Allie Renee Bridal
♥ Organic food, biodegradable flatware and other earth-friendly items tend to be pricier than their wasteful mainstream counterparts. To avoid doing serious damage to the green in your wallet, consider these tips:
♥ Scale back
Consider a shorter guest list, simple bouquets rather than lavish ones, a simple wedding day meal, and a limited drink menu—you'll save a lot by stocking up on cases of biodynamic wine instead of offering a full open bar.
♥ Go Local
Your eco-friendly decision to use seasonal flowers and food from local farms also conserves cash: While you are saving on the emissions caused by shipping these items, you are also cutting shipping costs.
♥ Double duty
Ask your bridesmaids to recycle your ceremony bouquets by rearranging them into vases for centerpieces at the reception.
♥ Friendly service
Rather than hiring an officiant to preside over your ceremony, ask a friend who shares your passion for the environment to do it for free. The Universal Church of Life, themonastery.org, offers free online ordinations, which give its ministers the legal status to officiate marriages.
♥ Close to home
You don't need to travel halfway around the world for a nature lover's honeymoon. Save on airfare by choosing a quaint hotel or romantic bed-and-breakfast that's near a nature preserve, beach or state park that's closer to home.
♥ From the wedding dress to the menu to the favors and transportation, what to know to start reducing, reusing and recycling for your eco-chic affair.
♥ Nature's way
Research locations where the proceeds support eco-friendly causes. State parks and nature preserves are a great place to start.
♥ Daytime I dos
Celebrate during daylight—and if possible, outdoors—to cut down on electricity. If you're set on an evening celebration, consider candlelight—soy candles burn cleaner and longer than traditional wax candles—to help illuminate the venue, and create a romantic ambiance.
♥ Minimize paper waste
Find a printing company that uses 100 percent recycled paper that has been processed without chlorine—or one that prints on paper embedded with wildflower seeds that can later be planted. Then, choose a simple design and use a postcard as a reply card. To announce your big-day details, use Brides.com's My Wedding Web Site. Only print out information cards for guests who don't have internet access.
♥ Dress the part
Recycle a dress—whether it's your mother's gown or a gorgeous find from a vintage shop. If going retro isn't your style, look for a dress in a natural fiber, like hemp-satin (visit Conscious Clothing getconscious.com), or find a simple white dress that you can alter, accessorize and wear again. Jewelry also makes a great "something borrowed." What better excuse to raid Mom's or Grandma's jewelry box!
♥ Start a green home
Look for eco-friendly home and garden stores that have registry options, like Branch Home, branchhome.com, or Design Public, designpublic.com.
♥ With this ring…
Pledge your commitment to the earth and each other by choosing a ring made with environmentally-conscious precious metals—such as Leber Jeweler's Earthwise Jewelryline, leberjeweler.com/earthwise, made with recycled gold and platinum. Or, opt for eco-friendly, handcrafted wooden rings from Chicago Joinery, chicagojoinery.com, or Touch Wood Rings, touchwoodrings.com.
♥ Flower power
Before choosing your bouquet, look for a florist that supports organic flower farms and uses local and seasonal wildflowers so you cut the emissions that would be generated by shipping flowers from far away. For centerpieces, use oxygen-producing potted plants, which guests can take home, and incorporate organic fruits, vegetables and berries.
♥ Put your best face forward
Even if you're a natural beauty who doesn't wear much make-up, consider enhancing your look for your wedding photos. Choose a brand of cosmetics that uses natural and organic ingredients—and of course, that avoids animal testing.
♥ Eat green
Talk with caterers about using local, organic fare and make sure they offer enough options for vegetarian guests.
♥ Toast the earth
Support winemakers who are as passionate about nature as they are about their vineyard by serving biodynamic or organic wines at your reception. Start your search at the online shop for Appellation Wine & Spirits shop.appellationnyc.com, a New York City wine shop that specializes in organically- and biodynamically-made wines
♥ Plan a biodegradable picnic
If you're planning a simple and outdoorsy rehearsal dinner, think twice about purchasing throw-away plates. Consider renting dishes, silverware and cloth napkins, or use biodegradable dishes and flatware made from cornstarch, potatoes, sugar cane or tropical leaves.
♥ Do the environment a favor
When it comes to wedding favors, give a piece of fruit from a local orchard, or share a living gift—like a tree sapling or a small potted plant—with each guest. For those traveling via airplane, distribute packets of seeds. Soy candles or soap also make great green favors. Or, if you have a favorite pro-environment organization, let your guests know in the wedding program that in lieu of favors you're making a donation in their honor.
♥ Skip the rice
Throwing rice after a wedding ceremony can be dangerous for birds, and throwing birdseed that contains non-native or invasive plants can cause problems if you're saying your vows in a nature preserve or state park. Instead, look into tossing native wildflower seeds or flower petals, or have your guests blow bubbles.
♥ Enjoy an all-natural honeymoon
Plan a honeymoon where you can commune with nature—say, at an eco-resort that protects and preserves the environment.
♥ Consider eco-travel
Your honeymoon flight, along with the flights of all the guests who travel to your wedding from afar, will produce large amounts of CO2 emissions. Think about investing in renewable energy credits (or green tags) to help offset your global warming impact.
♥ Getting around
Think about having your ceremony and reception at the same location—or offer transportation between the two sites—to avoid excess car emissions.
♥ Order early
Rush charges can double the cost of your invitations.
♥ Low-priced printing
Choose inexpensive techniques such as offset printing. Add flair with a ribbon or custom-lined envelope.
♥ Balancing act
If you want pricey engraved or letterpressed invitations, choose inexpensive paper to balance costs.
♥ Room for error
Order 25 extra invitations and envelopes up front to allow for addressing mistakes and additional invitees. You'll save money versus ordering extras at a later date.
♥ Simply chic
Choose a classic card with a simple design. The look will still be elegant, and you'll save money by avoiding intricate designs.
♥ Pretty postcards
Skip the reply card and envelope. Instead, use a postcard that's printed on the same quality of paper as your invitations. You'll save on stationery and postage.
♥ Double duty
If there's room, include reception information on the ceremony invitation instead of ordering separate reception cards.
♥ Low-cost lettering
Skip the calligrapher. Enlist a friend with good penmanship to address your envelopes instead.
♥ Maid service
If you've chosen bows, layers or other embellishments, enlist your bridesmaids to help you put your invitations together to avoid assembly fees.
♥ Homespun style
Create your own informal invitations by using a computer, home printer and high-quality paper. Use rubber-stamp designs, dried flowers or wax seals for a touch of style.
♥ Color counts
Choose white or ivory paper. Colored and decorative papers are more expensive.
♥ Paper weight
Go light on your invites. Heavy papers and inserts require more postage.
♥ Package prices
Some stationers offer discounts if you order all of your stationery at the same time.
or RSVP cards and inserts—as well as the invitation itself—when you map out what you can spend on stationery.
♥ Define your style
Your invitations and stationery are a reflection of your personal style and your wedding day style. Look for inspiration in your favorite color schemes, the theme of your wedding, and how formal your wedding reception is.
♥ Save the Date
If you have lots of out-of-town guests, are getting married on a holiday weekend, or you are having a destination wedding, save the date cards should be sent six months to one year before your wedding. Invitations should go out four to six weeks before your wedding day.
♥ Do your homework
Turn to bridal magazines and visit Brides.com's Invitations & Stationery Gallery to find stationers that suit your needs or tastes. Once you've made a list, find out whether friends or brides in your area can recommend any of the stationers you like.
♥ Research thoroughly
Interview the stationer before you sign a contract, and ask to see examples of his or her work. If you love a stationer's work but don't have a friend that used him or her, ask to check references. If your request is denied, move on—that's a red flag.
♥ Surf the Web
Log on to an online directory to locate mail-order printers. Check out catalogs.com.
♥ Perfect match
Make sure the stationer has experience in creating the kind of invitation you desire. Bring photos of invitations you like, fabric swatches or other props to convey your style.
♥ Comparison shop
Large stores offer a wide variety of standard styles that are often less expensive than smaller, specialized shops. Upscale shops have unusual papers and designs.
♥ Read the fine print
If you're purchasing stationery through a mail-order catalog, pick a company that will correct slipups for free. Mistakes are common when orders are placed over the phone.
♥ Postage points
Don't forget to consider postage costs for RSVP cards and inserts—as well as the invitation itself—when you map out what you can spend on stationery.
♥ Fresh finds
Top your cake with fresh fruit or flowers. Sugar-icing and marzipan decorations are labor-intensive and costly. Think lightweight fruits that won't sink into the cake, such as cherries, strawberries or small bunches of sugared grapes.
♥ Simple designs
An easy-to-make Swiss dot pattern, for example, is less expensive than labor-intensive basket weaves or lace patterns. Cut costs even more by asking for a perfectly smooth surface with strips of wide ribbon tied around each tier.
♥ Just for show
Have a small, beautiful wedding cake on display for the ceremonial cutting with extra sheet cakes waiting in the kitchen to serve your guests.
♥ Delicious desserts
Do away with the traditional wedding cake in favor of cupcakes, pies, cheesecakes or pastries stacked on trays in tiers.
♥ Fake it
If you want a tall, dramatic cake but don't have the cash to pay for it, ask your confectioner to make the bottom tiers out of real cake and the rest out of iced Styrofoam.
♥ Nix the groom's cake
Though a fun tradition, groom's cakes can be pricey—especially if you're going for an elaborate theme.
♥ Stick to one flavor
Variety is nice, but you'll save money if your baker only has to create one type of cake and filling.
♥ Sizing it up
The savings are in the shape. A square cake will serve 10 to 30 percent more people than a round cake of the same dimensions.
♥ Go with a pro
Novices, even a well-meaning friend, could end up costing you more in failed attempts.
♥ Treasured toppers
An heirloom antique topper adds a personal touch—and a free way to decorate your cake.
♥ Adding up
Choose a ring with several smaller stones rather than one big one. Cluster settings of less expensive pavé diamonds maximize sparkle, making them look like one large one.
♥ Name game
Avoid big-name jewelers. Rings at Tiffany's, for example, often cost more than rings from lesser-known, privately-owned jewelers—with whom you can often negotiate prices too.
♥ Carat count
Purchase a diamond that misses the full carat mark by a few points. A 1.9-carat diamond will be significantly cheaper than a 2-carat ring.
♥ Alternative looks
Substitute white gold for platinum—it can cost half the price!—and sapphires, rubies or emeralds for diamonds.
♥ All in the family
Wear a parent's grandparent's or relative's heirloom as your engagement ring; reset it for a touch that's all your own. Or scout out antique rings at resale shops and estate sales.
♥ Online perks
Shop Web site retailers, which have significantly lower overhead costs than brick-and-mortar stores.