I love hearing about weddings that are outside the norm, and I was excited when Candice, a girl I went to high school with, approached me with her awesome story about her Zero Waste Nuptials, and when I eagerly asked her a million questions, she happily answered them. Here is our conversation:
Tell me about you and your husband. How did you two meet?
"Damien and I met while I was studying abroad in Nantes, France. I had heard from some of our international peer mentors that there was a good Irish pub not too far from where I was living that a lot of international students went to. I happened upon the bar while exploring on my second night, and decided that it was fate that I go in since the peer mentor had recommended it. I went up to the bar, ordered a beer (in very bad French-only to discover that the bartender spoke English) and looked around at everyone socializing happily in the bar. After a few minutes of savoring my hard-earned beverage, I decided that I wanted to talk to someone, and so I turned to my right and started talking to the person next to me (again in very rudimentary french), and it was Damien! He, his friend who was with him, and I talked for quite a while (at least 2-3 beers, as this is quite an effective measurement of time and spirits) before gallavanting around the city; Damien and his friend offered to show me the local spots (seeing as how they were from Nantes). He left me with his number and a note that said "welcome" and so began what we thought would be a friendship. We hung out from time to time at first, and then quickly discovered how much we had in common, plus we both loved practicing French and English with each other.
Our romance budded among castles, cafes and crowds, as he and I both always had groups of people around us, but we always thought that our escapades would come to an end when I finished my studies and returned to the US. But when the day came to day goodbye, the instant we were separated we knew that what we had wasn't something you often experience in life. We continued our relationship long-distance, via late and early skype sessions and began to explore our options for staying together. After lots of research and late nights(as I was still in college and working 2 jobs), Damien and I concluded that we wanted to share life together and embark upon the glorious journey of marriage."
That is so sweet! A French Romance, how chic! How'd he propose?
"Marrying someone from another country is not like marrying your average Joe or Jane. There are literally hundreds of documents that must be completed as well as substantial fees that need to be paid before your husband- (or bride)to-be can even set foot in the country. So we had to know we were getting married, and even put together this giant scrapbook with photos of us, Facebook conversations, etc. to prove that we are really in love(and not just getting married for citizenship reasons). Nonetheless, when my darling Damien did make it over, he came up behind me while I was cooking dinner in my mom's old house, a few days before we were leaving everyone and everything I've ever known, put his arms around me and whispered "will you marry me" in my ear with his sexy and charming French accent."
Awwww! That's an unconventional, but still romantic. I imagine that when you got the approval from from the Government to get married that you guys were celebrating!! When you were planning your wedding, what made you decide to do zero waste?
"I discovered environmentalism and sustainability when I was in college at the University of Tennessee, after I grew and ate my own food in a community garden I helped start. Among many other things, I learned about "zero waste" while I worked at UT's Recycling Department). According to the Zero Waste International Alliance:
'Zero Waste is a philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused. No trash is sent to landfills or incinerators. The process recommended is one similar to the way that resources are reused in nature.'
"I ended up being one of the first few folks to graduate from the University with a Bachelor's in Sustainability, and have been actively altering my habits and lifestyle to reduce my own personal negative impact on the environment, especially with respect to waste. Having a zero waste wedding was a no-brainer for me, and from some of the other changes I had implemented in my daily life, I knew that it would help me save money too! Damien was 100% supportive and loved the idea of us saving money, reducing waste and having a unique ceremony."
What was your original budget? How much did the zero waste affect it?
"Damien and I wanted to have a beautiful, special ceremony without spending a lot of money. We had just moved from France and Tennessee to Philadelphia and covered all of the immigrant marriage fees. Plus, we were more excited about just being able to be together all the time and go on adventures, so neither of us had any illusions of grandeur when it came to our wedding. That said, I would say our budget was around $3-4K, and making the ceremony zero waste helped us save money and come in under this mark!"
What things are different in a zero waste wedding? Whats the same?
"Think about where waste is typically created at a wedding-or any event really. Food, beverages, plates, cups, napkins, party favors, decorations. Many times these items are disposable, one and done and then tossed "away" to do a bit of half rotting (as necessary conditions for proper rotting do not exist in landfills) in a big stinky pile of wasted resources. I thought about any area where there would usually be some sort of waste, and purposefully chose reusable or comparable alternatives. Plates? Used my grandmothers collection that had been passed down in my family. Saved me from buying disposables, eliminated the waste and had so much amazing sentimental value. Cutlery and glasses? Went to thrift stores and Goodwill's and found mostly matching, like-new forks, knives, spoons and wine glasses that had a cute vintage feel. Decorations? My wonderful cousin went out in the woods, in fields, etc. and gathered moss, branches, vines, and more that gave my ceremony a bohemian, woodsy feel. I had saved old glass spaghetti sauce, pickle, etc. jars for a few months leading up to the ceremony that I put flowers in (locally bought from the Amish here in PA) and gave to my guests as their wedding takeaway. Once you eliminate these sources of waste, you can pretty much just set up a clearly labeled recycle, compost, and if you so choose, a landfill waste station (I did not offer landfill, to keep guests from getting lazy and not sorting their waste) and then make an announcement that your event is zero waste/which item goes where. Everything else is the same!"
Wow! That is surprisingly easy! What advice would you give brides who are interested in this?
"When I was planning my wedding there were not a lot of good resources out there on how to do a zero waste wedding, BUT there is a ton of literature in how to do a generic zero waste event. Start by identifying the most common items that get thrown away and find non-disposable alternatives. Appoint someone to head up the waste station (it can be cute and decorated to match your theme) who can also take care of informing your guests about it during your big day. Loop whoever is heading up your decorations into your zero waste goal to ensure that those materials are being sourced used or straight from nature herself. Because why not give the little earth some love on your day of celebrating it!"
That was an awesome story, and such a beautiful wedding! Thank you for sharing it with us, Candice! I hope her story inspires you to have an Environmentally Conscious wedding, it's easier and cheaper than even I thought!