Living Green 365: Weddings

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Plan a simple, low-impact wedding

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Weddings are a beautiful tradition. They also have a huge impact on your wallet and the environment. The average cost of a wedding is equivalent to a new car, between $18,000 and $30,000. Money aside, the environmental impact of events is simply astounding.

Why not consider a more eco-friendly event, one that basks in sustainability with a touch of elegance? Whether you are planning a wedding for yourself or consulting as a friend or family member, celebrate with these simple tips in mind: 

First and foremost, go small. Eliminate the long guest list and invite only those who care to be a witness. By limiting the number of wedding guests, you can decrease the resources used and waste generated by each person. This will create a more intimate event and save you money.

Select the venue carefully. Your ceremony and reception site determine a lot of what is possible. Ask some questions of the venue before you book: Are they willing to provide recycling for bottles and cans? Capture food waste for animals or composting?  The Green Gatherings website provides a thorough list of questions for you to ask potential sites.

Opt for a different kind of invite. Look for recycled-content paper or make your own paper. Guests will appreciate the thought and begin to grasp the idea of a green wedding. Another option is to forgo the paper altogether and send out electronic invites. Many websites offer features where you can customize your invitations, manage your guest list, and provide links to travel accommodations during the wedding. Some websites are and

Register responsibly. If you already have what you need, there is no reason to have a registry. However, many guests will still want to give, so here are some alternative ideas: 
  • Create a registry that allows guests to donate to your favorite charity. Some great websites are Just Give and the I Do Foundation.
  • Use Alternative Gift Registry to list items that you would be happy to receive handmade or second-hand. Examples include a set of cloth napkins, coasters, or a funky end table. 
  • Choose to support multiple, local businesses. The Organic Consumers Association provides a list of organic products and businesses in Minnesota.
Repurpose your attire. Brides, when it comes to the dress, I understand your desire for only the best. Reused can be high quality and unique. More and more specialty shops, boutiques and websites have begun selling gently used, designer wedding dresses for half the price. You can shop around for a vintage dress at a wedding consignment store that most certainly will be unlike any other. And if you have been considering dusting off a family wedding dress, but it is not quite your style, remember that you can have the dress altered to match your size and your style.

Now to the bridal party: Bridesmaids’ dresses can also be vintage or repurposed. A blog for Minnesota brides provides a list of wedding consignment stores throughout Minnesota. Alternatively, give the bridesmaids a couple of rules to follow, such as style or color, and let them run with it. This will save them money, and increase the likelihood of the dress being reused. Groomsmen can rent their whole outfit! There are bridal shops that provide rentals in nearly every city across Minnesota.

Reflect on your ring. An astounding 20 tons of waste is generated when mining enough gold for one ring. So opt for more eco-friendly options, such as recycled gold, vintage rings, or--if you are on the daring side--wedding tattoos.

Use local flowers. Try to include flowers that are native to Minnesota to reduce emissions from growing, fertilizing, and transporting.
  • Grow your own flowers, or purchase bulk flowers from the farmers’ market. Ask a friend to make simple arrangements for the tables.
  • Use a botanical garden or outdoor theatre, where flowers are naturally part of the landscape. provides a comprehensive list of outdoor venues in Minnesota.
  • Use potted plants and flowers that will continue to grow after the celebration.
  • Support local florists and ask for organic and fair trade flowers.
Set a table that reflects your values. Start by asking potential caterers questions about their willingness to use reusable tableware and prioritize waste reductionThen work with your caterer to plan a menu that includes local foods and vegetarian options. Vegetarian dishes may cut down on the cost of food and use fewer resources to produce. Use Local Harvest or Minnesota Grown to find vendors throughout Minnesota. Eat Wild is a resource for finding grass-fed, Minnesota-raised meats. You can even look for alcohol made in Minnesota. Surprisingly, there are a number of brewers and distillers throughout the state.

Final touches. Let your guests see that reducing your wedding's impact is important to you both. There are many low-waste ideas for party favors, such as a tree or wildflower seeds, or candies wrapped in recyclable packaging. Hopefully simplifying and going green can add new traditions to your family that can be carried on for generations to come. It’s time for a more sustainable tradition.

Community events and resources

At the Three Rivers Park District 2012 Wedding Fair you can browse food vendors, venues, florists, and more, September 30, 1-4 p.m., Silverwood Park (St. Anthony).

Plan to attend Goodwill’s annual wedding dress event to find that perfect repurposed gown. The next event will occur in 2013 in the Twin Cities area. Check Goodwill’s website for updates on the exact date, time, and location.

Do It Green! Minnesota offers resources for planning all environmentally aware events. The site provides resources to Minnesota businesses, other websites, and general ideas.

Minnesota Green Gatherings is a great resource for hosting all types of green events, including engagement parties, bridal parties, and rehearsal dinners.

Don't forget about the State Fair's green's event, the Eco Experience! From August 23-September 3, this event is packed with exhibits and experts about home improvement; Minnesota's air, water & waste; healthy local food; and renewable energy. See you there!

Thank you for reading Living Green 365. This newsletter is a publication of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Please send questions or comments about living green to the address below.
Kirstin Taggart, Britt Gangeness, and the Living Green Team