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How to Have a Green Wedding: A Step-by-Step Guide

by Student Loan Daddy

It’s summer wedding season, and the carbon-conscious craze has officially spread to the $70 million–a-year wedding industry, with bridal parties across the world making an effort to go green with their weddings.

If you’re marrying your college sweetheart right out of school, when you’ve still got student loans to pay off, make sure you’re ready for even more debt: The average wedding costs $25,000.

But if done right, a green wedding can bring both that price tag and your carbon footprint down to scale.

You could hire a green wedding planner, or save the expense and do it yourself with this step-by-step planning guide, packed with easy-to-follow green wedding tips.

Save money and paper by sending well-crafted e-mail invites. Create your own digital design, and send your invites as PDFs. Or try Evites.com, which offers wedding invitation templates and an easy-to-use system for sending your e-vites and tracking your RSVPs.

If you’re committed to the idea of sending traditional invitations, keep in mind that the more people you invite, the larger the ecological footprint you create. To minimize the environmental impact of your invites, look for recycled, handmade, or tree-free paper at sites like Seal and Send and Twisted Limb Paperworks; avoid metallic and plastic-coated papers, which can’t be recycled; and seek out local printers that use soy or vegetable inks.

For DIY paper-invite jobs, print your invitations with remanufactured toner cartridges, and consider sending postcards for your RSVPs instead of note cards with envelopes to reduce your paper usage and postage costs.

Invitations

Save money and paper by sending well-crafted e-mail invites. Create your own digital design, and send your invites as PDFs. Or try Evites.com, which offers wedding invitation templates and an easy-to-use system for sending your e-vites and tracking your RSVPs.

If you’re committed to the idea of sending traditional invitations, keep in mind that the more people you invite, the larger the ecological footprint you create. To minimize the environmental impact of your invites, look for recycled, handmade, or tree-free paper at sites like Seal and Send and Twisted Limb Paperworks; avoid metallic and plastic-coated papers, which can’t be recycled; and seek out local printers that use soy or vegetable inks.

For DIY paper-invite jobs, print your invitations with remanufactured toner cartridges, and consider sending postcards for your RSVPs instead of note cards with envelopes to reduce your paper usage and postage costs.

Locations and Transportation

or go even darker green by researching local farms where your rehearsal and reception meals can be homegrown and dinner scraps can be composted or fed to the farm animals as a way of giving back to the establishment. For other potential locations, make sure to ask whether they can make green accommodations for your event.

Consider holding your ceremony and reception at the same site to cut down on the carbon emissions created by travel. Search for environmentally friendly luxury car services, or rent or borrow a hybrid car for any transportation you’re arranging.

For your honeymoon, why not stay local to cut down on both expenses and carbon emissions?

Or to satisfy your itch to get away, stay earth-friendly by planning a non-local honeymoon with an eye toward ecotourism and sustainable travel. Make your time away together as a new couple even more memorable by having your honeymoon double as a volunteer service vacation.

Jewelry and Wedding Rings

Opting for family heirlooms instead of pricey new trinkets, besides saving you money, can make your day that much more meaningful.

For wedding rings, avoid contributing to the blood-diamond trade industry by seeking out conscientious jewelers. Several companies now offer ethically mined gems for your wedding rings. Try greenKaratBrilliant EarthCred Jewellery, or Leber Jeweler Inc, and check out the Amnesty International buyers guide to “conflict-free” diamonds.

Or go for something completely different with a wooden band, a plain band made out of recycled gold, or a band trimmed with lab-created diamonds.


Party Favors and Gifts

Make your party favors eco-friendly with gifts like organic chocolates, re-usable cloth tote bags, or small plants.

Nix the traditional rice or confetti, which can be harmful to curious birds and detrimental to the environment. For a fun and responsible tossing alternative, try Ecoparti’s biodegradable and water-soluble Ecofetti.

Instead of having your friends and family contribute to consumerism and their carbon footprint by buying you wedding gifts, ask them to donate to a charity of your choice. The I Do Foundation allows you to create an online charity registry for your wedding.

Wedding Attire

Green brides and grooms are turning to organic fibers for their clothing selections, with fashion designers like Deborah Lindquist and René Geneva catering to the eco-conscious demand and debuting bridal lines made from hemp, organic silks, bamboo, and organic dyes.

Make it easier on your bridesmaids and on the planet by choosing a standard color and having your entire wedding party wear their own clothes instead of incurring the dollar and carbon cost of buying new and one-time-use custom outfits.

Going vintage has been a growing trend for weddings in general — both green and otherwise — and gives you a great way to incorporate recycling into your event. Keep the recycling chain going by donating your dress to charity when you’re done.


Photography

A growing number of photographers are offering eco-friendly options in their wedding packages. Ask your photographers to consider recycling their packaging and going paperless for prints that can put a strain on your wallet and on the environment. Or look into those print shops that have begun to use earth-safe film development techniques.

To go for a truly cost-conscious budget and low environmental impact, ask your friends and family to take their own pictures and then post them on sites like Flickr and Snapfish for an online wedding album that everyone can share. Steer away from providing your guests with one-use cameras, which is wasteful.

Flowers and Decorations

You can order organic floral arrangements from companies like A Thousand Petals and Organic Bouquet. If you’re using conventional florists, see if they can use recycled paper and cardboard when making your floral arrangements, and ask them to avoid floral foam and leaf shine, which don’t biodegrade easily.

Re-use the floral arrangements from your ceremony at your reception, and donate your flowers afterward to funeral homes, retirement homes, or hospitals. If you hold your reception at a farming location, you can allow your hosts to compost any of your green waste.

Food and Drink

Plan on an all-organic or, if possible, locally grown menu. A green menu can be a little pricey when you hire a Phoenix catering company, but if your location has homegrown food onsite, bypass the caterers, and you could actually end up saving money over a nonspecialized catered menu.

Serve fair-trade coffee, organic wines, sodas, and teas, and local microbrews for beer.

Get your hands on biodegradable earthware like wheat cutlery, if disposable is the route you want to go. For re-usable options, you can buy glassware made from recycled materials at The Green Glass Company.

Make sure to tell the story behind any local and sustainable food sources, and encourage your guests to seek out their own regional options for organically grown food. If most of your guests will be local, consider including as a party favor a list of your wedding food providers and other nearby farmers markets and sustainable food sources.

Donate leftover food to needy charities or local food banks.

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