Feature

Nice day for a... green wedding

G Magazine

Here’s our guide to walking down the aisle with your eco-conscience intact.

LJ-and-Tom-story

LJ and Tom on their wedding day.

Credit: Jonathan Ong

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When Prince William married Kate Middleton, the nuptials generated a whopping 6,765 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s 12 times the annual emissions of Buckingham Palace and more than 300 times the carbon footprint of the average wedding. Considering most Australian weddings drain the hip pocket by about $36,000, it’s hardly surprising our wedding footprints dwarf our mother-in-law’s guest list. Follow these tips to ensure the biggest day of your life has minimal impact on the planet.

Venue

The venue will account for 50 – 60 per cent of the total cost of your wedding, and has the potential to generate significant carbon emissions. If you’re planning a civil marriage, consider having the ceremony, photo shoot and reception at one location to save your guests’ transport miles, and their sanity.

If you’re getting married in a church, choose reception and photography venues located nearby. Even better, look for locations that are central to as many guests as possible.

For the reception, choose caterers that use locally grown, in-season, organic food and locally produced beverages where possible, and buy sustainable seafood. Or, go cruelty-free with a vego menu. “Vegetarian and vegan food take fewer resources to produce so, if you weight your menu to more vegetarian and vegan options your wedding footprint will be lower,” says Gillian Milne, director of Grassroots Productions.

Transport

How many overseas or interstate travellers are on your guest list? Transport miles are one of the biggest contributors to wedding emissions. For example, a return trip for two from London to Sydney generates about 11.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Then there’s the guests’ accommodation to consider.

If you can’t bear your grandparents or old workmates missing your special day, ask them to offset their transport emissions in lieu of a wedding gift. And for those who only need to travel across land, suggest they come by train or bus instead of plane.

Transport on the day of the wedding is also a significant emitter, but a little planning will help to reduce the environmental load. “Choose a venue with accommodation for guests onsite or nearby,” says Milne. “If there is a lack of accommodation near your venue, you can reduce individual car journeys by providing a bus service or organising carpools. If possible, track the mileage in an online survey when guests RSVP so you can offset their travel.”

Gown

Although you only wear your wedding gown once, it will live for generations in your photos. But your dress needn’t leave a lifelong eco-footprint. Your best bet is to buy a pre-worn gown from one of the many second-hand boutiques. Most are fitted out like top couture salons, so you’ll feel just as pampered in the change rooms. Alternatively, check out online shopping sites, but search locally to avoid shipping that $120 bargain from overseas. Or your mum might like to lend you her dress in the spirit of ‘something old’ and ‘something borrowed’.

If you’re set on a new gown, look for a dressmaker who will use eco-friendly fabrics, even if you need to take charge of the sourcing. Milne recommends natural biodegradable fabrics such as silk, or blends made from renewable sources such as bamboo.

After the wedding, it’s important to clean and preserve your gown. “Look for a specialist eco-friendly dry cleaner,” says Kellie Byrnes from Kindred Gifts. “When dry cleaning your dress after the wedding, avoid the harsh chemicals normally used, such as perchloroethylene.”

Try www.wornonlyonce.com.au, www.savvybrides.com.au, www.idogowns.com.au and www.lovemetwice.com.au to find or sell your dream dress.

G Tip: Ask your bridesmaids to choose their own dresses in similar colours that suit their individual body shape so they'll be more likely to wear their dresses again.

Flowers

Out-of-season flowers grown in hothouses create a significant eco-footprint. And they are often transported from interstate or overseas, generating a truckload of ‘flower miles’. Milne says the most sustainable option is to choose flowers and foliage that are in season and grown locally with minimal pesticides.

Byrnes agrees. “Use native flowers as centrepieces to reduce carbon emissions from imported flowers,” she says. “Another alternative is to use potted plants around the reception and ceremony venues, which can later be planted by yourself or guests. This is a beautiful keepsake from your special day.”

Stationery

From invitations and place cards to ceremony booklets and thankyou cards, wedding stationery tells the story of your nuptials. Byrnes suggests using a stationery supplier that prints invitations on recycled
or sustainably sourced papers, and if you choose to create your own invitations, look for eco-friendly papers.

“Two of the most common certification logos to look out for with papers are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification),” she says. “Both programs ensure stock comes from responsibly managed forests.”

If you are willing to avoid using paper stationery altogether, consider designing your own wedding website. Even people without graphic design skills can master the basics of creating a site on WordPress or Blogger. Set up a personalised wedding email address to direct guests to your website and collect RSVPs. For a total of about $25, it’s a lot cheaper than customised stationery.

Gift registry

Your guests can contribute further to an environment-friendly wedding. “Instead of a gift registry, ask guests to purchase carbon credits to help offset the carbon footprint of your wedding,” says Kelly Hody from SaySo Weddings. “Also, further carbon offsets can be purchased in each guest’s name instead of bomboniere.”

If carbon offsetting is too much for your nanna, set up a gift registry with only items you want and need. Experiences such as a weekend at a local bed and breakfast or a spa treatment are perfect for the couple that has everything.

Another great ethical option is to nominate a charity or two that you would like to have your guests donate to in leiu of a gift. Websites such as Karma Currency (www.karmacurrency.com.au) make the whole thing easy for you.

Rings

Establishing that a gem is conflict-free can be difficult, and mining has a huge carbon footprint. Look for something old to lessen the load. A family diamond or vintage ring is a meaningful alternative. And don’t worry, it will sparkle just as brightly as a new stone.

If buying new, chose stores that are socially or environmentally aware, such as Utopian Creations (www.utopiancreations.com.au).

Bomboniere

Traditionally, sugared almonds were given to guests as a symbol of health, wealth, fertility, happiness and longevity. Nowadays, everything from soft toys to elaborately wrapped personalised candles await guests at their tables.

“Gifts that will actually be used, or can be easily recycled or composted, make the best bomboniere,” says Milne. “Gifts that guests can eat, such as preserves, or plant in their garden are fabulous.” Try a small potted easy-to-grow herb for each guest, or homemade jams, chocolates or cookies.

Photography

Resist the glitz and glam of proof books and choose a photographer who will provide you with digital copies of all your images, from which you can select your favourites. Avoid paper and chemicals and share all your photos easily and efficiently via email, or photo-sharing sites such as Flickr or even Facebook. Print only those images you plan to frame, send to relatives or include in an album.

Honeymoon

With so many relaxing destinations and picturesque beaches in Australia, how far do you really need to travel? “Honeymoon locally, offset your flights if necessary and choose accredited eco-tourism options,” suggests Milne. Try one of the many great eco resorts around Australia. Furthermore, consider how you’re getting to your destination. If there’s an option to travel by land rather than flying, it will significantly lower your impact.

Cake

In the age of four-tiered masterpieces, Marie Antoniette has a lot to answer for. How much cake will your guests actually eat? Aim for one small piece per guest plus a small portion for you to save for your first anniversary or the birth of your first child. And if tradition isn’t your thing, don’t worry about saving a portion for yourself. Alternatively, do cupcakes that then double up as your bomboniere.

Top tip

It is very important to consider the life cycle of the products you choose,” says Gillian Milne, director of Grassroots Productions. “What are they made of and how were they made? Are they useful? Can they be reused or recycled; will they biodegrade or go straight in the bin? Apply this thinking as you plan and you will reduce the eco-footprint of your wedding naturally.

Real wedding: LJ and Tom

Why did you decide to have a green wedding?

"We try to live sustainably and we wanted our wedding to embody who we are as people in our daily lives. We are aware that there can be so much waste after celebrations, especially big events like weddings, and we wanted to celebrate mindfully. We value nature, handmade things and home-grown produce, and we wanted to incorporate all these elements."

What eco-friendly components did you include?

"We propagated and potted rosemary cuttings from our garden in recycled tin cans collected over the course of a year. We wrapped the tin cans in burlap donated to us by a local cafe. Our guests placed them in a circle under a 200-year-old walnut tree, where we said our vows, and later took the rosemary cuttings home with them to plant in their own gardens. We rescued fallen tree branches from a gum tree near our home and used them to create unique branch chandeliers, which hung above each table at our reception. Recycled jars were lit with home-poured Australian beeswax tealight candles. We also made our own table names (using the names of herbs) with pieces of an old fence paling we rescued from a nature strip, and some white paint we had at home."

Did you find a green wedding to be more affordable than a traditional wedding?

"Yes, it was definitely more affordable in terms of decorating our wedding. Having lots of handmade elements reduced our costs and allowed us to have the fairytale wedding we wanted within our budget."

Websites we love

www.grassrootsproductions.com.au
Professional events management with personal bespoke wedding planning services.

www.daisyandjack.com.au
Stationary and paper goods that are too charming to throw away.

www.ewedding.com
Plan your wedding and share all the details of your big day with guests.

www.theorganiccupcake.com
Organic cupcakes with options to satisfy everyone’s sweet-tooth.

www.greenbrideguide.com
Australia’s largest green wedding directory, with top honeymoon tips.

www.australseedlings.com.au
Organic seedlings that’ll grow into useful gifts for your guests.

www.naturalweddings.com.au
Ideas and advice, including a green gift registry & mineral makeup tips.

www.organicpassioncatering.com
Organic vegan and vegie cuisine, using the best natural ingredients.

www.ecofriendlyweddings.com.au
Tips galore with everything from ceremony venues to eco-catering.