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Hosting a Great Green Wedding 

E/The Environmental Magazine

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Each year, more than 2 million brides and grooms get married in the United States and Canada. That's a lot of food, flowers and party favors — and a whole bunch of waste and carbon emissions. Luckily, it's becoming easier than ever to green your wedding. Here are some ways to do it.

1. Go local. Using local vendors cuts down on the miles your wedding essentials must travel and puts money back into the local economy. Purchase food from farmers markets, and buy regional wines and brews for your celebration.

2. Use seasonal flowers. "Buying [flower arrangements] in season means they're going to be fresher ... and you will also usually save money," says Kate Harrison, author of The Green Bride Guide (Sourcebooks). Purchase organic flowers to avoid pesticides and artificial scents. If you're set on a specific type of flower, only buy a limited amount.

3. Plant your centerpieces. Peace lilies are easy to grow and act as wonderful air purifiers. Other centerpiece ideas include pots planted with herbs like mint and rosemary or glass jars filled with candles and fruit. If you'd still like flower centerpieces, fill jars with locally grown flowers.

4. Give practical wedding favors. Avoid the waste of kitschy wedding charms by creating edible favors filled with Fair Trade chocolates, colorful candies or fresh fruit. Or, bypass the wedding favors altogether by making a donation to a charity in your guests' honor.

5. Encourage low-impact clothing. Wedding apparel is often so occasion-specific that it's only worn once. Keep your bridal party and the environment happy by allowing flexibility. "I asked our wedding party to wear a dress or tie in a certain color palette [so they could] wear something from their existing wardrobe rather than buying (something) new," says Mary Supley Foxworth, whose green wedding was held in Virginia in 2004. "I loved the result!"

6. Make an invitation statement. E-vites are the greenest route for wedding invitations, but other light-impact options include invitations made with recycled paper, organic cotton or options like bamboo and hemp printed with vegetable-based inks. "We had family members who objected to not receiving a physical invitation as a keepsake, so we ordered recycled paper invitations and skipped the reply cards, asking guests to RSVP via email or phone instead," says Stacey Kenny, who hosted her green wedding in New York in April 2009.

7. Buy used items. Make use of consignment and resale boutiques such as Prima Donna's Closet, On the Other Hand, the Encore Shop, Bloomin' Deals, Miss Claudia's Vintage Clothing, Lili Vintage Boutique, Buffalo Exchange, Rebirth and others. There are plenty of wedding reuse sites like and, as well as traditional resale sites like and, a social networking site, is another great resource for brides. "I bought a pair of Vera Wang shoes for $50 on eBay," Harrison says, "and resold them for $50. This kind of recycling allows you to enjoy a luxury item with minimal environmental or financial impact."

8. Choose a greener dress. Making a wedding dress can take up to 16 yards of fabric, typically made from petroleum products and bleached with toxic chemicals. In addition to vintage, thrift and consignment shops, sites like can help you find the ideal dress. There are also hemp, organic cotton or even bamboo wedding gowns available. And after the wedding, consider donating your dress to a good cause like Brides Against Breast Cancer.

9. Give back through a gift registry. Lots of couples these days are getting married in their late 20s and 30s, which means they may have all the kitchen wares they need. The I Do Foundation allows for a range of charity registry options, including donating 10 percent of purchases to a charity, creating a charity registry and offsetting your wedding's carbon footprint.

10. Ditch the diamonds. Diamonds are forever, but so are their negative social and environmental impacts. Consider rings made with a moonstone, pearl or piece of sea glass. Some jewelers also use wood to create handcrafted, inexpensive wedding bands that can be inlaid with gems. Check the craft site for eco-minded jewelry artists.

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