so, the Washingtonian magazine is doing a “green” edition of their magazine this January, and have been looking to talk to a bride and groom about their “green” wedding.
a friend of mine is the director of media relations here at the conservancy, and he suggested that the reporter talk to me. to make a long story short, the call is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 10am.
needless to say this, quite rightly, got me to thinking about whether our wedding was actually “green” or not. and by “thinking”, i mean “obsessing”. i’m pleased to report that, after about 24 hours of concerted panicking, i am pretty certain we actually didn’t do a half bad job putting together something that closely resembles a green wedding (which is a bold statement considering how caveat-laden i usually am).
my first concern was the defining the term “green wedding”. we didn’t really start off trying to be “green” so much as we were trying to be thoughtful about reducing our wedding’s drain on ourselves and those around us. obviously, this meant we were looking for simple things we could do that would reduce our wedding’s strain on the planet as well. my second concern was that, in my head, the term “green wedding” was essentially synonymous with “hemp wedding dress” which i knew wasn’t going to fly (i didn’t even ask).
in an odd stroke of coincidence, the month after the lady sparkler and i got engaged, the conservancy posted something about the simple things you can do to have a green wedding. reading this yeilded my first thoughts that a "green" wedding might be possible (or, more important, practical).
looking back at the list now, we actually did quite a bit to reduce our wedding’s footprint:
- central: we threw the wedding in downtown d.c. which — besides being home for us and most of our friends — was also decidedly central for most of our families (who hailed from Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and New England).
- walkable: the whole weekend happened within four blocks of the church, including the hotel, the bachelor party, the rehearsal dinner, the reception and the after-party. once people arrived, they could opt out of transportation for the rest of the weekend.
- organic favors: for wedding favors, instead of the usual rock with our name painted on it, we gave out organic “endangered species” chocolate and planted 35 trees in a national forest on behalf of our guests. (also, it goes without saying, but we used animal-friendly blowing-bubbles instead of having guests throw rice or birdseed.)
- locally-grown: we tried to use local businesses as much as possible (more on that below), and the reception site we used (15RIA) billed themselves as “using a bounty of local fresh products.”
- virtual: besides trying to reduce the amount of paper we used in our invitations (limited inserts, no inner envelope), we saved a few trees by doing an email save-the-date and by using a wedding blog to keep people updated about the weekend details.
- eco-honeymoon: while the first half of our trip was at a resort with locally-grown/organic-friendly food, the second half of our trip was more legitimately eco-friendly at one of Belize’s oldest eco-lodges. we wanted to be sensitive, but we weren’t willing to honeymoon in a tent in our backyard.
- green registry: we (ahem) "strongly encouraged" our guests to make a gift to MercyCorps instead of the more traditional registry gifts, and about 1/3 of them actually did it. obviously MercyCorps isn’t an environmental organization, but poverty is one of the largest barriers to effective conservation. (we also were given an acre of rainforest through the Conservancy and a pig through Heifer!)
- offset everything else: we absolutely weren’t willing to uninvite people who had to use carbon-based fuels to get here (or make them watch on a web cam), so we offset everyone’s flights to and from our wedding — including our own flights to and from Belize. (the sum of everything, for the record, turned out to be around 18,000 lbs of CO2.)
so, with all that, why am i hesitating about whether it was a green wedding or not? well, we have a couple of open items …
- the hemp dress: while our tuxes were rented (it’s best to share tux resources with hundreds of other grooms and groomsmen) and the bridesmaids picked out their own dresses (this increases the chance they might be worn again, however slightly) we didn’t even consider going down the path of the organic wedding dress. there was just too much wrapped up in our (er, her) vision of the perfect dress to add this layer of complexity.
- the rings: the lady sparkler got a diamond (and loves it however guiltily), and i got a gold ring (silver is less toxic for the environment). neither of them were used or recycled. we had a devil of a time trying to offset the rings (we tried, but couldn’t find anyone who would even approximate what would be required) so this one is destined to remain an open issue.
- the cake: we tried so hard to use local merchants, but every cake place we tried within the district didn’t pass our admittedly lofty standards (yes, including Cake Love which was dry and over-hyped). so we ended up using a place in (God-forbid) Herndon. not two months after we “sold out to the ‘burbs”, we found an equally fantastic bakery in DC’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood, and we will be definitely using them for all our baking needs in the future.
… but all of this, to some extent, misses the point. we were looking for simple ways to reduce our footprint, and (to be honest) we as a society just might be a couple years away from “eco-wedding dresses” and “environmentally sensitive engagement rings” being an option for mainstream-ers like us. that, and we just had bad timing with the bakery.
not that i am EVER going to have another wedding (ever, EVER!) but i’m happy to leave those three items open for future, er, motivation.