Beyond Old, New, Borrowed and Blue: Guide to Green Weddings

Yes, the traditional wedding saying calls for something old and something borrowed--but virtually everything else used or consumed in a wedding is new. But there are ways to make a wedding more eco-friendly, and at the same time, positively chic.

May 19, 2009

Vegan shoes: stylish.

Locavore: actual word.

There’s obviously something in the air, and it’s not just love—it’s green. That’s good news for the eco-conscious bride. As little as four years ago, planning a planet-friendly dream wedding was a nightmare—expensive, stressful and often not so chic. Thanks to media attention and consumer demand, that’s no longer the case. Brides can make green choices without sacrificing style or quality.

Madison retailers say they’ve noticed a trend toward environmentally friendly wedding choices. The demand is one they’re happy to comply with.

The concept of green has changed too, making it easier for brides to make responsible choices, says Amelia Royko Maurer, founder of Free Market Organics, an environmentally conscious retail website that sells green, toxin-free lifestyle products like apparel, kitchen items, bath and body goods and more.

“The true green is purchasing local and being smart about how you’re spending your money,” says Rokyo Maurer, who is co-planning a friend’s September eco-friendly wedding. She says that buying from local producers and retailers is one of the most socially and environmentally responsible things a bride can do. Buying local means less fuel, better labor practices and a stronger community. Madison offers greener options for every wedding purchase, from the dress to the favors.

Gorgeous Gowns

Being eco-friendly and looking eco-friendly are two different things and when it comes to the dress, most brides want to avoid the latter. Fortunately, white can be green without looking the part. Royko Maurer says green fashion has come a long way since her own wedding in 2005.

“You’d find a dress that looked like a potato sack or hemp bag,” says Royko Maurer of her gown search. Now, with even more local and online retailers to choose from, she suggests that brides look for fair trade, organic or reclaimed fabric—and hire a local dressmaker to fashion a dress from scratch.

For a classic touch, wear a family heirloom or vintage gown, or talk with a tailor who can help you recycle an old gown to fit your modern style.

If your heart is set on a brand new dress straight out of the store, you can still make a green choice. At Premiere Couture on Monroe Street, gowns are made from silk rather than polyester, a petroleum byproduct. They’re also made in the United States, which means that less fuel goes into getting gowns from producer to altar.

When it comes to the bridal party, think of the second of the three R’s: reuse. Consider mothers’ and bridesmaids’ dresses that will be wearable beyond your wedding, says Rosemary Williams, co-owner of Premiere Couture.

The Who, What and Where

Paper invitations seem counterintuitive to a green wedding, but they can be done in a responsible way. For do-it-yourselfers, Royko Maurer suggests having an invitation stamp designed. Add in natural inks and post-consumer recycled paper and you’ve got a low-impact, personalized invitation. Twisted Limb Paperworks makes the job even easier, offering DIY invitation kits on their website.

At BB Design Custom Invitations, half of the paper selection is made of seventy percent post-consumer recycled fibers. Green brides should avoid metallic-based stock, which is not made from recycled material.

Of course, the most eco-friendly option is to go paperless with an e-vite.

“It sounds really unromantic, but you can do something creative,” Royko Maurer says, suggesting that couples use multimedia tools like photo and video to create email invitations that pop.

At the reception, skip paper programs altogether in favor of the large, rustic chalkboards that you’ve likely seen in restaurants. The boards work for both formal and casual weddings, Royko Maurer says.

Small potted herbs or flowers can double as decorations and party favors. Brides with a particularly altruistic bent can announce a donation to a favorite charity in lieu of favors. Too outside-the-box? Locally made, fair-trade chocolates satisfy convention and conscience.

Send a green statement—and some flowers—with your thank you cards. BB Design offers seeded paper out of Canada that will bloom when planted. A less-expensive alternative is to order a ream of seeded paper from the Green Field Paper Company and make the cards yourself, says Royko Maurer.

Fancy Flowers

Make your flowers greener than their stems by purchasing from local producers. Flexibility is key, since the selection will depend on the weather and season, but your flowers will be fresher and more unique.

Color guidelines, rather than specific flower choices, will make for the best seasonal arrangements, says Jane Kinney, owner of J. Kinney Florist. Even in winter, Kinney sources up to thirty percent of her flowers locally, and in summer, that number shoots up to ninety percent.

Brides who plan ahead can coordinate with a local flower farmer to plan a harvest especially for their wedding, Royko Maurer says.

Tasty Treats and Where to Stay

Holding the ceremony and reception in the same place is crucial to a green wedding, Royko Maurer says. Madison has several great options to keep guests from shuttling all over the city. Monona Terrace and the Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club are notable in their environmental efforts. Both are within walking distance of restaurants and shops that will keep out-of-town guests entertained.

Concourse Executive chef Charles Lazzareschi sources locally as much as possible, says Anne Pond, marketing director for the hotel. She added that the catering staff works closely with couples to eliminate wasted food.

Monona Terrace catering offers custom organic menus for green consumers and can source locally for small weddings. They also use corn-based plastics and recycled cardboard products.

Green catering options are even greater at venues without their own catering service. Find a caterer who sources locally and uses non-disposable dishes and work with them to make sure all food waste is composted, Royko Maurer says. Underground Catering can work in a variety of settings and accommodate dietary restrictions. Green your libations by serving local microbrews and wines from Wisconsin vineyards.

The bohemian bride should consider an outdoor wedding, where natural light will take over for electricity and keep the festivities “off the grid.” Out-of-town guests can stay with local attendees or at the locally owned, eco-friendly Arbor House, Royko Maurer says.

Resources These companies can help you green your wedding, but don’t let your imagination stop here. Search the web and talk to farmers, producers and retailers for more green ideas.

Arbor House (608) 238-2981

BB Design Custom Invitations (608) 513-2299

Free Market Organics

Green Field Paper Company (888) 402-9979

J. Kinney Florist (608) 255-7500

The Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club (800) 356-8293

Monona Terrace (608) 261-4008

Premiere Couture (608) 255-1921

Twisted Limb Paperworks (812) 876-9352

Underground Catering (608) 556-3033

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