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Green Design - Green Weddings

By Sarah Van Arsdale on May 10, 2010

If you think that in order for a wedding to have a low carbon footprint the bride has to be wearing a potato-sack dress and the honeymoon has to be spent at a campsite, think again.

What couples are finding is that they can have a green wedding without sacrificing style or elegance. Going green doesn't mean the bride will wear Birkenstocks and the cake will be an inedible mound of sugarless wheat flour.

In fact, a green wedding is often even more elegant, because the materials used are clean and natural, and there's a minimum of fussiness in the décor. Today, taking care of the planet can be stylishly woven into your celebration of your partnership, whether it's a traditional wedding or a commitment ceremony, whether it's a small gathering or you've invited every Facebook friend you've ever made, whether it's opposite or same-sex...well, you get the idea. Green weddings are gaining in popularity in every type of ceremony.

There are many simple ways to "green" your wedding, starting with the proposal itself — or, more accurately, with the ring. Green planners advise choosing an antique ring, and then, if you want, having the setting updated. This has less impact on the environment than buying a new ring, and there is no chance of exploiting diamond mine workers in the process.

If you still want a new diamond, there are several places that specialize in providing diamonds that don't involve the human rights and environmental abuses that have historically weighed down the diamond trade. Try


Now that you've got the setting for the ring set, you need to find the setting for the ceremony and/or reception — and of course you want to do this with the environment in mind, remembering that a gathering of several people will have more impact than the usual small parties you may have hosted in the past. One great way to acknowledge your own good fortune is by holding the event in a hall or venue that's run by a charitable organization, so that the rental money goes to a cause you support.

Also consider travel distance for most of the guests. Holding your wedding in an exotic locale may sound like fun, but would mean a long flight for many people, increasing not only everyone's expense and stress, but also everyone's "carbon footprint." If you feel strongly about having a low-impact wedding, hold it as close to home as you can, or close to where most of the guests are. If you have guests who will be driving long distances, set up a way of putting them in touch with other, so they can share a car together.

If you do have guests traveling to the wedding, you can green up in two ways at once, "carbon offsets."

First, to (over) simplify: the more carbon dioxide emitted, the more the climate is changing. Each person in the US emits about 120 pounds a year, while the national average is more like 22 pounds a year. We emit so much through using electrical things like computers and televisions, and by driving and flying.

A "carbon offset" is a way of paying back for that, such as by paying for the planting of trees in Kenya or by financially supporting alternative energy sources.

It's easy to do. You directly pay one of the green organizations that coordinate these things, and they pool the money and see that it goes to the right place.

So, the way you can green up the wedding is by giving a carbon offset in the favor bag for each guest. For example, the offset cost of a one-way trip from Los Angeles to Boston is about $10; you can buy an offset gift card to offset that guest's flight.

You can find out more about offsets, and use a handy "weddings" carbon calculator, at Giving these offsets in the favor bag will also raise everyone's awareness of this system. To make the most of this idea, don't just add the offset certificate to the other things in the gift bag — instead, substitute the offset for some bauble that the guest probably won't use.

Lavender Rice

Speaking of which, carefully consider what you want in those favor bags. A little imagination and research will find makers of eco-friendly wedding favors, from organic soaps to seed packets. We like the favors at, which also has alternatives to the traditional rice thrown at the couple.

In making the gift bags, think also about how much packaging is necessary. You'll save yourself money and time by not wrapping each item, and the bag will have a fresher look. Rather than providing individually-wrapped soaps, for example, buy in bulk. Use recycled tissue paper or cloth for any wrapping you do feel is necessary.

There is also a lot you can do to make the wedding itself green:

— choose a dress and attendants’ dresses made of natural fabrics, with a low impact on the environment.

Get Conscious

— Choose local flowers. Many commercially grown flowers are loaded with pesticides. One national distributor is

Organic bouquet

— Choose local, organically grown food to serve. Ask the reception venue if they'll use local, organic food for your reception, and if not, ask if you can have it catered by someone who will.

— Make anything out of paper, from invitations to place cards, from recycled paper.

— Think carefully about your wish list for the wedding gifts. It may be tempting to check off everything from another punch bowl to a fondue set, but why create more waste? Instead, you can ask for a donation made in your names to an organization you and guests support. Or if you want to be green but don't want to push the altruism thing, ask for donations for a big-ticket item you really do want. Ultimately, you'll appreciate that double-seater kayak or that living room suite much more than another serving platter.

— Finally, when choosing your honeymoon location, consider an eco tour, and remember to buy a travel offset.

With greening of the wedding, the love between you and your betrothed can be a force for good, even before you take your vows.

Want to learn more? NYIAD can teach you at our premier wedding planner school today!

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