We’ve grown up in a culture that says, “Have what you want, at any cost”; yet we know deep down that this isn’t a good thing.  More and more couples are striving to create wedding celebrations that touch the Earth more lightly and impact others in a positive way, and today we’ve gotten together with environmental consultant Mary T’Kach to set out ideas on choosing an eco-conscious destination for your wedding.

COMMUNICATION OF VALUES

Elegance and ecology are not mutually exclusive.  Whether you’re looking for an elegant wedding in a fancy venue or planning on a more informal event, there are lots of ways to have exactly what you want in an earth-friendly way. To be successful in achieving this, you’ll need to share your thoughts with your guests and your wedding vendors from the get-go. If you plan ahead do your homework, you may find that although some individual items may be more expensive, some aspects of the wedding will be less expensive, so overall, you may not be spending more for the celebration you envision.

Parents ✈ If your parents are helping you with the financial aspects of the wedding, they will want this to be a very special occasion for you, but may balk at the potential added expense of certain items.  Offer to pay for those items that are substantially more expensive or to pay the difference between an “average” cost and your “low impact” wedding costs. If you’re just starting out and want more tips and suggestions for who pays for what, check out our Destination Wedding Etiquette post.

Guests ✈ Set up a Facebook page or website where you can communicate your preferences and share resources with your guests.  Keeping them in the loop will help you create the wedding celebration you have in mind, and will let them know what to expect. It might even generate ideas on possible locations, venues and activities, as we mention below.

Venue Spotlight ✈ Glamping Wedding in Southern Spain

Glamping in Spain via Fly Away Bride

LOCATION

Having a destination wedding may be a greener choice than you think.  Most likely, you’ll be having a much smaller affair than if you are near your home, close to lots of family, friends and workmates. The fewer people at your wedding, generally means the smaller the footprint overall. And with the world as it is today, more and more people will be flying in for the event, so your overall impact of travel may not be considerably different than if you had a local wedding.  Keep in mind that with a destination wedding, you’ll be sharing the culture and natural attributes of a unique part of the world and that can have many positive impacts.  If carbon emissions are a concern for you,  you can easily and inexpensively offset the carbon emissions from people’s flights: check out Native Energy or The Carbon Fund. If you think this is something your guests may be concerned about, let them know you’ll be doing this and share these websites with them.

VENUE

Choosing a venue that is owned and operated locally, and is connected to the local community provides jobs and economic opportunities for the local area. Many businesses are trying to reduce energy use and develop more sustainable practices. When researching a venue, ask what they are doing to make their business operations healthier for their guests and the environment. A bit of research will turn up eco-friendly venue options in your county of choice, like these venues we found in Italy.  If your venue isn’t advertised as ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly’, talk to them about what can be done to customize your day. Choose the venue that you feel is doing the best job or doing the things that you care most about. Here are some questions you can put forth:

– Where do they source their food and wine?

– Is the produce they use organic, and if not is there an option to get organic supplies?

– Do they recycle at least three materials? Do they compost?

– Do they use biodegradable cleaning products?

– Do they use any renewable energy such as wind, thermal or solar?

– Do they use energy-efficiant vehicles?

– How often do they change linens? Less is better!

– Do they offset their carbon emissions?

– Do they have water conservation practices in place?

– Do they use energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment and lighting?

– What kind of waste reduction programs do they have in place?

– Do they provide easy ways for guests to be “green”? (i.e. recycling options in room, green transport options available such as bikes available etc.)

Even if the answer to some of these is “no”, think of it as opening up a discussion on important issues. If enough couples are bringing these ideas up and mentioning them to venues, eventually the venues will start implementing them.

Choosing an Eco Friendly Destination Wedding Location

Provence via Fly Away Bride

FOOD & DRINK

Caterers who use local, organic produce are ideal. Again discussion is needed with your venue to see what can be done in this regard. Don’t forget about food that will be left over: ask your venue what they usually do with this. Can it be donated to a local charity? Alternatively if you are staying for two or more nights, let your venue know that you’d like to have include any leftover food from the previous night’s dinner on the lunch menu the next day.

Does the venue offer organic and/or locally produced wine? Wine producers using real cork are preferable: the demand for screw top bottles is leading to the destruction of cork forests in Spain and Portugal in order to plant other produce (such as less environmentally friendly forests). This in turn is destroying the habitat of the critically endangered Iberian lynx. Everything has a kickback, and unfortunately a lot of the time it is a negative one for the environment.

GETTING THERE

Airlines, train companies and bus companies want your business. Check their websites and/or talk with friends who may know what the corporate social responsibility practices are of these companies. Do they recycle their passenger food cartons and drink cans, do they have energy efficient planes/trains/buses, do they help make their local communities better places to live?  If there are multiple options for getting to your wedding site, do a little research and share what you find with your guests.

Before your guests travel, be sure to let them know how to get around once they land. If ground transport will be needed to a more remote venue location, you may want to arrange some group transit so that individuals don’t need to rent cars. If local buses and trains are available, send information to your guests so they can plan ahead.

Wedding Venues in Umbria ✈ Venue Spotlight

Umbria via Fly Away Bride

EXTENDED GUEST HOLIDAYS

Keep in mind that guests may be wanting to extend their stay in the area you choose for the wedding.  Share what you know about the locality and if possible, set up a website for your guests to share information as well. A wedding in Paris, Florence or Barcelona will generate ideas from guests who have visited these places in the past. With just a little reserach on your end you can let your guests know about bike-sharing, public transport, restaurants that serve local food, hotels and inns that are “living green” and similar things.  A growing trend is the “volunteer vacation experience” where people spend from one day to weeks or months volunteering while they are on vacation, like expeditions with Earth Watch.

HONEYMOON

We all know that the longer the flight, the bigger the carbon footprint. When we took our honeymoon recently it was seriously long haul: Ireland to South Africa. We attempted to compensate for this both by combining it with a work trip my husband had to take, and by doing lots of research to find a luxurious but eco-friendly place to stay. When we found Grootbos Nature Reserve, we knew we had the right place. We enjoyed every second of our stay there, but also knew that a large amount of the money we spent was going back into conserving the local environment along with helping to support the surrounding community. If you’re going to splurge a little on a luxurious trip like your honeymoon (and come on, it’s something you’ll probably only do once!) why not spend it in a place that gives back to the locality in which it is based? Check out Responsible Travel for ideas on where to go, or search for Green Globe Certified hotels and resorts in the country you are considering traveling to: a sustainable tourism program that requires annual re-certification.

Choosing an Eco-Friendly Destination Wedding Location

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

Again a massive thanks to environmental consultant Mary T’Kach for her invaluable help with this article. We’ll be sharing more thoughts on eco-friendly destination wedding details next week, so stay tuned!

8 Responses

  1. Krisstin | On the Go Bride

    Great tips and suggestions! I love the idea of finding venues that locally source their food. I’ve never thought about asking before what they do with the left overs. Such a good idea!

    Reply
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    […] environmental responsibility can be a real challenge. For the second part to our post last week on choosing an eco-friendly destination wedding location, today we’ve gotten together ideas to help you create a celebration that you’ll be […]

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