Location and Venue
One of the first things you have to look at when you're planning your wedding is the venue, so it can be the start of your big fat green wedding journey. For starters, don't make people fly to the Caribbean (unless you're from the Caribbean). If people have to get on a plane to go to your wedding, you are pushing their love for you too hard. They will talk about you behind your back.
If your heart is set on a place that's way out in the countryside for instance, consider having the ceremony, reception and accommodation at the same place or a very short distance so people don't have to get taxis between as well as to and from the venues. The UK is perfect for this kind of location, as many big old country houses are well set-up for large numbers of people and even have ballrooms.
A great idea for reception venues is to hire a local hall. Some of them are totes adorbs, they are totally cheap to hire and you won't have to contend with in-house catering requirements.
If you have a nice large backyard, consider doing it at home!
Ah, the dress - the one item of clothing in your life that you are allowed to go nuts on. Supposedly. But seriously, think about it. The internet told me that the average wedding dress costs around £1000, and I'm sure many more spend twice that, at least. Which is a hell of a lot of money for something you'll probably only wear the once. I am a firm believer that you can get the dress of your dreams for less than half that sum. Here's how:
- Charity shops. Visit the swanky part of town and their charity shop will certainly have a second-hand or vintage dress or two; wearing a recycled dress is the best thing you can do in terms of a green wedding.
- Your mum's dress. My mum's dress was part of the 80s we-love-Diana/Victoriana era of wedding dresses so I won't be touching it should I ever get married, but sometimes you can get some gold. They can also be altered by a skilful dressmaker.
- Go for something other than white. If you want to break with tradition, it will also cut down your budget and you'll be more likely to wear it again. Again, apply the above tips to gain max eco credentials.
- Watch Gumtree, Etsy and eBay for people selling off their dresses locally. If you're in the UK, here is a whole website devoted to selling second hand dresses.
- Hire! It makes sense when you're only wearing it once anyway.
- Think about how you might recycle it later - this might include selling on eBay (and thus contributing to the circle of life), or making a more sentimental appropriation, like a child's christening gown (or many more as suggested on this Pinterest board)
Getting your bridesmaids to wear mismatched dresses means you don't have to buy new, either. Mismatched vintage dresses are super popular these days. Consider something other than flowers for the bouquets as well. Some ideas I've seen are vintage brooches/buttons, pine-cones, handmade fabric flowers,
The groom's (and best man's) attire can also be pretty pricey. All the same rules as above apply.
Rings and jewellery
Fair trade and ethical jewellers exist, so check them out! You have to be especially careful with diamonds. Once again, antique jewellery is a good option.
Put up a web space (Facebook group, blog, whatever), where guests can post their car pooling details. Organise a bus to get guests around the place.
It is tradition to have a gift registry so attendees can give the new couple all the things they need to start their married life together, like fancy garlic presses, espresso machines, expensive glasses etc. However as most couples these days have already lived together before they marry, these are largely redundant. If you don't need new things, many people now ask that guests contribute to a honeymoon or some other fund like towards buying a house; this way, you can choose a green way to spend the money.
Design a beautiful invitation be all means, but send it out via email and let people RSVP the same way. They will only get thrown out eventually. Get a nice one printed out for yourself if you want the memory. It will be both cheaper and greener.
Flowers might be lovely and natural, but often they have a terrible carbon impact. If you really want flowers, wild flowers collected yourself rather than florist-bought flowers will be a better option. Another option is living flowers, rather than cut flowers. I've also seen potted cacti and herbs.
Of course, you don't have to go with plantlife at all. Table decorations can be any number of things. Consider making it something reusable, recycled, handmade, or even edible.
It's traditional to give a little something to your guest. This is a time to get creative. Lots of people give little chocolates or sugared nuts, but there are plenty of ways you can make these fun and personal. A couple I know called the Busbys gave away little jars of locally-made honey with stickers that said "from the Buzz-bees" on them. Someone else I know came and bought a buttload of second-hand books off my boyfriend to give away as favours, each of them to reflect the personality of the guest.
Catering can be incredibly expensive: especially if you have to go with a venue's menu. A place that you can self-cater or get a local caterer in is ideal. Chat to your caterer about getting an ethical and eco-friendly menu: make sure meat is ethically raised. Buffets are usually very cost-effective, but whatever you do, make sure you have a plan for the leftovers: there will be leftovers. And loads of food gets thrown out, which is a travesty. You could get in contact with a local homeless charity and ask if there's a way they can collect the leftovers at the end of the night and use them. Otherwise, make sure there's a supply of airtight containers and foil to box and wrap up anything that's left over. If you're really into this whole DIY/green thing, brew your own alcohol! Cider, sloe gin, elderberry wine, limoncello... you could get very creative.
Make your own, or get a friend to make it! I'm not really sure if this is an eco-friendly or just a cost-effective option, but I always err on the side of home-made-is-best when weighing up green options. Make a fair-trade chocolate cake, or home-grown carrot cake.
Consider train travel, look at eco tourism (often very expensive, you can certainly splurge for your honeymoon. They're often really beautiful) and make sure you check out the best practice for tourist behaviour wherever you're going (for instance, if you're off to south-east Asia, don't ride on elephants!).
If you're having a wedding, good luck! Remember that doing just some of these things will reduce the carbon footprint (and cost!) of your big day. Don't let bridal magazines and caterers con you into spending thousands more than you need. Gather your friends and family and ask them to help if you really want a DIY wedding day - weddings are about your family and friends as much as they are about the bride and groom!
Do send in pics of your green, eco-friendly or vintage wedding to firstname.lastname@example.org!