No one wants to scrimp on matters of the heart. And not a lot of lovebirds want to pass up the chance to throw a meaning-laden bash with friends, family, and bubbly that ends in a sex-crazed vacation. Who could say no to that?
But when it comes to weddings, there are greener ways to get hitched. Today, earth-friendlier versions of conventional weddings are blooming everywhere — from “Days of Our Lives” to the pages of Modern Bride. Thanks to an increasingly robust eco-marketplace that offers everything from organic champagne to biodegradable confetti, walking down the aisle without leaving a huge carbon footprint is a piece of connubial cake. And ideas abound for alternative (i.e., non-extravaganza) ceremonies too.
All it takes is some simple planning and a bit of pruning for the guest list (do you really need to fly in your fourth cousins from Slobovia?). After that, just feel the love — the kind that extends to your betrothed and to the ground we all walk on.
Here are a few ideas to get you started — and we welcome those of you who have walked the eco-aisle to share your story in the comments section below.
Level One: The Baby Step
Be a skipper. As in, skip the rice tossing. It’s potentially bad for birds and wildlife, and it’s definitely messy. If you must provide something for guests to toss, opt for something like birdseed — unless the event is in a wilderness area where feeding critters isn’t allowed. Try skipping a few other things, too, like party favors and place cards. The industry will tell you these things are a must, but any guest who’s left an event laden down with them will tell you they’re a bust. If you can’t bear to skip them, consider giving garden seeds as favors and writing your guests’ names on stones. Don’t worry, Martha would approve.
Level Two: The Next Steps
Dress reversal. Green wedding garb, like the best love affairs, shouldn’t leave a trail of toxic residue behind. Buy new or nearly-new gowns at places like Encore Bridal or your local secondhand store; check out the green wedding site Portovert; or shop at Anna Cohen, a Vera Wang of the green world. And guys: keep renting those tuxes! If you could really use new threads, buy organic cotton dress shirts or hemp suits that you can wear again.
Do the local-motive. Yes, Fiji is pretty this time of year, but making your guests jet there to see you wed is guaranteed to produce a world of CO2 hurt. So get married in a central spot near the majority of your guests. And when you’re buying the wedding goodies, snag them locally, to reduce the carbon costs of driving and shipping. If you can’t find the shops you need, browse Co-op America’s green pages to find local-organic flowers, décor, food, and drink — including fine champagne and wine.
Bling it on. Diamonds, as we know, are a churl’s best friend. Metal mining — another nightmare — is a No. 1 polluter in the United States, according to No Dirty Gold; a single band of gold produces 20 tons of deadly mine waste. So ring in the new: buy from the growing class of conflict-free gems, including eco-friendly diamonds and gold made with fair labor practices. Recycled jewelry glitters just as nicely.
Guide yer gifters. This is where your noblesse can really oblige. Ask people to forgo that third toaster they were about to give you and instead request gifts from a green registry like VivaTerra. Even better, encourage guests to buy carbon offsets, contribute toward an experience (skydiving lessons, here you come!), or donate to any number of cool charities via nonprofits like the I Do Foundation, which also accepts donated wedding dresses when the day’s done.
Level Three: The Big Step
Say ‘I Don’t.’ Traditional weddings doth not automatically a happy marriage make; being in love is what counts. So why not escape the headaches and pressures of party planning — while saving major amounts of money and stress on you and the earth — and just elope? Say your vows at city hall, vault neatly over the months of work and piles of bills, and stick the perfect landing. It’s an option that bucks tradition, to be sure — but it’s just as likely to lead to a happy ending.