Ballpark Estimate: $200 to $1,200+
What color is your wedding dress? If the answer is “green,” then you are on the cutting edge when it comes to combining your love of style with caring for the environment at the same time. Of course green most likely doesn’t refer to the actual hue of the dress, but rather your choice of fabric and how eco-friendly it is.
A New Trend
These days there is a growing recognition of the impact that people’s actions take on the environment. Therefore, some couples who are exchanging vows are committing not just to care for each other, but also to care for the future of the planet, too. And since traditional weddings can leave a large carbon footprint, these environmentally-aware brides and grooms are going out of their way to minimize the effects of their event by selecting more conscientious choices. In this vein, some brides are opting for wedding dresses made of socially responsible materials and workmanship. Of course selecting a green wedding may be only a baby step in the grand scheme of things, but when this comes in conjunction with other responsible choices, such as serving organic food and sending recycled invitations, such little sacrifices can have more significance.
Proponents of the green movement remind brides and grooms who are weighing the pros and cons of going this route how important it is to think of the bigger picture when planning to start a new life together. This is a way that couples can make the vows they exchange all the more meaningful in the context of caring about the greater world and can make them feel like they are doing something good for others even as they celebrate their own happiness.
But if sentiment alone is not enough to sway you towards exchanging your vision of standing at the altar wearing a taffeta beaded gown for one of you in hemp, you may not have seen the latest crop of eco-friendly dresses for sale, many of which are giving more traditional dresses some good competition.
An Array of Choices
In the past, brides who went down the green path had to sacrifice style. In fact, the image of eco-friendly clothing may conjure up images for you of formless clothes and earth shoes. But the fact is that today there is a wide array of eco-friendly wedding dresses that convey a true sense of elegance and style. There is also a great deal of diversity, so a bride can choose responsibly and still achieve exactly the look that she intends, from earth goddess to sophisticate to princess.
If individuality and making a statement about your beliefs is important to you, you might consider the far end of the spectrum of green dresses, which is the make-your-own variety out of simple and accessible biodegradable materials. To this end, some crafty brides and designers have created wedding gowns out of simple things like rolls of toilet paper and waxed paper. In addition, several television talk shows have called attention to the recycled trend by recently featuring wedding gowns made out of soy bean paper.
But for a bride who wants a little more substance to her gown, there are options in a range of other sustainable fabrics, including organic cotton, bamboo, hemp and hemp blends. Some wedding dress designers and boutiques specialize in offering dresses made out of these fabrics, and not just for brides, but also for bridesmaids, mothers and flower girls. The dresses can range from simple choices to more elaborate ones with excessive detailing and even frills. In addition, many designers will custom make a green wedding gown for you and incorporate your own style preferences. Better yet, if you select a more informal gown, you can wear it again to other occasions and get more use from it. Or, donate it to charity so it gets recycled, so the green factor goes up even more.
Another way to be a responsible consumer is to look for a used or vintage wedding gown. This is making good use of existing resources to avoid wasting energy and materials necessary to create something new. Or, you can also borrow a gown from a family member or friend. In addition, some wedding dress designer and seamstresses will remake an old gown to better suit you and your figure. This is a good way to get a custom fit and look without having to make something from scratch.
Finally, like men rent tuxedos, you can also rent a gown. This is a great way to get a beautiful effect for the day and wow your guests while still minimizing your impact on the environment.
Where to Shop
Some local bridal boutiques and even upscale department stores are getting a corner on the green market. You can also do a search online to find designers and shops and that specialize in providing green gowns. If renting is an option for you, you can find these services online as well. There are numerous options out there, so take your time and research until you find the best fit for your body, taste and personal values.
You can also frequent vintage and second-hand shops that carry specialty clothing. However, keep in mind that if you do buy a used dress, while this is a great way to conserve resources, if you have to have the dress dry cleaned, you are negating some of the good since this process uses chemicals. Therefore, opt for spot cleaning or environmentally-friendly cleaning options whenever possible.
What It Costs
The cost of a green wedding dress can run a large gamut. A lot depends on where you shop, what materials you select and how much handwork goes into your creation. Keep in mind that when you buy a dress off of the rack, this is often a less expensive option than having something custom made for you. But that being said, there is lots of room for variation since a designer dress you find in a store can cost more than having a small local seamstress put something together for you.
The most cost-effective green weddings dresses are the do-it-yourself paper numbers. Recent articles that tout this option say that for about $15, you can invest in a few rolls of toilet paper and tape and whip up a one-of-a-kind number sure to impress your guests. Better yet, after the wedding, you have a month’s supply of toilet paper you can use to start your new married life!
But since this just isn’t a feasible option for most brides who don’t want to see their dress flushed away, consider renting a dress for about $200 to $600. Always find out if alterations are possible on rentals (some places allow it, while others do not, which greatly limits your choices to only those that fit perfectly to start) and also ask if you are responsible for dry-cleaning the dress after your wedding, as this gets into the issue of using chemicals again and can run you an additional $100 or more.
The cost of buying a used dress can be comparable to renting a dress, with the average price around $400, but again a lot depends on where you shop and the quality you select.
If you prefer to buy a new dress in eco-friendly fabrics, you can find simple but classic hemp or organic cotton style starting at about $400 and going on up to $1,200 or more. Alterations and accessories, such as a veil and headpiece, are usually an additional charge. Some green dress designers add their own unique touches, such as incorporating natural elements, including flower petal and butterfly motifs, to help express the bride’s commitment to preserving the environment.
So the cost of a (non-disposable) green wedding dress can range from $200 to $1,200+, depending on what you select.
Getting the Most From Your Investment
If despite all of the great options available you can’t find just the perfect green wedding dress to fulfill your bridal expectations, don’t be afraid to buy a traditional wedding dress and just think creatively on how to make the most of your investment. If you select a dress with the idea of recycling it in various ways in mind, you can still meet the eco-friendly guidelines. Many brides save their dress to pass down to their own daughters or other relatives. Or, you can have your wedding dress cut down so you can wear it to other functions. Finally, consider recycling your veil and train to make a Christening gown, throw pillow, tablecloth or other item that will be practical and also have much sentimental value.