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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

7 Tips to Make Your Wedding More Socially Conscious

Even though my wedding journey is over and I've stopped regularly writing 'Engaged with a Cause,' I've missed sharing socially conscious wedding tips and ideas with everyone. In light of my blog's appearance in a recent Buzz Feed post and in hopes of leaving behind an easy "cheat sheet," here are a few tips on how you can give back with your wedding.

1. The Plan & The Planner During the early engagement enthusiasm when you are mapping out your budget and guest list, it is also the time for you and your partner to discuss priorities for how you can give back or make the day "greener."  Want to donate in lieu of favors? Don't care about flowers? If you are hiring a wedding planner, make sure they share your vision and are excited about it. Looking for vendors affiliated with Wish Upon A Wedding is a great place to start. Read about our wedding planner here.

2. Location! With your guest list in place, budget set and charitable goals in mind, you can find the perfect place for the big day. You can pick a location where your tourist dollars will make a difference in recovery — like the Jersey Shore or New Orleans. Staying close to home? Whether the ceremony is in a church or a public space like a museum or park, your fees can make a big impact. Don't be afraid to ask where your dollar goes. For the reception, open up your search to zoos, aquariums, museums, botanical gardens and parks. Many of these organizations are not-for-profit and survive as a result of rental revenue. Here's some more info on my own search and the venue we ultimately chose.

Our ceremony was held at the Peristyle in New Orleans' City Park, which was flooded in Hurricane Katrina. Rental fees go toward restoring the historic park. Photo Fine Arts Exposure.
3. Saying Yes to the Dress There are several fantastic and affordable options for finding dresses that are eco-friendly, charitable or both! A few of my favorites are the Brides Against Cancer Tour of Gowns and New York City's charitable shop, the Bridal Garden. You can also commission a gown from a designer who gives back. Remember, it doesn't have to stop with your attire either, there are some great options that give back for the groom, groomsmen, flower girls and bridesmaids. Also, it's not over until it's over — donate your dress and give it a second home. Here are some options for finding a socially conscious dress or donating your own.

4. Food (& Spirit) with Thought When looking for a caterer or baker ask them about their sustainable practices. Can you donate leftover reception food or cake to a local shelter? Is the food sourced locally? Can they provide vegetarian and vegan options? Culinary training programs, like DC's Fresh Start Catering or ProStart give future chefs the chance to sharpen their skills.  You get excellent food for what is often a much lower cost than a traditional caterer. Additionally, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of charitable wines, beers and liquors to get you in the 'spirit" of giving.

5. Smile & Say Charity! Modern weddings involve lots of photo-ops. There are engagement photos, bridal portraits, rehearsal dinner pictures and of course, the wedding day shots. And don't forget videography too. Share your socially conscious mission with prospective vendors and see what ideas they come up with. Our engagement photographer did our session in exchange for a donation to the charity of our choice.   Our rehearsal photographers, Dear New Orleans (now Dear World), had a for-benefit model in which 10% of their fee went to evacuteer.org. The wedding photographer decided to donate 1/5 of her fee to SmileTrain, and our videographer produced a PSA for New Orleans' Women's Shelter with the money we paid for their services. We didn't set out to ask anyone to go above and beyond, but by sharing our mission, we found lots of inspiring people who were excited to get on board.
This "Pinterest Famous" picture of my bridesmaids was taken at our rehearsal dinner by Dear New Orleans, who donated part of their fee to evacuteer.org.
6. Flowers, Invites & Music - oh my! These are the big three that can sneak up on you! You get the other basics down — venue, dress, photographer and there's still more to do. 
  • When meeting with your florist, ask about what flowers are in season, this will lower your cost and your footprint. When possible, reuse bouquets as decor and think of re-useable ideas for centerpieces. If you do go with flowers, you can opt for potted plants. Also, work with your florist to see if they will assist you in transporting your arrangements to a hospital, nursing home or hospice after the wedding is over. 
  • Between the save-the-dates and the invitations, weddings can use a lot of paper. Consider video save-the-dates or ones that have dual purposes (magnets), etc. You can also inquire with your printer about recycled paper options. If you don't mind limiting the amount of paper sent with the invite (rsvp card, directions, etc.), you can do a digital rsvp (email) or go digital altogether. There are also shops that sell charitable paper products. Click here to learn about my charitable designer.

  • When looking for a DJ or band, it's great to think local. There are some great artists out there who also work as music educators and offer up their time to help others. Some artists who are more established are open to having gratuity delivered in the way of a donation to charities that benefit fellow artists, as well as music educators

My bouquet featured local flowers & cruelty-feathers (from my cousin's chickens) by Les Deux Soeurs, who picked up all the remaining arrangements and brought them to St. Francis Villa. Tree trunk cake stand made by my father from a neighbor's fallen tree. Photo by Fine Arts Exposure.
7. Making it About You — Do's & Dont's No, I'm not saying go all bridezilla, but the day should reflect you and yours. Don't get bent out of shape making everything perfect and socially conscious. Do get creative and look for things that are uniquely you and say something about how you as a couple hope to make a difference. By giving in a way that represents your love for each other, you will inspire others to have an impact too. So, whether it's a charitable registry or buying bridesmaid gifts that benefit a good cause, even small gestures can really make a difference.

If you would like to stay in touch and get tips on socially conscious living, from the honeymoon to home products, as well as a host of my other loves — journey over to The Little Rouge Hen (thelittlerougehen.com) coming later in 2014 (along with the Engaged with a Cause eguide)! If you have any questions on want more info on how to make your wedding more "green" or socially conscious, email us at engagedwithacause@gmail.com. 

Happy planning!
Julie

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