Jessica Ehlers likes the old adage promising good luck to the bride on her wedding day, but she has her own advice for couples about to head down the aisle: reduce, reuse and recycle.
The 25-year-old owner of Winnipeg’s only green event-planning company, With a Flourish, has just celebrated three years of business in Winnipeg but would like to see more couples including eco-friendly elements in their nuptials.
"I think Winnipeg’s green event industry is a little bit behind bigger cities," admits Ehlers.
But for some couples, having a green wedding is a no-brainer.
Monika Thiessen and her partner Mike Thys will celebrate their wedding anniversary this Sunday. The couple had their wedding celebration last year, and for this eco-minded couple, green was the only way to go.
"We didn’t want anything super fancy," said Thiessen of the event, which reflected a lot of the same environmental principles the couple already lives by.
For the pair who met while working at an outdoor-outfitting store and who forgo the use of a car whenever possible, keeping the environment in mind on their wedding day was just business as usual.
The groom’s shirt was made from organic hemp and the bride’s dress was an original design made from organic hemp and peace silk — a natural silk produced using a method favoured by vegans and vegetarians.
"I had gone wedding dress shopping and thought, ‘This is not for me,’ " said Thiessen, who settled on a simple but unique dress she can dye and use again. "It’s a reasonable dress and that’s what I was looking for."
Then there was the food.
"We generally eat local and organic so we just wanted to continue that with the wedding," said Thiessen. "So that’s what we did. We stuck with local food."
But "local" in this case, is an understatement.
"Yeah, we grew the food," laughed Thiessen. "My grandparents let us borrow half of their garden... we just tried growing as much as we could, and we just served that."
On the menu for the 80-plus guests were fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and a radish-like vegetable called kohlrabi. But carnivorous guests were not neglected either since the couple ordered organic meat from a local vendor and served warm bison samosas as a snack.
For couples who are concerned that going the extra mile to hold a green event will break the bank, Thiessen says going green probably saved the couple a lot of money.
The pair spent less than $10,000 on their celebration held in the backyard of the bride’s parents’ home in North Kildonan.
"I wanted a fun day," said Thiessen of the simple celebration. "It wasn’t about the details, it was about us getting together and sharing the day with friends and family."
But for brides and grooms interested in holding a green wedding but not quite ready to grow their own appetizers, there are some simple green touches that can be incorporated into any wedding, said Ehlers.
Something as simple as having the ceremony and reception at the same place can make a huge difference.
"If you have a hundred guests in 50 cars that don’t have to drive from the ceremony to the reception, then that is saving a good amount of fuel," said Ehlers.
Ehlers said one thing many couples are asking for is 100-mile or Manitoba-grown menus.
"We just have so much in Manitoba in terms of different meat, fish and vegetables," said Ehlers. "Brides can ask what is in season, ask for organic and also ask what is being grown locally depending on when their wedding is."
But the first step in any celebration is the invitation.
When it comes to stationery, Ehlers likes to go by the reduce, reuse and recycle mantra.
"Do people need printed save-the-dates or will a really fancy email suffice?" said Ehlers.
"Do they need an RSVP card or is including a phone number and email address on the invitation itself a solution?"
But if you already know that granny will disown you if you try to shoot her an email as a wedding invitation, there are ways to observe traditional etiquette without sacrificing the environment.
Ehlers recommends couples take care in choosing the paper they use. And when it comes to stationery there is no shortage of options: handmade paper, post-consumer waste paper and cotton paper made from the leftovers of the garment industry are a few.
Winnipeg is also home to an industry leader in eco-friendly paper products.
Botanical Paperworks manufactures and designs stationery and invitations with post-consumer waste packaged in biodegradable corn plastic.
With all the options available to couples looking to "green" their nuptials, Ehlers is hoping that more people will start to see the advantages.
Winnipeg wedding photographer Patty Boge has photographed hundreds of weddings for city couples, including Thiessen’s wedding but agrees progress has been slow on the green front.
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"I think people are really behind the times with green weddings," said Boge. "But I really enjoy when a couple knows what they want and goes for it."
After a slower than expected second year of business, Ehlers believes the company may have hit its stride, having doubled in size since last year.
And with the wedding season in full swing, Ehlers and her partner have been busy working with environmentally-minded city couples all summer long.
"It seems like it’s getting to be the trend in Winnipeg," said Ehlers. "Which makes me very optimistic for next year."
Flower Dos and Don’ts
While flowers provide a green touch to any wedding— the majority of floral arrangements found in weddings come sprayed with chemicals and carted from thousands of kilometres away, making them less than environmentally friendly.
Here’s some tips for keeping your greens “green” on your wedding day:
Do: Try paper or fabric flowers. Mulberry paper flowers, silk flowers, tissue and crepe paper flowers are all beautiful options for creating artificial wedding bouquets that never spoil and cost much less than their living counterparts.
Don’t: Forget to ask where the flowers come from. Many flowers ordered wholesale by florists come from South American flower farms where labour and environmental standards are lacking. It may take a little leg work but you should be able to find out if your flowers were grown free from toxic pesticides and using fairly-waged labour.
Do: Try to use locally-grown flowers and native wildflowers. Ehlers recommends Manitoba roses and Gerber daisies for a home-grown touch.
Do: Try to use local suppliers and visit your local farmers market. You can save money by picking up your flowers yourself on the day of the wedding. Thiessen recommends that brides peruse the St. Norbert Farmers Market for ideas.