How to Plan a Green Wedding

Wedding Etiquette advice from Anna Post, great-great granddaughter of Emily Post and author of Do I Have to Wear White? and Wedding Parties

Q: My fiancé and I want to plan an environmentally friendly reception. Do you have any specific ideas for greening up our big day?

A: Etiquette is about being considerate and respectful of other people, so it’s an easy next step to considering and respecting our environment, too. Bravo! There are many choices you can make so that your wedding has less of an impact on the Earth. Here are some tips:

•    Use recycled paper invitations (made from recycled or tree-free material, processed chlorine free, and printed with soy inks). It’s your call whether to go paperless—an e-mailed wedding invitation may be eco-friendly, but it is less personal. Do use e-mail or your website for save-the-date notices and typical enclosure information such as directions and hotel information.
•    Hire a wedding planner who specializes in green weddings.
•    Choose organic products whenever possible, from food and drinks to flowers.
•    Support local vendors. Not only will less energy be used to transport goods, you will also be putting your money back into your own community. Choose vendors who are committed to buying local and to the “reduce, reuse, recycle” philosophy.
•    When hiring transportation for the wedding party, consider using hybrid or environmentally cleaner rental cars with reduced emissions and higher gas mileage.
•    Skip the party favors, and let guests know that you’ve made a donation to a charity in their honor instead.
•    Use biodegradable plates and utensils at the party, or use biodegradable cleaners to wash dishes.
•    Arrange to have flowers go home with guests or to a nursing home, hospital, or shelter and extra food delivered to a community kitchen. Otherwise, have your caterer compost leftover food and flowers.
•    Cut back on consumption in general—which will save you money, too.

CALL NON-RESPONSIVE GUESTS
Q: It’s two weeks before the wedding, and I haven’t heard from a number of guests. What’s the right way to handle this?

A: Enclosing stamped, addressed reply cards, including telephone numbers and e-mail addresses, have let guests off the hook for hand writing the traditional standard formal acceptance or regret, but it hasn’t improved the response rate. Well, wait no longer, but pick up the phone and give your delinquent guests a call. A friendly, “Jen, I hadn’t heard from you about our wedding on the 12th. I hope you and Rory will be with us…” If there’s any hemming or hawing (or if you have to leave a voice mail) add, “I have to give the caterer a head count by the 1st.” Hopefully, this will finalize your list, but if you still haven’t gotten a yay or nay from all, let your caterer know ahead of time. It’s far easier for them to plan on a few extras now than be surprised on the big day.

DRINKS ARE ON YOU
Q: We have to trim our budget and the coordinator at the hotel where we’re having our reception is suggesting that we have a cash bar. Is this OK? Do we tip the bartender or do our guests?

A: Just as a guest in your home doesn’t pay for food or drink, neither should a guest at your wedding. There are lots of ways to economize without resorting to a cash bar. The simplest is to take alcohol off the menu completely, or only serve wine or Champagne for a toast. Less drastic, but very effective is to offer wine and beer in addition to a selection of non-alcoholic options such as juices, sodas, waters, and iced tea. Choose a red and a white wine and a dark and a light beer. Purchasing by the case can yield additional savings. If there is room in the budget, you could offer one mixed cocktail—a signature drink that matches the theme of your wedding. As for tipping, as the hosts you are responsible, so make this arrangement ahead of time and have an attendant make sure there are no tip jars on the bar. Also, consider tipping parking, coat check, and powder room attendants ahead of time, too, and instruct them to refuse tips from guests: “Thanks, I’m already covered.”

DON’T FORGO THE RECEIVING LINE
Q: We’re having a large wedding and want our guests to enjoy the reception, not wait in a long receiving line. Can we skip this?

A: Actually, in your case, the receiving line is still the best way to greet and speak with each of your guests personally and thank them for coming to your wedding. A receiving line isn’t a “must,” but thanking everyone is. With fewer than 75 guests, you would probably be able to speak with everyone during your reception; more than 75, it’s less likely. To help with the wait, have servers offer guests hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Just make sure there is a table at the beginning of the line, so guests can set down their drinks before going through the line and shaking hands. If you still feel strongly about not having a receiving line, plan to spend time with each guest at some point during the reception—perhaps by visiting each table—and thank them for coming. n

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