Wedding: How to: It’s a Nice Day for a Green Wedding
Celebrate your nuptials in eco-chic Philly style
We never said we were planning a green wedding — it just happened that way,” says recent Philadelphia bride Lauren Feeney, whose nuptials last April were eco-friendly to the core. In day-to-day life, Lauren and her now-husband, Cameron Hickey, do their best to go easy on the planet: The couple eschews car ownership for PhillyCarShare.
We never said we were planning a green wedding — it just happened that way,” says recent Philadelphia bride Lauren Feeney, whose nuptials last April were eco-friendly to the core. In day-to-day life, Lauren and her now-husband, Cameron Hickey, do their best to go easy on the planet: The couple eschews car ownership for PhillyCarShare. They shop within their Northern Liberties neighborhood to support local businesses. They reuse plastic bags when buying groceries.
“A lot of people use their wedding to talk about their beliefs,” says Lauren.
“It’s a kind of platform for the way you live, and we happen to live an environmentally conscious lifestyle.” Some couples are design mavens who go all out with invitations and flowers. Others are foodies whose priority is a top-notch meal. Throwing an eco-chic wedding is another way of expressing an aspect of your personality — and with today’s rise of environmental consciousness, there’s no shortage of people and businesses in Philly to help you do it.
Green weddings are a relatively new trend — this inconvenient truth means that there are fewer blueprints to follow. “We admittedly created an enormous amount of work for ourselves,” says Feeney. The couple’s first task was choosing a venue. Lauren and Cameron envisioned a raw industrial space, but her parents were hoping for something more traditional. They compromised with the North Waiting Room at 30th Street Station. The venue was big enough for 250 guests, and its art-deco grandeur satisfied her parents. The bride and groom liked that their guests could travel easily — and use up less fuel — by taking trains to the celebration; Lauren and Cameron even traveled to their own wedding via the Market-Frankford line (yes, in their tux and gown).
Hiring a wedding planner who’s up on the green-wedding trend is perhaps the quickest way to cut your work in half. Carolyn E. Verdi, who owns her own wedding-planning business in Philadelphia and who has planned eco-friendly events, helped plan a September wedding for a couple who won a green wedding in a contest run by the Urban Green Partnership. They handed out energy-saving lightbulbs as favors, and held their reception at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens on South Street (Verdi likes an outdoor locale — the better to savor the environment you seek to save). When searching for a venue, look for places where the rental fee contributes to the restoration and preservation of the place, as it does at Philadelphia’s Bartram’s Garden, the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, and Awbury Arboretum in Germantown.
Another green advantage — literally — of an outdoor venue is the natural decoration provided by existing gardens and trees. Then, if you want to add a little extra, you can bring in more trees and potted plants yourself. Lauren and Cameron bought flats of 2-year-old seedlings from Octoraro Native Plant Nursery in Kirkwood. The plum, apple, sugar maple and redbud trees decorated the room and served as favors — which guests took home, planted in their yards and sent photos of to the newlyweds. If you’re hiring a florist, use a local one, and work with them to choose flowers that are in-season, as opposed to hothouse crops that are flown in from all over the world (that pesky fuel again). Not only is it environmentally friendly, but in-season blooms will hold up better at your wedding and cost less than exotic ones.
When it comes to your invitations, many stationers offer cards made partly or wholly from recycled paper: Both The Papery in Old City and Center City’s Paper on Pine carry lines that use 100 percent cotton paper (which is renewable and recyclable, and uses no trees in the process), and the latter also sells Waste Not Paper — open stock made from sustainable forests, which plant trees faster than they cut them down. Cut down on paper by limiting the number of inserts in an invitation — instead of an RSVP card with its own envelope, use a postcard, and post directions, hotel and other guest info on your wedding website.
You can even go green when it comes to your wedding-day ensemble. Use recycled gold for your wedding bands and a vintage piece or family heirloom as an engagement ring. And consider buying a vintage dress — the wedding gown consignment shop Sabrina Ann in Ardmore sells “once worn” gowns, all within 2-3 years old and kept in meticulous shape. And, of course, wherever possible, try to shop locally to support neighborhood businesses.
Christine Fischer, owner of ChriStevens Catering in Philadelphia, buys most of her produce and meats from Michael Anastasio Produce at the Italian Market. She knows that the food is organic and comes mostly from farms in South Jersey. “It’s important to me that everything I use is locally farmed,” says Fischer. “People appreciate if I tell them I can’t get something because it’s not in season.” Fischer worked with Lauren and Cameron to create a Mediterranean menu to honor the years the couple spent living in Greece. The meal featured lamb and chicken in a lemon basil sauce, roasted potatoes, spanakopita, Greek salad and a green bean dish called fasoulakia.
“Find someone who already uses organic ingredients and who already has a green mentality,” says Verdi. Organic food and wine is produced according to certain production standards — no pesticides, artificial fertilizers or, in the case of livestock, antibiotics or growth hormones. At Talula’s Table in Kennett Square, owner Aimee Olexy uses organic, grass-fed, naturally raised produce and meats that are purchased from sources within a 100-mile radius, and all the food is handmade.
Olexy is inspired by what’s available locally. The homemade gumdrops she made as favors for a recent summer wedding at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington were a result of a large shipment of gorgeous strawberries. The pastry chef suggested using the leftover berries to make little gumdrops — so they packaged them in mini takeout boxes and left one at each guest’s table setting. A summer menu from Talula’s Table might include soft-shell crabs, a green-bean salad and crepes with exotic mushrooms. In the winter, she focuses more on game, and braises or smokes the meat to make little potpies. There’s also more use of root vegetables — ingredients of the season.
Another creative way of raising an event’s eco-friendly food factor? For smaller events, like buffet-style brunches or rehearsal dinners, Olexy often asks clients if they can bring their serving china to her kitchen so she doesn’t have to use disposable plastic platters to transport food.
The green theme doesn’t have to end when the festivities are over. A bride can donate her gown to a charity such as Brides Against Breast Cancer (makingmemories.org), which uses funds from gown sales
toward cancer research. Or she can sell anything — shoes, gloves, bejeweled hair accessories — that she won’t likely wear again to a store like Sabrina Ann to contribute to another bride’s recycling efforts. Check with an organization like Philabundance to see if they can use the leftover food from the reception. Lauren and Cameron planted their leftover seedlings in Fairmount Park.
Lastly, for those who want to win a green star, it’s possible to hire someone to perform a carbon audit on your wedding. Lauren and Cameron contacted Carbon Planet (carbonplanet.com), and filled out an online questionnaire about the location, the number of guests, how many watts were being used by the band, and other details about their wedding. The company made recommendations for how to use less carbon, then calculated how much money the couple could pay to the company to offset their carbon use. As a wedding present, one of the couple’s friends paid the sum, rendering their wedding zero-energy. Now that’s as green as it gets.