A Match Made in Heaven Begins with the Earth
By Amy Rutledge
Center for a New American Dream
Enough!, Summer 2003
The term "earth-friendly wedding" used to conjure up a 1960s image of a
denim-clad wedding party with dirty, bare feet. However, with the
publication in 1996 of Carol Reed-Jones' Green Weddings that Don't Cost the
Earth, earth-friendly wedding planning began to move out of the commune
and into the mainstream. Today, couples who want a green wedding can
pretty much follow the same planning route as "traditional" weddings. In
fact, more and more couples are choosing to build their ceremonies and
receptions around the sustainable living concept.
Center board member Alicia Gomer and her fiance, Mark Wittink, are
planning their special day to reflect not just their commitment to each
other, but to the earth. "We wanted to do something in line with our
values," said Gomer, whose save-the-date card is printed on recycled junk
mail. Gomer and Wittink are dedicated to promoting a sustainable
lifestyle and they aren't about to give up on their principles, even in the
face of the massive American wedding machine. According to Gomer, "Our
wedding will give people a chance to see earth-friendly weddings can be
just as lovely, just as festive and just as tasty as a 'normal' wedding."
Gomer and Wittink used the comprehensive green wedding planning
resource Organic Weddings (www.organicweddings.com) for both their
save-the-date cards and for their wedding invitations, which are printed on
handmade, recycled cotton paper embedded with wildflower seeds. Wedding
guests can put the invitation in water and watch the seeds sprout. Once
sprouted, the invitation can be planted, giving guests a unique remembrance
of the happy couple.
While it's true that planning an earth-friendly wedding is easier than
it's ever been, it still may take a little more time and money. One of
Gomer's more troublesome planning tasks was finding a venue that would
support and assist her in planning an organic menu that sourced local
farmers as much as possible. Organic Weddings founder Michelle Kozin
agrees that many wedding-related businesses are reluctant to try something
new. Most venues already have relationships with non-organic vendors
and caterers and are unwilling to find new vendors for just one wedding.
One solution is to book a hall or location that will allow you work
with a caterer of your selection. According to Kozin, the caterer is one
the most critical choices a couple makes - caterers have control over
sourcing organic food and beverages, reducing and recycling the
disposables, minimizing paper products, composting scraps and donating
leftovers. Even if you know that a specific site won't accommodate an
earth-friendly wedding reception, call and inquire anyway. Gentle public pressure
- and loss of business - are effective aggents for change.
Weddings are complex organisms. Whether it's a simple, intimate
ceremony for a few family and friends or a luxurious indulgence of your inner
princess, you don't have to compromise your dreams for your ideals.
Just coming into the public consciousness is the issue of sustainable
gold mining. Heirloom rings are a great solution - from your family or
an antique store. Most jewelers can re-size and re-set rings to reflect
your style, and some sell rings made with recycled gold. If diamonds
are in your plans for the engagement ring or the wedding set, the
Physicians for Human Rights website (www.phrusa.org) lists jewelers
participating in their Conflict-Free Diamond program.
Organic Weddings features dresses made from silk and hemp blends. A
Different Daisy, (www.differentdaisy.com) offers elegant special-order
hemp dresses. (Its wedding page also contains helpful tips for those
planning a vegan wedding.) Does hemp seem awfully expensive? Consider
reusing a formal dress you already own, or buying a formal dress you'll be
able to wear again. Many less expensive formal dresses are actually
better made, because they are intended to be worn more than once.
In addition to the selections offered by Organic Weddings, Twisted Limb
Paperworks also sells beautiful handmade invitations made from 100
percent recycled paper. Contact them at
www.bloomington.in.us/~twistlim/Weddings.html or 812-323-7529.
Choose organic and locally-grown as much as possible. For seafood
choices, check out Audubon's seafood guide at
www.audubon.org/campaign/lo/seafood/. And if Uncle Joe complains about the lack of shrimp cocktails,
send him to us at www.newdream.org/tttoffline/actions.html and tell him
to check out Action #3.
Due to different growing seasons, organic flowers can be found almost
year around. However, like food, try to stay with locally-grown sources
to minimize transportation-related pollution. Work with a local florist
who can give you creative arrangements using what's available
seasonally and locally - everything from daffodils to evergreen boughs.
A popular choice for wedding favors is the National Arbor Day
Foundation's gift trees, found at www.arborday.org. These tiny evergreen trees
make lovely, living gifts at a minimal cost.
Got toasters in your future? Register with the I Do Foundation, founded
by four people concerned about the disconnect between how people live
their lives and how they plan their weddings. The foundation encourages
charity to be a part of wedding planning by teaming up with various
retailers to donate a portion of your registry gift sales to charitable
organizations. There are a number of different ways to donate and a
couple can nominate their own charity. The I Do Foundation also suggests
other tips for having a charitable wedding at www.idofoundation.org.
Low-Cost, Low-Key Ceremonies
Eliminating less important items from your wedding can save even more
resources, money and hassle than green alternatives. For example, favors
are nice, but usually unnecessary. Having fewer guests, a smaller cake
or simpler table decorations are other options, depending on your
priorities. Sometimes it helps to ask - maybe the bride's mother doesn't
want a corsage or the flower girl already has a pretty dress. For those
unafraid of bucking tradition, a potluck ceremony can save hundreds of
dollars, reduce food waste and ensure that people like what they're
eating, since they made it themselves. (Potlucks can also provide some of
the tastiest, fanciest food options, as your family's favorite chefs show
off their time-honored specialties.)
The Green Guide recently published a comprehensive resource on
environmentally sensitive weddings, available free on the web or by ordering issue number 96 at 212-946-4598. (A printed
issue costs three dollars.)
Green Weddings that Don't Cost the Earth by Carol Reed-Jones is also
still in print from Paper Crane Press and is available at libraries and
Reprinted with permission from:
The Center for a New American Dream
6930 Carroll Ave., Suite 900
Takoma Park, MD 20912
Web graphics provided by: