If you’re interested, Sarah Stewart wrote a great story on green weddings for Vail newspaper, The Vail Trail. You can also check it out below, but also, here’s a link to the story. I got a chance to be interviewed by Sarah, and I think she did an awesome job — the story is full of cool ideas and tips.
‘I do,’ the green way
Couples choose to make their weddings more environmentally sound
Sarah L. Stewart
April 16, 2008
At first, Rae Lori Sandler didn’t even want to send invitations to her wedding at Vail’s Donovan Pavilion — she wanted to save paper and send out e-mail invites instead.
When friends and family convinced her that was tacky, she settled on recycled paper.
“I just want it to be as low-waste as possible,” says Sandler, who will marry Joshua Simon in October.
The couple, who live in Denver, also vetoed their caterer’s suggested menu of Chilean sea bass, given that fish’s precarious population. Now they’re considering an all-organic menu. And their guests — who will carpool to Vail — will be greeted with welcome gifts they can actually use, including a backpack, Nalgene water bottle and granola bars.
“We wanted to start our family together making a statement about how we want to live our lives,” Sandler says.
Simon and Sandler are one of many couples nationwide opting to make their weddings more environmentally friendly, according to The Wedding Report, which tracks wedding-industry statistics.
High Country brides and grooms may be a little ahead of the green-wedding curve: Several local wedding planners estimate that at least 50 percent of their clients make some effort to make their weddings more eco-friendly.
“I think everyone is at least inquiring about it,” says Juli Rathke, publisher/editor of Rocky Mountain Bride Magazine in Breckenridge. “They are interested in being responsible at some level.”
What green means
Since there’s no measuring stick for what constitutes a green wedding, its definition varies, Rathke says.
Some weddings incorporate just one or two eco-friendlier elements. But the dedicated couple can make just about everything that goes into a wedding more green — the invitations, the menu, the decorations, the venue, the gifts, the photos, even the dress.
The betrothed have a long list of ways to make their wedding more green: Trade conventional fare for organic food, wine and beer. Find a venue that recycles or, better yet, uses alternative energy. Schedule a daytime wedding to save the energy lights require. In centerpieces, use non-disposable containers and live plants in place of cut flowers. Have guests make donations to a charity in lieu of traditional wedding gifts, or in place of the token souvenir wedding favor. Hire an all-digital photographer, which eliminates the waste and chemicals film requires. Buy carbon offsets for guests’ travel. Choose a vintage wedding dress instead of buying a new one that will spend forever after in a closet.
Megan Gilman, board chairwoman for the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability, is planning her own green Vail wedding for July. Instead of paper placecards on tables at the reception, Gilman and her fiance will use river rocks with guests’ names hand-painted on them. To save bottles, they’ll have beer on tap. Even Gilman’s engagement ring, a family heirloom, is a shade greener than a brand-new ring would be.
“We’re going to do every little thing we can think of to make sure we’re reducing trash as much as we can,” says Gilman, who owns the Avon-based energy consulting firm Active Energies with her husband-to-be.
But going green doesn’t have to mean forgoing luxury. In February, RockResorts, Vail Resorts’ lodging company, announced its green weddings initiative. Now, couples who wed at the Arrabelle, Lodge at Vail and other RockResorts hotels can choose everything from an organic wedding cake to cleaner-burning soy candles during the ceremony.
“They can go pretty darn green if they want to,” says Julie Klein, director of environmental affairs for RockResorts.
When Klein married 11 years ago, planning a green wedding took a lot of determination.
Books full of recycled paper invitations didn’t exist, so she made her own. Finding an organic caterer took some searching — even in Boulder — and, in the interest of supporting the local economy, the couple recruited someone from the street to make tamales. Klein and her husband even brewed their own beer for the reception and commissioned a nursery to grow their centerpieces.
“I was bound and determined, because that was the way I wanted to do it,” she says.
Just over a decade later, part of her job is making sure other eco-conscious couples don’t have the same trials finding vendors — such as florists, caterers and photographers — who care about the environment.
“We know to try to encourage people to do this, we’ve got to make it easier for them,” Klein says. “If the market doesn’t already demand it, it’s going to demand it.”
Nathan Welton, a wedding photographer who lives in Estes Park but travels to Vail for about half the weddings he shoots, is one vendor who’s made his business more green.
He shoots only digital and offsets the carbon he uses traveling for his company, Dreamtime Images, through www.carbonfund.org. He’s also developing a nationwide directory of wedding vendors who make similar efforts and co-authoring a book on green lifestyles, which includes a chapter on weddings.
Some local wedding planners feel it’s already simpler to plan a green wedding here than other locations that aren’t as focused on the outdoors.
“It’s easy to plan green events here,” says Jenifer Hammond, who owns I Do Wedding Services in Avon. “It just comes naturally to our area because the focus is outdoor play and health.”
A real difference?
Recycled water bottles here, an organic wedding cake there — in the long run, does a green wedding really matter?
Weddings are big business in Eagle County, which issued 585 marriage licenses last year. Assuming they all wed here, that equates to more than 1,000 newlyweds, and thousands more guests — each one producing their own trash.
“It’s a huge extravagance for one night,” Gilman says.
And, she notes, the waste begins long before the ceremony, from invitations, RSVP cards and envelopes to the carbon expenditure of guests’ travel.
“You can’t just look at those things and ignore them anymore,” Gilman says. “(Being green) is such an integral part of our lifestyle now.”
But she and her fiance — and other green-conscious couples — face a dilemma of making their wedding day special yet still being environmentally responsible.
“We try to just do the best we can,” Gilman says.
As green weddings become increasingly common, that balance is becoming easier to reach, Rathke says.
“What these couples are finding is they really can pull it all off,” she says. “It’s definitely something that’s not going to be going away.”