Ten Steps to An Eco-Friendly Wedding
By: Michael Kabel

With environmental stewardship finally entering mainstream awareness, and concern for ecological balance at an all-time high, the ecological wedding celebration is only just beginning to catch on with new couples. Easy to plan and in a great many cases cheaper than their more traditional counterparts, the "green wedding" event offers the satisfaction of environmental responsibility without sacrificing elegance or opulence.

While of course the following list isn't comprehensive, it does present ten strategies and practices to help your wedding "go green."

Print your invitations on recycled paper

Wedding invitations consume thousands of tons of paper each year. Using recycled paper for the invitations and envelopes reduces paper and tree consumption. If you're planning a "save the date" reminder, you might also consider creating an email presentation in lieu of another mailing. Recycled paper can be purchased at most organic supermarkets and some bookstores, as well as at copy shops and printers.

Hold the ceremony and/or reception at a nonprofit organization

Holding the ceremony at an art gallery, public park or garden, or museum adds culture to your event, while the site itself can use your rental fee to help further its operations, fund new programs, and make improvements to its physical facilities.

Ask in advance how they'll use the money, and even make suggestions if you have an idea. See if a facility downtown isn't within walking distance to where you'll hold the wedding reception or ceremony, to save gasoline and travel time.

Hold your event in late morning or early afternoon, to save electricity.

Conserve some kilowatts while you tie the knot! Holding the event when temperatures are at their mildest reduces dependence on electricity.

Serve organic food

In its simplest definition, organic food is prepared without the use of environmentally harmful pesticides and chemical additives. Free range meat and chicken, prepared without chemical growth hormones, are also a staple of the organic menu. Find a reception facility or restaurant that prepares organic food in an ecological manner and arrange to hold your reception there.

Use recycled decorations

The table linen, banners, and other decorations from your rehearsal dinner or ceremony can also be repurposed for your reception. Any elaborate flower arrangements certainly can be used more than once (saving you money in the process), even at all three wedding events. If you're squeamish about using the same materials over and over again, use them only twice, or borrow different sets from friends.

When the events have concluded, make sure all the linens and dishes are cleaned without chemical detergents.

Recycle the bar empties

Empty glass and plastic bottles and aluminum cans can quickly pile up during larger receptions. Ask the hosting facility if they recycle, and if not, provide bins for the empties that can be hauled away later. If your maid of honor or bridesmaids are also eco-conscious, see if they'll deliver the recyclable goods to a donation bin the day after the reception.

Give seed packet favors

As a special gift to your guests, seed packets give them the charming opportunity to plant flowers that both brighten their surroundings and act as a living reminder of your wedding celebration. Many seed packets are available personalized, and some come in sheer linen varieties, as well. A few are even included in larger, more useful favors, such as bookmarks. Some also include many varieties of flowers, for added vibrancy.

Send leftovers to charity

Many cities now host "food rescue" operations that bring clean, fresh, but unwanted food to local charities. Giving your wedding feast leftovers to such organizations ensures the food will reach an appreciative audience and not generate waste.

Make all the photography digital

Traditional film manufacturing and developing includes the use of heavily toxic pollutants. For the eco-conscious approach, using digital photography eliminates such harmful chemicals without sacrificing film quality. It's also sometimes much cheaper to order prints online or from your local photo lab.

Plant an anniversary tree

This is more of an idea for after the honeymoon or the morning of the wedding itself, and may take place somewhere you often visit, such as your backyard or a public park. You'll have the opportunity to see the plant grow in the years to come, becoming a living and vibrant symbol of you and your beloved's lives together.