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Less Harm, More Meaning

Updated on September 8, 2013
Weddings don't have to be wasteful;
Weddings don't have to be wasteful;

One of the most important and memorable days in one's life is a wedding celebration.

And in the U.S. alone, recent statistics compiled by, show that the average event, excluding the honeymoon, runs about $21,000-$24,000. Much of that is allocated for two major areas: food and flowers.

Besides the expense, the truth is that all of this is fleeting--the flowers will die, and food gets eaten, much of which ends up in landfills.

However, more engaged couples are choosing to be green and save green by applying their earth-honoring values to Big Day festivities. Not only you and the wedding party, but the guests can also support your ethical commitments

Kate Harrison, author of The Green Bride Guide, states: "By making your day not just about the two of you, but about your future, and your relationship[to the greater world, you add a level of meaning to your wedding that is very moving."

As you work out the details of these categories, think three words as guidepost: local, seasonal, and organic. Keeping this in mind makes a connection toward more eco-friendly practices.

What's On the Menu?

For starters, your reception is the centerpiece for your guests and you'll want to present an unforgettable meal that's sustainable and satisfying. That means probably replacing fancy high-end entrees for something more conscious. Rather than the traditional meat and two sides, why not opt for putting veggies as the center-of-plate, and putting meats on the side. Gregory Griffe, executive chef at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel, encourages moving vegetable o entree level.

If you decide to have meats, bypass red meat altogether, and stick with poultry raised in a humane manner, free of hormones, and other chemicals. If you do consider seafood, refer to the Seafood Watch guide that lists three key segments: Best Choices, Proceed with Caution, and Avoid. Follow these guidelines in selections, going with domestic varieties instead of imported ones.

To cut back on waste, opt for a plated meal rather than a buffet as portions are handled by the servers, keeping gastronomic overload at a minimum.

Schedule a food tasting with your caterer that will be in season at the time of your wedding.

Go ahead, and be a "locavore," by choosing items and ingredients grown or produced close to home. Buying local supports area farmers, as well as a respect for the planet. Consider buying fresh fruits and vegetables from a local famers' market, or making sure the caterer uses locally-produced food.

Moreover, using foods in season are yet another kudo to the sustainable table. For example strawberries in June, or apples in October are first-rate choices that will be at peak freshness, making they're affordable, and more nutritious.

Most caterers are willing to work with you in achieving your aims, so feel free to inquire about their approach to sustainable menu planning, and using local provisions.

Conscious Catering

Marcia Kozin, in her book, Organic Weddings: Balancing Ecology, Style, and Tradition, has a list of questions to ask a potential caterer, including:

  • Is the water served bottled or tap?
  • Do you donate leftovers to a local shelter or food bank?
  • Do you serve fair trade/organic coffee and tea?

What's more, the cake of your dreams can be based on natural or organic ingredients. "Greening" your cake doesn't equal lackluster taste.

Favorite flavors often found in conventional cakes are available as vegan, gluten-free, or dairy-free versions, and are just as rich and luscious as traditional counterparts. In fact, a growing number of standard bakers are willing to purchase organic/natural ingredients, such as sugar, butter, and eggs as they expand menu offerings. The cost usually runs slightly higher per serving, due to the natural-based elements, but it's worth the investment

Even beverages can fall under an organic umbrella. Organic wines and spirits are pesticide, and other "-cide" free, making them healthier to consume. The number of vintages is on the increase, making this a popular tend. Do an organic wine bar, or try organic vodkas like Square One and Tru. An important resource/wine shop to check out is The Organic Wine Company. Pair that with a sparkling mineral water/organic juice bar instead of sugary soft drinks.

If possible, find out if the caterer utilizes reusable utensils, and other tableware, along with recycling the cans, bottles, and plastics. At the end of the reception, donate any leftovers to food banks or organizations that will welcome your contribution.

Eco-friendly tablescape
Eco-friendly tablescape


There are endless choices in being eco-friendly when it comes to the wedding décor. You are not bound to disposable, over-the-top, budget busting decorations. Be confident bout expressing yourself wit decorations that are easy on the planet, and still be memorable,

Eco-themed inspiration board
Eco-themed inspiration board | Source

Blooms in Balance

FLORAL Equally important in being environmentally aware are the flowers you'll use--from bouquet to reception decor.

To create you total floral-scape, ask yourself:

  • What mood and/or theme does the ceremony convey?
  • Is it an outdoor or indoor venue?

Remember, every flower that is picked has impact on the planet. Hearing about 100,000 roses flown in from Holland, or exotic blooms coming from South America all for one day is a waste pf transportation fuel, and finances, only to be discarded later. Distance doesn't correspond to style, leaving a host of other options.

By thinking locally and seasonally, you can achieve what you want without sacrificing standards. Short of growing the flowers yourself (a hardy challenge!) look for seasonal and regional blossoms to incorporate into your bouquets. Flowers native to your state or region, or leaves, twigs, and wildflowers can create unique, yet eco-chic arrangements.

At the reception, you might even use any bouquets not intenede for keeping as decoration. Place them in wtaer-filled vases, and you have a nice touch or the sweetheart table, or head table.

Another option is to used potted plants as embellishments, which could also double as reception decorations, with smaller ones as simple, living centerpieces for the tables. Moreover, the guests can take them home after everything is over. As a matter of fact, all leftover flowers or plants can also be donated, like the food, to other organizations, such as hospitals, or senior citizen homes.

Ask the florist or chosen nursery which flowers are in season when you marry, so you'll know what works works at that time. Also inquire about if they make use of locally-grown materials. An online source of organic flowers and arrangements is Organic Bouquet, which supplies an excellent overview of why chemically intensive flowers add to the carbon footprint.

Foregoing live flowers altogether, another choice can be using silk or fabric flower bouquets, which can be re-purposed, if desired.

Just because you embrace eco-consciousness does not mean abandoning your values as you say your vows. Underneath that gorgeous dress of white beats a heart of "green" for the beauty of the Earth.

Do Yourself A Green Favor

Skip all that throw-away stuff like the cutesy boxes, mints, etc., and choose something that will be a lasting memory of your nuptials.

Mini-pots of succulents for guests to take symbolizing the growth of the couple's new life together.
Mini-pots of succulents for guests to take symbolizing the growth of the couple's new life together.

More Ideas

Watch the video to see areas where you can lesson your footprint and live more in harmony with your eco-values:


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    • Gloria Green profile image

      Gloria Green 7 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Thanks so much. Getting married is more than a dress and a cake!.....

    • profile image

      Estelle 7 years ago

      This is awesome, timely, good and simple information for brides desiring a meaningful wedding experience. Good Stuff!