Hosting a Great Green Wedding

Top 10 Eco-Wedding Ideas
1267130135CN Green Wedding© Getty Images

Each year, more than two million brides and grooms get hitched in the U.S. That’s a lot of food, flowers and favors—and a whole bunch of waste and carbon emissions. Luckily, it’s becoming easier than ever to green your wedding.

1. Go Local

Using local vendors cuts down on the miles that your wedding essentials must travel and puts money back into the local economy. Purchase food from farmers" markets, and seek out great regional wines and brews for your celebration.

2. Use Seasonal Flowers

"Buying [flower arrangements] in season means they’re going to be fresher…and you will also usually save money," says Kate Harrison, author of The Green Bride Guide (Sourcebooks). Purchase organic flowers to avoid pesticides and artificial scents. If you’re set on a specific type of flower, only buy a limited amount.

3. Plant Your Centerpieces

Peace lilies are easy to grow and act as wonderful air purifiers. Other centerpiece ideas include pots planted with herbs like mint and rosemary or glass jars filled with candles and fruit. If you’d still like flower centerpieces, fill jars with locally grown flowers, advises Melissa Hart, who hosted her green wedding in Oregon in 2007.

4. Give Practical Wedding Favors

Avoid the waste of kitschy wedding charms by creating edible favors filled with Fair Trade-certified chocolates, colorful candies or fresh fruit. Or, bypass the wedding favors altogether by making a donation in your guests" honor.

"We donated to The National Audubon Society and E Magazine," says Laura Ruggeri, whose green wedding was held last May in New York. "Both nonprofits provided us with magazines, which were given to our guests with a thank-you note."

5. Encourage Low-Impact Clothing

Wedding wear is often so occasion-specific that it’s only worn once. Keep your bridal party and the environment happy by allowing for some flexibility. "I asked our wedding party to wear a dress or tie in a certain color palette [so they could] wear something from their existing wardrobe rather than buying new," says Mary Supley Foxworth, whose green wedding was held in Virginia in 2004. "I loved the result!"

6. Make an Invitation Statement

E-vites are the greenest route for wedding invitations, but other light-impact options include invitations made with recycled paper, organic cotton or tree-free options like bamboo and hemp printed with vegetable-based inks.

"We had family members who objected to not receiving a physical invitation as a keepsake, so we ordered recycled paper invitations and skipped the reply cards, asking guests to RSVP via e-mail or phone instead," says Stacey Kenny, who hosted her green wedding in New York this past April.

7. Buy Gently Used Items

There are plenty of wedding reuse sites like Weddingbee and BravoBride, as well as traditional resale sites like Ebay and Craigslist. Bride$hare, a social networking site, is another great resource for brides.

"I bought a pair of Vera Wang shoes for $50 on eBay," says Harrison, "and resold them for $50. This kind of recycling allows you to enjoy a luxury item with minimal environmental or financial impact."

8. Choose a Greener Dress

Wedding dresses can use up to 16 yards of fabric, typically made from petroleum products and bleached with toxic chemicals. In addition to vintage, thrift and consignment shops, sites like Gently Used Bridal can help you find the ideal dress. There are also hemp, organic cotton or even bamboo wedding gowns available. And after the wedding, consider donating your dress to a good cause like Brides Against Breast Cancer.

9. Give Back Through Gift Registry

These days, lots of couples are getting married in their late 20s and 30s, which means many have all the kitchenware they need. The I Do Foundation allows for a range of charity registry options, including donating 10% of purchases to a charity, creating a charity registry and offsetting your wedding’s carbon footprint.

10. Ditch the Diamonds

Diamonds are forever, but so are their negative social and environmental impacts. Consider rings made with a moonstone, pearl or piece of sea glass. Some jewelers also use wood to create handcrafted, inexpensive wedding bands that can be inlaid with gems. And check the craft site Etsy for eco-minded jewelry artists.

JESSICA A. KNOBLAUCH is a freelance journalist living in the San Francisco Bay area.