Marriage is not in my foreseeable future and I would much rather crash a reception than plan a wedding, but it’s summer and I must acknowledge wedding season. Until recently, I worked at a private club which hosted events like wedding receptions. This was a classy joint, so I worked at some gorgeous loose-budget parties, to say the least. A few things that really bugged me about these receptions were the ridiculous price tags on some of the smaller aspects of the events and the amount of crap I’d have to throw away once the guests departed. So, while I am no professional, I’ve picked out some D.I.Y. alternatives with the help of my high-end wedding observations, my library of craft books and some hot conscientious wedding Web sites. There’s a ton of them out there and any bride- or groom-to-be should check ‘em out if they’re trying to save – or go – green at their wedding. —-
To start out, Great Green Weddings has set three basic rules that can cut costs and waste:
1. Limit how far you and your guests will have to travel for the ceremony and reception.
2. Pack up or donate leftovers instead of throwing them out.
3. Only register for items you and your spouse will need and use. If that cuts a lot out of your wish list, suggest a charity that your guests can donate to in your name.
Now for the nitty-gritty:
Obviously, this is a huge decision every bride makes, whether she’s a fashionista or a Plain Jane. But why pay up to a grand for a gown that nine other brides will be wearing? If you’re up for searching hardcore and buying vintage, I highly suggest hitting up higher-end thrift boutiques and consignment shops. Some local bridal districts have a store like these. Ebay is also a goldmine for inexpensive dresses. Some are brand new, others just worn once, but most are priced so reasonably, you could spring for awesome alterations and embellishments. I realize some people might have a problem wearing a used dress, but it can save you so much money and you can really alter it to make it your own.
For the laid-back bride (oxymoron?) who really wants to do it herself, there’s the T-shirt Gown from the awesome book Generation T.:
Vera Wang probably wouldn’t approve, but I think it’s fab!
For many couples, dessert is just as imperative as the dress. And if you’ve seen any of the 98 designer cake shows on television right now, it’s obvious that people drop some serious cash for the perfect cake. Luckily, cupcakes are totally hot right now and they make an excellent alternative to a traditional cake. My cousin is getting married in November, and he and his lady are going the cupcake way. Let’s think about this: they’re easy to make yourself, they’re instantly adorable and you don’t have to worry about cutting a giant cake! Just remember, being thrifty doesn’t mean you have to give up the glam. If you’re particularly hands-on, like this couple was, you can construct a classy display for your wedding cupcake:
Invitations & Save the Date Cards
From a crafter’s perspective, creating one-of-a-kind, handmade paper invitations sounds lovely. From a eco-girl’s perspective, that sounds like a ton of waste. So I’ll offer two options I’ve found:
The snail mail-lover within me cringes at the idea of e-mailing out wedding announcements, but it’s clearly the greenest thing to do. If you’re at all tech-savvy, you can accomplish this on the cheap. If not, Sendomatic has lots of templates for invitations, from funky to traditional. If you’ve got to have a one-of-a-kind invite, the site also offers custom e-vitations that cost between $200-$300. Kinda pricey, but the site keeps track of all RSVPs and sends reminders.
Options for paper invites are endless, but inexpensive, Earth-friendly invites are sometimes hard to come by. Formal Invitations uses 100% recycled paper and some tree-free recycled cotton for their invites and envelopes, and they offer D.I.Y. invitations with how-to guides as low as $0.54 a piece! They can print and assemble your invitations and RVSP cards for you, or send you the paper items to do it yourself, or even meet you in the middle.
Decor & Centerpieces
Duh. That’s all I can say. There is no limit to the types of D.I.Y. decorations you can add to your ceremony or reception. I’m sure more people opt to buy because crafting can be so time-consuming, but I think it would help with the pre-wedding stress! Imagine this: instead of playing gag-inducing games at a wedding shower, you and all your girlfriends could make centerpieces! Here are two votive-holding centerpiece ideas made from aluminum cans and scraps:
In addition to re-thinking your recyclables, buying bulk flowers and arranging them yourself can save a bundle. I would stock up on craft books like The Big-Ass Book of Crafts (from which the aluminum projects came) for decorative inspiration. Obviously. the earlier you get started, the less you’ll have to buy last-minute. Handmade decorations at a wedding are so perfect because they can incorporate special details about the bride and groom that you can’t find in items you buy or rent.
Wedding Party Gifts & Guest Favors
It’s nice to give a token of thanks to the members of your wedding party, and super easy to make these kinds of gifts. A handmade picture frame personalized for each person with a photo from the wedding is cheap but meaningful. Making boutonnieres and corsages for the party could also double as a from-the-heart gift. And since you’ve stocked up on crafting guides, you shouldn’t have any trouble thinking of additional gift ideas.
As far as your wedding guests, I’m going to be frank: you’re already throwing a kick-ass party and they’re getting drunk on your tab. What more of a gift do they need? In all seriousness, nix the wedding bells, candy or other cheap favors at each table- they’re gonna end up in a trash can eventually. If you’ve budgeted for guest favors, be classy and donate what you would have spent on favors to you and your significant other’s favorite charity or organization.
Like I said, I’m not a wedding planner! But it’s amazing how many eco-conscious, money-saving, craft-quenching tips you can pick up by searching through thrift stores, Web sites and books. If you’ve attended or planned a D.I.Y. wedding, let me know. You could nab a feature on this site!