“Since 1950 alone, the world’s people have consumed more goods and services than the combined total of all humans who ever walked the planet before us.” – Dave Tilford, Sierra Club.
There’s a pretty good chance your wedding may be the most expensive and involved production of your life. The industry can so bombard you with delightful options that it can be easy to forget the bigger picture and to lose sight of what really matters.
Here are some suggestions for throwing a celebration that is as unique as you are, that reflects your values and priorities, and that can even give back in the process.
Set your intention: Think about what this day really represents to both of you, and set a clear intention for this day—maybe it’s about honoring your traditions, representing a specific theme/cause/ideal/dream that you two have, or simply about love and commitment. Post it somewhere, maybe designing a cover for your wedding binder with your intention in bold letters–and keep coming back to it.
Think about the bigger picture: A wedding can really take its toll on your wallet and on the earth. As eco-conscious brides and grooms, you may be already thinking about things like minimizing waste at your reception, making sure your venue and/or caterer will be recycling, and/or buying a vintage or once-worn gown.
One element that I think is often overlooked even in “green” weddings has to do with what impact your guests are likely to have. When thinking about your destination, be conscious of how much travel will be involved for your guests, how many resources they will need to consume getting to and from your wedding, with their accommodations, and with the purchases they may need to make for this occasion.
You may also want to think about your food choices. Does your caterer make sustainable choices? If you are serving meat, are the animals treated humanely? Do they buy locally? Use your wedding as an opportunity to showcase your originality and creativity—from potluck buffets to vegan cakes—your options are infinite!
Reflect on your values: What values do you and your partner represent, and how can your wedding play a part in that? You may want to make a list of your values, or the causes that are most meaningful to you. Then, invite your guests to not just buy you dining sets and vacuums, but to donate to your favorite charity in your name.
I even had a couple who honored their guests, by making a donation in each of their names to the ASPCA! (You can do this, too. The ASPCA, The American Heart Association, and St. Jude’s are among the charities that will send you favor cards for your donation, or you can make your own.)
Consider your values in choosing your venue as well. The venue is often the largest budget item of your wedding, and is a great opportunity to put your money where your heart is—consider holding your celebration at your favorite museum, nature center, gallery, or even charitable organization.
Make a statement, literally and figuratively: Do you two have a cause that is dearest to your heart? Do you have a strong opinion on marriage equality? I officiate in Georgia and have had heterosexual couples who have asked me to express something in the opening of the ceremony regarding their gratitude to have the opportunity to be legally united, and their hope for that privilege to soon be extended to all couples in a loving and committed relationship who wish to marry.
Consider your ceremony readings carefully—they are another avenue of sharing your perspective with your loved ones. Care deeply about the earth? You may find inspiration in readings from the Taoist or Native American traditions.
Get creative with your reception decorations- maybe reflect a favorite cultural tradition by purchasing fair trade, handcrafted centerpieces, rather than using flowers. I often invite guests to think of their programs as a tool to share with their loved ones what has inspired them, and what is meaningful to them.
Take a Vow: Finally, when thinking about your vows—your ultimate pledge of what this commitment means to you—consider thinking about what this union can mean not only to each other, but to the greater community, and to the planet.
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.