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

Makeup For the bride and her attendants, it's all about looking beautiful, and makeup is a big part of that. Purchase natural cosmetics and water-based nail polishes. This is more important than you may think; many personal care products contain chemicals, such as endocrine disrupters, associated with health problems (see "Pandora's Water Bottle," March-April 2010). A recent FDA survey of 400 lipsticks found a sample that contained more than seven parts per million of lead--double the amount discovered in an earlier agency study--suggesting a worse and more widespread problem than previously thought. No upper lead limit has yet been set, but several U.S. senators have urged the FDA to establish one. In March Congress held a hearing on cosmetics safety--the first in three decades. To check where your current cosmetics rank, search the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database.

Menu Foodies who care about the environment don't have to sacrifice taste. Look for a caterer who specializes in local or organic fare. Selecting edibles grown nearby saves carbon emissions generated from buying the same staples shipped from far away. If you live near one of the country's more than 7,200 farmers' markets, stop by and talk to the purveyors to see if they partner with or know of local caterers. As for the menu, limit lamb, beef, and cheese or nix them completely; pound for pound, their production emits the most greenhouse gases, according to an Environmental Working Group assessment. Finally, don't forget to factor in beverages, alcoholic or otherwise. Go for organic wine, wind-powered beer, and shade-grown coffee.

Flowers Beautiful bouquets go hand in hand with most weddings, and there's no need to toss them if you're trying to be green. Pick local, in-season blossoms--say, summer lilies in California or fall asters in the Northeast--instead of flying them in from Colombia, for instance, where more than half of the flowers sold in the United States each year are grown. Skip roses altogether; they are among the most chemically treated flowers. If you simply can't live without them, choose those okayed by a group like Florverde, a 16-year-old initiative in Colombia that promotes sustainable floriculture by monitoring, among other things, farming practices and pesticide use. If you have no attachment to flowers, get creative (or let others do it for you) with recycled paper, bouquets made of vintage buttons or broaches, and antiques for table centerpieces. 

Favors When it comes to thanking your guests, do it with words or a gift to charity rather than a trinket. The memory of a simple, short toast by the bride and groom will likely mean more to friends and family than party mints, silver-plated frames, or candles. In lieu of purchased items, donate to a cause that you and your future spouse believe in; let your guests know with a note on each table. For help finding charities, check out the I Do Foundation, which works with nonprofits (including the National Audubon Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Rainforest Alliance). There's always the greenery route, too, offering your potted-plant centerpieces as takeaway gifts. Omitting a random token from your wedding reinforces to your guests that you care about the environment.

Photography Couples spend $2,000, on average, on wedding photographers. That's about eight percent of a typical wedding budget. To stop this from adding to your day's environmental costs, find someone who shoots digitally (almost all photographers do), then ask about other green practices. Many photographers these days give you the preferable option of receiving digital proofs rather than stacks of paper prints. Some recycle and resell old equipment. Others may print your final selections with vegetable- and soy-based inks.

Honeymoon Take your first trip as a married couple to a destination that's in line with your wedding choices. Honeymoon somewhere close, and you'll help curb carbon emissions (a 4,500-mile trip from New York City to Acapulco generates three tons of carbon dioxide). If you do fly, purchase carbon credits to offset travel emissions through a group like NativeEnergy or When picking your accommodations, be sure to choose a genuine eco-lodge that's built from sustainable resources, supports area conservation efforts, employs local people, and uses energy-saving technologies like solar power.

This story originally ran in the May-June 2012 issue as, "Modern Bride."


With 50 centers and thousands of acres of land, Audubon offers many ideal places to host a green wedding. Here are five where you can tie the knot.

Dayton, Ohio: Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm, (937) 890-7360. Ask for Ardith Hamilton.

Brooklyn, New York: Audubon Center at the Prospect Park Boathouse, (646) 393-9031. Ask for Christina Kuhn.

Santa Fe, New Mexic: Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary, (505) 983-4609. Ask for Carl Beal.

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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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