Guide to a Growing Trend: The "Green" or Ecological Wedding

Does it seem like the phrases "ecology" and "wedding" could hardly have less in common?

With the average wedding costing well over 15 thousand today, one would think so. And yet, the "green" or ecologically-friendly wedding is gaining momentum across the nation.

The green wedding, like any other wedding style, has its tribal features. By tribal, I mean the signs and signifiers that help tell the guests what the wedding is supposed to mean, and how the couple prefers to appear. From a tribal perspective, a green wedding can be hauntingly romantic, with its outdoor setting, its focus on living plants, and its less-formal gown (often made of hemp) that brings to mind fairy outings from 400 years ago.

In personal appearance, the ecology bride is often the gamine type. Even on her wedding day, her fresh face forms a contrast with the heavily made-up cover girls of bridal magazines.

When it comes to more functional aspects, the green wedding's shape and flavor flow from three main goals:

- Do no harm, - Patronize earth-friendly vendors, and - Reuse/recycle.

1) Do No Harm

The green bride tries to avoid products or activities that could compromise the environment. For this reason, butterfly releases are rare (vendors are not always careful to ship butterflies only to appropriate, native environments). Similarly, beeswax candles are avoided, as is the use of styrofoam or soft plastics at the reception -- glass and porcelain are substituted. (Brides are often surprised to discover the caterer charges little extra for this service.)

Many green bridal couples are vegetarian or vegan. In metropolitan or college-town communities, this provides a great excuse to serve dazzling ethnic foods at the reception at a reasonable cost!

Hemp is widely respected among environmentalists, because unlike cotton, it can be grown without pesticides and returns most of its nutrients to the soil. When the green bride buys a new gown for her ceremony, she often looks to hemp fabrics. Surprisingly flexible, hemp can go upmarket ("hemp satin") or relaxed (cottony separates that can be worn after the wedding).

2) Patronize Earth-Friendly Vendors

Flower petals in paper cones are environmentally friendlier than bubble solution in plastic containers, and require no clean-up. The trick is finding petal suppliers that don't use pesticides. These growers are more popular in the U.K. than the U.S.

Green brides might also distribute harm-free favors, such as sachets made of pesticide-free herbs, live flowers, tree seedlings, or small packets of organic tea. In fact, some brides register at charitable organizations instead of department stores, and contribute to environmentally-active organizations instead of handing out favors.

3) Reuse, Recycle

Even the most traditional wedding brings opportunities for reuse/recycling. For example, leftovers from the reception can be delivered to food banks, and flowers dropped off at hospitals or rest homes. The green bride often takes this a step further and chooses recycled paper for invitations and Save-the-Date cards, for example. She might also re-use a wedding gown (her mother's could be ideal, or failing that, one from a thrift or vintage store). Otherwise, the green bride might opt for a new gown that isn't too formal to be worn regularly after the ceremony.

Just as at the grocery store, eco-friendly does not necessarily mean cheaper. Ecology brides are sometimes surprised to discover their weddings cost 10K and up, just like those of their more traditional sisters.

Still, when she looks back on a wedding that opted for more "nature," less formality, and less conspicuous consumption, the green bride often finds it was time well spent and perhaps nurtures the hope that a guest or two will be inspired to follow her path.

Blake Kritzberg is the proprietor of: