Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Sustainable Wedding?

I've been reflecting a lot on weddings and eco-weddings, and what it means to throw a "sustainable wedding" or what the hell that phrase means in the first place.

Weddings are ... difficult. For me, the past month has meant realizing more fully than I had ever truly realized how a wedding really isn't about me. I know, Modern Bride might beg to differ, but it's not just MY special day. It's a lot of people's special day, including, of course, the groom. And those people also have opinions about what the wedding should look like. Especially the groom.

I had ideas about what I wanted my wedding to look like, and I had to pretty much toss them out the window immediately. A lot of my friends (who like me, tend to run pretty indie and eco) incorporated a bunch of Do It Yourself projects into their weddings. In my head, I liked the idea of setting up the wedding with friends and family. But I'm not very crafty, my family is not really a "DIY" family, and we're having a fairly large wedding. DIY ain't happening here.

So, fine, I thought. I have always said that you don't have to be a cowboy, you don't have to do things yourself. Living sustainably can also involve hiring others who share your values. Maybe I can hire a "green caterer" or a "green florist." We can do email save the dates, or maybe not do them at all.

And maybe we will do those things. Or maybe we won't. Maybe we will be constrained by our budget and won't be able to afford the "green caterer," or maybe our attempts to be eco will end up saving us money.

I just don't know, and to a certain extent, I have to let it go.

In a lot of ways, I think weddings are inherently unsustainable from an environmental perspective. They are big shindigs that typically involve a lot of traveling by a multitude of people. It's a lot of money, a lot of energy, a lot of hassle, a lot of stress, a lot of crying. For what generally amounts to ONE DAY.

On the other hand, weddings are sustaining. Not just for one couple, but for entire communities. Weddings are our way of saying together as a community, "Yes. We're here for you. We love you. We're with you."

Look. We're inviting people from four different continents to our wedding (pretty sure there's no one from Africa or Australia on our lists, though I could be wrong.) I don't know if all those far away people are going to travel, but it's probable that some will. And the uptight crazy eco-nut that still exists inside of me to remonstrate when I do things like use paper towels or sleep in and drive to work feels pretty bad about all the energy that will be consumed so people can come to my wedding.

But the rest of me can't get too worked up about it.

I read a post somewhere about someone's wedding (vague I know, if anyone has any idea where the following came from let me know) where they talked about the oft given advice to not invite anyone to the wedding who you weren't sure you would be friends with in three years. And they said that that advice ignored the fact that some people WOULD be your friends in three years BECAUSE you invited them to your wedding.

There are few events where all the people you love make a point to gather in one room, and weddings are one of those select few events. And at the end of the day, that's what it's about for us. It's not about the chairs or the music or the cake or the invitations (though we have opinions on all those things), it's about the people.


I'd like to promise to myself right now, here on this blog, to keep that in mind for the next several months. That, at the end of the day, our wedding is about us, our friends, our family, and our joined community. And as long as I keep remembering that I know, that while our wedding might not the most environmentally sustainable thing in the world, it will be emotionally sustainable. And that's what matters most to me.


chall said...

I got surprised about how many people who pitched in some odd comments when I stated "it's not my wedding, it's ours" and referred to my then husband to be...

I wonder if you have seen this website? if nothing else, there are a lot of various links and suggestions on there. And I think there have been quite a few sustainable wedding, with various invites(evites) etc.

ruchi said...

I love A Practical Wedding. Highly recommend it to any other brides and grooms to be.

Actually one of those posts is where I probably read the bit about how people may be your friends after three years because you invited them to your wedding.

Anonymous said...

Ru, I agree with you completely. I think in this case, you have to allow yourself to enjoy the coming together of people, the wonderful food and company, your lovely groom, and just do your best in the planning to satisfy your inner eco-nut. Congratulations!

Eigon said...

I had a "Do-it-Yourself" wedding, and it ended up being far more meaningful for everyone involved than if I'd hired everything.
My mother-in-law did the flowers - she taught flower arranging and was once chosen to do flowers for St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.
The dress was made by a local dressmaker.
The vegan cake was made by a local lady who worked from home.
The ordinary cake was made by a local cake shop.
There was no photographer. We encouraged all our friends to take pictures and share them with us, and we chose the best for our wedding album (and the talent of some of our friends surprised us!).
The reception was at a local pub with a garden (summer wedding) and they got an extra barrel of real ale in specially for us. It went so well that they started serving real ale regularly.
I also managed to get the Cathedral organist, and allowed him to improvise so that he could play something that he liked (gorgeous Tudor music that I liked too).
The whole thing cost us £600 when the average price of a wedding at the time was £6,000.

ruchi said...

I agree. I think Do it yourself weddings are lovely, but they only really work if your family is into it and wants to pitch in. My family is wonderful, but is the sort that would prefer to get other people to do things like flower arrangements, etc. Hence, no DIY.

Rosa said...

With all those people, it might be greener for you & your groom to have smaller events on each of those four continents. We recently attended the American side wedding of a bi-continental couple, a few weeks after the Chinese ceremony - they showed slides of her family at the reception, which was mostly his family.

Anonymous said...

How about: only inviting people who's funeral you would go to?

The Environmental Goddess said...

Although I am nowhere near planning a wedding, hehe, I have recently thought of the issue of sustainable weddings...and it is indeed a difficult thing to achieve. Maybe if you try to find a few elements that you really, absolutely want as sustainable elements and stick to those? For the rest, do your best to use reusable/reused materials, recyclable, know the drill! And most importantly, have fun!

EcoGeoFemme said...

I agree completely. I think we're wedding twins. :)

Our wedding is turning out to be rather more involved than I initially envisioned it. That's in part because we found this completely awesome space at a forest preserve that uses a fancy caterer and partly because my sister, who does things fancier than I do, volunteered to do most of the planning and all of the decorating. One thing we're doing that's a little bit sustainable is using in season flowers. Since we're having a fall wedding at a forest preserve in the Midwest, the obvious choice for decorations is fall colors, which makes mums the obvious choice for flowers. I will probably have roses for my bouquet though.

The funny thing about His Opinions: I want him to have them, but I want them to be just like mine. Hmmph!

ruchi said...

OMG, Ecogeofemme, we totally ARE wedding twins. We both have vintage rings AND we're both getting married in the fall!!

Chile said...

Ok, somehow I missed this and the news you were engaged. Congratulations, Ruchi! Woohoo!

When I got engaged, I had no clue what was involved with planning a wedding so I bought a standard wedding planner book to help. I used it just to get ideas but did not follow it to the letter.

We bought recycled paper cardstock and took it to the printer for our invitations. We paid friends to provide the food and music for the reception. My matron-of-honor sewed her own dress. And we started our honeymoon fund with the $180 of loose coins I collected from my fiance's house.

Oh, and a year later, I wrote to everyone whose wedding gifts I was still using regularly (bowls, blankets, mint plant, etc.) and thanked them again for their contribution to our new life together.

Best wishes for a lovely and low-stress wedding.