It takes two hands to count the number of weddings I have attended or will attend in 2014, and it’s been that way for the last few years. (Welcome to your 20s, right?) But this year has been different because one of those weddings was my own. I planned lots of Barbie weddings as a child, and I have seven bridesmaid dresses in my closet, so when it was time to plan my own nuptials, I had a definite vision in mind. Starting last fall, I was checking items off a seemingly endless to-do list and counting down to 5-10-2014.
But my to-do list likely didn’t match most traditional wedding plans because I consulted the Green Bride Guide. There, I learned that each one of the 2.5 million weddings in the United States this year will produce 400–600 pounds of trash and 62 tons of carbon dioxide. Yikes! So with that knowledge and because of my day-to-day exposure to the sustainability space here at Shelton Group, I decided to incorporate as many environmentally friendly elements as possible into my wedding plans. Though it’s awkward to admit this on a blog about sustainability, by “as many as possible” I mean as many green elements that still aligned with my life-long wedding vision.
Here’s my (somewhat) green wedding checklist:
- We skipped printing save the dates and programs and used Appy Couple, a wedding website and app, to share all the “extra” information (hotel accommodations, directions, wedding party, etc.).
- We printed invitations, but we chose not to address the inner AND outer envelopes. It may be more traditional to include both, but it saved money and paper by leaving out the inner envelope.
- We only hired vendors that agreed to recycle. We didn’t have any bins around our reception area (trash or recycling), but it gave me peace of mind knowing that everything would be sorted for us.
- We rented plates, silverware and glassware rather than using plastic or disposables.
- We bought used décor from Craigslist, but I regularly checked sites like Ruffled and Tradesy for more. (Now that our event is over, it’s our turn to sell!) We also bought lots of handmade items from Etsy.
- We donated our flowers to Random Acts of Flowers, an organization that repurposes flowers and delivers them to healthcare facilities.
- We used a lot of candles for lighting – it’s elegant and saves energy. We also used LED spotlights; they are more energy efficient and a lot of lighting companies can create beautiful colors with them.
- We had our ceremony and reception within walking distance of each other. It would have been more economical to use the same venue for both events, but we wanted a traditional church wedding and a late-night reception. (We chose a newly renovated 1930’s manufacturing facility for our reception, so do I get bonus green points for using an old space?)
- We chose eco-friendly products for our registries and created a honeymoon registry as an alternative. (Nowadays, you can create registries for anything from honeymoons and house down payments to your future kids’ college fund). I’ve read mixed reviews on etiquette blogs about these less traditional registries, but in the spirit of less “stuff,” we decided to go with this, in addition to a traditional gift registry to please our more traditional guests.
Could I have done more to make my wedding environmentally friendly? Yes. I could have had an outdoor ceremony to save energy, but I didn’t want the stress of bugs, rain or extreme heat (I’ve seen it all!). I looked at some used dresses, but never found one I liked. I could have used only in season, locally sourced flowers and food, but those decisions ultimately came down to what looked most like my Pinterest board and what fit the budget.
And that completely synchs with Shelton’s consumer insights about green products and trade-offs. People are willing to incorporate greener behaviors and purchases as long as there’s no downside. Greener products must work/meet functional needs, be convenient, not cost a lot more, and (particularly in the case of a wedding) be pretty/stylish.
We’ve said it before, but it’s worth reiterating here: Millennials (myself included) are sometimes more attitudinally green than behaviorally green. The steps we took were small ones, but I’m glad we did something. As more people in my age group get married, I’m hoping they’ll see the opportunity their weddings can provide for living out their values. When a whole generation takes small steps, big things can happen.