Author: Marc Choyt
Over the next twelve months, roughly 2.4 million Americans will spend 70 billion dollars (US) getting married. Green and socially responsible weddings can have a huge impact for the better on local economies and ecologies. Here are ten ways to express your commitment to the interconnectedness of life on earth during your wedding day.
1. Eco Engagement Rings and Eco Wedding Rings
It can take up to twenty tons of rock to produce a single wedding ring, yet there is more than enough gold available now for the entire jewelry industry. Some jewelers offer rings that are made from recycled gold. The ethical jeweler who has committed to using recycled gold will more than likely have a selection of conflict free diamonds or other gemstones that are responsibly sourced. Start your search locally, but realize that ethical wedding rings have not reached the mainstream yet and may be difficult to find.
Here are several online ethical jewelers, arranged by price range, for your consideration:
low-mid price range
high price range
Here is a guide to buying green wedding rings.
2. Greening Your Guests
Consider reducing the numbers of people who have to travel for your wedding. This is NOT easy, but then again neither is a commitment to the earth, much less to your spouse-to-be. If you decide to have a larger wedding with many guests coming in from out of town, consider donating some money to an organization that offsets the carbon imprint of the travel.
Here is a wedding carbon dioxide offset calculator:
Here are some US companies that offset carbon emissions:
3. Greening Your Invitations
Another reason that reducing your number of guests is significant is that you will also reduce the amount of paper required for printing. There are often save the date announcements, actual invitations, wedding handouts for each guest and then all the thank you letters. Be sure you're using recycled paper or - if you can - use email as much as possible.
Here are some great sources for recycled paper:
Twisted Limb Paper - 100% Recycled Invitations
Invite Site - Eco Invites
Green Field Paper - non-tree paper, 100% recycled paper
4. Your Green Venue
The marriage should take place somewhere that is beautiful, inspirational and resonant with your green values. Look locally for meeting houses, farms, retreat centers, community gardens, parks or a building that supports a cause you believe in. Further, make the location central to the majority of your guests. If possible, consider having two ceremonies if you have large groups of guests at opposite ends of the country.
If you choose an indoor location, talk with the building managers about the energy efficiency of their facilities. If they are working to meet LEED standards for high-efficency buildings then you're in good shape. Ideally the place will have outdoor and indoor space, allowing for different weather contingencies. Try to choose your venue as far in advance as possible; the best places book up quickly.
Wilderness Weddings (location suggestions from the Sierra Club)
Learn more about LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
5. Your Food and Drink
A wedding is - for the majority of the attendants - a great big party. Buy organic food that is, if possible, locally grown. There are now excellent organic, and often locally produced, wines and beers. Food can be one of the most expensive parts of a wedding, but this is part of your gifting to the community that witnesses your vows. If you can't afford an entirely organic menu, then consider going with organic meat, or choose a vegetarian option. Another idea is to ask friends to help prepare the feast.
Local Harvest: Find Organic Food Near You
Green Restaurant Association: search for green restaurants for catering
6. Green Wedding Clothing
To purchase dress that will only be worn on one occasion for the wedding ceremony does not make a lot of sense. Purchase clothing that you will enjoy wearing on special occasions after the wedding. Organic fabrics are still limited, but you can choose to purchase clothing that is not made in a sweat shop. You can also rent your outfit or buy something that was worn by someone else once or twice.
Get Conscious: Hemp Wedding Gowns
Faernyn's Grove: Green Bridal
Rawganique: Hemp, Organic Cotton Clothing
7. Gifting And Being Gifted
The experience of gifting and being gifted is an integral part of any wedding ceremony. You can decide to make your party favors environmentally responsible products. Look for locally made regional products that visitors from out of town might appreciate. People want to gift the bride and groom. Everyone wants their gift to be appreciated. So it is best to open a Green Gift Registry. Those who feel as if they have everything they need may want to ask that, instead of gifts, money be donated to a particular environmental organization.
I Do Foundation: Charity Registry
Branch: Sustainable Design
Send Us Off: request donations towards your green honeymoon
8. Dishes, Recycling and Redistributing
It is more environmentally sound to rent your dishes and glasses instead of simply using disposable paper products. Ask your caterer to use earth friendly soaps when cleaning up. Also, make sure that you have bins for recycling all aluminum and glass products. Look in advance for a food depot or soup kitchen that can take the left over food and distribute it.
Nat-Ur Store: Biodegradable Cups, Cutlery, Garbage Bags
Recycline: Green Table Ware
Second Harvest: Donate Perishable/Prepared Food
9. Support Your Local Economy
Purchase locally from small businesses whenever possible. Buy local and organic flowers, which reduces transportation and pesticide impact on the environment. Or consider growing your own! Hire a local band or DJ who does not have to travel far to your venue.
10. Your Green Vows
This is the most important part of your wedding ceremony and it needs to be deeply considered. Spend some months and meditate on what is in your heart and what you can commit to. Write it out. Talk to friends who have been married a while. Include life affirming commitment to living in balance with the ecology. I was married by an Apache Medicine Woman, and she had us publicly state what my wife and I brought to the marriage-our good qualities and our flaws. For my wife and I, this exercise in front of our friends and family was a powerful expression of our humanity. Your vows are also your opportunity to spread the idea of eco-friendly values to your guests.
11. A Green Honeymoon
You will want to go to a place in nature that can restore and inspire you. Many people are familiar with ecotourism, yet know nothing about geotourism. The Geotourists has opportunities to improve the places that they visit and have meaningful experiences of local culture.
Here are some links to sites that offer green honeymoon opportunities:
National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations
The International Ecotourism Society
Travel By Train
GreenSeal Approved Green Lodging
Green Hotels Members
More Green Wedding Resources:
Eco-Friendly Wedding Planning Magazine
Ethical Weddings: Forums, Blog
Green Wedding Planner
Co-op America: Green Businesses
Organic Flowers Online
In CA: California Organic Flowers
Conscious Living Tips
Other Green Wedding Guides:
A Green Wedding
How To Green Your Wedding
10 Steps to a Green Wedding
Guide to a Growing Trend: The "Green" or Ecological Wedding
Wedding Industry Stats (2002)
About the Author:
Marc Choyt is President of Reflective Images, an award winning jewelry company, www.celticjewelry.com that sells wedding rings sourced by artisan designers online at www.artisanweddingrings.com. His company produces fair, eco-sourced, fairly trade jewelry. Marc also authors www.fairjewelry.org supporting green, fair trade, socially responsible jewelry practices.