Your wedding is the start of a whole new chapter in your life, and it should reflect the type of life you and your partner want to live. But wedding traditions often conflict with green ideals. Weddings can produce enormous amounts of waste — from the dress that’s only worn once to the leftover food, flowers and decorations. Travel-related carbon emissions are a big concern too, as friends and family members must fly or drive to the wedding location; destination weddings are even worse because they require a plane trip for every guest. Luckily, every element, from the ring to the cake, can be greened, and many wedding planners are starting to specialize in eco-conscious nuptials.
Step 1: Purchase antique rings or use heirloom rings if possible. If you must have a new ring, make sure the metal and the stone were mined humanely and with fair trade in mind — stones from Canada or Australia are a good bet, or any stone certified as “conflict free.” Alternatively, opt for lab-created stones.
Step 2: Register for gifts that showcase your eco-conscience, like organic bamboo linens, recycled-glass decor and salvaged-wood picture frames. Think about how much stuff you actually need, though — if you’re not lacking anything essential, consider asking guests to donate to your favorite environmental charity instead.
Step 3: Choose a location central to the majority of your guests. This reduces the carbon emissions inherent in travel. Consider renting space in an LEED-certified building or holding your wedding at a local farm — some do catering as well. Have the ceremony and reception in the same place to eliminate unnecessary travel.
Step 4: Plan eco-friendly transportation for yourself, and encourage your guests to do the same. Instead of renting tank-like limousines, choose biodiesel or electric vehicles.
Step 5: Wear a vintage or used wedding gown to save the environmental and labor costs of making a new one. If you have a seamstress in the family, ask her to make your gown for you as a wedding present, using organic textiles. Rent bridesmaids dresses and tuxedos for the groom and groomsmen — chances are, everyone will be happy to rent rather than buy outfits they’ll never wear again.
Step 6: Ask for your invitations to be printed with soy ink on recycled paper. Avoid metallic foil or plastic coatings that inhibit recycling. Consider plantable paper that can be impregnated with seeds, or go the tree-free route with banana, hemp or bamboo paper.
Step 7: Choose a caterer who works with local, organic ingredients, and plan a seasonal menu. Purchase locally-produced champagne, beer and wine if producers exist in your area. Rent or borrow organic linens for the table, and avoid cut flower centerpieces — get creative with beeswax candles, potted plants and edible items like seasonal produce.
Step 8: Plan a sustainable honeymoon. If a local destination is out of the question, consider ecotourism. Plan to purchase energy credits to offset your trip’s carbon footprint.