Posted by: A Part of the Solution | October 14, 2011

A Greener Wedding

There are lots, and lots, of ways to save money at the same time as you’re lightening your footprint on the earth. This is even true when you’re planning a wedding. I’ll break it down by category of expense.

Wedding Jewelry: A fair percentage of the wedding/engagement rings being worn are already heirlooms, passed down within families. If this is not an option for you, instead of getting yourself/selves a semi-inferior diamond from a chain store in a mall, you might consider buying a ring from a pawnshop and having the stone re-set. Or a non-diamond direct from a jewelry maker. In both cases, you can have a good deal of say in the design of the ring, but the pawnshop choice might be considerably less costly overall.

Watches are among the traditional gifts presented to groomsmen for their participation in the wedding. These are another item you can find a good selection of in pawn shops and second-hand shops with a specialization. Having them engraved is easier if they aren’t already inscribed!

Site: It’s often easier to have the ceremony where you’re also having the reception in terms of transportation, parking and all other crowd management logistics, as well as slowing the general consumption of fossil fuels getting everyone in position.

If you’re having a religiously focused service, shop for your location with an eye to the character of the social hall as well as the officiant. Equally, if you don’t need to stand on consecrated ground to become wedded, look for a reception site which can double as your ceremonial location.

Marquee tents cost a packet, but they’re almost always cheaper than a bi-locational choice, and with a little level ground they’ll manage a crowd quite nicely (see here for how to calculate the correct size for the tent–or any space).

Consider getting married either at a place where many of the people you’re inviting happen to be near, and/or at a time of year when you won’t need to think about either heating or cooling your crowd. Can’t you just feel your wedding’s carbon footprint shrinking?

If you’re having any substantial portion of your special day outside, and you’re somewhere not entirely free of mosquitoes, remember to order a case (or two, or however many makes sense) of environmentally neutral bug spray in sample sizes for people to apply before they settle in for the jollities.

For affordable sites, with good road access, plenty of parking and a true ‘greenness’ about them give special consideration to the facilities of nearby county and state parks.

Caterer: You’ll want to focus on seasonal food, locally grown when possible. Keep this in mind when you’re interviewing caterers or restaurants which cater on the side.

Familiarize yourself with the recycling policy of the site you’re renting. If it’s not satisfactory, you should be able to negotiate with your caterer to separate and haul that which can be recycled for a small additional fee.

Rental goods for the wedding may seem costly, but the price is likely easier to swallow than watching bags and bags of disposables going into a dumpster at the end of the event.

Larger volumes of beverages, ie not in 12 oz cans or 750 ml bottles, will bring down the volume of matter to be recycled after the party is over.

You can bring down the cost of the rental by having finger-foods as your reception’s focus. If all it takes is a toothpick to pick up, you’ve saved on a plate and a fork and a spoon and a knife. On the other hand, finger-food is usually more fussy to prepare than the components of plated meals. It may be a toss-up in the end.

Room temperature foods require less in the way of support facilities and also reduce the cost of the catering bill as they have fewer storage requirements as well.

Flowers: You will want to work with whatever is seasonal and locally grown. With the right sorts of friends and relations, you could arrange to have your flowers grown especially for your event (or even the right site, say one belonging to the family itself). If anyone in your circle of committed friends/family shows interest, you might spot them the cost of a continuing-education course in flower arranging.  Many of those flowers need not be cut to look good as aisle decorations and centerpieces. If they’re still potted during the event, they’ll make lovely door prizes for your guests to enjoy long after your wedding is done and gone.

Wedding Clothes: As with the jewelry, there may well be usable heirloom clothing waiting shrouded in moth repellent and a linen clothes bag. Have a look through whatever may be in the collective inventory well in advance. More than likely, you’ll need the clothes altered substantially to work for you–and with older fabrics this requires some fairly skilled labor.

You may also find the clothes you want to wear on your day of days at second-hand, consignment and thrift shops. And, as with the hand-me-downs, you’ll need to keep in mind the necessity of engaging a good seamstress–well in advance of your special date. You might even find fabulous material you want to re-purpose into your wedding dress/suit. Again, have a versatile, patient tailor or seamstress booked months before the date of your event.

Invitations: Recycled paper. Soy-based ink. And you really can do these yourselves. Designing, creating and addressing the wedding invitations might be a process which brings you and your beloved together. Or it might work to demonstrate where you have the opportunity to improve your relationship.

Music: If it doesn’t plug in, it’s off the grid and greener thereby; so acoustic music is automatically greener. Further, if you have really good speakers, your portable listening device doesn’t have to travel in four different cars to get to your site like a band does.  You may wish to use your portable listening device  for the musical accompaniment to the service, and the live band for the reception–or vice versa, depending on your tastes and the tone of your event.

Photographer/Videographer: Good, natural daylight is hard to beat for beautiful prints and lively recordings. And not needing to use all those expensive lighting rigs to get appropriate visibility cuts down on the billable hours for set-up too.

Limo Service: If you can’t find one using bio-diesel, you may prefer to let anyone with a good, clean car do haulier duty for you. Ditto for a shuttle van.

Let me know if I left anything out.



  1. You’re right about catering not being inherently low-carbon. But the more a caterer does from scratch, from local and seasonal foods–and the fewer disposables in question, the better for everyone involved. GVC did everything the green way. We hauled recycling whether it was in the contract or not. It was fundamental to our practice, back in the day even.

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