If you’ve ever attended a wedding with decorations of hundreds of white roses, a stretch limousine or fancy golden invitations, you know that some American weddings are elaborate productions. Even far more modest events often include a staggering array of accoutrements.
I explored the benefits (and how-to) of eco-friendly engagement and wedding rings in the first part of this series, Green Engagement Rings and Green Wedding Rings. In this second blog, I’ll delve into the world of wedding paper. From save-the-dates and invitations to thank-you cards and marriage announcements, the paper involved in your big day can pile up quickly. But chin up — there are environmentally sustainable options.
Eco-Friendly Wedding Invitations and Recycled Paper Products
Challenge: The amount of paper involved in a wedding from start to finish can be incredible. It starts with save-the-date letters or postcards followed by fancy invitations with R.S.V.P. cards and envelopes. Next come flip-book programs and menu cards. When the wedding is over, the arduous task of sending out thank-you cards and marriage announcements begins. All of that paper for one event, yet who, other than you, is going to save even a scrap of it?
Solution: First, figure out whether you really need paper for each of those elements, or if you even need to include some of those elements at all. Here are some paper elements you can likely do without:
Save-the-date cards. The idea of save-the-dates is a little bit goofy when you stop to think about it. If you were having a birthday party, would you send out a pre-invitation and then a real invitation? Of course not. Why should your wedding be any different? If you’re worried about informing your guests of your wedding date early, a simple phone call will suffice. If you have 300 guests, send out a mass e-mail (you can even create a cute online invitation — services such as evite offer numerous beautiful options if a regular e-mail is too plain for your taste).
The invitation inner-envelope. Most of your guests probably won’t even notice if you skip this one, and with environmental awareness growing, anyone who does notice probably won’t think twice about it.
The R.S.V.P. envelope — or the R.S.V.P. card itself. If you’re set on having an R.S.V.P. card in your invitations, go with postcards instead of cards with envelopes. They can look just as nice, but you’ll save paper by ditching the extra packaging. Go a step further and do away with the R.S.V.P. cards altogether. Ask your guests to call you or send you an e-mail with their information.
Programs. Everyone attending your wedding understands what they’re there for, which makes a play-by-play via a program seem unnecessary. If you don’t have programs, your guests will still be able to follow your ceremony without much trouble, especially if you’re having the typical “Do you?” “I do” ceremony. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that anyone (except perhaps your mothers) will hang on to those programs after the ceremony, which means that the trash cans outside your wedding hall will be stuffed with paper an hour after your vows. If you want to acknowledge specific friends or family, a toast at the following reception is always appropriate.
Menu cards. These are often reserved for fancier affairs, but even then they’re not necessary. The typical wedding has only a few food options, and if your guests have already chosen beef or vegetarian, a menu card isn’t going to change their entrees. Consider getting creative and putting the menu on a chalkboard in a visible area like many restaurants do during the summer, or simply let your guests be pleasantly surprised when their dishes arrive.
For all of those paper products you’d prefer not to do without, such as thank-you cards, use recycled paper products. Many companies now offer recycled paper for invitations — and if you can’t find what you want, make a special request. They want to keep your business, and will probably be open to hearing your ideas. InviteSite specializes in eco-friendly wedding invitations, and their selections are beautiful.
Another great option for keeping your guests informed is a wedding website. Many brides and grooms are using these nowadays, and they can contain all of the information typically housed in an invitation, plus more (such as the story of how you met or information on your honeymoon and registry). You can even have your guests R.S.V.P. right on your site. If you send out a simple postcard directing your guests to your website, they can receive all of the information for your event without having to send out another piece of paper. Try eWedding for creating a simple wedding website.
This may go without saying, but one of the best ways to have things exactly as you want — aesthetically and environmentally — is to do them yourself. Buy your own paper. Design and print your own invitations. You can save money by trusting yourself with these tasks, and the environment will thank you. If you’re not crafty, you probably have a friend or family member who would be happy to lend a helping hand. Do-it-yourself-invitations.com has tons of tutorials for making your own professional-looking wedding invitations.
Throughout this process, you will inevitably run across an old-fashioned acquaintance who will tell you that something you are doing is “tacky.” Not using R.S.V.P. cards is “tacky.” Skipping the inner envelope is “tacky.” As I was planning my wedding, I ran across the word “tacky” so often online that it almost lost its meaning — but despite those stuck in antiquated conventions, my husband and I had a beautiful celebration that we both loved and felt good about. There is nothing tacky about celebrating a new life together with an event that honors your commitment to each other and to your values.
Photo by iStockPhoto/Leigh Schindler.