Brides Go Green – Planning an Environmentally Friendly Wedding

April 2013 View more


After the euphoria of the engagement announcement dies down and an engaged couple dives into the ocean of decisions surrounding the planning of their big day, they are usually guided by their individual tastes, family expectations, and tradition. Some, however, take into account the needs of another key player in their future lives together—the environment.

“Having a green wedding can kill two birds with one stone,” says Carol Sawka of O’cei Floral. “You can help the environment and keep the costs down.”

The reports that the 2.5 million weddings in the U.S. this year will produce an average of 62 tons of carbon dioxide and 400 to 600 tons of garbage between transportation, food waste and disposable decorative items like flowers, runners, paper, food, etc. In fact, if you place all of those disposable aisle runners end to end they would circle the globe twice.

Many brides are planning a new kind of wedding, known as the “eco-chic” wedding, which is environmentally conscious without sacrificing style or elegance. The trick is to apply the old adage “reduce, reuse and recycle” to the wedding day. Here’s how:

Reduce: Distance and Paper

N2013_04_01_020LARGESome brides are saving carbon emissions and hassle for their guests by having their receptions near or at the same place as the ceremony. For example, holding the wedding on the grounds of the reception banquet hall means guests will not have to travel to a second location.

The amount of paper involved in the typical wedding is considerable, from the save the date mailing, to the place cards at the reception. Choosing recycled papers and soy inks is environmentally responsible, but some couples take it to the next level by forgoing paper altogether and instead sending a cute, creative video for their engagement announcement, save the date, or actual wedding invitation. even identifies personal recycling services that will take reception paper waste, such as invitations, place cards, menus, etc., and recycle them into thank you cards for the bride’s use. Voila! A zero waste wedding.

Reuse: favorite things

N2013_04_01_019LARGECarol Sawka remembers how one of her favorite eco-chic weddings developed from the mother-of-the-bride’s desire to reuse some old, antique wooden cheese boxes. “The reception was already being held at a historic location so we went with the theme,” said Sawka. Soon, the whole event had a romantically elegant, rustic feel to it, including floral arrangements which featured the cheese boxes, bouquets with wild flowers and herbs, and the use of old metal milk containers as the centerpieces.  Sawka reminds brides that using family heirlooms like table linens, doilies, broaches and collectibles will add a memorable, personal touch to the big day, and can also be considered a green effort.

Keeping in the eco-chic style, Sawka says recyclable, biodegradable burlap bags and mason jars are big this year for holding the flowers, votive candles, party favors or anything else needed on the special day. “I’ve even seen burlap chair ties and aisle runners,” she said.

Recycle: the remains 

While it’s common to rue the fact that the bridal flowers, decorations, etc. were created for one day alone, there are many ways to make the wedding accoutrements live another day.

Sawka rents vases for the wedding florals so they can be used again for another wedding. Some brides deliver their centerpieces and flower arrangements to hospitals and convalescent centers after the event is done. GreenBrideGuide also suggests delivering leftover reception food to shelters and those in need or offering it to guests to take home before they leave the hall. Of course, brides and grooms can easily check with their venue to make sure it offers a proper recycling program for bottles and cans from the reception.

Green Trends in Sweets

N2013_04_01_033LARGEThe wedding cake creates a beautiful focal point at the reception. Today’s brides are grasping at the opportunity to stray from the traditional wedding cake design, while keeping the environment in mind.

For the past five years, Sugar Monkey Cupcakes in Naperville has offered beautiful towers of cupcakes topped with a smaller layer of cake as a unique alternative to the traditional cake. “It’s a fun way to do your wedding because you can really customize each cupcake,” said Neda Darwish, owner of Sugar Monkey Cupcakes. She says the trend toward cupcakes at weddings began several years ago but today’s green brides and grooms appreciate the minimized waste at the end of the night with a cupcake wedding. “The cupcake becomes the party favor and can be easily packaged in a Chinese take-out container to travel home,” said Darwish. Couples also appreciate the no cut element of the cupcakes, the slightly lower cost compared to traditional cakes, and the ability to easily order a variety of flavors for their guests.

N2013_04_01_021LARGEAt The Artful Baker in Naperville, Karina Kappel said her brides are also ordering different flavors for each of their wedding cake layers this year. Sometimes, Kappel even customizes a flavor to match a theme. “Recently a bride had a fall themed wedding and I created a caramel apple cake for her,” said Kappel. This year’s brides are also favoring cake designs inspired by lace and their bridal dress fabric. They are also embracing a bold use of color instead of the all traditional white cake.

Kappel also accommodates requests from eco-conscious brides who request local or organic fruit for their cakes. She also recycles cake boxes and wooden cake bases and ensures that the bride’s count is accurate before baking an order to minimize waste. She doesn’t believe in baking an extra layer to freeze and eat on the first anniversary. “Ultimately it’s wasteful because everyone forgets about it in the freezer and it doesn’t taste as good anyway,” Kappel said. “So, I offer brides a complementary anniversary cake on their first anniversary. That way it’s fresh and tasty, and not thrown away.”

Remember the iconic plastic bridal couple standing on top of the wedding cake? Kappel says most couples are opting instead for fresh or sugar flowers which are greener alternatives to a traditional cake topper.

Green to Go 

The desire to go green has also extended to that last detail of the evening, the wedding party favor. Perhaps the most popular, most personal eco-friendly gift is a donation to a special cause or charity made in honor of the guests at the wedding. However, the useful and creative items listed below are among the most popular eco-friendly favors this year. Package them in a burlap sack, mason jar, or other biodegradable container for an environmentally responsible, no-waste favor.

• Coffee, tea, or mulling spices 

• Homemade doggie biscuits or pet treats 

• Bookmarks 

• A keychain 

• Candied apples 

• Personalized CD with the couple’s favorite songs 

• Homemade granola, hot cocoa, or other edible mix 

• Signature soda pop (


• Personalized flash drive with music, photos, and information from the couple 

• Plants, seeds, or seedlings 

With plenty of ways to “go green” from choosing the venue, to the recycling of disposables at the end of the night, couples can easily plan their wedding with the environment in mind. Surely they agree that minimizing waste and leaving a minimal carbon footprint is a great way to start a new life together.