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How to make your wedding green

Ish Fazekas says green weddings are on the rise.

Ish Fazekas says green weddings are on the rise.

Photo By Anne Stokes

In today’s environmentally aware world, there’s no reason the happiest day in a couple’s life—their wedding day—should also be their most wasteful.

Ish Fazekas, wellness director at Arden Hills Resort Club & Spa in Sacramento, has seen his share of weddings. He’s worked in the industry for 15 years and helped coordinate more than 5,000 weddings. He’s also worked on two dozen green weddings—a trend, he said, which has started to pick up in the last 10 months.

And couples are no longer thinking only about the simple measures they can do to minimize their environmental impact, such as buying conflict-free diamonds, using recycled paper for invitations or making donations to charitable organizations in lieu of traditional favors or gifts. Instead, they are taking whole new approaches to maintaining green ideals on their special day.

The biggest carbon footprint for a wedding is not as visible as a big, fluffy white dress or an ornate cake, but at the same time it’s the most expensive part—the guest list. A wedding that requires dozens of guests to fly across the country or drive hundreds of miles isn’t eco-friendly. For those dead set on having all their cousins from the Midwest see them tie the knot, consider holding the celebration at a location closer to the majority of invitees’ residences. For those guests that do have to fly out or make a long drive to the wedding location, many couples encourage guests to purchase carbon offsets.

For the actual wedding, couples at Arden Hills Resort Club & Spa can enjoy a “wellness wedding,” which usually involves some combination of promoting health and green awareness. Through a wellness wedding, couples may select organic vegetarian food produced by local growers, organic flowers grown without the use of pesticides and a cake made from organic ingredients.

Fazekas thinks one element that should be part of any green wedding is the practice of supporting local merchants and growers by purchasing their products for the big celebration.

He’s also seen couples give away small potted plants as favors, which guests can later plant in their backyards or place on their windowsills.

Another big-ticket item is the wedding registry. One way green couples approach this issue is by thinking about the stores where they might register and considering what these companies support, and most importantly, the companies’ environmental practices. Another approach that allows the couple to support a green lifestyle, but without delving into heavy research on various department stores, is to register solely for items that are biodegradable or made from sustainably harvested materials. Of course the most eco-friendly, and perhaps the least ventured route for couples, would be to not register at all, but to request that guests donate to nonprofit environmental organizations approved by the couple.

And now for the best part of any wedding: the honeymoon that follows. Green couples are replacing traditional luxury honeymoons with eco-tours, which are trips that cause minimal impact to the environment, while often focused on nature, wildlife and cultural adventures or education. Some couples journey to South American rainforests to learn about wildlife and native plants, and others join small groups for backpacking, rafting and hiking adventures in Alaska’s remote Arctic wilderness. Ocean enthusiasts can take the opportunity to experience native wildlife with a guided walk on Great Barrier Island without upsetting its ecosystem.

There are many simple ways to add some eco-awareness to a wedding without taking out a second mortgage. Put invitations online and request that RSVPs be made through a Web site or by a telephone call. Buy a used wedding dress. For the wedding reception, make arrangements to compost leftovers rather than throwing the food away.

And, of course, the easiest way to go green is to simply jump on public transit or bike to the nearest courthouse with your partner and sign on the dotted lines, leaving behind barely any carbon footprint at all.