As more of us are living a greener lifestyle, brides are trying to make their weddings more environmentally thoughtful. If you think eco-style is an oxymoron, think again. We asked green-lifestyle pro Danny Seo for his best tips.
Ask the caterer you select to use readily available organic ingredients—eggs, milk, sugar, spices, herbs, butter—to create your wedding menu, and be prepared to pay a bit more for this. Finding a truly all-organic caterer can be next to impossible, so work with your caterer to choose dishes that incorporate local, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Heirloom tomatoes in the summer will not only taste fresh and look gorgeous, but they’ll also be less expensive because of their abundance. Think crisp apple tarts in fall, fresh herbs and baby-green salads for spring, and exquisite root-vegetable purees for winter. Suggest your caterer shop local farmers’ markets for the freshest selection.
For an occasion as momentous as a wedding, I think the perfect thank-you gift is a live tree. Small burlap-wrapped seedlings are readily available at most home-improvement stores for less than $10. Embellish them with extra-wide grosgrain ribbon and attach a manila tag with the growing instructions. Handwrite a meaningful note, like: "As our love grows from this day forward, we hope this tree will too." Display the trees on old wooden tables, in wheelbarrows or in other rustic vessels and invite guests to take one as they leave the reception.
I am a fan of an online company called Organic Bouque (organicbouquet.com), which sells certified organic roses and exotic flowers, all grown without chemical pesticides and insecticides. Did you know that most traditional roses are bred for durability to the point where they’ve actually lost their scent? Florists will often spray them with perfume to replicate the fragrance. Organic roses are naturally fragrant and, because they are free of chemical pesticides, they’re also edible. You can safely use them to decorate cakes or cupcakes, sprinkle on salads, or to make rose-scented sugar (just toss a few petals into a bowl of sugar). Or save your organic roses and make potpourri; fill cellophane bags with the mixture and send them to guests with your thank-you notes.
My opinion on wedding gowns is that they are all eco-friendly. No bride would seriously consider her gown to be disposable. So, choose the dress you love the most, the one you envision passing down to your children. This is the greenest thing any bride can do: Invest in an exquisite piece to be shared with future generations.
Look for tree-free paper alternatives made from kenaf, hemp or bamboo. Or choose 100 percent post-consumer recycled stock produced from discarded newspapers, office paper and magazines. Also, ask your printer to use a soy-based ink; it’s a greener choice (made from renewable soy beans), and the end result can be brighter, clearer printing.
All over the gardens of my home, I hang solar lanterns from large bird-feeder hooks. They charge in the sun all day long and cast a soft glow at night. If you’re having an outdoor wedding, consider hanging solar lanterns (available at hardware stores) in the trees, or use them to line the lawn to create pathways. Since they need no special wiring, you can put the lanterns wherever your heart desires.
Pluck leaves from trees and handwrite with a permanent-ink pen the guest’s name on each leaf; add an extra-skinny ribbon at the stem and tie the leaf around the napkin. Stamp large river rocks with guests’ names using an alphabet stamp set available at any craft store; rest a rock at each place setting and ask guests to return the rocks to a river, or add them to a garden or planter in their own homes after the reception. Use what you have: Lemons from a backyard tree could be marked with guests’ names using a Sharpie. Pieces of broken terracotta pots or ceramic tiles make lovely place cards as well.
Ask caterers to recycle cans, bottles and aluminum foil and insist on a no-Styrofoam policy. Ask the bartenders to save the wine and champagne corks from the evening; transform them into a beautiful keepsake trivet by encircling them all with a pipe clamp you can find in any hardware store.
Organic wines, which are made from grapes grown without chemical pesticides, have improved by leaps and bounds over the years. Bonterra (which translates into "good earth") is a high-quality, reasonably priced line available nationwide (bonterra.com). In New York City, an all-organic and biodynamic wine retailer, Appellation Wine and Spirits, offers a mind-blowing variety from both large and small winemakers around the world (appellationnyc.com). Even spirits can be green: Reyka vodka is made in Iceland using organic ingredients and geothermal energy from deep within the earth (reykavodka.com). Now even a dirty martini can be a good, clean choice.
Danny Seo has written six books on eco-style, including Simply Green Parties, and is the host of the new TV show Simply Green.