Weddings that don’t cost the earth

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Plan a wedding that’s fun, affordable . . . and low-impact

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 In the UK, where the average wedding generates around 14.5 tonnes of carbon emissions and between 250-450 kilos of rubbish, the white wedding is increasingly giving way to the green wedding as couples try to minimise their impact.

The Centre for Alternative Technology prides itself on offering unique and affordable low-impact weddings. Since CAT became licensed for weddings, numerous couples have made use of our bright, warm facilities and 7 acres of gardens overlooking the stunning Dyfi valley. Sarah, events planner, explains that many couples choose CAT as a wedding venue because they want somewhere that represents their values:A wedding is about two people joining together for the rest of their lives. It makes sense that people want the celebration to be one that is sustainable and takes into account the planet’s future as well.”There are loads of things people can do to plan a greener wedding; below are some green ideas to get you started. weddingsFrom the very beginning to the end, paper is part of the wedding planning cycle – from the save-the-dates, invitations and RSVP cards to the menu cards, seating cards, thank you cards, and more. Paper making is an energy-intensive process that creates a large amount of waste and uses harsh chemicals such as bleach. The greenest option is to go paperless and use emails and boards to communicate. But there are other eco options, such as using tree-free, recycled or handmade paper, printing with vegetable- or soy-based inks and looking for opportunities to reduce paper use, such as by sending a postcard or setting up a wedding blog. Choosing a unique location that can deliver the type of wedding that you would like and that shares your values is vital. Many people choose to get married at CAT for exactly that reason. Electricity at the Centre for Alternative Technology is either generated by our on-site renewables or via Ecotricity, an energy provider which uses renewable energy such as wind to provide electricity.

Other ways of reducing the carbon footprint of a wedding are to hold the ceremony and reception in the same place or to provide eco-friendly transport between them. For those who live really far away consider organising a video conferencing call to share a glass of bubbly, so that they can wish you well and attend the wedding virtually.Unfortunately many of the precious stones on the jewellery market come from conflict areas, with mining companies accused of horrific human rights abuses. Ensuring that rings are ethically sourced is essential for any green couple. There are a number of companies that are certified as conflict-free; see Amnesty International’s guide for details. Other options include using family heirlooms, vintage rings or bespoke wooden bands – one couple, both former CAT employees, made their own rings from wood salvaged from the barn they were converting.Avoid flying off to a boozy weekend in Europe for your stag and hen do – if you must go, travel by train (and start the party early in the bar car!). If you are reading this, you are likely to enjoy doing something low-impact and outdoors, and there are so many things to do in Mid-Wales (climbing, kayaking, white water rafting, camping, walking, surfing, sailing….)

IMG_4459Everyone wants to look their best on their wedding day but the practice of only wearing a dress once is definitely not green. Buying a used wedding dress, vintage clothing or something you will wear again are good ways of reducing environmental impact.You don’t need to spend a fortune to bring beauty and style to your wedding; use branches, dried grasses, berries, ivy and climbing plants to decorate. Look for florists who use locally grown flowers and, if decorating with candles, use beeswax or soy-based products. Leaves, slate and wood make excellent and unique place names.At CAT we often invite local artists to use the weddings as an opportunity to display their work, providing a platform for them to exhibit but also bringing a unique touch to the wedding.

Food and drink is an area where what you consume makes a big difference. A very good start is to design a menu that is in season, locally sourced and organic where possible. Vegetarian/ vegan foods generally have lower levels of carbon emissions – if you are providing meat make sure it is free range and cruelty free. Using non-disposable plates, glasses and cutlery can feel like more work but it adds a touch of class to the wedding; if you have to use disposable products ensure they are biodegradable. If there is food left over, consider donating it to a local organisation such as a food bank or homeless shelter. Ensure that waste can be composted.

Whether you prefer film or digital photographs, look for a photographer who will do digital proofs to save paper and chemicals. Set up an account on flickr or other such photo sharing website so that friends can share photos of the happy occasion online.Wedding presents is another area where you can have an impact. The main goal is to make sure you get stuff that you actually need rather than stuff that you will be chugging down to the nearest charity shop in a few weeks. Create a wish list of eco-friendly items to distribute to wedding guests. Other options include asking for subscriptions to green publications or charities and asking wedding guests to donate money to a charity of your choice.There are tonnes of things you can do for wedding favours that your guests can use and enjoy, from organic chocolates to attractive bags of herbs, plants, handmade soaps etc – the possibilities are endless. The CAT shop and online Eco-Store also have some great products that work well as wedding favours.

From beginning to end there are ways of ensuring that a wedding does not cost the earth. Honeymoons can be just as wonderful taken locally or travelling by train – one of the most romantic ways to see Europe. There are also lots of green holiday options available, from engaging with eco-tourism to staying with a green accommodation provider.AT CAT we are used to doing things a bit differently, and our staff are on hand to help couples plan and enjoy the wedding they really want. There is a database of local businesses that can provide everything from photography and music to a bicycle-powered sound system or horse and cart! Weddings don’t have to cost the earth and, indeed, green weddings can actually be cheaper than conventional weddings. A green wedding is the ultimate statement to each other that protecting the environment is one of your priorities, demonstrating your intention to share an eco-friendly life together, and perhaps even inspiring your family and friends to do something similar.