It's called "the wedding industry" for a reason, so while your wedding is definitely going to change your life, it's also going to have a big impact on the planet, too. Roughly 2.3 million weddings take place each year in the United States alone -- that's over 6,000 weddings a day -- and each one of those releases an estimated 14 tons of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.
But there's a lot you can do to green-up your nuptials. From the choice of rings to the type of flowers, there are several ways you can plan a green wedding. Take a look at these ideas for having an environmentally friendly affair.
Your wedding rings, if you choose to have them, were probably mined in a foreign country under somewhat dubious circumstances. Like "blood diamonds" that are mined to fund armies, gold, silver and platinum mining often has an egregious human and environmental impact. For example, gold mining often uses mercury, cyanide and other toxins, and most of those toxins are simply dumped into ponds or streams, creating a deadly mining legacy for generations.
Though wedding jewelery is now available with labels like "recycled gold," "Canadian diamonds" and "conflict-free," these terms might be little more than greenwashing. There are few international standards or third-party agencies investigating the degree to which a wedding or engagement ring is green or made with ethically sourced materials. One exception is Green Karat, which encourages gold recycling and uses third-party certification to substantiate their green credentials.
Green Wedding Invitations
Nowadays there are dozens of companies that offer invitations made from recycled or handmade paper. If you are happy breaking from tradition, then electronic invites like Evites are worth considering, too, though this isn't practical for large, mixed parties where not everyone uses email. One great green idea is paper invitations from Botanical Paper Works
that are "seeded" with wildflower or herb seeds -- after the wedding, guests can bury the paper in soil for a bounty of flowers and other plants.
Organic Wedding Flowers
A wedding bouquet may seem harmless enough, but flowers are a multi-billion dollar global industry, and the amount of chemical insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers that are used to grow flowers is staggering. As an alternative, consider using green flowers
like organic roses in corsages, bouquets and as table decorations. Another good choice is to use locally grown flowers, or even wildflowers, in lieu of formal florist creations.
Organic Foods and Liquors
Like any good celebration, a wedding usually has some food and drink for the guests. For your green wedding, provide organic food
whenever practical. And for toasting the happy newlyweds, there are plenty of options in organic wine
, vegan wine
and organic beer
. Remember, too, that after all the food and drink are consumed, the cleanup begins -- and that will be a lot more sustainable if reusable plates, glasses and utensils are used instead of disposable plastics.
Your Green Wedding Venue
Getting hitched outside is a great way to celebrate the natural world, and it also cuts down on lighting and other energy use. National, state and local public or private parks often have excellent facilities at great prices. But an outdoor affair isn't always practical, so many couples opt for a green indoor venue. Ask if your hotel is a member of the Green Hotels Association
, and -- perhaps most significantly of all -- plan a slightly smaller affair with fewer guests.
A Green Gift Registry
Before mentioning gift registries, ask yourself: How much more stuff do you really need? It's increasingly popular for couples to opt out of the whole wedding gift frenzy, instead asking guests to make a charitable donation
to a worthy cause. If you decide that you really can't live without a solar flashlight, you can find items like those and more at green shopping sites including Branch
A Greener Wedding Dress
Few people want to get married in their favorite old, worn-out blue jeans (but wouldn't that be a great start to a green affair?). Instead, the tradition is to get a brand-new dress custom made that is worn exactly once. Yes, it's beautiful -- and wasteful. Consider a vintage dress (perhaps one that a favorite relative wore?) or a dress made without synthetic fabrics or chemical dyes, like those from Adele Wechsler's Eco Couture
. Many brides also let their bridesmaids choose their own dresses after agreeing on a particular color or length or style.