By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Molly Earley Callahan didn’t set out to have a “green” wedding. She had in mind more of a blue and yellow affair, casual but with special touches to create a relaxed, fun time.

Like all brides, she wanted good memories for herself, her groom (Dan), the wedding party and guests, but she also didn’t want anyone to feel hassled or “break the bank” trying to dress for her nuptials.

Meeting with wedding planner Kelly L. Moore, owner of Ambiance Event Planning and Floral Design in Scranton, Pa., Callahan discovered that her vision really was eco-friendly.  She just hadn’t realized that her ideas harmonized nicely with the movement to reuse, reduce and re-purpose, even on that special day.

Molly and Dan Callahan and their accidentally green wedding party.

Molly’s plan to let her bridesmaids choose their own dresses in specified colors, for instance, fit with the reuse vibe of green events.

“I gave them a color, dark blue, light blue and yellow. They got to pick something; that way they could wear the dress again and it wouldn’t just hang in a closet,” said Molly, an elementary school art teacher, reconstructing her August 2011 wedding to Dan, a Middle School math teacher.

“We got the guys (to wear) khakis and blazers and ties,” she said. “…They’ve all already worn them again. They got their outfits, and we bought their ties.”

The Callahans’ wedding, with its ceremony beneath a stained glass window at Marion Chapel at Marywood University  and reception at Fern Hall Inn in Clifford, Pa., featured several other green aspects. Guests were treated to shuttles between events, which reduced the driving and air pollution involved. Molly and her mother made some of the decor items, including colorful fabric-wrapped napkin rings and table runners that could be used again or even re-purposed.

Those table runners were reusable, but they weren’t forgettable, said event planner Ms. Moore. They helped enliven the tables and provided another green benefit, reducing the amount of fresh flowers required. The tables were still decorated with hydrangeas, locally available flower, in cube glass vases.

“It was very beautiful,” said Ms. Moore, who is only one of 10 certified green wedding planners in the U.S.. Because of the certification from the Green Bride Guide, the Pennsylvania businesswoman has overseen many weddings in her area of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and also in Central Park, New Orleans, Florida and locations in the U.S. West.

Birch trees make vases with a local flair.

Green weddings are becoming more popular as people realize that they’re not necessarily more expensive, and can even be more economical, Moore said. The Callahans saved money on clothing, flowers and decor. When it came to the reception, they were able to support local food by using a Fern Hall chef who’s already built menus around seasonal, regional foods. The couple also supported the local economy by enlisting a friend with a pizza parlor to feed people at a post-wedding dinner.

Instead of buying kitschy favors that people might just throw away, the couple gave donations to the American Cancer Society and a local humane shelter, in honor of Dan’s father, an animal advocate who died from cancer a few years before the wedding.

The Callahans feel they had the celebration they dreamed of. It was simple, elegant and low-stress, and almost coincidentally a low-impact, green wedding as well.

“Even if you weren’t trying, it’s not hard to have a green wedding,” Molly said. “A lot of people still say it was one of the most unique weddings and people had a lot of fun at it, people were just relaxed and had a great time.”

“We remember what all happened, not the stuff.”

A green wedding doesn't have to be in the woods, but it can be. Here another wedding party embraces nature and the family dog.

From Moore’s perspective, green weddings can be as charming, if not more so, than conventional weddings, and they’re more likely to save money, by re-purposing decor and clothing, using reusable party favors and local foods. Some green twists can add costs, such as organic foods and specialty green or organic items that aren’t manufactured on a large scale, she said. But brides are discovering that green weddings don’t have to be more expensive, despite having that reputation. They’re just different and more earth-friendly.

And contrary to misperceptions, they do not require the wedding party to dress in undyed cotton gauze and recite Thoreau in the woods.

“It can be in a ballroom, as high style as you like,” Moore said. The bride just needs to incorporate greener goods, reduce waste and mindfully use resources. A Pennsylvania bride might, for example, forgo serving Gulf Shrimp in favor of featuring nibbles grown and made in Pennsylvania, thereby supporting the local economy and reducing shipping and packaging. She might also cluster potted flowering plants as centerpieces on the table, and give them away as lasting party favors, said Moore, who’s used this idea at weddings she’s planned.

Reducing packaging and incorporating recycling represent cost-neutral upgrades for a wedding that go virtually unseen by guests, says Moore, a life-long tree and nature lover who’s spent 17 years in the wedding industry and also teaches horticulture and floral design at a local trade school.

A succulent in an elegant gold pot creates a party favor that lives on.

In addition to recycling cardboard and plastics at weddings, Ambiance also rents reusable decor that may already be re-purposed, such as the birch bark vases and candle holders Moore recently created out of trees felled during a rain storm.

“That was just reusing something that was going to go to waste'” she said.

The greening of weddings doesn’t have to wait for the big event, however. It can begin with the shower or even the proposal. One topic that many brides are discussing is the question of where their diamond should come from. As awareness of green weddings has grown, more couples are familiar with the problems of “conflict diamonds” that come from war-torn regions in Africa, Moore said.

There are several conscience-clearing solutions. She advises couples to ask their jeweler to show or find them “conflict-free” diamonds that originate in other parts of the world or to consider remaking a family heirloom, reusing either the diamond or the setting and possibly having a new ring made that carries both eco-credentials and sentimental value. Brides can also shop at estate sales to find diamonds or ring sets to reuse.

As Moore writes on her website:

“Little choices can have a large impact, and there is always room for improvement.”

Copyright © 2012 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network