Welcome back to the second installment of our Green Wedding Guide. Last week we talked jewelry, and this week we are going to talk about eco-friendly ways to pick your location. The location of a wedding and its subsequent reception is one of the most important decisions of the whole affair. The location influences all the other details: flowers, decorations, logistics, travel, rentals, number of guests, type of reception, season and time of day. With so much at stake, it becomes crucial that the location will compliment the other eco-friendly decisions that green brides and grooms desire. As with rings, location obviously comes down to personal preference, but here are a few things to keep in mind when scouting for the perfect green wedding spot…
Number of Guests – Knowing how many guests you expect to come to your wedding will help guide you when brainstorming for wedding locations. In general, two-thirds of the guests you invite will attend — even less if it is a destination wedding. A large group of guests will require more parking, bathrooms, rentals, and space. A smaller, intimate affair can take place in any number of venues, and in reality, has a much smaller impact on the environment. For the low-maintenance types, eloping with just your sweetie and a witness to the local courthouse is your cheapest and greenest option.
Travel – Ideally you want your wedding to be easy for all of your guests to arrive with minimal travel. If your family and friends all live nearby, the greenest thing you can do is have it in your home town. If everyone is scattered across the country, consider picking a central location, or a spot where a majority of your guests live. Unless you elope, at least some of your guests will likely have to travel to get to the wedding, and since travel is the biggest environmental impact, consider buying carbon offsets to reduce the carbon footprint of your guests travel. Terra Pass and Native Energy both offer carbon offsets for special events — Terra Pass’ can even specifically tailored to weddings. Also suggest that guests rent fuel-efficient vehicles like the Prius — they can check major rental companies like Avis, Enterprise and Hertz.
Ceremony & Reception Venues – Once you have an idea of how many guests will attend and in what city it will take place, you can scout out venues. Naturally green wedding spots are ones that require little fuss or decoration. Some naturally eco options include city parks, gardens, beaches, backyards, organic farms, local CSAs, national and state parks. While relatively fuss and decoration free, these outdoor locations may require renting chairs, tables, and tents, dealing with travel logistics, or even getting permits. Churches are also eco, requiring little decoration and no rentals. Many churches these days also have recycling programs and buy renewable energy.
There are many other types of venues that hold weddings regularly like hotels, restaurants, museums, historical buildings and resorts. These can be great options, since they usually have all of the chairs, tables, rentals, wait staff, catering, etc., but not all practice environmental-friendliness, so do your research and ask questions! Find out whether or not they recycle, buy organic or local food, clean with safe cleaning products, or buy renewable energy. Without these eco practices in place, your venue may not be green at all.
Reception – Keeping the reception within walking distance of the ceremony minimizes your guests traveling between the two. Also morning and afternoon weddings are becoming increasingly popular again — an option that requires less electricity and thus, reducing your environmental impact. Help support your local economy by hiring local companies for rentals, catering, cakes and entertainment. Avoid buying new things or disposable items at the reception and rely on rental companies to supply all of your linens and place settings.
Destination Weddings – Destination weddings are really fun and a good chance for a vacation, but require more time and money for your guests. Be considerate of the travel required to get to your destination and the costs associated. Look for eco-resorts and destinations that use environmentally-friendly practices just like you would with a local venue.
With our family and friends scattered around the country and Matt and me in Park City, UT, there was no easy solution our wedding’s location – almost everyone would have to travel. When thinking about locations we factored in travel times, airfare costs, activities during the weekend, car rentals, hotel accommodations and the overall feel of the wedding. We knew we wanted an outdoor wedding, because Matt and I spend so much of our time outdoors. We also wanted it to be special to us as well as a memorable location for all of our loved ones.
In light of that, we decided to have the wedding at one of our most favorite spots in the world – Zion National Park in Southern Utah. We love the serenity, the red rock canyon walls, the Virgin River cutting through it all. The park and lively neighboring town, Springdale, would be able to provide a myriad of activities for our guests to take advantage of — and the area already had a free public shuttle, so no one would need to drive once they arrived. Additionally, most of our family and friends had never been to the park and hoped to extend their stay to enjoy all that the park offered.
We searched Springdale and the National Park for the ceremony site, looking for a place that could accommodate 100 people, had amazing views and fit our budget. For the ceremony, we settled on a little hotel in town, called the Canyon Ranch Motel, which has a beautiful lawn with old growth trees. Our guests collectively booked the entire motel, which meant we could avoid disturbing others and have the whole place to ourselves. The reception was at the Springdale’s Community Center, which had an indoor and outdoor area and was just a short walk along a dirt path from the ceremony. We rented chairs and place settings from Zion Party Rentals, which is a local rental company.
When the big day arrived, we found that our guests enjoyed the National Park, took the shuttle everywhere, relaxed by the pool, took hikes and spent a lot of time outdoors. Because our guests made our wedding into their own vacation, we had more opportunity to spend with them while sharing a place that was very special to us.
My hubby and I live in New York City, but most of our family is in the San Francisco Bay Area, so getting hitched in San Francisco was a no-brainer. We knew that some people would have to travel for our wedding, but since airplane travel has a huge carbon footprint, we wanted to minimize the number of people who had to fly out for the wedding and make it easiest for our immediate family to attend. Locating our wedding in San Francisco, and then having a follow up reception a month later in NYC gave our New York friends the option to skip out on flying out to California, while still allowing them to celebrate with us in a more convenient local.
Once we settled on San Francisco, we wanted to choose a place that was meaningful to us, as well as easy-to-get-to, and would allow the ceremony and reception to all be held in one place, minimizing any sort of carbon footprint (and inconvenience) that comes from having to drive from one place to another. We choose the in San Francisco — a historic military base that has been converted to a national park –because it is beautiful, serene, and my family has ties to the area (my grandfather lived and worked at the Presidio, and my grandmother is buried there). Perhaps the most important factor for us, however, (and the most important ‘green’ factor), is the fact that the Presidio has a whole host of historic buildings: chapels, cabins, officer’s clubs and the like, that are frequently rented for events – minimizing the hassle and the need to truck in furniture, seating, decor, canopies or anything else offsite. This not only made setting up a breeze, but it seriously cut down on carbon footprint to have everything available on site. Of course, guests were also happy that they could easily walk from the old mission interfaith chapel where we had the ceremony to the reception party at the Golden Gate Club, just down the hill.
My husband and I were thrilled with the location we picked for our wedding. Not only was it ‘green’, but it was beautiful and scenic, super convenient and easy for us and our guests, and special and poignant for us due to our personal ties to the area.