Make Your Wedding Gorgeous & Green

Make Your Wedding Gorgeous & Green

When you plan your wedding, you're not just organizing a great party–you're also making the ultimate statement about who you are as a couple. Every choice you make, from the music to the hors d'oeuvres, communicates something about your style, priorities, and values. It's no wonder, then, that a growing number of people are considering the environment as they celebrate their union.

"The couples I work with want to connect their green ideals with the commitment they're making," says Corina Beczner, an eco events consultant and owner of Vibrant Events vibrant events.net in San Francisco. "Older brides and couples who are renewing their vows are especially interested in sustainability," she adds. Shayna Prunier, design and business development director at Low Impact Living lowimpactliving.com, a green consulting firm in Los Angeles, agrees: "These couples realize that their wedding day sets the tone for the rest of their lives." Whether your nuptials will be casual or formal, big or small, you can plan an event that's eco–friendly and uniquely you. "With the green movement in full swing, you can make a few changes that have a big impact on the environment–without compromising elegance," says Renee Loux, author of Easy Green Living (Rodale Books, 2008) and host of Easy Being Green on Fine Living Network. Here's how to create a wedding that makes a big impression– but leaves a small footprint.

Sending invitations
Use green paper. Most invitation companies now offer recycled paper. "Our invites were printed with biodegradable ink and had flower seeds embedded in them," says Thryn Lee, 25, whose 2007 wedding to Gabe Albin, 26, was featured on the Sundance Channel's Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Gen Y.
Go tree free. Consider eschewing traditional invitations. "We did our save–the–date note as an e–mail with a link to our website," says Molly Douma, 37, who will marry BJ Brewer, 30, this month. Loux, 33, who married Shep Gordon in 2005, didn't send invites; instead, the couple called their 125 guests. "It made the invitations really personal," she says.

Choosing a gown
Shop vintage. Green–living guru Danny Seo, author of Simply Green: Parties (Collins, 2006), suggests you ask family members if they have a dress you can tailor to suit your style. Another option: "Go to a consignment store, where you can find discount designer gowns," says Seo. Fashion designer Anna Mkhitarian annatarian.com, who creates couture dresses from recycled fabrics and other eco materials, also encourages brides to buy secondhand frocks. "I love the idea of giving an old dress new meaning," she says.
Look for sustainable fabrics. If you'd rather not wear a pre–owned dress, consider having one made from planet–friendly fabrics like hemp or ahimsa silk (which is harvested without harming the silkworms; it's available by the yard at organicavenue.com). Off–the–rack green wedding dresses are somewhat rare, but designers like Deborah Lindquist (deborah lindquist.com) are starting to offer them.

Buying rings
Ask about recycled gold. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, gold mining wreaks havoc on the environment. Look for recycled gold rings or ones made with gold free of cyanide, a contaminant that separates rock from metal. The classic jewelry company Tiffany & Co. tiffany.com sells rings made from cyanide–free gold.
Look for Canadian diamonds. When diamond shopping, seek out a reputable seller who can guarantee the stone is conflict–free (not associated with human rights abuses) and mined under environmentally and socially responsible conditions. A diamond certified by the United Nations' Kimberley Process is a good place to start, but this label has its shortcomings: Although it's meant to identify gems that didn't fund civil wars, it's poorly regulated and doesn't address human rights violations like child labor, according to Beth Gerstein, co–CEO and cofounder of Brilliant Earth brilliantearth.com. Like many responsible jewelers, Gerstein sources most of her diamonds from Canada, a country with strict mining standards.

Organizing transport
Encourage carpooling. If you have a wedding website, create a section where guests can coordinate ride sharing. To further cut down on carbon emissions on the big day, arrange for shuttle buses to move guests between venues.
Ask about green vehicles. Depending on the location of your wedding, you may be able to book a car service that uses hybrids or runs on biofuel. "Lexus hybrid vehicles are used by limo companies around the country," says Kimberley Gardiner, Lexus event marketing manager and head of Lexus Hybrid Living events nationwide.
Offset your guests' travel. If you'd like to make your wedding carbon–neutral, you can visit sites like terrapass.com, which will help you calculate the emissions generated during the event and will show you how to purchase green energy credits to "offset" this amount.