What if someone told you that the happiest day of your life would cost you $26,327? Would you choose to blow all that hard-earned cash on disposable favors, gas-guzzling transportation, and flowers laden with pesticides?
That figure reflects the average price of an American wedding in 2005, according to a survey by the Fairchild Bridal Group. Clearly, weddings are taking a toll on our wallets-and, because of the nature of the events themselves, on the environment. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with throwing a blowout bash to celebrate, but it’s becoming easier to put at least some of that money toward more ecofriendly options without renouncing the fun.
“Engaged couples are thinking about the environmental and social impact of their big day,” writes Ritzy Ryciak for Conscious Choice (June 2006). “They are seeking organic and ethically sound options, and that demand is creating more green choices for gowns, flowers, salons, cakes, catering, gifts, jewelry, and even honeymoons.”
More choice means engaged couples don’t have to sacrifice style to save the earth: There are hemp couturiers and high-end organic caterers waiting to meet the demand. Those who don’t know where to start looking can check out wedding planning resources like OrganicWeddings.com and GreenEleganceWeddings.com, which both offer national directories that link to chemical-free salons, organic bakeries, and ecolodging.
Traditional vendors are also more apt to offer environmental options, according to In Balance (Summer 2006). So it doesn’t hurt to ask the stationer to print invitations on recycled paper, the caterer to deliver leftovers to a shelter for the homeless, or the florist to arrange seasonal, pesticide-free flowers. Requesting local flowers and produce will also help reduce waste and food miles, Tamanna Kalhar points out in Red Pepper (July 2006), as will providing a coach service to shuttle guests to and from the ceremony or reception sites.
Couples can put an ethical stamp on their wedding from the minute the ring comes out of the box. “Choose a vintage diamond ring or one set with a different gemstone, since many [diamonds] come from Sierra Leone or Angola, where rebel military groups profit from mining operations and terrorize the people,” writes Kristine Hansen in Yoga Journal (May 2006).
Some couples are even forgoing the gift and money pile-up. “If you find the whole notion of asking people to throw money at you distasteful, encourage your guests to make donations to a political advocacy group or charity you support,” suggests Michelle Goodman in Bust (June/July 2006).
Sign up at charitable online registries like JustGive.org or IDoFoundation.org. That way, rather than costing the earth, your wedding will be paying it back.