12 Ways to Green Your Wedding

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Weddings are big business. According to a survey by wedding website TheKnot.com, the average cost of a wedding in 2012 was $28,427 (the median was closer to a much less excessive $18,000). When you mix big business with a lot of stress, complex logistics and stratospheric family expectations, the result can produce a mini environmental disaster.

How can couples enjoy their special day, make a lifelong memory, and still be environmentally conscious? The answer lies in planning. With a firm commitment and a few simple tweaks to tradition, it’s entirely possible to add some green to your wedding colors. Here’s how:

1. Keep it small

The longer the guest list, the bigger the wedding’s environmental impact (think travel costs, food, lodging, venue size, etc.). Though we may be tempted to invite nearly everyone we know, keeping the celebration small and intimate is perhaps the single easiest and most powerful way to go green.

2. Say “yes” to the (rented) dress

It might sound like a sacrilege to some, but renting a wedding dress and other wedding party formalwear ticks every “R” in the green movement’s mantra of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Explore options to rent a dress and tux or try borrowing a parent’s or in-law’s formalwear as a nod to history and simplicity.

3. Tie the knot close to home

Hosting your wedding locally can help reduce spending on travel, lodging and other energy-intensive resources. Plus, weddings that are nearby or at least centrally located typically enjoy better attendance rates. Consider conducting the ceremony at your home or at your parent’s home. That will reduce venue expenses and create lasting memories right in your own backyard.

4. Stay put for the ceremony and reception

Hold your wedding ceremony and reception event in the same location. Requiring guests to shuttle between two locations just tires them out and wastes time and fuel. Choose a venue that’s large and flexible enough to accommodate your wedding and after-party. For logistical simplicity, just move from one room to another or designate different areas within a single large hall for the ceremony, receiving line, dining and dancing.

5. Choose local vendors whenever possible

Tapping local vendors for everything from flowers to catering supports your community and minimizes time and fuel expenditures. Also, vendors in your local community may be more easily accessible if there’s a last-minute change of plans or logistical issue.

6. Email your save-the-date notices

Save a few trees by emailing your save-the-date announcements. The delivery is cleaner and faster, and there’s no paper and no postage costs.

7. Ask guests to RSVP online

Going green often means saving some green too. Skip the snail mail and ask your guests to RSVP online. It’s easy to create a quick landing page for that specific purpose or to use an online invitation service that includes an RSVP management functionality like Punchbowl.com. If your guest list includes folks who aren’t online, include a brief note with a phone number that will allow them to RSVP via alternate means.

8. Register for quality

Carefully select the items you add to your wedding gift registry and gravitate toward high-quality items with timeless designs. Household items that are well-made, well-designed and versatile tend to require less maintenance, can last for decades, and can be handed down from generation to generation.

9. Register for giving

Some truly altruistic couples choose to forgo wedding gifts altogether and instead encourage their guests to make a charitable donation. Skipping material gift-giving minimizes waste from wrapping, packaging and shipping. Ask guests to contribute to an organization that’s focused on ecological, educational, medical or social concerns.

10. Get creative with secondhand centerpieces

Channel your inner artist, save a buck or two, and help the planet at the same time. Centerpieces and other decorations can be made from thrift store finds. Scour your local secondhand stores for vases, vintage flower pots and ribbon that can be recycled as part of your centerpiece arrangements. Collect tiny picture frames to use as place cards or “reserved” signs on tabletops. To maintain a unified look with eclectic items, focus your buys on one era, a single material, or a complementary color palette.

11. Just say “no” to disposable

The only things that should endure decades after your wedding are love and memories — not plastic plates and polystyrene cups. Companies that spurn disposable serving platters, napkins, place settings or flatware are swimming against the tide. Reward them with your business. Disposable may be cheaper and more convenient, but it’s a black eye for the environment.

12. Plan an in-season “locovore” menu

Planning ahead and choosing a dinner menu that’s seasonally appropriate and local helps reduce your wedding’s carbon footprint. Food that’s in-season requires less energy to produce, and local options require less packaging, refrigeration and shipping. Choosing local food options also celebrates where you’re from and supports your area’s community of growers.

Though not every suggestion presented here will resonate with all couples, the theme may inspire a few green changes in your wedding plans. As people across the globe realize the impact that small and not-so-small activities have on our planet, more traditions are being reconsidered and creatively reinterpreted with earth-friendly ideas. So, if you’ll be strolling down the aisle soon, take a moment to consider how you can do it with a lighter carbon footprint.

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