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It’s Easy Being Green: It’s a Nice Day for a Green Wedding

SOURCE: AP/Noah Berger

Eric Fenster, co-founder of the organic catering service Back to Earth Inc., carries hors d'oeuvres during a green wedding in Mill Valley, CA.

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The average wedding costs $28,732 and generates an enormous carbon footprint. Taking into account the travel involved, the delivery of food and flowers, and the amount of paper used for invitations and eating utensils, it’s no wonder more couples are opting for green weddings, which allow them to celebrate their special day with the planet in mind, and even save some money in the process. Green wedding sites and services are steadily gaining in popularity and offer an alternative covering every aspect of tying the knot.

An expanding eco-marketplace has helped to spur the emergence of the green wedding. Green wedding planners now have plenty of tools at their disposal, from recycled wedding invitations to earth-friendly alternatives to buying a tuxedo to responsible jewelry. All Green Weddings, a green wedding gift registry, even allows gift givers to use a cash gift feature that eliminates shipping gifts around the country. The registry sends a check to the couple, who can then pick up their gift locally.

Businesses in the multi-million dollar wedding industry are picking up on the fact that providing green services is profitable. More and more couples are requesting organic menus, looking for soy-based candles, and seeking locations that recycle. This demand increases these services, driving the marketplace for weddings in an environmentally conscious direction—and the market continues to expand. According to Millie Martini Bratten, the editor-in-chief of Brides magazine, over the past five years the interest in sustainable weddings has grown from a desire to include a few green elements in the occasion to planning “zero waste” weddings.

While green weddings are not necessarily less expensive than traditional weddings—providing an all-organic menu, for example, can increase costs—couples find ways to cut back to afford them, or simply choose smaller weddings altogether. They may choose a venue close to most of their guests, keep the guest list smaller, or hold the ceremony in a natural setting that involves less decorations. And for the honeymoon, some couples may turn to domestic locations instead of flying to more exotic locales like Thailand.

The green party concept is even spreading beyond weddings to other types of occasions. The 80th Annual Academy Awards this year incorporated ecologically sensitive practices into its planning and presentation, and Marriott International now offers organic flowers at events and meetings in response to corporate meeting planners who wanted to be more socially responsible.

Some argue that green weddings will only carve a small niche in the overall market, but that remains to be seen. A survey by Brides magazine last year on its website revealed that 60 percent of respondents were considering environmental factors in planning their weddings, and 33 percent planned to have a green wedding. With a passionate, environmentally conscious generation of young adults currently graduating from U.S. colleges and universities, the green wedding could very well become the wedding of the future.

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