Planning a Green Wedding: Tips and Advice From a Carbon Neutral Wedding Photographer
by Nathan Welton
If you're planning your wedding and are looking to reduce its impact and make it more green, fret not! It's not that hard and it doesn't have to be expensive. Here's a quick FAQ to get you started along the right track.
Why would I want a green wedding?
Some couples feel a green wedding blends well with their passions and personalities. Last year I photographed a wedding in the Bahamas where the couple wanted their big day to reflect their lifestyles -- they wanted it to be as natural and organic as possible. They were married on a barefoot ceremony on the beach, but it wasn't exactly casual. all their guests wore white, and the visual simplicity of the ceremony -- the white clothes, blue sky, and aqua sea -- was almost zen-like.
Think green as you're planning your wedding?
When you're looking for a place to get married, consider locations that are centrally located. That will mean your guests will have to travel less to get there. When you make your wedding bands, ask your jeweler about using recycled gold. Some couples have had their wedding bands made out of nontraditional materials, which is another cool option. Several artisans make custom wooden rings out of exotic woods that are grown on their own farms. When you send out invitations, look into have them printed on recycled paper -- or better yet, send them electronically.
What are ways to "Go Green" on the day of the wedding?
On the day of the wedding, consider a ceremony and reception in the same place. Also, consider finding a caterer who uses organic, locally grown food. Look at organic wines or local micro-brews. Ask your florist if he or she can design a bouquet out of wildflowers (roses, for example, are often shipped all the way from Brazil). One of the most beautiful bouquets I've ever photographed was a collection of the bride's favorite wildflowers, all picked and wrapped up by the maid of honor. It meant so much to the bride, and the colors were absolutely stunning. You also might consider giving your wedding guests gifts like packages of wildflower seeds. If you're researching venues, ask how they're powered -- some of the classiest places in Colorado are run on wind and renewable energy.
What can I do after the wedding?
If you have a buffet style dinner, you can get biodegradable flatware made from potatoes, and then everything could be composted. Ask your family and friends to donate to an environmental organization in your name instead of setting up a gift registry. If you do get gifts, recycle the boxes and give the piles of packing peanuts to the UPS store. If you bought your dress, consider donating it to a nonprofit afterward. When you honeymoon, look into eco-tourism options. Some programs (like certain wildlife sanctuaries in faraway places) offer really amazing volunteer opportunities.
How can a wedding photographer be green?
First, wedding photographers can shoot digital instead of film, which avoids the many chemicals used in the film developing process. Also, photographers tend to travel around a lot; for destination weddings, often times photographers are the only vendors who fly. Green wedding studios are often run carbon neutral, and they purchase carbon offsets at the end of each year to compensate for the amount of carbon they are responsible for letting into the atmosphere. Also, ask your wedding photographer if he or she can get you earthy, recycled or even carbon neutral books. Several companies offer such products.
What if I want to offset all the carbon production from the wedding?
TerraPass.com or CarbonFund.org both offer wedding footprint calculators. You can input the number of guests who will be at the wedding, the number of miles, on average, each one has to travel, and the percentage who drive and who fly. The web sites can calculate how many tons of CO2 will be released due to the wedding, and based on that will give you a dollar amount you can donate. The organizations take that money and fund carbon reduction programs (planting trees, converting diesel buses to electric ones, etc).
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