What does a wedding have to do with the environment?

Earth Day just happened again, as it has every year since 1970, and it’s a reminder to give extra thought to the importance of the environment. Many couples have told me that the natural world is something that inspires them. A walk in the woods, for example, may be one of their most treasured and bonding experiences. Others have expressed their concerns about ecological issues.

Conservation is at heart a very conservative idea – the word itself tells us that. The how and why it has become political is not for this column, but I will say that taking caring for the planet is something most logical and reasonable people can agree upon. Unfortunately, thoughtlessness, and disregard of the consequences of our actions as individuals, companies and countries has created a mess. The question is: can we turn that around by some tiny action? Does choosing the recycled paper really matter? Is it too late? I don’t honestly know the answer to that, but I do think a wedding is a time to address it, if its matter to you.

So how can a couple express their love of nature and respect for ‘mother earth’ in their wedding? Much has been written about the ‘green’ or ‘eco’ wedding and most of it involves your purchases. Where you put your money does matter, but so do words and rituals.

Choosing rituals that use natural elements, especially trees or plants as well as water express this point of view. Planting a tree, and/or watering a tree, along with good explanations of why this action is meaningful – makes a great symbolic statement. I’ve done variations on these actions numerous times.

Water is vital to our planet and access to clean water is a crisis in many places. And remember that water is a strong religious symbol as well, almost every religion has cleansing rituals involving water. This makes it a natural fit for a wedding, and you can combine those two ideas, with a water ritual.

Incorporating readings is a great choice in your environmentally conscious wedding. Try writings such as an excerpt from American naturalist John Muir, who describes the natural world in all is beauty, or from Thoreau’s Walden, or even Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax – who spoke for the trees and warned of the dangers of disrespecting the environment in this cautionary rhyming tale.

Favors from nature are always great – seeds for planting are nice – but be mindful – only do this if you give them at the right time of year. The same is true for gifts of small plants needed to be transplanted – they can easily die, and the purpose defeated. Maybe something made from repurposed or recycled materials would be better.  Food from local sources is perfect – support local farms and crafters. When you don’t fly stuff around the world you reduce the carbon foot-print.

Donate to your favorite environmental charity in lieu of favors and leave a note on each place setting (on recycled paper, of course) explaining why you chose that cause and encouraging your guests to support it as well.

Today marriage between couples of different religions and races is quite common, accepted and successful. It is marriage between people of different political leanings that can be tricky. It’s the new ‘guess who’s coming to dinner.’ When two people understand the world in much the same way, it bodes well for their future.

An environmentally conscious wedding, one that minimizes waste, expresses a point of view, and celebrates your values is a beautiful thing indeed.




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