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Weddings go green

Matrimonial vows of commitment extend to planet Earth.

By Amy FarnsworthStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / May 18, 2009

Tara Brown-Selders and Michael Selders left for their honeymoon under a shower of ecofetti, environmentally friendly confetti, after their green wedding in Houston.

Michael Ramos

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Haily Zaki and Brian Tuey trekked four miles up southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains with 32 friends, accompanied by pack mules carrying granola bars and organic lamb. There, in a propane- and hydro-powered campsite dining hall bedecked with pine cones, they exchanged wedding vows.

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Tara Brown and Michael Selders incorporated 21 “eco-initiatives” into their wedding at Houston’s Four Seasons Hotel. To make up for the pollution caused by their honeymoon flight to Hawaii, the Selderses purchased carbon offsets, a means of reducing carbon emissions by contributing money to plant trees or develop renewable-energy projects.

Dana Wilmert wore a 1950s sea foam green prom dress purchased for $1 from a thrift store when she married Johnny Damm in DeLand, Fla. She made the paper for her invitations and stitched magazines together to make the envelopes. At the reception, her guests ate local, organic fare served on biodegradable bamboo plates, which were later composted.

For these – and some other – brides and grooms, wedding traditions and festivities are taking on a distinctly greener hue. These ecoconscious couples are donating leftover reception food to shelters, planting trees in honor of their guests in lieu of giving favors, and eschewing gifts in favor of contributions to the charity of their choice.

This is no fleeting trend, insists Corina Beczner, founder of Vibrant Events, a sustainable-event consulting business in San Francisco. “This is something that’s here to stay,” she says. “It’s an alignment with people’s values in the world.”

In a world in which “green” is increasingly appended to just about everything as the adjective of choice, defining a green wedding isn’t easy.

For some, it is no more elaborate than limiting the guest list to reduce carbon emissions. It may mean organizing carpools for the guests or hiring biofuel buses and hybrid limos. Or it may mean simply recycling that old family diamond as an engagement ring.

Still, there are many shades of green. The Tueys’ three-day camping trip wedding cost $6,500. Though Ms. Brown-Selders wouldn’t comment on the cost of her wedding, she hired Jessica Zapatero, founder and director of Green Lily Events in Houston, who caters to brides with budgets over $30,000. Ms. Zapatero helped Brown-Selders find an elegant raw-silk dress and yarmulkes made from recycled cardboard.

“A green wedding is not just wearing a burlap sack and walking down the aisle barefoot,” says Mireya Navarro, author of “Green Wedding: Planning Your Eco-friendly Celebration.”

Precious as some of the efforts to go green may seem to some, what all green weddings share is an effort to conserve resources and reduce waste, to make a commitment to the planet the newlyweds will live on as they make a lifelong commitment to each other.

“It just seemed natural to me to want to green my wedding,” says Brown-Selders. “Once I learned how much waste accumulated from one wedding, I learned I [couldn’t] do this.”

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