Most little girls at least have a blueprint of their wedding plans before they’re even in grade school. It starts simple enough: a bouquet of dandelions, a gown from the dress-up box and mud pies for dessert.
By the time these little girls are grown up, however, their expectations will have changed. Maybe they’ve watched a few episodes of Platinum Weddings, but too often brides and grooms end up with more than just a marriage certificate after they’ve tied the knot. Many couples find themselves with gifts they might not need, leftovers they can’t take home, credit card bills that will take forever to pay off and a huge carbon footprint.
The solution to these problems isn’t to run off to Las Vegas for a $40 ceremony. Check out these eco-friendly and moneysaving tips — from the proposal to the last dance — from the Tristate’s top professional wedding planners.
Once you have an idea of what your budget is, decide which wedding “essentials” are must-haves and which aren’t as important to you. Wedding Coordinator Carol Polston from Hearts Beginning (www.heartsbeginning.com) suggests purchasing rings made from recycled gold, if brand new bands aren’t a top priority. Because more people are selling their scrap gold, recycled rings are becoming easier to find at pawn shops and second-hand stores.
Flowers are generally a wedding staple, from the bridal and bridesmaids’ bouquets to the décor at the ceremony to centerpieces at the reception. If these are a must, Polston recommends choosing a local florist and sticking to organic in-season flowers. This way you can support a local business and save money on shipping costs. For the hands-on couple, buying bulk flowers and arranging them yourselves is a great money-saving tip.
Even for the eco-friendly bride, the dress is crucial. Bridal Consultant Joyce Smith of Weddings Unlimited Inc. (www.weddingsunltd.com) suggests that brides buy “a cotton or silk gown, not one made of synthetic fabrics that are harmful to the environment.”
With these materials in mind, begin your dress search early and shop around frequently at consignment boutiques and eBay for gently used dresses. Sure, someone else has worn it before you, but Polston says that with the money you save you can alter and re-style the second-hand dress and make it your own. If recycling a dress just isn’t your thing, she also advises considering a sample dress from a bridal shop, which can cost less than $100.
For men, renting tuxedoes is pretty much the norm.
It might save money and closet space, but Wedding Planner Tiesha Frazier of Creative Afflairs (www.creativeafflairs.com) believes it might not be the best long-term decision. She suggests having the groom and his party purchase gently-used or inexpensive suits.
“Albeit more expensive at the onset,” Tiesha says, “it has the best return on investment. Men’s suits never seem to go out of style and can be reused many times over.”
Alert the Press!
Once you’ve found your mate and set a date, it’s time to send out the invites. It’s a difficult decision to make, but the guest list has to be cut somewhere. Frazier believes that keeping the guest list as short as possible is “one of the most obvious ways to reduce costs,” as it “cuts back on all elements of environmental sustainability.” Smith agrees, citing that around 50 percent of the budget is based on the guest count, from the venue to food and beverages.
Once you’ve whittled down the guest list, you’re ready to make that announcement. “Today’s tech savvy bride has so many options when it comes to communication,” Frazier says.
Obviously, the more electronic you’re willing to go, the more cash and resources you’ll save. But this doesn’t have to mean all tradition goes out the door.
Frazier advises her couples to send electronic save-the-dates if they want to stick with paper invitations. One of her couples even made a video to send to friends and family online as an alternative to hard-copy announcements. She suggests checking out Paperless Post for digital invitations that are “anything but e-vites.”
Reducing the amount of travel on the big day is a significant way to cut costs for you and your guests and reduce a ton of potential emissions. Polston says to consider hosting your wedding or reception at a nearby county or state park lodge. “These lodges have very reasonable rates and can give you a great package for food and drinks without gratuities,” she says.
“Cincinnati is home to some of the most amazing parks, unique history and architecture in the country,” Frazier says. Selecting an outdoor location for your wedding is about as green as you can get, and it is a great way to showcase the city’s best features.
“Planning an outdoor ceremony at a park, garden space or your home can reduce the amount of energy which would normally be required for an indoor wedding,” she says, “and candles and natural lighting are excellent alternatives to electricity.”
Smith finds that sticking to one venue for both the ceremony and reception is one of the biggest money- and resource-saving tips. “It’s a smart choice,” she says, “as you’re only paying for one location and transportation costs are contained.”
Once the wedding party makes way to the reception, Smith recommends re-using the bouquets and altar flowers from the ceremony as centerpieces. Keep the tables clean and simple: Instead of littering them with paper place cards, Frazier suggests displaying one large seating chart at the entrance.
Another reception tip that most wedding planners appreciate is ditching the often-wasteful buffet dinner and sticking to a cocktail reception with hors d’ourves. Guests can have their fill of finger food and you won’t have to worry about leftovers (which often can’t be taken off premises due to health codes).
As for the all-important cake, both Smith and Frazier agree to stick with a small cake for show and a sheet cake or cup cakes for your guests. “Have the cake self-served and order less than your confirmed guest count,” Frazier says, “Trust me, not everyone will eat it and no one will know that you did not order ‘enough.’ ”
For entertainment, music is easier than ever to manage by yourself. Create an iPod playlist, get some speakers and you’re good to go. Most DJs use iPods today anyway. This is a great way to truly personalize your reception and save a nice chunk of change.
For many couples an over-the-top wedding isn’t realistic these days, and it often isn’t environmentally friendly. If you’re willing to prioritize and downsize, it’s possible to make economic and ecological decisions and still have that dream day.
So if you’re getting ready to take the plunge, turn off Bridezillas, start working on a budget and embrace some of the simple ideas about weddings that you had as a little girl. �