Feature photo by Corey Ann

When planning a wedding, the effect it will have on the environment is not usually something that crosses your mind, but maybe it should. If you take into account all of the guests traveling by plane and car, not to mention the energy used by the dj, caterer, etc., weddings can have a significant impact on the environment. Check out the size of your wedding’s carbon footprint and take a few steps to lessen your environmental impact.

The Gown
When it comes down to it, a wedding gown is worn once and then usually packed away to be forgotten about. Yet brides spend upwards of thousands of dollars on their perfect dress. Instead of buying a brand new dress, why not find a gently used one for less money? There are several consignment shops around the city that offer “once wed” dresses for less. I Do Designer Bridal Consignment and White Chicago are a few of the shops in Chicago that offer gently used dresses for less than retail. Wedding Belles in the northwest suburb of Barrington offers veils and accessories as well. You can even scour forums on wedding blogs and Craigslist for brides that are putting their bridal attire up for sale. You may even be able to find brand new, never-worn dresses from jilted brides on sites like these. Hey, as long as you don’t believe in bad mojo, their loss is your gain! You’ll find that these gowns can be often be listed for half as much as they would go for if you were to order a brand new dress. Not only will you be getting a great deal, but you’ll be saving the energy and materials used to manufacture a dress from scratch.

In lieu of paper invitations that, let’s be honest, most guests will throw away, why not send electronic invitations? In today’s wired society, chances are most of your guests will be tech-savvy enough to open an email and get the details of your wedding. There are online companies that will help you design something a little fancier than a text only email, and others that allow you to design a wedding website you can direct your guests to, as well as track guest responses through an RSVP tracker.

If Abuelita doesn’t have an email account, or for those traditionalists that want their guests to receive an actual invitation to open, reduce the amount of paper wasted by removing envelopes from your invitation suite. Get rid of the inner envelope. Many invitations come with belly bands (thin strips of paper or ribbon wrapped around the middle of the invite) that take the place of the inner envelope. You can also toss the RSVP envelope by including a RSVP postcard instead of another card and envelope. While they are small changes you can make, saving two envelopes per invitations for a few hundred guests can add up.

Instead of large floral centerpieces, try alternatives like candles. The candles will provide a romantic glow to your reception and cost much less than hiring a florist to create a piece for each table. Putting in candles in recycled jars, glasses and vases can create dramatic arrangements of various heights. This is a place where your creativity can really shine, so let your imagination run wild! If you’re really daring, cut out flowers from your wedding all together by using non-floral bouquets and boutonnieres. There are tons of options out there utilizing everything from buttons to feathers.

Other than your grandma or maybe a tia or two, who honestly keeps the little recuerdos that are given away at weddings? Chances are the little trinkets you spend hours picking out, and maybe even assembling, will end up in a landfill somewhere. Instead of spending money on something that your guests will throw away, put the money you would have spent on favors towards the charity of your choice. If you and your future spouse are known animal lovers, donate to the humane society. You can even purchase carbon offsets to help offset the carbon footprint your wedding will leave. Just be sure to let your guests know that you’ve decided to donate money to the charity of your choice in their honor. This could be added on to a toast by the bride or groom, or something as simple as a sign near your guest book saying “In lieu of favors, we’ve purchased carbon offsets to lessen our impact on the environment. Love, Mr. and Mrs. Newlywed,” or something to that effect. Guests won’t feel guilty about throwing out your favors, the charity of your choice will receive extra help, and the local landfill will catch a little break. It’s a win-win (win)!

Every little bit helps, so if you can, make a few adjustments to lessen your wedding’s impact on the Earth.

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