You want to start your new life together in the best possible way. For many brides and grooms, this means beginning with a wedding that doesn’t produce a lot of garbage. It’s nice to know you’re preserving the planet for future generations. There are many ways you can have a more earth-friendly wedding.
If the idea of trying to do everything overwhelms you, don’t worry: Every little bit counts, so just do what you can.
Most guests cringe when they see the monogrammed teddy bear, wondering if they will have to display it every time the couple visits. Remember: favors are not mandatory, and not all guests expect them. If you choose to give favors, however, there are green ways to do it.
Instead of handing out disposable favors like plastic water bottles, try giving gifts that will be more meaningful and useful. You can still go a similar route with reusable water bottles or glass jars with customized labels, or you can give edible favors that can be enjoyed immediately. If you have a small number of close friends and family you’d like to treat, give them tickets to a fun activity or event rather than tangible gifts. Many couples are choosing to take favors in an entirely new direction by giving donations to charities in their guests’ names.
(Don’t) Trash the Dress
Peek in any thrift shop or browse eBay, and you will see a rainbow of hideous, discarded bridesmaid’s dresses. When the unflattering bridesmaid’s dress is such a cliché, why are brides still insisting that their friends buy expensive, lime-green taffeta explosions? Honor your bridesmaids by letting them choose their own dress in your wedding color. If the dress looks good on them, they won’t throw it away later. (And they might actually show your wedding pictures to their friends).
If you want your wedding to be light on the landfill, try using non-throwaway décor. Many rental companies specialize in theme-specific decorations like arches, columns, torches, flowering plants, table centerpieces, and even furniture that can be rented for a small fee. When the wedding is over, the décor is packed away and nothing touches a garbage heap. An added bonus is that most companies will also transport and set up their décor items, so it’s less work for you.
Cut flower arrangements are the standard at weddings, but there are more environmentally-friendly alternatives. Although cut flowers are beautiful, many have to be shipped around the world, preserved by toxic pesticides and processed by workers in less-than-ideal conditions. Most florists are happy to provide alternative options if you ask. Consider using live flowering plants and trees; not only can the decorative pots match the theme of your wedding, but you can plant them afterwards in a wedding-garden, or use them to decorate your home. (They’ll last longer than that piece of cake in your freezer). If your budget is tight, you can rent plants from a nursery for a fraction of the cost.
If the idea of cut flowers is still too appealing, ask your florist about local and organic options. These flowers will not require the shipping and heavy processing of out-of-season flowers, and they’ll remind you why you chose to have your wedding where you did.
There’s debate over whether it’s environmentally equivalent to use disposable cutlery, or to use the energy and water to wash real ones. All other factors being equal, however, re-using real cutlery keeps plastic out of the landfill. The same goes for plates, napkins, and linens.
“Good Conscience” Rings
Gold and diamonds are the Hollywood vision of what wedding and engagement rings should be. But the sad reality is that many of the gold and diamonds mined come from third-world countries with few regulations about the environmental and human-life cost to produce them. Because few brides and grooms want their symbol of love to be funding civil wars, many are educating themselves on the source of their ring’s materials. If you want to avoid any question, go for an antique ring, or thoroughly research your ring’s origin before buying. It will be on your finger a long time to come.
In reality, most of your guests don’t know what to give you. No one wants to be the awkward friend giving the couple their sixteenth toaster. If you register ahead of time for gifts you want (like Energy Star rated appliances), there will be less waste; both in your dumpster, and in your friends’ wallets. Registering isn’t rude. Most people are relieved to know their gift will be well-received.
In addition, you can ask for intangible gifts like services, donations to a charity, or contributions to a honeymoon fund. The “gift of a honeymoon” is becoming more popular, and the memories you get from your beach house in the Caribbean will outlast the warrantee on that toaster. Promise.
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.