A Guide to Color Your Wedding Green

The bridesmaid dresses were all secondhand. (Amanda Morgan photos)

The bridesmaid dresses were all secondhand. (Amanda Morgan photos)

By RACHEL LESSNE MORESCHI/ecoRI News contributor

Having recently planned an eco-friendly wedding, I’d like to share my experience. My goal for the wedding besides, of course, celebrating our love, was to have a zero-waste event. Why should an event honoring love pollute the planet or cause pain to wildlife?

My husband, Sean, and I were married on Aug. 4 in Middletown, Conn. Sean isn’t one for design or event planning, so he agreed to let me run wild with my vision. He knew that running wild didn’t mean spending an excessive amount of money. We are both carriers of the extreme frugality gene.

Through the planning process I realized that having a zero-waste event brought back the elegance and charm that has been forgotten in recent years. Weddings these days seem to be filled with plastic throwaway cups, bubbles, and paper napkins. These items are used in the name of convenience, but at what cost? Even cups touted as compostable still lay in landfills for hundreds of years because a landfill isn’t a compost environment.

In addition to bringing back the old-time romanticism, I found that the way I did things was actually less expensive than buying the disposable items. Thrift stores and eBay became my best friends. Everything from our wedding bands to the centerpieces, the bridal party’s clothing to the favors, were secondhand, recycled, upcycled, or sustainable in some way.

Much of the wedding’s decor, favors, table settings, and rings were found, borrowed, or bought secondhand.

Much of the wedding’s decor, favors, table settings, and rings were found, borrowed, or bought secondhand.

Here are some tips to make your wedding or event gloriously green. Comment below with your own eco-event tips.

Invitations. Look for post-consumer recycled content if buying paper invitations. E-vites are the most eco-friendly, but I wanted a mailed invitation. I bought our invitations from Feel Good Invites, which prints on 100 percent recycled paper made using wind power. The invites were bound with a vintage ribbon found in my mother’s basement, and sealed with wax bought on eBay.

Centerpieces. You have so many options available to you when it comes to centerpieces. Think photos, potted plants, candles, or cake stands. I curated antiques at Goodwill and thrift shops. I found real silver and bronze pieces for prices as low as $1.99. I also borrowed antiques from one of my bridesmaid’s family. The unique and whimsical antiques were filled with local flowers, herbs, and potted plants.

Bridesmaid dresses. When it comes to clothing, secondhand is the most eco-friendly. It’s also the most inexpensive. Check your local consignment shops then move on to eBay, Poshmark, or thredUP if you haven’t found what you need locally. I bought 12 secondhand bridesmaid dresses in various sizes, then held a dress try-on party for the seven bridesmaids. I then sold the dresses that weren’t selected on eBay for more than I paid for them.

Groomsmen outfits. If you can't go secondhand because you are set on matching suits, look for a reputable rental company and rent the bare minimum. For our wedding, the groomsmen’s suit jackets and pants were rented from The Black Tux. I made the pocket squares from my mother’s vintage fabric collection. The men were told to where shoes, belts, and shirts that they already owned.

The favors. Have fun with the favors. Check our local farmers market for ideas. You’ll most likely find beekeepers who can sell you honey in bulk, or crafters who can make you custom favors. If your budget is low, consider buying a bulk amount of olive oil. Put it in large containers and insert rosemary, garlic, or other herbs. After a week or so, strain it into smaller bottles that you’ve collected and tie a sprig of rosemary and card on the outside with some twine. Homemade infused oil. For our favors, I bought cotton drawstring bags, hand stamped by artist Linda Fulghum in New York. I filled them with seed bombs shaped like hearts by Free Mountain Designs in Idaho. The seed bombs were made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper and organic, non-GMO wildflowers and herb seeds.

Seating chart. Get creative. For a budget-friendly option, collect thick leaves, dry them, then write the guests name and hang them using mini clothespins. For our seating chart, I hand-lettered a book made from bamboo paper and leaves. At the top of each page, I wrote the table number, then added a list of guests seated there. I added a sentimental photo on each page, taken by the our friends Mark and Danielle of Will & D Photography.

Bridal outfit. I have since developed a rule to only buy secondhand clothing because the clothing industry is one of the world’s top polluters. My dress was made by Hayley Paige, who makes her gowns in New York. My shoes were secondhand, and my jewelry was borrowed from my mother.

The rings. Sean’s wedding band was gifted by my mother. It was my father's band; he died when I was 6. My engagement ring was made by Alexis Russell using cruelty-free diamonds and recycled gold. My wedding band was made by Kevin Duris, owner of Duris Studios, using diamonds from an antique ring of my mother’s and recycled gold.

Ceremony decor. This is another opportunity to get some deals and shop secondhand. Check Craigslist for local items that have most likely been used at only one wedding and still in new condition. Other sites to check are Bridal Garage Sales and Wedding Recycle. Vintage frames found in my family’s basement were turned into whimsical signs using fabric as a background inside frame and hand-lettering the glass with a paint pen. My mother and I created paper cones to hold flower petals using an old wallpaper sample book, also a basement find. I bought embroidered handkerchiefs at a local antique store that I washed, pressed, and tied with a vintage ribbon. The flower-girl basket was secondhand and I added a banner that I made from vintage fabric that read “Here comes the Bride.”

Registry. If you'd prefer cash so you can make sure your gifts are sustainable, or if you want the ability to add eco-gifts from any website, I’d highly recommend using Zola as your registry. You are able to visit any website and add those items to your registry. When a guest buys the item, you can choose to take the cash or use it to get the item. Zola also offers cash funds. Guests enjoyed adding to our “Road Trip,” “Honeymoon,” and even “Breakfast In Bed” funds.

The food. I don’t have to tell you that going local is the thing to do, but do make sure the venue doesn’t offer disposable items. Our venue typically offers plastic drink stirrers and at the end of the night puts out to-go cups for coffee. They were happy to oblige me by simply not using these items. It saves them money too.

Rachel Lessne Moreschi is the owner of Green Envy Eco-Boutique.