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How To Plan A Green Wedding

Updated on March 21, 2011

Wedding customs come and go. In Edith Wharton's book The Age of Innocence, the former May Welland wears her wedding dress (light blue with Empire waist) to many events in the year following her wedding - including the necessary wearing of the dress to the first public event she attends as Mrs. Archer, in this case the opera. The newly married woman in 1870 would never have relegated her dress to a box hidden in an attic; she had to re-wear it in society. This lovely custom has passed away unfortunately, and today the generally lavish white gown charms for one day and then disappears. Sometimes it goes to a box; sometimes it goes back to a rental house. How pleasing the latter fate is, the idea of the dress marrying many brides in a chain of ongoing style and chic, passing on to the next woman a sense of happy beginnings.

Happy beginnings need not be elusive in the search for a greener wedding. Perhaps the most important question in planning any wedding is: Can my wedding reflect the way I live? The answer is actually quite simple: Yes.

The following list offers stylish choices along the lines of "less is more" for your celebration.

The Dress

For many people, this is arguably the center of the wedding - after the bride and groom themselves! The contemporary fashion dilemma of an incredible array of choices is a boon for the bride. Exquisite antique dresses await the retro-loving bride who appreciates bugle beads and lavish detail. Modern designers are crafting gorgeous dresses in hemp and paper and other non-silk (if you're worried about the labor of silk worms) fabrics. If you want a very low-impact dress, you can rent a gown or borrow one. You can also buy used wedding dresses online (try an Ebay search) or at a local shop. Either way you'd have a quarter of that old saying taken care of.

The Groom's Attire

The tuxedo - now this is a sustainable garment. You need to buy only one in your adult life (especially if you have a good tailor) or you can rent one as the situation warrants.


Many tree-free papers are the prettiest choices for invitations, from papers embedded with delicate flowers to handmade hemp papers. Consider using soy inks. If you're having a high-tech wedding, you can send email invitations, though one imagines Ms. Netiquette would shudder at the idea.

Location of Ceremony and Reception

Having the ceremony performed at the same location where you'll host the reception (or within walking distance) is a good way to manage a number of resources. Less driving for your guests saves gasoline. Your guests also might enjoy eating sooner.

What to Throw at the Happy Couple

Birdseed makes a great animal-friendly choice for the first toast of the wedding day.


Good caterers are famous for good manners. This often involves hiding any sign of struggle from the hosts and guests, frequently resulting in quick clean-ups. Translation: throwing everything away, rather than recycling lots of things that could have second uses. (I've seen barely sampled tins of caviar tossed in the trash - what a waste!). Extra food can go to a food bank after the party.

Caterers often have strong relationships with food suppliers; ask if organic food is on the menu. Organic food tastes fabulous, and bought from local farmers, can reduce energy use associated with shipping food long distances.

What to rent: You can rent everything you need for the reception, ensuring reuse. Cloth napkins rather than paper ones serve two purposes: they are elegant and reusable.


I think disposable cameras are pretty neat in theory but pretty wasteful in practice. Perhaps your friends can lend some inexpensive cameras for the day, or renting a few cameras is always an option. A good wedding photographer can certainly preserve the moment for you (the old-fashioned way).


You can always answer the question, “Where are you registered?” by suggesting that you'd rather not receive any wedding presents. Diana Vreeland, grande dame of fashionistas, famously said, “Elegance is refusal,” to the idea of "more is more." Or, if indeed you are registering for gifts, think about one of the many shopping portals on the web that give a percentage of a purchase to an environmental cause. Also, asking your guests to make a donation to your favorite charity on your behalf seems a quite elegant compromise.

Gifts for the Wedding Party and Favors for the Guests

Plantable trees will remind your attendants and groomsmen of your wedding for a long time. You can also find superb handmade cards with seeds in the paper that will make great thank you notes. Donations to your guests' favorite causes can make very good presents.


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    • Simply Redd profile image

      Simply Redd 7 years ago from Canada

      Thanks! :)

    • TheWeddingSecret profile image

      TheWeddingSecret 7 years ago from Bath, UK

      loved this post!