Green is gorgeous for weddings, and no, we’re not talking color palettes. Infusing eco-friendly elements into your wedding day is a way to give back to Mother Earth and cut down your carbon footprint as you walk down the aisle, not to mention, gays love going green (a recent poll shows 55 percent of LGBTQ adults were eco-aware). We asked the experts at Locally Grown Weddings, a San Francisco-based dream team dedicated to the earth embracing movement, for unique advice on making your wedding eco-certified chic.
Your venue doesn’t have to run on solar energy in order to be eco-friendly. Just by choosing a spot where you can host both your ceremony and reception is a way to go green. “This will cut down on your CO2 emissions and budget expenses, with the added benefit of making sure your guests don’t get lost between venues, which can eat into precious cocktail reception time!” explains Sadie Waddington, eco event planner extraordinaire. Bonus points if you choose a venue with on-site accommodations where you can entertain guests. Whether it’s a bocce ball tournament or a gourmet barbecue in the evenings, keeping your guests onsite will allow them to unwind, relax and enjoy a weekend getaway in an earth-friendly manner.
Hire a planner or coordinator who specializes in eco-friendly weddings. “A good planner will save you time and money by directing you to the best eco-friendly vendors. Take advantage of his/her ‘little green book’ and streamline your efforts.”
Chef Stephanie, Locally Grown Wedding’s culinary queen, warns against using venues that have set catering services. “Choose a venue where you can select your own caterer,” she explains. “Some venues provide catering or require you to hire a caterer from a list. This limits your choices and if local and seasonal food is a priority for you, it may not be with your caterer.”
Packaging is a major unwanted agent in landfills, but a few simple steps on your wedding day can make a big difference. Instead of individual sodas and juices, create a handcrafted signature beverage that can be made in large quantities, eliminating the individual glass and plastic bottles that may or may not be recycled at the end of the night. If you are having a more casual event, be sure to use compostable items instead of disposable. “Compostable plates, forks, etc., are plant-based and can be composted,” says Chef Stephanie. “This diverts that waste from the landfill to a more useful purpose.”
For those who favor fish, she recommends checking out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, at which scientists thoroughly research sustainability criteria to put together an extensive list of seafood recommendations for the six regions in the United States, helping maintain a healthy ocean ecosystem.
At the end of the night, don’t let that leftover fish (or chicken, beef or pasta) go to waste. Chef Stephanie suggests talking to your caterer about leftover food ahead of time and donating it to a local food bank. “There are some services that will even pick up the leftovers at the end of the night.”
The secret ingredient to making your wedding cake even tastier? Going green! Along with opting for organic or vegan, you can add a touch of green and sentimentality with your cake topper. “Consider looking in your own home for ideas rather than purchasing something new from the store,” says Pei-Yee Woo, who provides a full range of sweet endings for Locally Grown Weddings’ events. “It’s a great way to utilize a memento that holds significance for the two of you to share your story with your guests. And it saves you the extra step of having to go and shop around for a cake topper!”
She also suggests forgoing the fondant, unless you’re really tied to the smooth and polished look. “More often than not, this is the piece of the wedding cake that is left on the plate at the end of the night, so you can reduce the amount of waste heading to the landfill by omitting this detail.”
Not having a wedding cake? Opt for decadent desserts that come with minimal packaging: hand-crafted ice creams (served on edible cones, of course!) or a variety of seasonal fruits served with freshly whipped cream.
When creating your floral design, it’s important to select locally grown blooms, but take it one step further and find out exactly how the flowers are grown. “There are local farms that use greenhouses and there are those that grow their flowers outside and some that are organic-certified. Flowers that are grown outside not only consume less energy, but they also last longer and are stronger than those grown in a greenhouse,” explains floral guru Madeline Trait.
She suggests checking out your local CSA to see if they grow flowers (seasonal herbs, vegetables and fruits also make stunning and unique décor). Also, be weary of the season. Out-of-season blooms are most likely coming from South America, Africa or Europe (check out our flower guide to find out which seasons your favorite florals bloom).
At the end of the night, don’t let the flowers wilt in the venue’s trash. Donate them to a local hospice or hospital, or let guests take them home as a parting gift. “Either way they will be enjoyed by someone rather than being tossed out immediately,” says Trait.
There’s no shortage of eco-friendly décor so go the extra green mile and select décor that can be reused by yourself or donated. “As an event designer when I am sourcing decor I always think of what happens to the item after the event. Can the vases be reused by my guests, the florist or recycled?” says Trait.
Connect with local artisans and use locally made products such as vases, signage, linens, etc. “Not only will you have unique products, you will be supporting local artists, artisans and your community,” she says.
DIY is always an earth-friendly option, provided that you have the time. “There are a lot of eco fabrics out there if you want to invest in making your own linens. Keep them as keepsakes when you are done with the wedding or donate them to a local charity or school.”
When shopping for your photographer, keep an eye out for certifications. “They can be certified through Greener Photography, their local green business office or have a Green Mission Statement. If you are working with a green wedding planner, they can also often refer you to the right professionals,” says Locally Grown Weddings’ eco-photographer, Aurora Meneghello. Before booking, ask if their lab is local and green. “Some photographers have their wedding albums printed far away, with no regards to the environment,” explains Meneghello. “Choose a photographer who uses a green-certified green lab, which prints albums using materials that are animal-friendly and nontoxic.”
Once you and your spouse have settled into newlywed life, review your images online and refrain from ordering each and every one, purchasing only those that you’ll want to display. “Receiving hundreds of prints just to look through the images can result in unnecessary waste.” When it’s time to print the selects, ask your photographer if they offer fine art prints printed on cotton rag museum quality paper, or other paper that has been manufactured with as little possible impact on trees and forests.
Photo: Aurora Meneghello