As couples become more eco-conscious, the bride may wear white, but everything else about the wedding is green. According to Mireya Navarro, author of the book Green Wedding, there’s a growing trend toward incorporating eco-friendly elements into nuptial celebrations, encompassing everything from locations and food to invitations, flowers, favors and wedding attire.
“This is very new for a lot of people. And it’s teaching a lot to those who’ve never had organic beer or who thought a green wedding had to be hippy-dippy,” says Navarro, who includes elegant high-end green affairs alongside a rustic park, a farm, and a rugged camping wedding in her beautifully photographed, resource-rich book.
Having married in 2005 in her native Puerto Rico with a second party in Los Angeles so local friends wouldn’t have to travel, “not because I was thinking green but for saving money,” Navarro first wrote about the trend for the New York Times in February 2007. Approached by an agent who read the story, she had a book deal by summer and spent 15 months researching, interviewing couples and writing while working for the Times in L.A. (She has since transferred to New York.) Over lunch in Los Angeles, she shared with me her top tips for eco-friendly brides and grooms.
“I think the most important thing is the venue because it will determine how many guests are going to be on a plane or in a car traveling to get there,” begins Navarro. “In terms of overall impact, greenhouse gases have two major sources: transportation and electricity, so that’s where you want to focus.”
Parks and farms are ideal. “The advantage of those natural settings is that it really saves on flowers and decorations. You have your bouquet and centerpieces but they don’t have to be flowers. I’ve seen tall crystal vases with oranges and artichokes, or red and green apples. It looks gorgeous and people can take them home and eat them.” But make sure to consider the post-party cleanup. “You have to make sure everything’s disposed of properly. It doesn’t matter if it’s compostable if it goes in the trash,” she notes. If you must have a destination wedding, “Downsize the guest list to the bare minimum and pay for offsets for the travel. There are calculators online that can tell you how to do it.” Some couples who opt to do that set up a webcast so that friends and family can watch the ceremony. It’s also a useful tool for invitees who can’t travel for one reason or another.
A vegan or vegetarian menu based on locally grown produce is greenest. “You don’t have to pay the markup for organic, and you avoid the emissions of shipping and transportation,” notes Navarro. If you don’t live in a warm climate, having a spring or summer wedding makes that easier.
“Avoid beef,” she advises. If you must have meat, go with free-range chicken or wild caught fish. “Find a caterer who uses local stuff. You can find a baker who uses organic ingredients for the cake, but people are also going with cupcakes and pies.” There are also many organic sprits, coffees and teas to choose from.
The wedding gown
Designers like Linda Loudermilk
and Project Runway
winner Leanne Marshall
make luxurious dresses from organic fabrics. But brides are conserving and saving cash by renting, borrowing or buying secondhand dresses. One Green Wedding
bride bought hers on eBay after making sure the seller wasn’t divorcing -- she was reassured that the couple merely needed the closet space for a new baby, so the karma was good. “There’s a whole post-wedding industry” online, says Navarro -- brides can find tiaras, veils and shoes too, and resell them afterward. Other brides donate gowns to charity or repurpose them. One turned hers into a crib blanket for her baby. As for bridesmaid dresses, “It should be something they can wear again, if not something they already own,” Navarro advises.
Navarro tells of one bride who collected glass containers from the recycling bins in her neighborhood to use as centerpieces. “People do paper flowers. You can get creative.” If you crave the real thing, look for blooms certified by Veraflora. “Trader Joe’s and other stores have them, and they’re not that much more expensive,” Navarro says.
According to Navarro (pictured right), more brides are requesting conflict-free diamonds. Others opt for family heirlooms or look for estate sale or pawnshop jewels instead of new ones.
Digital photography allows you to pick and print only the images you need. Photo albums made from recycled materials are available.
While e-mailed “Save the date” notices and wedding websites are fine, etiquette experts maintain that invitations and thank-you notes should be mailed. Fortunately, these are available in materials made from post-consumer waste. “Sometimes they’re seeded so you can plant them,” says Navarro.
These are optional, and many couples want to avoid paper waste and avoid giving something their guests don’t need. Navarro suggests going the edible route. “Organic chocolates are very popular.” So are philanthropic favors, donating to a cause like the World Wildlife Fund
in the guest’s name. The camping wedding couple gave guests a kit to use on the trip. Navarro attended an outdoor wedding where the couple thoughtfully provided a big basket of flip-flops for women to change into. They were a big hit. “Everyone stayed overnight and at brunch the next day you could tell who was at the wedding by the flip-flops.”
The gift registry
Couples who want to minimize rather than accumulate are opting for alternative registries, asking guests to donate to favorite causes or help pay for the honeymoon. “A couple in the book had a baby registry because they were about to adopt,” says Navarro. Many retailers have green lines, including Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel, but be mindful of the packaging -- consider recycled, recyclable materials. Navarro is all for the idea of re-gifting, which is inherently green, but tread carefully if you do it “so the gift can’t be traced to you.” Of course, the ultimate green wedding gift is money.
“Some people go by rail or they may go overseas but they do a biking trip,” notes Navarro. “Flying is very hard to incorporate into a climate-friendly lifestyle, but it is a fact of life and I’m not going to tell people not to visit other countries and experience other cultures. So pick the place you want and be a good traveler. Offset the trip and once you’re there support local businesses. Go bike riding and hiking instead of jet skiing.” Or, she suggests, “You can combine sightseeing with volunteering, as one couple did at an orphanage in Thailand, or choose an area that is working to conserve natural resources.”
Whether a couple decides to marry slightly or completely green, it shouldn’t mean sacrificing elements they really want. “Do not compromise on things that would ruin the wedding for you. If you want a band, have it. The energy drawn from amplifiers is not that huge. If you avoid most guests flying to your wedding you’ve done much more to reduce your carbon output,” Navarro points out. “The wedding is just one party,” she reminds. “What’s important is that you have a green lifestyle after the wedding.”
Want more? Watch our video series “The Green Party” which is doing all-wedding themed episodes now:
• Video: Plan an eco-bachelorette party
• Video: Eco-wedding dress roundup
• Video: Green wedding stationary
• Video: Green invitations