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It?s Easy Being Green: Simple Tips for an Eco-Friendly Wedding

It?s no surprise to learn that weddings are a big business in the United States, accounting for over 72 billion dollars in annual revenue, but what is often overlooked is the environmental impact of our most time-honored tradition. If you think your wedding won?t effect the environment, consider that the US Census Bureau calculates that 2.3 million couples get married in the United States each year. When you factor in the average guest list, which is currently 178 attendees, you?re left with over 1.1 million people in America involved in a wedding per day. In a world of ever-increasing fuel prices, global famine, and concerns over climate change, how we celebrate marriage can make a big difference.

So-called ?green weddings? aren?t exactly a new concept, but over the past five years they?ve grown into one of America?s most popular wedding trends, spawning countless websites, non-profit organizations, books, and even magazines. This new focus on ?eco-chic? means your wedding can still be the stylish, magical pageant of your dreams without hurting the environment or your pocketbook. All it takes is a little forethought and a dash of creativity.

Below are some easy tips to consider when you start planning your own green wedding:

Location

Try to select a location that will limit the travel time of your guests as much as possible, and consider holding both your wedding and reception at the same venue.

Choose a location that has a certified commitment to the environment. For a list of eco-friendly venues near you, visit the Green Restaurant Association at www.dinegreen.com.

The Wedding Dress

Create a magical bond with the women in your family by considering a wedding dress previously worn by your mother, grandmother, or a cherished aunt.

If you?re lacking in heirlooms, many quality next-to-new stores offer previously owned wedding dresses from high-end designers at a fraction of the cost.

But if you still need something new, consider dresses made from all-natural fibers like silk or hemp. With no limits on design or texture, hemp is one of the hottest environmentally friendly fabrics on the market today and is increasingly prized by designers around the world.

Also, organizations like the I Do Foundation (www.idofoundation.org) provide recent brides with the opportunity to donate their dresses, giving your dress a special life of its own that will last long after your wedding day.

And when cleaning your clothing, avoid dry cleaning. The dry cleaning process uses a variety of toxic and environmentally hazardous chemicals.

Invitations and Programs

Paper waste is America?s single largest source of refuse, accounting for 35% of the volume of its landfills. Be sure to purchase invitations and programs recycled from 100% Post-Consumer Waste.

Remember: a single ton of recycled paper saves 17-24 trees and conserves enough energy to power an American home (with air conditioning!) for six months.

Also avoid sending invitations with an interior reply envelope and include a postcard instead. Most do-it-yourself invitation kits include templates for creating absolutely gorgeous stationery and are pre-packaged with envelope-free reply cards.

Further cut back on paper waste by creating a bridal website to post directions to your venue, lodging information, your bridal registry, menus, and more. Services like www.ewedding.com can help you make your own bridal website for no charge.

On the day of your wedding, make sure you have recycling containers available or establish a drop-off point for your used programs so you can recycle them later.

And after the big day recycle your wedding cards or save them for a photo album or scrapbook.

Food and Dining

Choose food that is locally grown, organic, and in-season. This not only cuts back the distance your food has to travel, it also bolsters your local economy and guarantees a fresher and more unique dining experience.

If you?re working through a caterer, be sure to include a recycling program in your contract and make sure all your plates and utensils are biodegradable or reusable.

Weddings also generate a surprising amount of food waste. Donate your excess food to a local soup kitchen, food bank, or contact a national organization like Second Harvest (www.secondharvest.org) to learn more.

Green Wedding Floral Arrangements

Work with florists who buy organic products from local growers, or contact regional growers yourself at a local farm market.

For beautiful floral arrangements or table centerpieces, use potted plants that can be replanted after your reception?remember to avoid using peat and choose standard compost instead.

Green Wedding Favors

If you plan on wrapping your wedding favors, be sure to use recycled and biodegradable wrapping paper.

And for a fantastic favor idea first suggested by the Sierra Club, consider giving each of your guests an energy-efficient 11-watt compact fluorescent bulb. Every 50-watt bulb one of your guests replaces will save 685 pounds of carbon dioxide. According to the Energy Star organization (www.energystar.com), replacing one standard bulb in every American household this way would conserve enough electricity to light more than 3 million homes for a year.

Tossing Rice

Throwing rice at a ceremony may be a fun tradition, but it?s also environmentally destructive and leaves a huge mess. Many venues and churches, in fact, specifically forbid the use of rice at weddings. Fortunately for couples who want to be sent off with a bang, there are several "eco-friendly" green wedding alternatives.

Many companies now stock ?designer rice? that has not only been re-formed into fun shapes like hearts, but is also fully biodegradable.

Instead of rice, try blowing bubbles. They?re harmless and make for some spectacular photographs.

If you?re holding a city or urban wedding, consider tossing birdseed.

There is also fully biodegradable tossing confetti on the market such as ecofetti, which is created from a water soluble paper that literally cleans up on its own.

The Honeymoon

And at last we reach the honeymoon. According to one survey, 99% of all newlyweds take one. You want your trip to be special, but consider a nearby location?exotic isn?t always better, and romantic getaways can hide around every corner.

But if you?re determined to make it to the tropics, consider using a tourist agency that offers environmentally-friendly packages. You can get all the romance and beauty while giving something back to the planet that made it possible. For an example of an award-winning travel package that offers just that, visit http://www.travellady.com/Issues/May05/1407Environment.html.

With all the options available out there, creating a truly green wedding is now no more difficult than traditional wedding planning?it?s simply a matter of choosing something green over something that isn?t. It?s a choice that can be cost effective and one your children may one day thank you for. Weddings, after all, are ultimately an expression of how we choose to love. What better expression than a celebration that gives something back to us all?

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This article was submitted by Christian McKinney www.BridesVillage.com.