Modern weddings have become enormous spectacles and have certain traditions that have grown over the years into something above and beyond the logic of the original ceremony and celebration. There is a lot of expense and waste involved in the modern wedding and, mainly because the guests, gifts and clothing often come from many kilometers away from the actual event, carbon is expended.
So here are a few random ideas that can contribute to a green wedding with a smaller carbon footprint.
Invitations: make these yourself. My brother made ours from postcards, ribbon scraps, paper doileys and hand calligraphy. They were beautiful! We chose wedding pictures of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and this was in the days before you could buy specialty scrap-booking cardboard etc..
You could actually recycle old Christmas cards by gluing postcards and lace frames over the Christmas pic and a new printed ‘invitation’ page over the greeting. Just remember to include an R.S.V.P. pre-addressed postcard or preferably email response and a Wedding Registry detail or link to one on the web if that is the way you want to go. At least use recycled, tree-free, alternative pulp (eg. Silk, linen) handmade papers (these are now available in pretty colours and can be purchased from stores marketing products from third world countries to help their economy). There are many websites that walk you through all the protocol of invitations.
Keep the wedding small: try to invite only real friends and close family to be a part of your wedding. You need to have people with whom you will share this important day, not ‘obligatory’ family and friends. Tell the others you are planning a number of less formal parties after the honeymoon and invite the ‘obligatory’ people in small groups to BBQs with people whose company they will enjoy. They may be happy not to have to buy a gift! Be clear about not wanting gifts from all and sundry. The notion of gift giving was to furnish the marital home, but most people live together and have furnished it already AND have very explicit taste. Gifts can be redundant.
Create a Wedding website: (password protected) to avoid mail and the wedding registry can be a part of that as also can the photos.
Wedding registry: if you are this way inclined, you may like to include donations made in your name rather than taking possession of yet another set of steak knives. Look at heifer.org, Kiva.org or any of the other charities. Save the Children is one of my favourites.
Avoid long journeys: When choosing a place for the ceremony and reception, don’t choose a place over the other side of town, way up in the country or at a huge distance apart from each other. If you are inviting overseas or interstate guests, you may need to plant a forest to make up for the carbon used so it’s probably better to think about this at the start.
Weddings are big business: So, if you are planning a reception in a restaurant, when you are getting a quote, don’t mention the ‘w’ word until after the price has been agreed. Weddings are often anything up to 50% dearer. Tell the restaurant you will attend to your own décor if you are hiring a separate room. This way you can be very green about the decorations and flowers.
Wedding dress: eBay’s good! Trawl the second hand shops too as you may find a classic for a low price and the cost of alteration or remodeling will be hundreds of dollars less than a new dress. Don’t put your bridesmaids in dresses that have no use beyond your big day. Perhaps be a pink bride in a frock that has been designed to raise money for Breast Cancer research. Again, avoid buying something for which others have suffered, such as crippling beading, silk weaving for no decent wage and so on. Look at sustainable fabrics – organic cotton, silk, hemp, linen etc.. Be logical and discriminating in your choices. Think about the potential to dye the frock and remodel and wear it afterward.
Makeup and hair: don’t do the false nails – they actually look gross and are a hazard to you and the operators with that dreadful chemical. Keep the hair and makeup as close to your real look as possible – otherwise your photos will look very fake. See if you can find a hairdresser who recycles grey water.
Headgear and veils: Still have mine. It has served its time as a baby cradle mosquito net and now is on my hammock doing the same job!
Flowers: can be freshly gathered, mixed with masses of greenery or you can hire live potted plants from nurseries. Crepe paper is INVALUABLE for prettying it all up in your theme colours. However, then it is wasted. Why not use a cheap fabric instead, dye it to your theme colour and donate it to a school for their drama group costumes and sets afterwards. Much less waste! You can do this with light, cheap cottons, polyester chiffons, lining satins and other romantic fabrics. If in autumn, use fruit in your décor and then donate it to the needy or bottle it afterwards and serve it up at the 1st anniversary dinner! Flowers can be donated to hospitals or old people’s homes after the day. You will need to arrange this. Or tell the guests to help themselves!
Wedding favours: guest trinkets – consider packs of seeds packed in organza bags (easily made), certificates for heifer.org donations of individual chickens or ducks, fairtrade coffee beans, tea or chocolates, orchid seedlings in tiny tubes, a tulip bulb or a tiny herb seed selection or a miniature bottle of liqueur, pot-pourri bag etc. Try not to do the regular favours that add to people’s sentimental booty they lug around for decades.
Confetti: ban it unless it is edible or plant based but remember that rice actually hurts when thrown! Think about the effect of confetti dyes on clothing and you may prefer rose petals. You can use fresh or dried flower petals which smell and look terrific. You can also use bubble liquid – give guests small bottles of NON-STAINING bubble mix. (ushers to hand out at the door). Don’t throw bird seed or wild seeds in national parks. It can also be an eye hazard and an allergy hazard for some guests.
The ceremony: Write your own. Think about the vows very carefully and avoid being gimmicky for its own sake. Say what you really feel inside about your future husband/wife!
The reception: discuss with your caterer the possibility of donating any leftover food to a charity such as the homeless, or you could even suggest that any leftovers can be taken home by guests if they would like.
Garden settings are informal and can be excellent and of course, daytime wins over night-time as it can all happen in natural light. Decorate the garden with pretty Chinese paper lanterns in your theme for extra romance and as dusk falls as the dancing begins illuminate them with strings of Christmas lights. Alternatively, fill paper bags with sand and put a candle in each.
Noise pollution: keep the music at a reasonable volume. People are not there to scream over growing decibels.
Cutlery, crockery, chairs and tables. Rent it all. Don’t use disposable.
The wedding cake: - this centrepiece of a marriage’s first shared event has undergone big changes. I loved the cup-cakes at a friends’ wedding. They served the wedding cake with champagne in the garden during that time between the vows and the reception while they were having their pictures taken. It was a great afternoon tea and kept everyone happy for an hour or more and allowed everyone to circulate, mingle and chat before being chair bound until the dancing. Plus there was no waste, no need for cake boxes nor anyone to cut it up as it was serve yourself. These days the heavy fruit cake and almond icing/fondant looking like the Exhibition Buildings is quite out of fashion. Cupcakes can be home made by someone’s aunt. Practice the icing as you want them to look a bit stylish but don’t overdo that part of it. Keep it simple and pretty (see marthastewart.com for ideas). The leftovers can be donated or frozen.
The rings: recycle – melt down and redesign – old family jewellery for your new rings. Or try a wooden ring! Whatever way you go, look at the fairtrade aspects of your purchase: no blood diamonds or emeralds!
Honeymoon: OK, have your fun, but I see a lot of honeymooners around where I live and most seem a bit aimless and lonely, very glad to chat. Missing their pals and purpose. Consider a honeymoon in which you kick a few goals for the world such as working a couple of weeks on Tsunami or disaster clean up (no, it still isn’t rebuilt in Timor, Sri Lanka and now Haiti is calling for help and New Orleans is also in need of homes.) Habitat for Humanity is a good one. Ecotourism is also a great way to honeymoon or you can visit gorillas, orangutans, elephants in Thailand and so on. Be a part of life, don’t just watch it all go by.
Photos: Don’t bother with an album. Upload to your wedding website. Your guests can be given a password in the invitation. Use digital cameras only, not disposables or film cameras. Ask guests to bring theirs and take pictures to be uploaded to your site. This will save masses of carbon.
ABOVE ALL – make lists, be organized but on the day have a great experience and try to relax and enjoy it.