Ballpark Estimate: $25,000 to $30,000 for a typical event
Some couples who are planning to say “I Do,” aren’t just referring to building a life together, but also to caring for the environment in the process, too. That’s because eco-friendly weddings are growing in popularity, as more people realize the effect that their actions make on the planet and are selecting socially responsible choices to help minimize the impact left by their big event.
A Responsibly Elegant Affair
Have you dreamt for years about having an elegant wedding but want to care for the planet, too? It used to be that the two concepts were at odds with one another, but today, that’s no longer the case. It’s possible to plan as sophisticated and tasteful a celebration as you desire and still make strategic decisions that will eliminate unnecessary extravagance and extra waste.
What Going Green Really Means
Marriage is big business today, with more than 2.4 million Americans tying the knot on an annual basis. And for each wedding that takes place, the carbon footprint is huge, leaving many engaged couples scrambling to find socially responsible choices when it comes to selecting the location, transportation, decorations, apparel and food for their big day.
Recognizing the interest that now exists for “greener” pastures, a growing number of companies have responding by broadening their offerings to include more sustainable options for brides and grooms. Some wedding planners point out that this growing trend makes sense: since weddings are a celebration of two people merging their lives together, it’s only fitting that the environment also benefit (or at least take as small as possible of a hit) in the process of making a fresh start.
Weigh Decisions Carefully
When planning an eco-friendly wedding, there are many factors that come into play. For instance, you can select organic (pesticide-free) flowers, but perhaps the type you prefer have to be flown in from half-way across the world. This means that while you are picking a socially-responsible choice on one hand, you are wasting lots of resources in the transportation of this item. So when it comes to green weddings, everything has to be weighed and balanced. There are no right or wrong answers, just lots of information to digest to help you do what you ultimately think will be best. The experts recommend doing your homework and making choices that reflect the values you and your partner hold most dear to your heart in the end.
And while every green wedding comes in a very different shade, keep in mind that one common feature most share is that they are usually sophisticated and also simplified. Couples who want to plan socially-conscious events generally focus on the details that matter the most, and also skip over most of the excess.
Green Wedding Planning 101
While a wedding used to be all about the couple, this is no longer the case. Modern weddings provide the perfect opportunity for a bride and groom to move beyond the spotlight to also call attention to some of the causes they care about. So if eating organic food, supporting fair trade practices and shunning blood diamonds are things that matter to you, you should stay true to these details when planning your event. But keep in mind that you don’t have to sacrifice the effect to do this. Here are some things you can do to plan an environmentally conscious wedding that will be the talk of all your guests.
Look for wedding locations that use minimal resources such as organic farms or gardens, or museums or buildings housing nonprofit organizations that support important causes you care about. Also think about where the majority of your guests are located. The less travel that is needed for people to attend your event, the less energy you will waste. But if you have your heart set on getting married in a fancy golf course that is a long drive for almost everyone, you don’t have to rule this out. Just make some wise choices, such as hiring buses to transport guests, holding your ceremony and reception in the same location, and if the weather permits, hosting the party outside so electricity use is minimized.
You can have your dream dress, the rings and the beautiful flowers. Just think about how to reuse them in different ways after the wedding is over and everything is put away. You can donate leftover food to homeless shelters, deliver the flowers to nearby hospitals or nursing homes, have rings that were passed down from family members remade specially for and your partner and invest in a dress that can be worn by future generations so it won’t go to waste after your big day.
Look for food and flowers that are locally grown and organic in nature, so you can serve a tasty, healthful meal and support your local economy at the same time. You can also shop for locally-grown organic flowers. Choose in-season options. Also serve organic wine and beer choices. It might help to remember that food and drinks that have been manufactured without using chemicals will be healthier for your surroundings, as well as for your guests. In addition, if you don’t have to transport the products far, you are saving energy and minimizing fuel waste.
Support a Good Cause
You can avoid getting unwanted gift, complete with lots of fancy paper and cards, by registering for green items or calling attention to those social situations you want to support. For instance, ask guests to donate money to a worthy cause, or register for a few big ticket items, such as a solar furnace, a bicycle built for two or a honeymoon to an eco-friendly destination and ask multiple guests to chip in toward your goals. Several websites exist to help you direct your guests to the issues and things you care about. Learn more about Just Give and I Do Foundation. to see if they are a good fit for you and your ideals. Also consider skipping wedding favors for your guests and instead donating the money you would have spent to help those less fortunate than you.
Keep It Clean
Avoid using disposable products and ask the staff who helps clean up after your event to take the time to separate recyclable items and avoid putting anything in landfills as much as possible.
Minimize Your Paper Trail
You may feel strongly that you want to send a paper invitation, but that doesn’t mean you need to have multiple cards, envelopes and tissue paper. Look for recycled and post-consumer options and go for a streamlined effect. For instance, direct people to a wedding website for directions and accommodation details, and include just a simple reply postcard, which doesn’t need an envelope, or ask guests to email you their RSVP. This keeps things simple but can still maintain an elegant tone. Also ask your printer about using soy or vegetable-based inks and foregoing any chemical processes.
Make Strategic Trade Offs
Perhaps you have lots of out of town guests who will be using gas, airplanes and trains to attend your special event. That may just be an unavoidable case. But you don’t have to sacrifice your goal of staying green to entertain people who travel a distance to celebrate with you. Consider the new trend of buying carbon offsets as an important way to give back to the environment. While this sounds like a complicated concept, it simply means that you donate money to positive efforts at work to preserve the environment that are equal to the amount of negative effect of your actions. A nonprofit group called the Carbon Fund even has a calculator you can use to determine what it will cost to offset the amount of carbon dioxide your event creates. While this is a controversial topic since you aren’t preventing the impact but instead are doing good to offset it, many couples still find it a satisfying way to give back as they celebrate.
What It Costs
With so many socially-responsible options available for couples who want to make a difference, you just need to take the time to explore the variations and pick what makes the most sense for you and your mate. You can do this yourself by researching the local green venues out there (check out Organic Weddings and Green Elegance Weddings for national directories of organic vendors) or hire a wedding planner who specializes in pulling together high-end green celebrations.
The fact is that eco-conscious choices, such as organic food, wine and flowers, can cost a bit more than traditional selections. Wedding planners estimate that green choices can be anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent more than its counterparts. But since the concept of green weddings is to minimize by keeping the guest lists small and foregoing many of the extras, the overall budget for green weddings still falls in the same range as a less environmentally-friendly day.
The cost of a typical wedding today, green or not, averages between $25,000 and $30,000 for this one-day event.
Keep in mind that couples who want to keep things to a minimum, whether green or not, may pare things down even more and can spend a lot less. And in the same vein, couples who want to take things up a notch can of course easily spend much more.
The bottom line is that whatever you spend, your wedding is an exciting and important time to celebrate your union and also invest in the planet at the same time, so everyone wins.
Keep It Light
One final word of advice: while you may care about the environment and different social causes, not all of your guests may feel the same way. The best green weddings are personal reflections of the bride and groom but avoid being preachy or forcing the couple’s ideals onto the people in attendance. So whatever feels right for you, make it work for your event and your situation and let your guests make their own personal decisions.
Also keep in mind that every little bit you can minimize your impact will make it a difference, so even if you can’t do everything as environmentally “right” as you might like, just the fact you are making the effort to preserve the planet is an important step in the right direction.