A thoroughly modern mother-of-the-bride won’t blink when her daughter announces she wants an eco-friendly wedding. But parents of a certain age may let their imaginations travel back a few decades, picturing a barefoot bride clutching a straggle of hand-picked daisies.
However, today’s green weddings are just as likely to be haute as hippie, according to Kimberly Hunter, proprietor and creative director of Forte Affair (www.forteaffair.com), a local company that serves out-of-town couples planning ceremonies in Western North Carolina. Inferring that destination weddings are inherently high-end affairs, Hunter notes that her brides “want things to be top-drawer.” And today, “that means many of their decorative choices will have all-natural elements; this is a big deal to almost all of them.”
In the last dozen years or so, bridal gowns have gradually shed their frothy, prom-like fussiness, growing ever sleeker. And, just so, incorporating earth-minded attitudes into a wedding is now a sign of sophistication.
No more do you see the altar “that looks like it’s been sprayed down with Pepto-Bismol,” as Sally Field’s mother-of-the-bride character bemoaned of her daughter’s violently pink wedding colors in Steel Magnolias. Contemporary hues run to sage and goldenrod, coffee and cranberry.
In 2008, releasing doves or butterflies might be rejected not only as possibly inhumane but simply as passe—ditto throwing rice or its supposedly kinder alternative, birdseed.
“When it comes to the green movement, people are incorporating it into their lifestyles on so many levels, from the way they eat to event-based decisions,” says Hunter. “It’s a very broad concept, and they are gradually navigating their life to be revolved around it.”
But brides are brides. And when they go green, “they still want their weddings to have a very refined feeling.”
To describe their milieu, Hunter drops the chic term ERSR—an acronym that stands for “environmentally responsible/socially respectable.” Need a peek into the mindset of the ERSR bride? Xpress offers some sample scenarios.
• Eco invitations, the old way: To be a proper green bride, simply call up your friends and family to tell them about your nuptials, or e-mail your invitations, rather than topple any more trees by using paper ones. It may seem flippant and tacky, but your guests will just have to understand where you’re coming from.
The ERSR way: Hunter encourages using invitations printed on “recycled paper with soy-based inks” (Xpress found some cute, affordable ones at www.twistedlimbpaper.com). E-vites, she relents, are OK for save-the-date cards.
• Fair-trade flowers, the old way: Many cut formal flowers are imported from countries that use questionable horticultural practices. Your lilies’ petals, for instance, might be coated with toxic chemicals to keep them perfect-looking. Better to grow your flowers yourself (after all, a green bride should have a green thumb!) or even use high-quality silk ones.
The ERSR way: A fake flower at a Forte Affair wedding is like a crab boil at a PETA convention: It just ain’t gonna happen. Though she doesn’t mention what to do about bouquets and corsages, Hunter does offer an au courant alternative for adornment of the venue: “I have green clients who are using elegant potted flowers. Being that it’s a destination wedding, they’re not going to want to fly all these flowers back to where they live,” she points out. It’s even possible to rent potted blooms. “That makes it both economical and beautiful,” she says. If a couple chooses to purchase their plants instead, afterward “they can be donated to a nursing home” or similar facility.
Add “charitable” to the list of perks.
• Vegetarian reception, the old way: A meatless marriage begins with a festive spread of carrot sticks and dip. If the bridal couple are carnivores, vegetarian guests should be satisfied to nibble around the edges of the entrees. Care for some raw-kale garnish with your champagne?
The ERSR way: Hunter says that vegetarian clients wanting high-end weddings “has become a commonplace occurrence.” At the very least, “there are vegetarian guests attending almost every wedding that we do. Whether it’s heavy hors d’oeuvres, a buffet or a plated dinner, we know many local artisan chefs who can create magnificent vegetarian and vegan dinners.” Think gazpacho in summer, “gourd-based soup” in the fall, and lots of fresh, exotic fruits and cheeses. One of the trendiest vegetarian entreés? “Pumpkin lasagna,” Hunter reveals. Hasta la vista, carrot sticks and dip!
• High-minded gifts, the old way: Registering at department stores only insures a new house full of stuff mostly made in sweatshops. Eco alternatives include registering for locally made artisanware, giving guests the option of donating to the couple’s favorite charity, or demanding on the invitations that no gifts be given at all.
The ERSR way: Try none of the above. Instead, Hunter proposes a dazzlingly postmodern switcheroo: The bridal couple gives the gifts. “For destination weddings, we recommend they do donations in honor of their guests. We leave a card at their [place settings] thanking them for coming, and letting them know [that the couple] has made a charitable donation in their honor.
After all, they did travel all that way.