Kristin Waller has spent more than a decade working as an environmental engineer, so she was well aware of the size of the carbon footprint a typical wedding can have.
As her own big day approached, Waller did everything she could think of to make sure the July 3, 2021 ceremony and reception went smoothly for Mother Nature.
She and her husband, Thomas Staskowski, handed out a unique wedding favor: reusable stainless steel straws engraved with the couple’s names and wedding date, along with a cleaning kit. The groomsmen received fishing rods as a gift. Waller’s wedding shoes were Rothy’s, a brand that makes shoes from plastic water bottles. But the piece de resistance was the wedding menus, programs and place cards that were printed on seeded paper.
Guests were instructed to take the paper products home and bury them in a sunny spot in their yard under an eighth of an inch of moist soil. Friends and family members who followed these instructions were rewarded a few months later with lacy white native wildflowers.
“We wanted our wedding to not just be one day, but for many, many days that would continue into the future,” said Waller, 32, of Millersville. “We were recycling our joy.”
Wedding industry experts say interest in sustainable and eco-friendly weddings has grown as millennials reach marriageable age and awareness has increased from the harmful effects of marriages on the environment. An oft-quoted statistic from Kate L. Harrison’s 2008 book, “The Green Bride Guide: How to Create an Earth-Friendly Wedding on Any Budget,” concludes that the average wedding produces 400 pounds of waste and 63 tons of carbon dioxide. carbon (CO2).
More recently, interest in lasting marriages has received a much-publicized boost from young members of England’s royal family.
Meghan Markle, the biracial American-born Duchess of Sussex, used locally sourced flowers for her wedding in 2018, much of which came from gardens and parks. Prince Harry’s cousin Princess Eugenie banned the use of plastic at her wedding later that year, while his sister Princess Beatrice made headlines in the UK when she borrowed a vintage wedding dress from Queen Elizabeth for her nuptials in 2020.
“Couples in their 20s and 30s getting married today are acutely aware that their daily actions affect the environment,” said Emily Blackman, wedding and events coordinator for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
“They are very careful and thoughtful in their choices because they want to make sure their marriage has a purpose.”
Places like the Foundation’s Philip Merrill Environmental Center in Annapolis facilitate this planning; the facility has solar water heaters, cisterns that collect rainwater, and no-flush composting toilets.
“We have a recycling center on site, so anything the couple doesn’t take with them will be recycled at the end of the night,” Blackman said.
And while not all engaged couples are as committed as Waller and Staskowski to making every aspect of their nuptials eco-friendly, many couples incorporate environmentally beneficial elements into their celebrations, whether from hosting a COVID-friendly “micro-wedding” with a small guest list, walking down the aisle in a family member’s wedding dress or making centerpieces from wine bottles, bits of ribbon and dried flowers.
For example, when Dave Kostkowski married Jordan Craig last October at the Maritime Museum of Annapolis, the couple made it a point to support local small businesses, from their photographer to their makeup artist. (Buying local helps the environment because less fuel is consumed during shipping.) Guests received reusable gift bags containing hand sanitizer, insulated drink containers, and fully cooked miniature burgers. (Experts consider edible gifts to be environmentally friendly because they are eaten and then decompose naturally.)
“We live on the water and got engaged while on our boat,” said Craig, 32, of Severna Park, “so it was important for us to have a lasting marriage.”
The couple found a used wedding arch for sale on Facebook.
“We took a trip together one day to press the massive wooden arch pieces into my car,” Kostkowski, 31, wrote in an email. “We cleaned the arch, wrapped it in flowers and it was given a second life. We also gave the same arch to a family friend for his wedding so it will now be reused at least three times.
Natasha Murdock is on the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, so it was second nature for her to wed her husband, Jatwan Murdock, in front of 30 guests and aboard the Annapolis Maritime Museum’s 1940 Skipjack, The Wilma Lee.
“In the Coast Guard, we deal with pollution and the health of the bay,” said Natasha Murdock, 35.
“We really knew that everything we took on the boat had to be removed, so we kept the wedding decorations simple: garlands for the railings and a ‘just married’ sign at the back.
“The captain took us to the middle of the bay. He cut the engine and we said our vows. After that we had a catered dinner. It was the best day of my life. »
As more couples opt for eco-friendly weddings, businesses and nonprofit groups are springing up to serve them.
For example, Maryland Wedding Consignment is a Facebook group with nearly 42,000 members that offers second-hand wedding attire, decorations, and supplies for resale.
“People are selling all kinds of things there that can be repurposed,” said Paige Skrickus, weddings and events manager for the Annapolis Maritime Museum and a member of the group. “There are welcome signs, hurricanes for floating candles, table numbers – you name it.”
Louisiana-based company Something Borrowed Blooms creates silk flower arrangements that couples rent for their wedding and then return. Volunteers from the non-profit organization Petals for Hope, based on the Isle of Kent, will collect the wedding bouquets after the ceremony is over, turn them into new arrangements and donate the used flowers to hospices and homeless shelters. ReVased, the eco-friendly florist operating out of Baltimore, sells dried flower bouquets from eco-friendly growers.
Brides in the market for vintage wedding dresses can browse popular online marketplaces such as 1stdibs and Etsy, while specialty shops, such as the New Market, MD-based Vivian Elise Vintage, offer dresses, veils and restored and revamped headdresses dating from the 1910s to the 1980s.
Joanna Young, owner of Evergreen Antiques and True Vintage in Annapolis, said engaged couples often browse her shop for wedding accessories: “fur stoles, old lace, old beads, rosaries.”
A recent St. John’s College graduate bought an Edwardian 14-karat gold engagement ring for the woman he loved. The stones in the ring had been damaged, so he went to a local jeweler and had them replaced with a diamond and sapphires from the old antique mine from the 1950s.
“This ring is a knockout,” Young said.
She thinks the beloved Victorian wedding nursery rhyme: ‘something old, something new/something borrowed, something blue’ holds within it a message about recycling.
“We marry as part of a community, and the ritual is built into all of our wedding traditions,” Young said. “It’s nice to have that continuity from 100 or more years ago carried over to today.”
Sarah Lubawski, senior director of catering at the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel, often advises her couples to steer clear of traditional wedding favors. Instead, she encourages them to donate to a meaningful cause in honor of their guests.
It’s a practice Lubawski found particularly meaningful while planning her 2015 wedding. Her husband, Tom Lubawski, had built homes for Habitat for Humanity as a youth, which became the groom’s charity. For the bride’s charity, she chose Girls Rock! DC, a foundation started by a friend of a friend that seeks to empower girls and non-binary youth through music programs.
“It meant a lot to our guests,” Lubawski said. “They told us that we were helping them invest in the future in a way that they felt was important and meaningful.
“And isn’t that what a wedding is supposed to be?”