Green Your Wedding

By: Trent Edwards—Friday, July 16, 2010
Publication: Calgary Herald
It's the biggest day of your life. But does it really have to leave the biggest eco-footprint?

Couples such as Calgary's Candace Birch and Ryan Bjornsen are determined not to succumb to the popular notion that the more lavish the wedding, the more important the occasion.

"It makes sense that the biggest day of our lives should reflect how we live every day," Birch says. "I don't think it's people's intention to use so much resources, but it's so easy to get carried away."

Guests might not even notice the subtle ways that Birch and Bjornsen are making their wedding more Earth-friendly. Their elegant wedding invites? Made from recycled paper. The couple's beautiful wedding rings? Recycled gold. And while it still sparkles, Birch's engagement diamond was made in a laboratory instead of being carved out of a strip mine.

The couple, both in their mid-20s, plan to hold their marriage ceremony in a Calgary backyard. Most of the flowers at the ceremony will be of the planted variety, rather than cut and transported long distances for a one-day celebration. And all the food at the reception will come from sustainable sources.

Birch and Bjornsen aren't alone in wanting to reduce their wedding's impact: SmartBride Boutique reports that the average wedding in the U.S. produces 180 kilograms of garbage and 63 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions -- but that eco-friendly weddings are becoming increasingly popular. Read on for the website's 10 "eco-chic" wedding tips (smartbrideboutique. com):

1. The Planning -- Ecoinspiration. Tired of ripping out pages in magazines and bookmarking a zillion wedding websites in search of inspiration? Check out, an online tool that helps you keep track of wedding tips, trends and inspirations.

2. The Venue -- Minimize venue changes. Energy experts say carbon dioxide emissions from guest travel are the single biggest environmental impact of a wedding. Reduce these emissions by planning your event at one venue to reduce the driving for guests, and visit terrapass. com/ wedding to calculate your wedding's carbon footprint.

3. The Dress -- Buying a previously owned wedding dress reduces the energy and fabric needed to produce a new gown and gives brides-to-be and past brides an opportunity to save about half the cost of their dress while staying true to green ideals. Consider online shopping -- or visit local consignment stores or meet other brides to try on and buy their gown and/ or accessories (which saves the cost and expanded eco-footprint of shipping). And when your big day is over, consider selling your dress to an eco-conscious bride-to-be, either in person, through a consignment store or online.

4. The Invites -- Reduce paper use. Consider an electronic save the date notice and set up a wedding website that lists all the details of your big day, from accommodation and registry to the story of how you met. You can even manage your RSVPs online, removing the need for reply cards.

5. The Flowers -- Think green flower power. Look for seasonal flowers that are fair trade, locally and/or organically grown and free of chemical preservatives. Potted plants are nice centrepieces, cost less than cut flowers and last months or years instead of days.

6. The Food -- Use caterers that source local and organic foods and drinks wherever possible. This minimizes the distance food has to travel from farm to table, lowering emissions and supporting your community.

7. The Cake -- Get your wedding cake made with organic, fair trade or even vegan ingredients. And yes, it should still taste great.

8. The Decor -- Try to find a venue that already fits with your theme. This reduces the amount of items (and dollars) used to create your atmosphere. Then, add a few soy candles to the mix. They burn longer, are toxin-free and biodegradable, and provide natural mood lighting at minimal expense.

9. The Favours -- Replace traditional wedding favours with tree seedlings, flower seeds or bulbs. Send guests home with green treats such as fair trade chocolate, coffee or soaps. Better yet, get rid of physical favours and instead set aside money to cover the carbon footprint of your wedding, or make a donation to a green charity on behalf of guests.

10. The Rings -- Use recycled bling. Infuse your rings with love by getting family and friends to recycle their unwanted gold to make wedding rings for you and your hubby. Check out sites such as greenkarat. com or speak to a local jewelry store.

Bonus Tip -- The Honeymoon. Eco-tourism is a blossoming industry. Why not spend your honeymoon at a romantic eco-friendly resort, hotel or spa? This way you get to show your love for your new spouse and the planet.