We have a growing national problem that is only slightly behind Global Warming, the Bush Administration’s attacks on science and our national parks, and exploding healthcare costs. That problem is exploding wedding costs. Remember the Liza Minnelli / David Gest Spectacular Spectacular Wedding in 2002 where the bridal party had more in common with the Addams Family than the Brady Family? Their wedding knot cost an estimated $3.5 million and family and guests were searched and frisked before entering the church to prevent unauthorized cameras because picture and movie rights had already been sold to OK! Magazine. The happy pair was divorced the next year.
The national average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is now $28,800 and rising rapidly. The most concerning cost of a wedding is not financial, emotional or cultural but the environmental cost. Were you invited to the Liz Hurley / Arun Nayar Really Really Spectacular Spectacular Wedding of 2007? Neither were we but almost everyone else on this planet participated in some way. The two-week celebration bash covered two continents, four cities and the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean. While the financial cost was undoubtedly atmospherical, the cost to the atmosphere was vastly greater. The environmental footprint impact consulting company Best Foot Forward estimated that the sacred Hurley / Nayar celebration released more than 207,000 kg of carbon into the struggling atmosphere. That’s more than 228 tons of carbon for those of us who are metrically impaired.
Face the facts: even if it’s hearts and flowers and little cupids until death do you part, most weddings are an environmental disaster. Typically, two hundred people traveling for a one hour ceremony, many flying hundreds or even thousands of miles in high altitude, carbon-spewing jets. And what about all those hats, shoes, gloves, wedding dresses and bride’s maid dresses that are only worn once? Not to mention the barrels of finishing fabric chemicals in which they are drenched. At least guys typically rent their tuxes.
So what to do? Fortunately, there are a number of eco-friendly wedding planning web sites that will help you plan and enjoy a more sustainable and positive wedding. To understand the carbon impact of your Big Event, plug your wedding numbers into the wedding carbon footprint calculator at TerraPass or at NativeEnergy (in partnership with Portovert Magazine) for an estimate of your wedding’s expected carbon footprint. After calculating your carbon hit, both sites also allow you to purchase carbon offsets to lessen the guilt and to help you regain some “feel good” about your Big Event. These wedding carbon impact calculators could also be used for family reunions, conventions, conferences or sporting events.
Portovert.com is a self-proclaimed “gateway to a greener wedding” and has been crowned the “#1 Green Wedding Site” by no less a formidable force of nature than Martha Stewart. The Hamptons crowd will feel comfortable planning their stylish eco-friendly wedding here. While Portovert.com is a classy portal into the pricey world of wedding gown eco-couture, founder Meghan Meyers is quick to point out that Portovert.com is also loaded with green wedding do-it-yourself ideas and tips, a blog, and articles for how to create a stylish and sustainable green wedding that doesn't "break the bank". This month Portovert.com is celebrating DIY Wedding Month.
One of the wedding haute couture designers featured in Portovert.com is the outstanding Olivia Luca. Besides having a gallery of stunning wedding gowns, Olivia Luca also has a Design Studio that helps you design your own wedding gown by interactively selecting your own bodice style, skirt shape, fabrics, colors, sizes, lengths and finishing details. It's easy, fun and will help you crystallize your gown design decisions. One of the very encouraging trends from Olivia Luca is that they started with conventional fabrics and have been adding sustainable, Fair Trade and organic fabrics to their fabric lists. This demonstrates the growing appeal and demand for healthier and more eco-friendly wedding gowns.
For those planning an eco-friendly wedding on a budget, visit Great Green Wedding which has ideas, tips and suggestions for doing a joyous and sustainable wedding. Great Green Wedding also is a cornucopia of useful links and articles. If possible, find a copy of Green Weddings That Don’t Cost the Earth by Carol Reed-Jones or Eco-Chic Weddings by Emily Elizabeth Anderson.
As you are searching for environmental harmony and balance in your sustainable wedding plans, keep silently repeating the eco-mantra “organic – reduce – recycle – reuse – local”. This mantra can be used for everything from announcements to flowers to reception dinner to gowns and tuxedos for the wedding party. As with green eco-friendly jewelry, the great diversity of sustainable approaches for ways to green a wedding reflects the dynamic diversity in green interests … and budgets. This green diversity is especially evident when it comes to selecting green and sustainable wedding clothing. Let’s take a short stroll through some of the options for green, sustainable and organic wedding gowns, dresses and suits.
Reuse. Almost always, the greenest and most sustainable action is to reuse a product, even a very un-green product, as long as its use doesn’t cause environmental, social or personal harm … such as buying a used Hummer (environmental harm) or a thrift store leisure suit (social harm). The simplest and perhaps greenest wedding dress is one that is borrowed, usually from a mother, grandmother or friend. The dress can be altered, lace can be added or changed, a bow here and a tuck there.
If borrowing a wedding gown isn’t possible or desirable – perhaps their wedding didn’t work out so well – there is also the possibility or renting or buying a previously-worn wedding dress. Co-founded by the mother & daughter team of Fran Hansen and Anna Nelson in 1998, Brides Against Breast Cancer has collected more than 40,000 wedding gowns donated by bridal boutiques, dress manufacturers and brides. These once-worn and designer sample gowns are sold at auctions held in more than 30 cities around the country at huge savings. The money raised is used to help women with breast cancer and their families. Brides Against Breast Cancer is an amazing story of helping women in the most difficult of situations. Their auctions offer eco-conscious brides-to-be an opportunity for a new or once-worn wedding dress at great savings and reuse is the strongest pillar of sustainability.
And of course, there is always eBay and a handful of sites specializing in previously worn wedding dresses such as SellYourWeddingDress.com, Wore It Once, Encore Bridal and PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com.
Another option becoming increasingly popular is to rent a wedding dress. Men have been renting tuxedos for ages and, while the situation is more complicated, it is possible for ladies. Most wedding gown rental stores also have rentals for bride’s maid dresses and even flower girl dresses. Some stores allow alterations. Bridal gown rental stores might advertise online but all that we are familiar with require the prospective bride to come into their store to make arrangements. We do not know of any totally online wedding gown rental stores. Your Yellow Pages are probably the best place to begin searching for a rental store.
Recycle. A recycled wedding dress is typically a custom dress that has been created from one or more gowns, dresses or other sources of inspiration. A designer or seamstress might take a bodice from one dress, match it with sleeves from a different dress, add Irish lace from antique curtains and … viola! … a unique wedding gown that has been deconstructed and reconstructed from reclaimed textiles to reflect your individuality.
By reshuffling bits and pieces of existing garments into new wedding garments, you are reducing the demand for new manufacturing which reduces energy consumption from growing to manufacturing to shipping, and also reduces any pollution and environmental damage caused by the production of those fabrics being reused and recycled. Reusing and recycling also delay the day of reckoning when those materials are carted to the landfill where they become ripe for breaking down into global warming gases to be released into the environment or into toxins that might seep into community ground water systems.
On the other hand, some point out that reusing and recycling of garments do nothing to discourage the manufacture and production of unsustainable conventional fabrics and clothing and that what we should be doing is focusing our resources on encouraging the manufacturing of green, sustainable clothing. The only way to reduce the environmental and personal health problems caused and complicated by conventional clothing is by supporting and furthering the market for environmentally sustainable, healthy and organic clothing. Which leads us to …
New Sustainable or Organic. Green, sustainable, organic and healthy wedding dresses are made by the local seamstress for a few hundred dollars all the way to the high priced eco-haute couture designer for thousands of greenbacks. Here is an organic linen and vintage lace dress with a bodice embellished with semi-precious beads from eco designer extraordinaire Deborah Lindquist that tips the scales at $3000. The Green Wedding Collection from Deborah Lindquist also has some beautiful hemp/silk organza dresses that flutter around $875.
If you don’t mind spending green to be green, there are some outstanding sustainable young designers specializing in eco-friendly wedding gowns. One of our favorites is the Natural Bridal Collection by Morgan Boszilkov. “Kayla” from Ms Boazilkov’s collection is a “wrap around convertible gown of diamond jacquard, with asymmetrical hand gathered skirt, empire waist sash and bow, detachable bottom skirt” and is made with Peace Silk, Silk and Hemp. After the vows when you are ready to rock at the reception, just drop the long bottom. How cool is that! Based in Georgia, Morgan works with a team of local artistic women to bring her sustainable wedding gown designs to life. The Natural Bridal Collection team is open to working with the eco-bride-to-be to create bridesmaid dresses that harmonize with the wedding gown. Not only does Natural Bridal create green wedding dresses but they also have adopted green business practices and donate 5% of profits to organizations which support the environment.
Conscious Clothing offers a rather large collection of hemp / silk blends in brides, bridesmaids and flower girl dresses plus a hemp / lyocell (Tencel) blend for the vegan bride and others who do not want to wear a fabric that cost the lives of tens of thousands of silk worms. Peace silk is also a fabric that spares the lives of the silk worm. Prices generally track for $600 to $2200. Conscious Clothing also offers a white hemp suit for men.
Best known for their corsets under the name of Faernyn’s
Grove, Rene Geneva Designs declares that
their green wedding dresses are 100% sustainable hemp / silk blends and
formaldehyde-free silk. Amino-formaldehyde
(N-methanol) resins are commonly used in fabric finishes for conventional
cotton and silk clothing to resist wrinkling and to resist staining. Formaldehyde fabric finishes are nasty stuff and we are pleased that many eco-wedding dresses are avoiding it.
The business policies of Rene Geneva Designs strongly support Fair Trade and ethical garment worker practices. Rene Geneva Designs also has established a carbon neutral program which assigns a carbon footprint value to each garment to indicate the amount of carbon invested to grow, manufacture and ship each different garment and they will donate specific dollar amounts to carbon reduction organizations depending upon a garment's carbon footprint value.
Check out Threadhead Creations and their three venues for achieving that perfect, green wedding ensemble: Off the Rack, Design Your Own Online, Totally Custom from Rai-Lynne. The “Design Your Dress” option allows you to interactively chose a basic design and then select size, length, fabric (typically hemp / silk in charmeuse, floral and raw, hemp / Tencel, organic cotton sateen, or peace silk), lining (silk or cotton), and train and automatically see how your choices affect price.
For you in the U.K., visit Wholly Jo’s repertoire of organic, fair trade and ethically green wedding dresses. Based in West London, Wholly Jo’s Threads of Life are supported by strong ethics policies and constructed from organic, sustainable materials. Plus, the designs from Joanne Mackins are gorgeous. Unfortunately, the carbon impact of shipping Wholly Jo’s Threads of Life to the U.S. is prohibitive.
Then there is Annatarian in L.A. which is self-labeled as an eco-effective design company. Annatarian’s lofty mission is “to unite the global community through fashion” through their eco-couture dresses which “serve as an example of a perfect world, where different colors, textures, cultures, and patterns are blissfully intertwined”. The eco-effective design at Annatarian comes from a cradle-to-cradle approach to sustainable design. Annatarian is an up-and-coming eco-couture force in the City of the Sustainable Angels.
To show you how diverse are your options for an eco-friendly wedding dress, consider the possibilities offered by CheapChicWeddings.com and their annual Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Contest. The contest – and this is a serious contest as evidenced by the magnificence of the wedding dresses entered into the contest – is to design, make and use a wedding gown made entirely from toilet tissue, tape and glue. The green and sustainable bride-to-be who wants to be chic but cheap could use epoxy resin organic glue to hold together eco-friendly toilet tissue from environmental companies such as Seventh Generation Bathroom Tissues made from 100% recycled paper or Purely Cotton Bathroom Tissue from tree-free 100% recycled cotton.
Seriously, for most brides-to-be, their conventional wedding day is probably the second most toxic day that they will experience. Think about all those carcinogenic parabens and phthalates-harmful chemicals: globs of body lotions and facial creams, dust storms of powders, smears of toxic lipsticks, nail paints, clouds of hair sprays, generous douses of perfumes – a national superfund health hazard and all of this is before even getting dressed.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has published a brochure “10 Ugly Truths Behind the Myth of Cosmetic Safety” outlining the health dangers lurking in conventional beauty aids as the bride-to-be prepares to look her most ravishing. Among the most common health dangers in conventional cosmetics which they expose are “mercury, (often listed as thimerosal on ingredient labels) found in some eye drops, ointment and deodorants; lead acetate, found in some hair dyes and cleanser; formaldehyde and toluene, found in nail products; petrochemicals, found in some hair relaxers, shampoos, mascara, perfume, foundation, lipstick and lip balm; coal tar, found in dandruff shampoos, anti-itch creams and hair dyes; placenta, found in some hair relaxers, moisturizers and toners,;and phthalates, found in some nail polish, fragrances and hair spray.”
And then comes a toxic bomb of lacy undergarments, slips and topped off with an enormous wedding dress with gloves, lace, veils and sashes, all heavily treated with wrinkle resistant, crease resistant, and stain resistant chemical fabric finishes many containing amino-formaldehyde resins. Then the bridal party is surrounded with chemically drenched pesticide-herbicide infested flowers sometimes jetted in from far corners of the global. What a way to celebrate the formal union of two souls in love!
What is the eco-bride to do? Explore carefully and ask questions when designing a green, organic and sustainable wedding. Always probe the wedding clothing supplier and retailer about what how their fabrics are finished as this is where most toxic chemicals are added. Just because a store claims that their gowns are sustainable, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are free of potentially harmful chemicals. Even if a retailer declares their wedding dresses to be “100% formaldehyde-free”, ask if they do have a crease-resistant, wrinkle-resistant or stain-resistant finish and, if they do, what is it? This is especially true for people with chemical sensitivities or people who wish to avoid developing chemical sensitivities.
A little research can help you create a truly special and environmentally responsible day.