If the pandemic has taught us anything here in the Berkshires, it’s that the traditions we hold dear are strong, resilient, and adaptable. Who knew a micro wedding could rival the most elaborate gala in beauty, elegance, and joy? As we have been forced to adapt to changes in traditions that we once viewed as sacrosanct, we have seen just that.
Many couples recognize that global warming and environmental destruction are emergencies as dire as the pandemic. These problems force us to rethink every aspect of our lives, including how much and what we consume. It won’t surprise anyone to hear that weddings are often sites of excessive consumption and enormous waste. According to the wedding site Zola.com, “Annually, the 2.3 million weddings held in the U.S. produce more than 1 billion pounds of trash. One wedding alone produces 400 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of CO2.” Whoa!
Today a lot of couples are saying no to that and reconfiguring their big days to be more eco-conscious, green, and sustainable. Is an environmentally friendly wedding is important to you? Getting married in the Berkshires? Here are some suggestions for how to do it beautifully and joyfully:
Look for a wedding site that shares your concerns and also values sustainability in its business. “Your wedding venue plays a major role in your event’s setup and waste removal process, so choose a site that shares your beliefs,” says Zola.com. When hunting for a green event space, look for venues with LEED certifications (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) and Energy Star ratings, like Saint James Place, a Great Barrington Wedding Venue. Keep in mind that outdoor spaces such as farms and gardens tend to be more eco-friendly. Remember also that a dual ceremony/reception site cuts down on the need for transportation between venues, thus cutting down carbon emissions. Bonus points if you can host your ceremony and/or reception outside, which cuts down on electricity usage.
It’s no secret that diamonds are not the environment’s best friend. Seek out jewelers who adhere to The Kimberley Process and can help you find an ethical stone. Jewelers in The Responsible Jewellery Council (UK-based organization) requires members to adhere to sustainability and ethical business guidelines. Another option is to buy a vintage ring, or better yet, recycle a family heirloom to your own specifications. In either case, you know the history of the stone and you will have a beautiful and unique piece. Looking for a ring in Great Barrington, MA? Go talk to the jewelers: Berkshire Gold & Silversmith, Lenox Jewelers, and Sachs and Reisman in Sheffield.
There are many ways to make the invitations more green. You can go totally digital to avoid paper waste. If you’re not ready to entirely give up the traditional invitation package with its various cards, envelopes, papers, and expressive fonts, you can at least cut down on some of the paper usage by streamlining what you mail. Instead of an RSVP card with its own envelope, ask guests to reply by email to a special address. Post wedding directions on your website instead of including this extra piece of paper with invites. This also saves you money, which is a lovely side benefit. If you do decide to use paper invitations, you should only use 100% recycled material. The same goes for your thank you notes.
A wedding planner, speaking in Brides Magazine, estimates that in a two-hour period each wedding guest will have two drinks. If you have a modestly large 100-guest wedding and you’re using plastic glasses, you can see the problem–200 single-use plastic glasses in the waste stream every two hours. Potentially hundreds or thousands of plastic glasses tossed into the garbage for a single event. Instead of contributing to this environmental disaster, opt for real glass. Discuss with your caterer and venue in advance whether they own or rent china and silverware. Brides.com also suggests offering reusable glasses with metal straws to guests as a welcome wedding present. If your venue only offers plastic and you have no choice, at least make sure they are vigilant about recycling. Let’s face it…plastic doesn’t make the list for great sustainable wedding ideas for in the Berkshires and beyond.
Work with your caterer to make sure that the food she/he/they uses is locally sourced. The more local your menu, the smaller your carbon footprint. The same is true for wine. If your wedding site is in or near a wine-producing region or brewery, use those wines and brews instead of flying in prestige wines from halfway around the world. Want a list of the local farmers, food producers, and farmers markets in the Berkshires? Go to the Berkshire Grown website.
Feature local blooms in your bouquets and floral décor! It cuts costs and engages you in sustainable floral practices. Or decorate with potted plants instead of cut flowers. As soon as a flower’s stem is cut, it begins to die. If you opt for potted plants instead, your blooms can live on for months or years and you won’t have to dispose of all those flowers!
Instead of traditional wedding favors, say thank you to your guests with edible favors served in reusable containers such as mason jars. You can make them yourself or purchase jam or honey from a nearby farm so your guests can get a taste of the local surroundings. So many options here in the Berkshires. Summer/fall wedding? Go to the Great Barrington Farmers Market to find your favors. Find more local farmers markets here.
Did you know that many synthetic fabrics, like polyester, for example, contain plastics? If you want to have an eco-friendly wedding, start with your clothing. Look transparently sourced ethical clothing brands that prioritize fair labor practices and natural fibers. Some brands are also pioneering eco-friendly production practices using less water, compostable fibers, recycled fabrics, and faux luxe fabrics made from plants. Check out these nine eco-friendly bridal designers to see their designs.
If you’re overwhelmed by this list, just focus on one or two sustainable ideas. Have we missed anything in this list? What did you think about our list of sustainable wedding ideas for in the Berkshires and beyond? Let us know. Also let us know if you want to learn more about weddings at Saint James Place.