Friday, June 25, 2010

Green Wedding Elements

As you may know, I was married thirteen days ago to my best friend.  As you may also know, weddings pose a bit of a conundrum for eco-conscious vegetarians.  Weddings tend to notoriously be meat-fests (chicken or beef?), decorated with flowers shipped halfway around the world, and symbolized by little circles of death and destruction (AKA wedding bands).  There are certainly many other ways to cause harm to our planet and its inhabitants with a wedding, but these are the three main points that occur to me as I write this...partially because I'm about to talk about them.  Others include the clothing (often pearl-encrusted and made by who?), the candles (beeswax or soy?!), the hair and make-up (I fell horribly short on this... I could not find any vegan spas in NJ and I caved to the desire to be pretty)... suffice it to say that weddings are not traditionally eco-friendly.

Enter my wedding.  I'm going to say this up front - this party certainly didn't win any prizes for being green.  Much as I would have liked to have an all-vegan wedding like Alicia Silverstone did, it just wasn't doable considering the other people involved.  Yet I did make efforts to have green elements, some of which were pretty significant, and I thought I'd share them with you.

I'd like to get the question of the food out of the way before anything else - this battle was lost before it began.  My husband eats meat and my parents, who paid for it, are devoted carnivores, so I really stood no chance in that department.  My husband and I compromised on a beef option (for him - he's allergic to poultry) and a veggie option (for me).  We reasoned that there's no reason that the menu shouldn't reflect us, seeing as how we were the bride and groom, and the idea of just having the traditional beef/chicken options made me rather upset.  Enter my parents.  Yes, they said, it's fine to have a veggie option but just one meat option isn't enough!  People need options!  Apparently vegetables aren't an option, even after a meat-fraught cocktail hour.  Fine, I said, beef, chicken, and vegetarian.  Fine.  Enter the site coordinator.  Well if you're going to have three options you would have needed to note that on the RSVP card.  Great.  It was weeks after the invites had gone out.  Come on, I said.  The vegetarian option is going to be available either way - why can't you just put it on the menu?  What's the difference?  She agreed and, though not pleased at the extra meat at the wedding, I was somewhat satisfied.  The day of the wedding?  The menu listed prime rib, chicken-something, and, in tiny font, Vegetarian option available upon request.  Awesome.  No description at all.  It's the note put to satisfy the picky people.  Like the bride.  I was not pleased.  And what was the vegetarian option, you ask.  Vegetables covered in cheese.  Not very inspired.

Well now that I've gotten that out (can you tell it bothers me?), I can move on to the happy aspects of the wedding!  First up...chocolate!

In lieu of the traditional bag of rather unappetizing Jordan almonds, we offered our guests two bars each of Endangered Species Chocolate.  There were three species: butterfly (dark chocolate), lion (milk chocolate), and giraffe (milk chocolate with peanut butter).  Not only is this chocolate delicious but 10% of the net profits go towards helping endangered species and their habitats.  Isn't that sweet?  Plus, their dark chocolate is actually vegan unlike many dark chocolates out there.  And, it's accessible: not crazy expensive and available in mainstream grocery stores.  Delicious!

The most important things to me about our flowers was not that they be a specific color or of a specific variety but that they be local.  I didn't want flowers shipped from New Zealand, with all the related waste of fossil fuels and yucky emissions that hurt the planet.  So I looked.  And looked.  And finally I found an independent florist who uses all local flowers but as much as I liked her, I had to be practical - she works alone, has a kid, and was pregnant with another.  It sounded like a recipe for disaster.  So I found another - and she stood us up at our first (and last) appointment.  At this point I was ready to give up.  No conventional florists could guarantee where the flowers come from and it's really difficult to search this kind of thing online.  I was ready to thrown in the towel and take what I could get.  I called a conventional florist who, luckily for me, was booked for our date.  But, they said, we can recommend someone.  She's the only person's we'd ever recommend.  The woman whose name they gave me uses all flowers grown down the street from her house and has people who work for her.  And - could I be this lucky? - she happened to have my date available even though it was only three months in advance.  The flowers were beautiful by the way.  Her vision for them exactly matched mine - colorful, varied, and a lot of fun.

Finally, the big kahuna: the rings.  I hadn't ever thought of jewelry as being detrimental to the planet or its inhabitants.  It's just metal and rocks, right?  You pull it out of the ground, melt it, shape it, and voila!  Prettiness.  I've actually never been one for wearing jewelry, so I've never given it much thought in general.  I occasionally get it as as gift, put it in a drawer, and am done.  Then one day, around the time we started looking for wedding bands, I read this article from Tasha at The Voracious Vegan, which inspired me to do some research of my own.  Blood diamonds?  Who knew?  I of course know about all the warring in Africa and I knew that many diamonds come from Africa but I had never put two and two together before.  Fortunately, my engagement ring was originally my Grandma's.  She gave it to us shortly before she passed away last summer, so a) it's recycled! and b) it's invested with a lot more sentimental value than something we could have overpaid for at Zale's or Kay or Jared, or any of the many other jewelry stores whose commercials offend me.  I rest easy knowing that nobody died so that I could have something shiny on my finger.  

I knew then that I didn't want to support a conventional jeweler with the purchase of our wedding bands.  I wanted to find a company that was conscientious of the impact of their product and sourced its product in a way that didn't cause violence.  As luck would have it, Facebook matches its advertisements to the content of your profile so over the last year I've seen a lot of ads (many of them offensive) for wedding-related products, websites, etc.  One of these was for Brilliant Earth, a company that produces rings and other jewelry using Canadian diamonds and recycled gold (apparently mining gold is incredibly destructive, "with 20 tons of ore required to produce enough gold for a single ring" (Brilliant Earth's website).  You can read more about Brilliant Earth's ethical practices here.  While I was a little wary about ordering something so expensive and invested with importance online, I read some good reviews and, frankly, the risk was worth it to me.  And you know what?  We couldn't be happier with our rings.  They're very simple - matching white gold bands with milgrain detailing around the edge - and absolutely perfect.  I think that wedding bands should match (otherwise what's the point?), though Mitchell's is a little wider than mine in proportion to the size of his hands.  All in all?  A great choice in keeping with my ethics and the simple beauty that is a marriage.  It was probably also the most significant of our efforts at a green wedding as well as the most expensive.  Money talks after all.  I talked to - I tried to make as many people as I could aware of the issues with wedding rings and jewelry in general, and advertised heavily for Brilliant Earth.  They're worth all the talk.  Plus they gave us a cute ring box that holds both rings!

There were a couple other scattered efforts at greenness that I'd like to mention.  For my NJ wedding shower, my bridesmaids gave out seed packets as favors.  For the rehearsal dinner, my husband's aunt (the sweetest lady in the entire world) gave out custom travel mugs to everybody that showed our names and the date of our wedding.  Finally, I gave all my bridesmaids lunch purses - insulated bags perfectly sized for lunch and much more eco-friendly than brown paper bags or take-out.  I got them from Diane's Corner, a shop on Etsy.  This shop has a great variety of patterns, is reasonably priced, and does custom orders.  Diane herself is extremely helpful and willing to work with you on what you want, plus has incredible turn-around time.  It took me something like two months and dozens of messages back and forth before I finally placed an order and she was upbeat and accommodating throughout all of it.

Our wedding was an amazing day, despite my complaints about the meat.  The fact that we were able to incorporate these planet-friendly aspects into it just made it all the better.  <3


  1. Argh, I wrote a long comment and Blogger went and deleted it.

    Let's try this again:

    1. Your bridesmaids also ATTEMPTED to have your wedding shower guests wrap gifts in reusable materials (reusable shopping bags, useful cloth things, etc.) but it was a mostly failed attempt. Having Bed, Bath, and Beyond wrap that giant box for you is apparently just far too tempting.

    2. The menu thing was outrageous and if you haven't contacted them about it yet, I think you should. As someone who used to organize and print menus for large events, I know that adding an entree is incredibly easy. I really doubt they had to worry about running out of food, so they have no real excuse for not doing it other than laziness. Plus, who in this day and age still writes "Vegetarian Option Available" on the bottom of a menu in tiny print? It just seems archaic and slightly offensive. Vegetarian or not, we live in the age of Top Chef, Alton Brown and "The Omnivore's Dilemma". People WANT TO KNOW what they're eating, what their options are, and where their food came from, whether at a wedding down the shore or a hot dog stand in Central Park (okay, maybe you DON'T want to know when it comes to the hot dog stand). Now I'm just preaching to the choir. ;-) Anyway, the menu thing pissed me off on your behalf so I think you should let them know you were NOT PLEASED.

    3. The flowers were GORGEOUS (my mom made a point of commenting on how pretty they were, btw) and I wish I'd taken better care to preserve mine. They were a lovely spot of color in my living room while they lasted.

  2. (Oh, we also looked at getting some biodegradable cutlery, plates, and cups for the shower but it was too expensive. Booo.)