03/24/2012 02:20 pm ET Updated May 23, 2012

10 Ways To Celebrate Green: Wedding Planning, Purchasing, And Partying

We look forward to weddings as ceremonies of love and commitment, a gathering of friends and family, and hopefully, a rockin' dance party. But beneath the lacey surface, they have some hidden secrets: leftover food, wilted flowers, discarded or wasted decorations, and left-behind favors.

But how can it be avoided? You may be thinking, "I have enough to worry for my wedding without trying to save the world!" . . . but considering the environment while you plan, purchase, and get set to party can actually make your job easier. It quickly narrows down vendors and kicks things up a notch creatively. Above all, it helps you feel really good about your choices.

When my friends Rachel and Jasper Seldin got married, their money-conscious planning helped them incorporate their ideals as a couple, and be incredibly eco-friendly in the process. An old estate served as a beautiful venue and required little to no decoration. Flowers were purchased at a local farmer's market the day before -- and as bridesmaids, we made our own bouquets (which later served as centerpieces). They skipped traditional favors and donated to the ASPCA on behalf of guests, expressing their love for animals. And at the end of the night, everyone carpooled back to San Francisco safely and in style in a comfortable shuttle. All these choices made the event uniquely, greenly them.

10 eco-chic ideas for your wedding:


1. Skip the paper and create a personalized wedding website instead: include maps, lodging suggestions, and even your proposal story. You save on printing, design, and mailing costs by requesting replies online. If you do send traditional invites, recycled or tree-free paper are earth-friendly options.

2. Location, location, location: Choosing where to tie the knot can have a huge impact on everything from the food you serve to the colors you use to the dress you wear. Museums and botanical gardens have beautiful and timeless built-in décor so you'll save on decorations and help support a nonprofit at the same time.

3. For feel-good flowers, think organic, seasonal, and potted: Organic sources are a good alternative to imported flowers (that can be saturated with pesticides). Or use a local florist and explore flowers that are in season to avoid the financial and environmental cost of transporting out-of-state items. And ask about potted plants you or your guests can enjoy long after your special day.


4. Jewelry lasts forever: We hope so at least! It's the one part of your wedding day that will stay with you, so I don't need to tell you it's a big choice. Consider the source of your metals and gems; a little research will go a long way. Make sure the diamond is conflict free, choose jewelers with a conscious track record, and ask questions to feel good about your purchase.

5. Style me green: Vintage is in, but it's not just a Pinterest fad. Using fabric from an heirloom dress, for instance, can save you money and ensure that the styling and tailoring stays local. Give something old a new, personal, and fashionable twist.

6. "And you can wear it again!": Every bridesmaid has heard this, but how often does it ring true? Consider letting your ladies choose their own dresses (perhaps in the same color scheme or catalogue) or even wear their own garment, so there's less of a chance of a one-time-only gown. They'll thank you too.

Partying and Beyond

7. Gifts that give back: Raise money for causes you care about by requesting donations to charity as your wedding gifts. Start a charity registry with I Do Foundation and guests can conveniently give online. Or, donate to a favorite cause in lieu of traditional trinkets for a unique wedding favor that won't be soon forgotten.

8. Eat, Drink, and Be Savvy: Narrow down your meal options and insist on an organic caterer, local food choices, and organic wines (or spirits like VeeV that are carbon neutral, sustainable, and eco-friendly). The results are sure to taste incredibly fresh.

9. Recycle, Reduce and Reuse: If it can't be recycled, reduced, or reused -- rent! Ask if your vendors have a recycling policy. Plan ahead to find a shelter or retirement home for leftover food and flowers. Creatively use recycled materials throughout your ceremony and reception.

10. Reduce your Footprint: Using one of many easy-to-use online tools, you can calculate your wedding's carbon footprint, and then offset your emissions. With some of the tips above, you'll be well on your way.

For more eco-conscious wedding ideas, check out these Green Tips & Ideas.