There's no reason you can’t have the wedding of your dreams that also supports your highest ideals of green living. We're here to help get you thinking out of the box of ways to support sustainable practices throughout every aspect of your wedding planning from your florist, to your caterer, and your venue. Let's get you feeing great about every single part of your wedding!
--<<Choosing A Caterer and Menu>>--
The caterer and menu you choose can make or break your wedding in terms of sustainability. By now the idea of ‘farm to table’ has made it’s way into food culture all across the country, so it won’t take much trouble to plan a menu that supports our farmers and environment. Challenge yourself to take the most sustainable path possible in planning the big day.
Tips on Green Catering
Ask your prospective caterer about their sourcing practices. Schedule a phone call and dig deep. When they say they buy from local organic farms, ask them what this actually looks like. Many restaurants and caterers will pay lip service to local product by indeed making the effort to buy some produce locally, but still rely on big distributors for the bulk of their orders (and hey, no judgement, we’ve all got to run our businesses). BUT, if local and organic are values you hold, it won’t be hard to see them through in your wedding cuisine.
Do some research on what’s in season in the area during the month of your wedding, and feel free to ask your caterer for suggestions. The best chefs know how to listen to your general tastes and from there suggest delicious, seasonal dishes.
Be a bit flexible with your menu and give your caterer some artistic license. If you’re dead set on certain dishes prepared traditional-to-the-letter, you’re less likely to empower your chef to work with what’s tasting great locally (rather than having to order in some sub-prime vegetable from far away just because you specified needing it).
Have a plan for waste! Extra food will be prepared at your wedding. There’s no way around it when dealing with such a special event with so many variables. Talk to your caterer before hand and ask if they can commit to donating the extra food through an easy service such as Food Runners here in San Francisco. You just call and they come pick up extra food to donate!
There are a few overall types of venues and at first glance, each venue within a type can look pretty similar to the next. Churches are churches, wineries are wineries, farms are farms. But when it comes to sustainability, each location will in fact have a different set of values and practices that either jive with yours or don’t.
Tips on Venue Choice
Check out the venue's rules relating to their grounds, products used onsite, and the like. This is one area where, I have to say, the more rules the better. Does a potential venue prohibit disposable cups, trampling all over the garden, bringing in invasive species in the flowers or food? That’s pretty rad, and it's telling about their commitment to their landscape.
Is one winery you’re considering committed to organic or biodynamic practices, while another makes no mention of it? Go with the more sustainable option! Even if it doesn’t affect your wedding directly, you can feel better about voting with your dollars for the industry leader in green practices.
I love a farm or ranch wedding. There are many out there that are still active, working farms, running operations that supplement their income by operating as an occasional venue and welcoming people to their beautiful property. Support the family farm and check them out!
--<<Find A Great Florist>>--
Just as in the catering end, in your wedding flowers you have a huge opportunity to choose to be a part of the solution by supporting local, organic product. The vast majority of people planning a wedding have no idea that some simple choices can make a big dent in the direction of a quite nasty international industry. Did you know that 70% of flowers sold in the US are imported? That means that unless you dig around, your wedding flowers, too, probably will come from overseas. By supporting local instead, you’re greatly reducing your carbon footprint, supporting better labor practices, and sustainable, regenerative agriculture.
Tips on Flowers
- Learn what’s growing locally during your wedding season! I’ve seen so many couples learn about seasonal flowers and become huge flower nerds through their wedding planning process. If you’re the type who always appreciates the beauty of flowers but doesn’t know too much about them, what better time to learn? A great way to see what’s in season is to research local farms in the area, either by hitting up farmers markets or by trolling around on instagram (search for hashtags like #flowerfarmer, #slowflowers, or #farmerflorist).
- Say no to floral foam! Who among us wants to see the sausage being made? There are gross things happening behind closed doors of every industry. In the floral world, the industry traditionally relies on floral foam to achieve certain looks (especially in designing arches). Let me tell you, this foam is highly toxic, leading to potential health risks for everyone along the chain from the manufacturer to your florist to your wedding guests. More and more progressive florists are relying on alternatives to floral foam and can achieve basically the same look by using creative alternative methods. Ask yours if they’re willing to forgo the foam.
- Give your florist some freedom (they’ll love you for it). If you specify lots of MUST HAVE flowers, your florist is limited to designing with those flowers no matter how they look or where they came from. Wouldn’t you prefer the freshest, most lush selection of what’s blooming at it’s peak the week of your wedding? If you give your florist some leeway they’ll be able to use their years of experience to achieve your desired look by creatively blending the best of what’s in season. Tell them your color scheme, the look you like, and ask for their advice about what flowers to include. And finally, let them know that you trust them to use their judgement the week of!
- Compost the flowers after the wedding. As we’ve mentioned, creating some waste during a wedding is almost unavoidable. I recommend embracing creative solutions to this problem rather than wincing and turning your head away. If you’re lucky enough to be working with a florist who grows their own flowers, then they’re probably already counting on bringing your arrangements back to the farm to compost and feed next season’s flowers (if you’re working with a traditional florist who relies on imported flowers, who knows what chemicals have preserved the blooms through their international trek. Forgo the composting to save your florist’s garden!).
- Better yet, donate the leftover wedding flowers! Do some legwork and find a nearby hospice, hospital, or shelter that could accept leftover flower arrangements once they’re removed from your wedding. Offer to pay your florist an extra $100 (or whatever they charge) to tidy the flowers up and drop them off for donation after the wedding. Or, if you’ve got particularly lovely family members, ask them to do it as a little gift to you.
I hope this has given your some ideas on how to put sustainability to the test throughout your wedding! More than anything, find what works for you and don’t be afraid to seek out new and alternative traditions. We’re all in this together to shape the future of weddings. Happy green planning and please chime in with your own ideas!