut down on CO2 and build up your eco-karma. Let out-of-town guests experience your nuptials via the net by filming the big event and streaming it on one of many virtual wedding sites. Far-flung relatives will be munching on popcorn instead of your wedding budget. Estimated savings: $73 per person who doesn’t show
While an all-organic buffet is likely to cost you a pretty penny, focusing on local foodstuffs could actually save you money, Navarro says, and you’ll for sure save on greenhouse-gas guilt. Plus, your guests will appreciate the fresher, seasonal offerings — and you would, too, if you could just get a minute to sit down and eat. Estimated savings depend on your local area and what time of year you hold the ceremony.