Bride's Guide to Green Weddings

Bride's Guide to Green Weddings

A growing number of couples are saying "I do" to weddings that save waste and natural resources, without sacrificing elegance. These tips will show you how. 

By Michele Berger
Published: 05/07/2012

Every year more than two million U.S. couples walk down the aisle--to the tune of about $26,000 per wedding. That adds up to some scary math: Not only do these nuptials rake in billions for the wedding industry, they also call for serious environmental resources at every turn, from diamonds and paper to fuel and flowers.

A budding number of brides and grooms are now considering greener alternatives to conventional wedding elements. The latest studies by The Wedding Report, Inc.,  a research company that tracks and forecasts consumer trends in the industry, indicate that the number of weddings planned with environmental issues in mind is approaching roughly 10 percent. A poll conducted in 2010 for megastore David's Bridal reported that 78 percent of 501 women interviewed said they want to make some part of their weddings eco-friendly. "The whole idea of a green wedding really fits with the concept of marriage," says Kate L. Harrison, author of The Green Bride Guide and founder of "A wedding is a celebration of a long-term commitment into the foreseeable future. Having a green wedding goes lock in key with that."

When couples are uncertain about where to start, Harrison advises beginning with one element--choose a recycled-paper invite, go with a natural park setting, order local flowers, forgo the wedding favors--then see if you can take another step. "These are little things," she says, "but they really add up." Another benefit: Picking wisely can cut a wedding's price tag by as much as 40 percent. The following are some choices that can help you save in more ways than one.


Jewelry "Diamonds are forever," as the slogan goes, but so might be the damage from getting them out of the ground. Instead of these gems, as well as mined gold and silver settings, consider family heirlooms and antiques, lab-made synthetic stones, and alternative metals like recycled platinum. If you can't live without a mined diamond, opt for one certified by the Kimberley Process, the best vetting currently available, ensuring that before the gemstone hits the market, it has met extensive safe-practice standards. 

Venue When and where you get hitched is another key consideration. If you say "I do" during the daytime, for example, you can save on electricity to power lights. When picking a place to get married, check out locations that are LEED-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, meaning they are, among other things, energy-efficient, water-saving, and built from environment-friendly materials. To find locations, visit the organization's website, which includes a searchable database. Look to nature centers, gardens, or historical sites; payment for your big day may directly support the organization's mission. Save fuel and carbon emissions by choosing a location central to your guests. 

Guest list The number of people you invite to your celebration plays a big role in budgeting a wedding's environmental and financial costs. Scaling back your total headcount can be tough, but the savings are substantial--reducing your party's overall contribution to the more than six billion metric tons of greenhouse gases emitted annually in the United States, more than a quarter of which come from the transportation sector. Also, hosting fewer people means less of everything, from place settings and food to table decorations and porta-potties.

Invites What could better announce a couple's commitment to an earth-friendly union than an invitation made from recycled paper and soy-based ink, the latter of which requires less ink for the same print job and emits fewer volatile hydrocarbons, according to an EPA study. Take another step and go paperless altogether. Inform guests about your upcoming event and have them respond through a site like Paperless Post or by email. Consider the alternative: If all the country's matrimonial couples sent both a paper save-the-date and invitation card, the postal service would shuttle more than four million pieces of mail, contributing to the 71 million tons of paper and paperboard we consume each year.  

Attire Few icons epitomize a wedding more than the dress, whether it's a fitted ball gown or a flowing sheath. By virtue of what the item is, you'll wear it only once. Instead of buying brand new, consider a dress worn by mom or grandma. Search for your frock at a secondhand or vintage store lets you plug in a zip code to find nearby locations). Or browse a place like The Bridal Garden, which offers deeply discounted off-the-rack dresses, then donates the proceeds to charity. After the wedding, give your dress to an organization like Brides Against Breast Cancer or pass it on to another modern bride via eBay.

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Michele Berger

Michele Berger is Audubon magazine's Associate Editor and social media manager. Follow her on Twitter @MicheleWBerger. Follow the magazine on Facebook.

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine


How does it save energy to

How does it save energy to have a daytime wedding?

Hey Naomi, Thank you for the

Hey Naomi,
Thank you for the comment. We hope others take away that same message, that it's OK to green just parts of the wedding, and it still makes a difference.

All the best,

Great topic!

The environmental impact of weddings is huge and my husband and I found the Green Bride Guide to be hugely helpful when planning ours.

I do have one question about this article: How does it save energy to have a daytime wedding? Surely the lights at your ceremony/reception would use less energy than that required to light up all of your guests' living rooms/televisions if they were just sitting at home?

Hi there, Thanks for the

Hi there,
Thanks for the comment, FM, and for sharing your thoughts about the Green Bride Guide. In terms of your question, our goal was to provide simple, easy-to-implement ideas to expend less energy at the wedding itself. So if you get married outside during the springtime, let's say, you likely don't need extra lighting, an amplification system, or air-conditioning. Hope that helps.

All the best,

Hi there, Thanks for the

Hi there,
Thanks for the comment, FM.

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