As Kermit the Frog famously said all those years ago, "It's not easy being green." Well, take it from someone who is in the thick of it, it's doubly hard to be green while planning a wedding. Think of all those eco-diehards simply decrying the mere idea. A dress that's worn only once! Cut flowers! Empty bottles and cans! Guests gas guzzling to travel from the four corners! Reams of wrapping paper! An electric band! Oh, the carbon footprint!
But even greenistas have to appreciate gathering for something as wonderful as two people joining their lives, so my goal is to find a happy medium. I discovered there are many ways to integrate eco-friendly elements and have the festivities I want. Just like marriage, a wedding is about compromise. And that's a great way to start a life together.
The first challenge is the "where." Wendi Mirabella of Moondance Events & Entertainment, a full-service-event planning and production company in Culver City, bemoans the lack of eco-conscious venues. "A hotel is usually the greenest choice because the infrastructure is already in place," she says. Moondance, run by Mirabella and her partner, Benita Karroll, prefers to work with companies that have preexisting green policies to reduce the often Sasquatch-size carbon footprint of a wedding.
I was interested in something more, well, eco-committed. So I visited Miguel Nelson and Sherry Walsh at SmogShoppe in Culver City's gallery district. Billed as L.A.'s greenest urban oasis, the space features solar panels that provide 100 percent of its energy, tanks to collect and filter rainwater, reclaimed furniture and renewable vegetation over 65 percent of the space.
What could be greener than the great outdoors? While tying the knot on the sandy beaches of the Pacific seems romantic and environmentally friendly, don't be fooled. Mirabella advises against having a ceremony and reception on the sand. If you plan on inviting more than immediate family, consider that everything needs to be trucked in. You're better off exchanging vows beside a perfect L.A. sunset, then brushing off the sand and continuing the celebration at a nearby hotel.
Emailed invitations are supergreen, but come on, who are you kidding? Even the most green-conscious couple want to send something tangible to inspire their guests. Lindsey Rosenthal of Sugar Paper in Los Angeles says, "We can go as eco-friendly as you want. We can use soy-based ink for your letterpress invites and paper with recycled content." Our choice of save-the-date cards and invites were not only a reflection of us but guilt-free green.
And then there's the big day, where I wanted to consider overall sustainability. First stop, food, for which "it really depends on how green you want to take it," says Randy Fuhrman of Randy Fuhrman Events. "It's not difficult to use an organic purveyor." If I decide on a shellfish tower, I can ask the caterer for locally caught seafood from Santa Barbara. A salad à la Alice Waters can be achieved with local greens. Organic meat is easily obtainable, so green doesn't have to mean completely vegetarian. And for those who have been looking for a reason to trim the guest list, keep in mind that fewer guests means less food, which means less trash.
On the entertainment front, live bands use a lot of electricity, not to mention fossil fuels burned when they cart their equipment. So we've ditched the amplifiers. Nothing is quite as stirring as a string quartet, anywayit'll serenade you and your guests before, during and after the ceremony, providing the ultimate unplugged experience. And while quartets can handle Pachelbel's "Canon in D," there are more options. For example, the award-winning Ladies Choice String Quartet can provide a duo (violin and cello) or a trio (two violins and a cello). The Valley-based Mallette String Quartet lets you pick among selections ranging from classical to the Foo Fighters' "Everlong" to the theme from Aladdinall fossil-fuel free.
For the reception, we plan to skip the expensive, power-grubbing house band in favor of a deejay, which can be found in any number of ways, from simply seeking referrals from friends to asking your favorite club for recommendations. Try Scratch DJ Academy in West Los Angeles. They can point you to a faculty member (some of the best around, including DJ Shortee, the first female deejay to release a solo turntable album, 1999's The Dreamer) or a recent top-of-the-class graduate.
And while creating an extensive playlist on your iPod and just hitting play might seem like a smart move environmentally, in a word, don't. In two words, please don't. The last thing you need to worry about is a technical glitchor people making song requests.
As green as it may seem, don't give anyone an excuse to regift. A wedding is the chance for first-time couples to get all those things they want but haven't bought for themselves. Create an online registry, which is not only a snap, it's incredibly easy even for your least tech-savvy guests. The I Do Foundation (idofoundation.org), works with almost every major retailer (from Tiffany to Target) and donates up to 10 percent of the price to charity. If this is a second wedding, you probably already have all the china and place settings you'll need for a decent dinner party. In that case, go for an online registry that allows your loved ones to help finance your fantasy honeymoon. There are several out there, but a reputable option is Traveler's Joy, and when accessed through the aforementioned I Do Foundation's Website, up to 3 percent is donated to charity.
And then there are the I-do outfits. Sadly, the fashion industry has a huge carbon footprint (materials sourced from all over the world and shipped back and forth). Despite some splashy exceptions (think Stella McCartney and Edun), designers have been some of the slowest to jump on the pro-Earth bandwagon. But since few women will want to wear organic cotton or hemp at the altar (even Alicia Silverstone, a rabid environmentalist, wore Monique Lhuillier), consider your mom's dress or one borrowed from a friend or relativeor buy vintage. If you must shop, there are so many places online to look for a wedding gown that you might just be able to save on gas. There are more than 1,000 dresses currently in stores at theknot.com.
When it comes to flowers, wedding specialist Yvonne Van Pelt at the Empty Vase says, "One good idea would be to create ceremony pieces that can be transferred to the reception. Two amazing arrangements on pedestals in front of a gazebo or chuppah can be moved to the stage for the reception. Using more branches with subtle floral accents is a softer look that decreases the amount of water needed."
Newlyweds need to make sure their friends and family remember the day with fondness. I bought natural-fiber bags on reusablebags.com for my favors and had them silkscreened at El Caliban Design in Sylmar. Since we want the wedding to reflect our respect for the planet, my garden geekiness and my husband's inner deejay, our wedding swag will include home-canned plums from our fruit trees, potted herbs from our garden and a CD of our fave love songs.
Because this is my second marriage, I don't need another chafing dish and, well, we're old, so we've requested no gifts. Instead we'll include a card (on recycled stock, of course) with suggestions for donations to causes we believe in.