Eco-Friendly Wedding Series No. 5: Eco Wedding Dresses

Reader Contribution by Lindsey Siegele
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So far in this eco-friendly wedding series, we’ve discussed how to make your choices regarding ringspapertransportation and venues greener. While each of these topics is important in the quest for a sustainable wedding, we have yet to touch on the Mecca of many brides’ wedding happiness. No, it isn’t their rings, though those do play an important role. It definitely isn’t the invitations, the transportation or the venue. From day one of planning, perhaps from day one of grade school, a bride will often dream about her perfect wedding dress.

Grooms may scratch their heads and wonder why a simple piece of clothing can become the focus of so much energy. As their soon-to-be brides scan wedding magazines day after day, earmarking pages and making notes, grooms will often sit on the sidelines and question the sanity of their chosen ones. Of course, all of that confusion flies out the window on the wedding day. As a bride takes her first steps down the aisle and her groom’s eyes get misty, all question of the importance of a perfect dress is abandoned.

Every bride wants to be beautiful on her wedding day. Fortunately, every bride has the ability to take her groom’s breath away simply by showing up.

My husband was insistent upon the secrecy of the dress before we got married. I would have been happy to take him dress shopping with me, and if he had wanted to see me in my dress before I walked down the aisle, I would’ve welcomed the company.

After my one and only day of dress shopping, I brought home pictures and showed him one of me in a beautiful dress that I didn’t buy. The dress that I did pick was identical with one small alteration. I did this for a few reasons: First, I wanted to see his reaction. If he gagged when he saw the dress, I would have had plenty of time to make a different decision. Second, surprises make me nervous, and I generally try to sabotage them in any way possible. Third, I suspected that even if my fiancé saw a picture of me in the dress that I chose, he wouldn’t recognize it on our wedding day.

In regards to that last reason, I was absolutely right. He saw the picture of the dress, told me I should have gotten that one instead, and then had no idea that I was wearing practically the same dress when we got married.

It’s interesting to note how unimportant our clothing choices often are in the eyes of our significant others, at least on our wedding days. If I had chosen jeans and a T-shirt for the big day, my husband wouldn’t have cared. In fact, he probably would have been more excited to be marrying me dressed as myself…and then he would have complained that he had to wear a tux while I got to wear my scrubby clothes.

I suspect that most brides realize their dress decisions aren’t really for their significant others. I bought my dress for me — because I thought I looked pretty in it, because I liked the idea of being married in it and because it was part of a really great sale. I hoped that my husband would appreciate the way I looked, but I never assumed that decision would have a real affect on our day.

This seems to be the case with every aspect of weddings. I agonized over designing the perfect invitations. I refused to allow a wedding hall to tell me what kind of food I could serve my guests. Deciding on a photographer was a hassle. Today, only a year later, it all seems so trivial.

That being the case, I wish that I had done more to make my wedding green. After all, I may not spend much time thinking about the details of my wedding, but the environmental effects of it probably continue to this day.

If we think about wedding dresses with this perspective in mind, maybe we’ll begin to realize that, while aesthetics are important, the impact of our clothing choices on the environment are equally important. It’s time to find an eco wedding dress.

Eco Wedding Dress

Challenge: Brides across the U.S. are buying brand new dresses, many of them containing enough fabric to cover a football field, and wearing them only once. While many brides form emotional attachments to their dresses, buying an expensive piece of clothing to wear for one day is kind of a waste. In addition, the fabrics in some dresses are treated with harsh chemicals.

Solution: Say it with me — secondhand! The world of secondhand dresses is abundant with beauty and style if you know where to look. My cousin found a killer Vera Wang pre-worn dress and she saved a bundle of money just by doing some extra research. Your purchase of a secondhand dress can even benefit others. Take a look at Brides Against Breast Cancer to find an event near you. They sell donated, pre-worn wedding dresses, and the proceeds are used to “bring a moment of joy into world of someone for whom a cure is too late.” You can buy an inexpensive dress that has only been worn once and support a great charity at the same time.

Even if you don’t choose to purchase a dress from Brides Against Breast Cancer, you can donate your dress to the charity after your wedding. I plan to donate mine just as soon as I can get back to my parents’ house to send it off. I don’t plan on wearing it again anytime soon (they laugh at me when I wear it to work), and I’m sure somebody else needs it more than I do.

The secondhand dress you choose may have been the product of mass manufacturing or chemical treating, but at least all of that won’t have been for a single use. You can end the cycle and give beautiful pre-worn dresses a second chance at life.

For more options in secondhand dresses, visit The Dressmarket and Encore Bridal, both of which have gorgeous dress selections.

If you’re not interested in pre-worn wedding dresses, think about trying to find a dress made with earth-friendly materials like hemp, silk and cotton. To find a dress made from earth-friendly materials, visit The Natural Wedding Company‘s list of eco dress makers in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. If you think that a cotton dress sounds too casual, you’ve got to take a look at The Cotton Bride‘s collections — absolutely breathtaking.

If you’re willing to stray from the path a little bit, why not buy a dress that you really will wear again? It’s hard to imagine that those big, poofy dresses will ever see the light of day again, but a stylish cocktail dress will definitely come in handy later on. Find one in white for a traditional spin, or step outside the box and find a dress in your favorite color. How about polka dots? The options are endless if you don’t limit yourself to the old-fashioned rules. Think of how you’ll smile every time you put on your cocktail wedding dress for another event.

A similar mindset when you’re purchasing shoes and accessories will help you cut back on waste. If short-heeled cream shoes aren’t really your style, why not buy a pair that you’ll be excited to wear again? You could buy a flashy pair of red stilettos or some adorable ballet flats instead. I wore an awesome pair of heels covered in a colorful flower pattern. My photographer had a field day. I even got my husband in on the deal by buying him a pair of green Converse Chuck Taylors. We gave my brother, our minister, a pair of neon printed Chuck Taylors to wear while he stood at the front of the chapel. Our feet couldn’t have been more stylish, and we have all worn our wedding shoes many times since.

Finally, if you’ve got some skills, do anything you can by yourself. If you’re a fantastic seamstress, why not make your own dress? If you have a relative who is much handier with a sewing machine, enlist his or her help. You can even make your own accessories like earrings and bracelets if the mood strikes you.

Remember not to sweat the details. No matter what you wear, you will look beautiful to the most important person: the one you’re marrying.

Lindsey Siegele is the Senior Web Editor at Ogden Publications, the parent company of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Find her on .

Photo by iStockPhoto/Daniel Ruta. 

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