Personalized party favors, one-use centerpieces, exotic floral decorations, excess food and disposable dinnerware can all turn into waste and wind up in landfills or gathering dust in secondhand shops after a wedding’s last call.
But there are ways to avoid this post-nuptial purge and to plan a greener wedding that will cut down on the amount of waste being generated by your festive affair. To learn more about this burgeoning trend in eco-friendly party planning, check out the “Four Rivers’ Wedding Open House” from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, January 19, at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon. Registration is recommended, and the first 50 brides-to-be in attendance will receive goody bags.
The open house will provide general information about the venue, but it also will feature caterers and tips and advice to take couples from their “best day ever” to “happily ever after” for themselves and the planet. Couples can meet caterers all in one spot; see the Four Rivers facility, which includes reception space and an outdoor shelter for ceremonies; and get some environmentally friendly decorating ideas during the event.
Ditch one-use decorations
“It’s easy to be green,” said Mary Thomas, reservation manager at Four Rivers. “We encourage couples to think about what they will do with all of the decorations after the wedding and reception. They could donate flowers or leftover food, reuse wedding items or let guests take materials home.”
Most of the grooms- and brides-to-be who choose Four Rivers are already looking for a different, more nature-themed celebration because the building is nestled in a preserve with views of the river, Thomas said. So it’s not hard to get them to take extra steps to be more environmentally oriented.
“Most of them already have a connection to nature,” she explained. “They’re hikers, travelers, environmentalists or they work in a green industry.”
Creating an eco-friendly event at one location helps couples educate their guests and share their environmental values. It also reduces their carbon footprint and lessens their celebration’s impact on the environment.
Sample tablescapes and more
Thomas said during the open house there will be photos of previous green weddings and sample tablescapes that reproduce some of the eco-friendly measures taken by couples in the past.
“One of our favorite weddings featured craft paper on the tables and some simple greenery down the center with candles. And instead of providing cloth napkins, they gave everyone a tea towel so they could use that and then take it home.”
Another couple asked family members to contribute vintage cake stands as centerpieces for the tables. Individual cakes were placed on each cake stand and were served to the guests after the meal.
“At the end of the night, anyone who donated vintage cake stands took them back home,” Thomas explained. “Those types of ideas are better than ordering a personalized beer Koozie or shot glass that will have shorter shelf lives. Some guests may not keep that and use it forever.”
Every little bit helps
Four Rivers does its part too, she added. Caterers are encouraged to employ green practices to reduce environmental impact: reuse linens and dishes, purchase food from local producers, recycle aluminum pans and cardboard that isn't soiled. Four Rivers recycles cans, glass bottles and wine corks too.
And while it would be wonderful to always host totally green weddings, it’s not a requirement and every little bit helps, Thomas added.
“We understand budget and other things you may want to do might not fit into that, but we ask you to do as much as you can.”