Best Weddings: Small, Simple, Sustainable

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Every couple wants their wedding to reflect their values. Concern for the environment prompts planning that supports eco-friendly local businesses and avoids generating the considerable waste and carbon footprints of traditional events.

Veteran green wedding planner and environmentalist Kate Harrison, author of The Green Bride Guide, who blogs at GreenBrideGuide.com, assists couples through the process. “

I advise couples to look at simple substitutions in line with their style and budget,” says Harrison. “Every choice adds up.”

By invitation only. Digital invitations cost just pennies apiece; options like PaperlessPost.com offer the appearance of a paper invitation, arriving in an envelope that “opens” on the screen. Also consider elegant renditions of more conventional invitations made of recycled, upcycled or organic papers. For the invite that keeps on growing, try seed-studded paper creations that guests can plant in their backyards.

Where the guests are. Selecting a location central to most of the guests minimizes the celebration’s carbon footprint, reduces travel expenses and maximizes attendance. “Consider picking a venue with natural beauty already present, such as a beautiful garden or ballroom,” advises Harrison. “You’ll cut down on the amount and cost of décor you’re buying just for the wedding.”

Let them eat cake. Food and flowers are among the most costly components of a wedding, yet sustainable options can be just a worthy fraction more. A cake made with organic flour, a natural sweetener and local cage-free eggs, for example, can cost just $5 more. The key is finding a vendor willing to work with the couple’s values, says Harrison.

Simple gifts. Americans spend an estimated $20 billion annually on wedding gifts, a high-impact opportunity to support local green economies. Harrison recommends establishing registries for experiences, charities and products (select sustainable options like recycled glass dishes or organic linens). Consider a local, seasonable wedding favor that guests can eat or reuse, such as maple syrup for a fall wedding in Vermont.

Generally, keep all elements small, simple and local—and your own—for an occasion that truly cherishes both loved ones and our planet.

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