There's a lot to consider when planning your wedding: the guest list, the catering, the flowers, whether you've chosen the right person to meet you at the altar — no, not that last one.
But today's couples are faced with yet another choice: how to minimize the damage to the planet that can be caused by a big gathering.
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 decor.
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, 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 Brilliant Earth or Cred Jewellery.
Next, choose the setting for the wedding and/or reception with the environment in mind, bearing in mind that a gathering of several people will have more impact than the usual small parties you may have hosted in the past. You may want to hold the reception in a hall 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 everyone's "carbon footprint." 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, by offering "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 New York is about $5; you can buy an offset gift card for $10 to offset that guest's flight.
You can find out more about offsets, and use a handy "weddings" carbon calculator, at carbonfund.org Giving these offsets in the favor bag will also raise everyone's awareness of this great system. To make the most of this idea, make sure you substitute the offset for some bauble that the guest probably won't use, which is wrapped in a lot of unnecessary packaging.
Speaking of which, carefully consider how much packaging is necessary in the favor bags. Rather than providing individually-wrapped soaps, for example, buy in bulk and don't wrap each trinket. Use recycled 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. We particularly like the environmentally friendly dresses from Olivia Luca. MyCorset.com even has a line of green wedding dresses and corsets.
Choose local flowers. Many commercially grown flowers are loaded with pesticides. One national distributor is www.organicbouquet.com.
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.
NYIAD Top Tip
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.
You can also learn about all things to do with planning a wedding by earning NYIAD's weddng planning certification.