BY MAR JENNINGS
Special to CTgetsMarried.com
What is the newest and fastest growing trend in the multi-billion dollar per year wedding industry? Why going "green" of course. What does going "green" mean. It means that you can have organic or locally grown food, you can be whisked away in a hybrid limo, have your invitations printed on recycled paper or use potted plants instead of cut flowers. "People are making purchasing decisions based on environmental concerns," says Gerald Prolman, the founder of OrganicBouquet.com, an online organic florist. All over the country, caterers now offer pesticide-free menus and all-natural vintages. More than ever, fine china and linen napkins are returning and the idea of throwaways is, well, being thrown out.
But "green" is really an attitude and a commitment. I recently read that "green is respect and love for all creation and to balance human needs and Nature's flow. Green means integration not separation, togetherness not competition." I just love that!
So, where does one begin to plan an eco-friendly wedding? Perhaps by having a significantly smaller wedding or not having a wedding at all! Many romantic moments have been spent at City Hall with a couple of close friends. Limiting travel by air and car for you and your guests provides the greatest savings to the planet in terms of energy use and cost but it is also possible to find accommodations at places committed to saving water and energy and reducing solid waste. But for many of us, that is too extreme an option and we would like to celebrate the big day with family and friends. For these folks, here are a few ways that you can help the planet and still create memories.
Have you seen the size of some of the wedding invitations these days? Some are large enough to use as posters. Well, that would be one way to reuse them. Not only are oversized and overly elaborate invitations unnecessary, they are expensive to buy, print and mail. Ostentation is contrary to green. Simple and tasteful is my motto. And guess what? Simple and tasteful comes in recycled and in recyclable paper. This is really important if you are having a formal wedding and the invitation contains several cards and envelopes. Many stores and shops offer these options. You just need to ask for them.
You can also check out OrganicWeddings.com for their tree-free and recycled invitations.
What better way to help your guests be more earth-aware than by giving them a favor that is environmentally friendly? Seeds for flowers or a tree is the gift that keeps on giving. In fact, you can even give them a tree as a favor! Check out The National Arbor Day Foundation's website for wedding favors. The trees are not inexpensive, but if you are having a small eco-friendly wedding, they might be a great way to go. You can even ask your friends and family to plant them as a living symbol of the growth in your marriage relationship. As the tree grows, so does your love.
The ultimate "green" gown would be to recycle the one worn by your mother or grandmother, but any previously worn gown will do. Since most wedding gowns are worn only once, they are a great bargain and can be found at specialty consignment shops that cater to brides. You might also consider choosing a dress that can be worn again for another occasion. However, should you choose to go the traditional route, you can still go "green" by purchasing a dress made of natural fabric or purchasing natural fabric online at OrganicWeddings.com and having your dress made to order.
Natural-fiber Wedding Dresses
Believe it or not, there are several companies that make wedding dresses and suits from natural fibers such as hemp and silk with prices that won't break the bank. Check out dresses by Threadhead Creations at threadheadcreations.com. Their "Grace" dress is made from hemp and silk. Prices begin at $485; a train is extra.
Antique rings make the perfect eco-friendly wedding rings, particularly if they are family heirlooms. It's very romantic to wear a ring that was also worn by others in love. OK, I'm having a romantic fantasy but I love antique jewelry; and pieces are highly collectible, just like antique furniture. Many antique wedding rings contain sapphires, once a very popular choice for the main stone in a wedding ring. The trend is returning.
Perhaps the trend is increasing because of the controversy over diamonds, gem stones and even gold. A very popular option these days is titanium. Harder than platinum, titanium is the latest rage and available at finer jewelry stores.
If your heart is set on a diamond and you are of the "green" persuasion, an antique diamond is perfect. It's a good idea to read up on mine-cut and European-cut diamonds. The value of these stones will vary. Look for retailers like Tiffany & Co. that certify where their diamonds come from and how they were mined.
Flowers & Table Arrangements
A huge part (and expense) of any wedding is the flowers. Choose organic flowers that have not been grown using pesticides. The best way to accomplish this is to purchase flowers from a local grower who you know does not use lots of pesticides, or better yet, carry flowers that you grew yourself. If that is not an option, check out websites such as Organicbouquet.com. Started in 2001, the site was the first online organic flower vendor.
Transporting exotic and out-of-season flowers and plants from far away places is not particularly "green." Why not use hydrangeas, berries and other local and seasonal flowers for the bridal bouquet and the table decorations. Every season offers different and diverse plants that are both beautiful and functional. Another option is not to carry flowers at all.
When registering for gifts, look for retailers that offer "green" items such as organic cotton sheets, bamboo dishware and recycled glassware. Although not likely, (OK, I'm a bit of a cynic) a couple might wish to forgo gifts and ask friends and family to donate to charities that benefit the environment. Some couples might also ask that you plant a tree in their honor. I also believe in supporting local businesses, so consider registering at local and family-owned stores in your area.
Other ways to go green on your wedding day:
If you want to find out how much greenhouse gas your wedding will create, log onto TerraPass.com. This site will show you how to calculate the amount and then offers ideas on how to "offset" the event by inviting you to invest in energy-saving technologies. It's an interesting idea and helpful to anyone wishing to assuage their lack of "green" guilt.
A "green" wedding can be every bit as elegant as any wedding. In fact, the quality and choice of products has so steadily improved that the green concept is spreading to other types of entertaining. Won't you join the growing numbers of people who are not only concerned about the environment but willing to make changes in how they live for the sake of the planet? Those of us who love to throw parties can still embrace the earth without sacrificing style.