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Planning a Green, Politically and Socially Conscientious Wedding

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Something wonderful has happened to the consciousness of today's brides and grooms and, with that, changes in the ways many brides and grooms plan their weddings. Those who have a special feeling about preserving the environment look for ways to carry that feeling into the details of their weddings. Believe it or not, there are many ways to celebrate a wedding without doing it at the expense of our planet. The suggestions which follow can be expanded through the use of imagination and creativity.

Engagement and Wedding Rings
Couples may wish to look for a setting and fittings that are entirely made of recycled gold, or white gold alloys. That will help reduce the need for mining. Another green option id to melt down a piece of jewelry that the prospective bride, or groom already has, or they can use an "heirloom" setting that a jeweler can refit. Couples may wish to tap into the "No Dirty Gold" campaign which focuses on concerns about the jewelry trade's impact on human rights and the environment. There are nineteen member jewelers on GreenKarat.com is an online company that specializes in politically correct jewelry and attempts to spread awareness of the issues in the industry.

You may also consider reusing the diamonds you already own. That will serve a double purpose. It will "eliminate" the potential ecological impact caused to produce a new gem and, as a bonus, it will save you money. Using a synthetic diamond, Zircon, CZ, white topaz, or quartz "lookalike" is yet another "green" choice.

Invitations
Most wedding invitation suppliers and printers have a variety of recycled and handmade papers available. These can provide elegant alternatives to traditional wedding invitations. The use of such papers may be expanded to wedding programs, menu cards, place cards, and other paper party goods. The creative bride might even consider using one of the paper-making kits on the market to make her own paper materials for her wedding.

One truly unique product is paper that recycles itself because it is "plantable." The paper is made with embedded wildflower seeds, which guests may plant at home in their gardens. The paper is not only environmentally friendly, but also an unusual wedding favor that keeps on giving. Soy-based inks are bad for the environment, as is the carrier of the ink in the manufacturing process. They are many non-pc chemicals used.

"Celebrations Naturally Ever After" produces a catalog that offers Greenseal certified (30% post-consumer recycled) paper made, for example out of computer scrap paper. Some printers are already using recycled rag to make ivory or white paper.

Finally, you may wish to consider "saving some trees" by sending out invitations without response cards and envelopes and asking people to respond by phone, or E-mail. Many couples have already made use of communicating via the Internet, when they design a web site that includes details of the wedding. This is preferable to sending out the same information on paper.
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  • Consider using paper that is processed chlorine-free and printed with vegetable or soy-based inks. There is also tree-free paper made out of hemp, banana stalks, bamboo, kenaf or organic cotton.
  • Hire a calligrapher to address the envelopes in order to eliminates printing waste.
  • It may be tacky, but you may wish to consider E-mail to send out your save-the-date reminders.

    Reception Venue
    More and more venues, particularly ones that have been built, or renovated recently, are adhering to eco-friendly guidelines. In either new construction, or renovations, such venues use green building techniques such as large windows, skylights, clerestory windows and solar tubes that provide natural light, recycled doors and windows, wood that is harvested on-site, and an outdoor wood-fired oven. Photovoltaic panels on the roof, can provide hot water year round and radiant floor heat can keep guests toasty when the weather is cold. If buildings are clustered, the outlying property can remain "wild." and undisturbed, while a "living roof" covered with grass and wildflowers, provides natural insulation while helping the building blend into the landscape. Composting toilets and in a rustic venue, a common bathhouse for showers can also be featured.

    Wedding Attire
    Wearing an heirloom or borrowed gown is very much in vogue, in keeping with the "green wedding" and a good way to save money. If the bride has her heart set on buying new clothing for herself and her attendants, then it would behoove her to make sure that what she buys is of good quality and will have a "long life." Multi-functional attire is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than a gown that can be worn just once. The green-thinking bride may choose a wedding gown in a pastel shade, with a removable train that can be worn at other celebrations. She will be doing her attendants a real service (and saving them money) if the gowns she selects for them are not "typical wedding styles" and can be worn again or shortened and worn again).

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  • Consider a gown in an organic material such as hemp, or bamboo which are becoming popular and relatively easily available.
  • After the wedding is over, donate it to a charitable organization, a consigment shop, or offer it online for sale on web sites such as HudsonValleyWeddings.com.

    Cake Decorations
    Edible flowers are a way to express a connection with and respect for nature. They make beautiful decorations for cakes, adding an environmental twist. Any professional florist will be aware of the parameters for using edible flowers. As an educated consumer, here are several things of which to be aware. Only organically grown, unsprayed flowers should be used. Flowers growing roadside are unacceptable for use. Flowers should be picked on the day of the wedding and may be stored (except for chicory) on a plate in the refrigerator, with a little water.

    These are several flowers that can be used. The choice should depend on aesthetic preferences and, even what is more important, on taste and fragrance.
  • Chicory has pale lavender, daisy-like flowers with very fragile petals. They grow almost directly off the main stems. The entire stems may be picked a day before the wedding and stored in water. The flowers should be carefully removed from the main stem, just before they are put on the cake. Chicory flowers open midday. They have a spicy, somewhat bitter taste.
  • Lavender, even the unopened blooms may be used. The bud clusters look like purple-blue braid, and make an attractive edging or accent. They have a perfumed taste.
  • Nasturtium come in shades from cream to burgundy, the most common being orange and yellow. The flowers have a peppery taste.
  • Oregano grows in clusters of tiny pink flowers on burgundy stems.
  • Marjoram, is much like oregano except that the flowers are a paler pink. They have a spicy taste.
  • Pansies come in a wide spectrum of colors . . . purple and yellow, pink, dark rose and purple, to midnight blue. The petals are very delicate and should be spread out flat, rather than thrown together. They have a semi-sweet taste.
  • Roses, favorite of brides and florists come in a variety of colors. The buds may be used for a more traditional look. Roses attract aphids, so they must be checked well before use. They have a mildly sweet taste.

    Flowers
    Flowers are an area in which the parameters are easy to understand. Couples will need to search for a local florist who is committed to recycling . . . from the flowers and foliage they use, to the types of ribbon and flower receptacles they use. Where once such businesses were almost impossible to find, more and more florists are understanding and working toward meeting the needs of couples for whom "green" is important.

    If organically grown (no pesticides, or chemicals), in-season, local flowers are used, the need for long-distance transportation can be avoided. Out of season flowers, brought in from far away, contribute unnecessarily to pollution. Wildflowers, unless they are to be consumed, if left in the wild, can reseed for future generations.

    Potted plants can be used as centerpieces, with the understanding that using live plants can be replanted. As a bonus, your guests will have a "green" keepsake to take with them. Alternatively, the plants can be contributed to a nursing home, hospitals, or senior complex. Doing so is not only charitable, but also eco-friendly.

    Couples should also into any "Fair-trade" issues involved in the use of specific flowers. Flowers can be purchased from farms that follow sustainable farming parameters.

    Meeting an increasing demand, companies have begun to produce eco-friendly, recyclable, biodegradable materials in the containers that will hold the floral centerpiece. In the alternative, the florist, or the bride can look for and buy "old" receptacles, to add a vintage look to their floral decor. Couples can also use their flowers for double duty, thereby reducing the number of receptacles that will be used. Even floral foam and wire, made to be used once and thrown away, can be eliminated in a green arrangement.

    Even the type of bouquet that the bride selects can have an eco-friendly twist. If the florist is directed to clip the ends of the flowers, it will allow them to "breath," and keep them fresh longer than they would in a traditional bouquet.
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    At the end of the day, consider donating the flowers to a hospital, or nursing home facility.

    Decorations
    There are many manufacturers with lines of wedding decorations (for wedding receptions and ceremonies) which can be used and reused. Ribbons and bows made from fabric instead of paper can be collected and reused. Balloons, which have traditionally been a part of wedding festivities, are also on the warning list of environmentalists. When eaten by unsuspecting birds, balloons can wreak havoc on their intestinal tracts. It's best not to use these at all.

    If candles are being used for decoration, soy-based ones are preferable to "regular" candles which are made from petroleum-based wax. Soy candles are made from a renewable resource; they will burn cleaner and last longer.

    Couples can carry over the eco-friendly concept by rejecting products or activities that aren't eco-friendly and impact negatively on the environment. With a butterfly release, for example, the "green" bride can verify that the location of the release is a native environment for the butterflies, so no harm will befall them ecologically. Incidentally, pc couples are also looking for venues with solar lighting. Even recycled windows can be used effectively to decorate an outdoor wedding site.

    Party Favors
    There are any number of eco-friendly, harm-free party favors, with more and more on the market every day. To mention just a few, a bride might offer sachets made of pesticide-free herbs, live flowers, tree seedlings, or small packets of organic tea. There are brides who, in addition to a "charitable contribution registry," use the concept of donating to a cause in lieu of giving out party favors.

    Transportation
    Carpooling for guests, as well as for attendants, is an excellent way to work toward reducing air pollution. Guests will feel pampered and get to the wedding more quickly and more relaxed. The concept of transportation sharing is especially helpful when dealing with out-of-town guests many of who may not have cars and many who may be unfamiliar with travel directions. Using local guests to double up with your out-of-town guests is another way to make transportation environmentally friendly. Guests, no doubt, will be eager to help in any way to lighten your load and make your wedding day more manageable.

    Air pollution can be decreased along with transportation expenses if the reception and the ceremony are held at the same location, or within walking distance of one another.

    Dinnerware and Glassware
    Renting dinnerware, flatware and glasses is a good alternative to using paper products, which are not reusable. It's often less expensive to rent than to buy. Wine glasses or champagne flutes that are engraved to personalize them, make wonderful wedding favors. A short quote about love, as an alternative to names and wedding date, makes a more thoughtful gift, one that is more likely to be kept and used.

    In this same vein, try to avoid all other disposable and non-reusable items such as single-use cameras, plastic wedding cake toppers and ornaments, throwaway wedding favors and table decorations that can neither be reused or given as gifts. All-cotton tablecloths can be laundered and reused, as opposed to paper that needs to be trashed.

    Food and Drink
    Typically, there is lots of food leftover at the end of a wedding. Caterers are prepared to wrap leftovers for the family to take home. If, for whatever reason, that's not feasible, most caterers will be happy to have leftover food donated to a local charity, homeless shelter, or civic organization. Some liquor stores allow returns of unopened bottles. At the couple's request, any caterer will make sure that there is a place to hold recyclable glass and cans so they can be properly disposed of after the party. Your caterer can be asked to use biodegradable trash bags, potato, or sugar cane cutlery (rather than plastic), biodegradable plates made of sugar cane fiber and utensils that be composted, or made of organic materials. The food can be served on organic cotton tablecloths.

    Caterers can be instructed to use organically grown food which, at once, puts fewer toxic pesticides and fertilizers into the environment and food chain, and promotes sustainable agriculture. Ask if the caterer is aware if the products he uses are Fair Trade certified.

    When selecting menu items, the "green" caterer will offer choices that are vegetarian, organic, and local. Local food, even if not organic, may have a more beneficial ecological impact than organic produce that has been shipped in from miles away. Trendy Chilean Bass, for example, is not a sustainable choice. Instead, one might pick Alaskan Black cod, halibut, mahi mahi, or other sustainable alternative can be used.

    Today's caterers are not put off by vegetarian or even by vegan weddings. Plant proteins (legumes, vegetables, grains, fruits) use fewer valuable resources, less land and water-per-pound than livestock and provide another way to be mindful of limited resources.

    In the same way as the choice of foods can be a "green" one, couples can elect to "Green" approach to wine. Wine makers can be identified as aware of organic sources such as farmers who have met certification standards and don't depend on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and hormones to manipulate their crops artificially.

    It's hard to believe that winemaking biodynamic farming, a non-chemical methodology, was developed by Rudolf Steiner way back in the 1920s. He proposed an approach to agriculture that takes into consideration certain basic principles at work in nature to bring about balance. More and more farmers and wine makers are leaning toward that approach.

    Photography
    It's an easy "green" fix for couples eliminate the disposable film cameras from the tables. Couples can also look for a photographer who shoots digital, rather than film, and so, instead of proofs on photo paper (more trees "lost"), proofs are presented on-line.

    And although some couples are going so far as to totally eliminate the concept of a printed photo album, opting instead to have their photos presented as a slide show on CD, or DVD, an argument can be made in the alternative. It requires the use of energy (i.e., electricity) every time the couple views their CD or DVD, while with a printed album there no energy source required.

    Wedding Favors
    Wedding favors can also be environmentally friendly, by being made from recyclable materials. Both creativity and conscience can guide the bride and groom in the selection of wedding favors. A few suggestions which can increase environmental awareness or may actually help the environment are saplings, packets of flowers seeds, small potted plants and donation certificates indicating contributions to environmental organizations, handmade paper bookmarks, or place cards with flower seeds embedded in them, which can be planted. There even are "Green" chocolates packaged in compostable boxes made of recycled materials, without metallic closures.

    Throwing Rice at the Bride and Groom
    One of the first wedding traditions to come under the scrutiny of environmentalists was the custom of throwing rice at the bride and groom. The myth is that that the birds eat the rice, the rice expands inside the birds and makes them.
    Click Here to "expose" the rice-throwing myth. Although a fix is not needed, brides may opt to give their guests given small bags of birdseed to throw. Blowing bubbles at the couple is becoming a very popular alternative. Bubbles can be purchased in little, individual bottles, either decorated in white lace and beads or undecorated and ready for the creative touch. Ringing tiny bells is yet another eco-friendly alternative.

    Gifts and Gift Registries
    Some committed bridal couples include a request in their invitations that, in lieu of gifts, guests donate to an environmental cause. Some companies offer the opportunity to the bridal couple to set up a carbon offset gift registry, i.e., supporting a renewable energy operation to compensate for the wedding's carbon footprint. The "I Do Foundation" created in 2003 by a group of nonprofit leaders dedicated to developing new avenues of support for charitable organizations. Based in D.C., it links couples to lots of charitable giving options. They have a straight-up charity registry. Other Gift Registries also provide a way of channeling gifts to charitable organizations. Some large chain stores have a give-back program that donate a percentage of the gift value as donations.

    Honeymoon
    The International Ecotourism Society http://www.ecotourism.org is a resource for planning a "green" honeymoon. Travelers with the environment in mind can find destinations that are natural, conserve the environment and improve the well-being of local inhabitants. If you are planning a honeymoon in the United States, check out Kimptonhotels.com. They follow a practice called EarthCare, which reduces the impact that their hotels and its visitors have on the environment. Every Kimpton hotel uses environmentally friendly cleaning products, recycles glass, paper, bottles and cardboard, encourages the reuse of towels and linens, and uses energy efficient bulbs and low flow systems in faucets, toilet, and showers.

    In addition, many eco-friendly hotels put soap and shampoo in shower-mounted dispensers, eliminating plastic bottle waste. Most hotels are getting on the "green" bandwagon by leaving a note in each room that allows the guest to have towels and linens changed less often than daily. This practice saves about 5% on utilities and, after all, do you change towels and linens every day at home? You might pick a locale such as Fire Island where no cars are permitted and where you can get around on your bicycles. Trying get ahead of the "game," Paris offers Velib, a bicycle transit system.

    If you must fly, consider researching a carbon-offset service. Sustainable Travel International (http://www.sustainabletravelinternational.org) is one of many that offer this type of service. Use their carbon calculator to determine your trip's total carbon footprint. The concept is relatively simple. You contact an organization like Terrapas.com, make a contribution, and they will put your money to work in one of their many clean-energy projects, which will "cancel out" the pollutants and carbon emissions that your flying to your honeymoon destination will "generate." It's not even very expensive. A payment of ten dollars will "offset" about 6,000 miles of time of airplane flying. More good news, your contribution is a tax write off.

    Use a hybrid or biodiesel vehicle to travel to and around your destination. Rental companies are beginning to offer this as an option, offering cars like the Bio-Beetle which uses 100% natural and 100% renewable vegetable resources. If the concept of a hybrid car makes you nervous because you aren't familiar with operating one, rental companies like Hertz and Avis will help you with a list of do's and don'ts before you leave the lot.

    If you really want to honor your commitment and make a statement at the same time, consider taking a honeymoon with a "higher purpose." Through organizations lie World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, you can spend your honeymoon making a difference by volunteering. The good news is that vacations like Wilderness Volunteer are relatively inexpensive.

    One more honeymoon related green" idea. Make sure that when you leave, you turn off as many electricity draining appliances as you can. It is estimated that if every home in the United States put lights on a timer for twelve hours each day instead of allowing lights to stay on, there would be a $187 million savings in energy costs. That amounts to a lot of energy resources saved!

    In conclusion . . .
    The concept of an environmentally correct wedding is supported by recycling and the use of as many products as possible made out of recycled materials. The idea is to us as few virgin resources as possible, especially nonrenewable ones. Participating wedding professionals can be encouraged in to buy bulk, with minimal packaging and to avoid the use of all aerosol products. With a little extra thought and effort, the environmentally conscientious bride and groom will find many ways in which a wedding can maintain all of its beauty and sense of tradition, and still work to preserve Mother Earth.


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