Welcome back to Inhabitat’s Green Wedding Guide! So far in this summer series we’ve covered eco-friendly jewelry, locations, invitations and now we’re bringing you our tips and suggestions for eco-friendly gift giving. Favors, gifts and registries are sometimes thought of as the bane of a green wedding. It can get overwhelming to plan details of sustainability into an eco-friendly wedding — let alone find meaningful gifts that aren’t a load of eco-guilt. Some fight the gift giving, but giving and receiving is fun, and there are many easy ways to make wedding gift exchanges more environmentally friendly.
Registries are a delicate topic and difficult for many couples to discuss and decide upon. These days most couples have everything they “need,” not to mention it feels weird to ask your guests for gifts as a requirement of their attendance. But every smart eco couple should definitely create a registry — otherwise you’ll end up with a slew of bowls, platters, and scary expensive blown glass vases that you don’t need or want. This is your chance to get the good Calphalon pans you’ve dreamed about that will last you forever. You can also ask for practical stuff like tools, camping gear, rugs, a composter – just make sure you ask for quality products that will last — and are made from eco-friendly materials. You could also register at green design retailers like Re:Modern, Branch, GreenDepot, even Target has a lot eco-friendly items now. Another popular registry is to ask for donations for a bigger item – like a home or a honeymoon. If you are picking and choosing gifts from all over or are asking for donations, you can also use MyRegistry.
When you ask friends to be a bridesmaid or groomsman, you may be asking them to travel, pay out-of-pocket expenses and give up a weekend. Sure they want to do it because they love you, but don’t forget to thank them in some way. Attendant gifts should be meaningful, but you don’t necessarily have to give them jewelry or engraved pocketknives. If you want to get them something, choose well-built things that will last, made from local companies, and/or eco-friendly materials. You can also treat them to a night out, a show, massage, spa treatments, baseball games, or even their flights or lodging for the wedding. Be thoughtful and don’t skimp on these items, after all they are your best friends.
And finally we conclude with favors for your wedding guests. Every bride feels it necessary to give something to her guests – a small treat to show her appreciation. Favors do not need be large and extravagant. In fact, they should be small enough to carry home at the end of the evening or packable and non-perishable, especially for a destination wedding. Is there a great candy shop in your home town, an organic honey, or a specialty salt? Local handmade products or delicacies make great gifts. How about something that everyone needs and will actually use? We love these “All the Better to Kiss You With” organic lip balms in vintage tins, and your guests will certainly remember and appreciate this little favor when each time they soothe their chapped lips. Potted flowers used as table decorations also make lovely favors, and less for you to deal with the day after. Tree seedlings are a nice idea that encourage people to plant a tree, and also a special way to commemorate your marriage. Two good suppliers of tree seedlings are Arbor Day Foundation and Tree In A Box.
Both Matt and I balked at the idea of a registry. Since we already live in such a tiny cabin, we really don’t have room for anything else, not to mention we don’t need anything else. Sure we wanted things like a new saute pan and a table saw, but need it – no. Since we didn’t want to get lots of unnecessary gifts like coffee makers, china or crystal, we asked our guests to donate to our dream home. To help people grasp the idea behind it, we registered with MyRegistry.com and created fake items, like a bedspread or a tree with a price associated with it, so people could write us a check and say, “Here’s money so you can plant a tree when you build your house.” Naturally, we’ll be saving that money in the highest interest CD we can find until the day comes to build our new home. Many of our family and friends were more than generous, but I’d have to say my favorite gift was a family treasure – the last painting my great Aunt ever painted. Now that is something I will treasure forever.
Coming up with a gift that appeals to all of your bridesmaids is like finding a needle in a haystack. Mine are all so different, so I had to find a gift that was customizable for all 4 girls. I found the perfect gift after searching Etsy.com for purses made from upcycled leather. The bags made by FoundByNicki are so amazingly beautiful and unique – each one handcrafted from old leather jackets, skirts and upholstery material. In fact, I also bought 4 clutches to give as gifts for some wonderful ladies who threw Matt and I a “Stock The Bar” wedding shower. Matt, on the other hand, wasn’t as lucky to find wonderful handmade, upcycled items for his groomsmen. After much debate we decided on sturdy weatherproof binoculars, which we knew the boys would use and have forever.
As for the favors, I will admit, we may have gone a little overboard. Since it was a destination wedding, my mom and I decided that each couple needed a welcome bag with goodies inside. The bags were printed on fair-trade organic cotton with our wedding logo by Say It Green, inside there were a custom printed reusable steel water bottle, organic lip balm made by Bubble & Bee (local Salt Lake company), a packet with details for the weekend, and snacks for hiking. On top of that, guests got to take home our table centerpieces, which were lovely potted flowers in terra cotta pots we got from thrift stores and friends.
Like many brides I had mixed feelings about creating a registry, but I knew that if I didn’t create one, I would end up with all sorts of stuff that I didn’t need and didn’t want. So I created a registry online with eco design retailer Branch, and picked out some things that I knew we would need, like bamboo bowls and cutting boards. Since my hubby and I didn’t really need too many physical goods, we also provided an alternative to giving “things” through a donation section on our registry. We picked our favorite four charitable organizations and encouraged those guests who were interested to donate money to charity instead.
I have been to my fair share of weddings where favors have tended to be somewhat unnecessary and useless tchotchkes, (which is just a waste of money and time, not to mention resources), so I decided that if we were going to have favors at our wedding, I wanted them to be something that people could actually use. My clever eco wedding planner Nelle Johnston, came up with a fabulous idea to make place-cards for guests that doubled as luggage tags – made from recycled computer chips! Who can’t use a sturdy and elegant luggage-tag, right?
We also decorated tables with small potted orchids, bouquets from the wedding ceremony, and small stalks of bamboo, and encouraged guests to take home the living foliage at the end of the night. I saw lots of guests walking off with the potted plants, (some with several pots) and it made me happy to see that the people who wanted the plants REALLY wanted them — and I knew they would treasure them and take care of them. Of course, this is also much less taxing on the environment as well: to have everything get reused and nothing go to landfill. It also made our lives easier in terms of cleaning up decorations at the end of the night –there wasn’t a lot to clean up, because our guests cleared everything out for us!