Sweet, Fantastic Love: Reflections on a Green Wedding
[Author’s Note: Readers will have to forgive me if I drop the usual TH style of writing in the third person. This post is of a rather personal nature. I want to tell you about my wedding.]
Some time ago I was responsible for putting together the TreeHugger guide on How To Green Your Wedding. I was in the process of planning my own wedding celebration at the time. Now the happy day is over, and I have tied the knot with my beautiful, fantastic, tree-hugging, good lady wife, I thought it might be of interest to go over some lessons learned from planning a green, or at least greener, wedding.
The event was held at Celebrity Dairy Goat Farm, a local cheese producer here in North Carolina that also runs a bed and breakfast, and offers event catering. Because the main caterers were local farmers themselves, and the rehersal dinner caterer was also deeply passionate about local food, incorporating our green values into the menu was easy. Over the course of the weekend guests were served NC shrimp biryani, fresh local strawberries, vegetarian ‘meat balls’, and local, sustainably-reared pork. One guest was even convinced she’d met the pigs in question at her friend’s farm. Obviously there was plenty of goats cheese too! The cake was baked by our local co-op, and put together by a friend who just happens to have been a pastry chef (we choose our friends well!).
We made a point of celebrating local food on the menus, and in the programs, and many guests commented on how nice it was to hear the story behind their food – quite a few left with packets of the farm’s cheese too at the end of the evening. And being a farm, all food waste was either fed to the chickens or composted at the end of the day.
Keeping the drinks local was a little harder to do. While we have plenty of good wineries and breweries in the region, ultimately we just couldn’t afford to follow our principles to the letter – the wine would have cost at least 3 times as much, and the beer would have been a third more expensive. We did have one keg of local beer, with the rest coming from national breweries. Of course the fact we used returnable kegs for the beer also cut down on waste. The rest of our tableware was a combination of rented plates and glasses, or compostable disposables.
Flowers were beautiful, abundant, and grown without nasty chemicals by the wonderful SEEDS, a local inner-city community garden that we have previously reported on here. We displayed them in glass Ball Jars that were begged or borrowed from friends and relatives, or bought from thrift stores, over the previous year. And the grounds were illuminated by lanterns made from old tin cans, though unfortunately the candles inside were the usual run-of-the-mill petroleum-based varieties (once again, the budget wouldn’t allow anything else). We also rejected the idea of wedding favors, opting instead to donate to local charities in our guests’ honor.
So, overall, through a combination of choosing the right venue, and the right suppliers (and friends!), and doing a bunch of stuff ourselves, we did pretty well on sourcing local food, reducing packaging, and generally minimising the impact of our celebrations. Some options were simply outside of our budget, but then the low budget also meant we were forced to focus on the more simple, basic pleasures, rather than over-the-top decadence and indulgence – and I’m pretty sure the event was better off for it. Nevertheless, inviting 100 people to a party is always going to have a large ecological footprint. As mentioned in our green wedding guide, the more people you invite, the more will travel, the more food you have to provide, and the more waste is produced. This is, to some degree, inevitable. However, we were aware that some eco-minded friends were unwilling to fly to the ceremony, and others just simply couldn’t afford it. Given that I am from the UK, and my wife is from the US, this obviously meant that many friends could not attend. Fortunately, the wonders of modern technology meant that a simple hook up with a laptop, a web cam, and Skype meant that an alternative wedding reception was held over cans of beer back in 'the old country', so guests from both side of the Atlantic could join in the fun (pictured).
However important the details above may be, it would be remiss of me not to point out the most important green aspect of the event – the love and celebration, not only of our union, but of our beliefs and values. So many guests commented on the beautiful, relaxed, fun nature of the day’s events, that we’re pretty convinced they left with a favourable view of this treehugging life. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to return to wedded bliss…
For another reflection on our celebrations, check out my colleague’s blog post over at Tao of Change.
Thanks to TAO and Jerry, and Schwepples & Bits for the photos!