Eco wedding decor

One thing that was very important to us in planning the wedding was considering the environmental impact of everything we were using.

Our guidelines were, it had to be second-hand, recyclable, biodegradable, and/or useful or re-sellable post-wedding. I’m proud to say we achieved our goal and created very little waste.

For me, being concerned about the negative human impact on our natural environment is not trendy. I was the President of my high school’s Environment Club! I am happy to see how our Western society has collectively increased its awareness and concern for this issue in the last few decades. “Green weddings” are definitely a trend I can get behind. I’d like to share how our wedding décor was eco-friendly.

Potted plants
For our aisle décor, we used potted mini rose bushes. They looked great, were easy to move around (our space was used for both the ceremony and reception, so required a quick turn-over), and doubled as a favour since some of our guests with gardens took them home to plant. We purchased them from Whole Foods, and they were very affordable.

Paper crafts
To save costs, my fiancée and I did a lot of DIY décor crafts involving paper: heart strings, petal cones, our custom designed guestbook pages, mini-banner for our Treasure Chest card box, heart buntings, as well as our wedding invitations.

Now, to be honest, if I was going to be super eco, I would have used 100% post-consumer recycled paper. But I didn’t. I bought a large booklet of acid-free scrapbooking paper from Michael’s that came in tons of patterns and colours. I still consider this eco-wedding décor however, because it is recyclable after the event, and also re-usable – the heart strings now decorate our home.

(check out my tutorial on how to make these!)

I have to give my partner credit for making our fabulous Treasure Chest card box

petal cones are pretty and practical aisle décor – I used the Aylee Bits template

we made our own photo prop for our Thank You cards

Mood Lighting
I must admit, I was getting stressed over lighting for our reception. We had already purchased white Moroccan lanterns for our centerpieces, to use with votive candles, but I wanted more lights to take advantage of the fantastic rafters in our venue. However, most options required extension cords, worrying about electrical outlets, or figuring out how to turn them on. I didn’t want someone having to go around with a ladder when it was getting dark! We see so many beautiful wedding photos with cafe lighting, coloured uplighting, or tons of paper lanterns- only to covet something we simply cannot afford. The expense of mood lighting! Oi.

Then I discovered Soji Solar lanterns and my lighting and budget concerns were solved! They are easy to assemble, and the solar panel charges during the day and automatically turns on when the sun goes down. They are an affordable, easy-to-use, eco option. One thing to note however, is that they won’t turn on if they are close to artificial light, due to the sensor. So they are ideal for outdoor weddings, and areas that are poorly lit.

one of my best Craigslist scores

solar lanterns saved the, uh, night

So that’s how we decorated our eco-wedding! It looked beautiful and didn’t all get thrown out at the end of the night. In fact, the venue ended up buying most of the Moroccan lanterns from me, on the spot! It sure was nice to receive a cheque after the wedding, Lol!

Weddings don’t need to be wasteful affairs. And you can still have a fabulously chic event! For a more complete list of how you can plan a green wedding, check this out. It’s worth it!


Making “practical” your wedding theme

I think most of us start with the best intentions to be sensible in our wedding planning. Not many of us have an unlimited budget or sugar daddy, so us practical brides-to-be set the budget, make the spreadsheets, tackle the DIY challenges, and search for the best deals on everything.

Despite these goals, it can be surprisingly easy to get carried away by that nasty creature: desire. 21st century brides have it bad. We are overwhelmed by images of other people’s weddings online and in magazines, so we naturally begin to compare our future wedding to theirs. Some days, it may feel like you will never live up to your own expectations! But trust me, it’s not the burlap or bird cages or patio lighting that will make your wedding special (although they can all, admittedly, make your wedding LOOK awesome), not the “perfect” dress, or chivari chairs or the most expensive flowers, but the incredible love between the newlyweds and their family and friends.

I am glad that I discovered some excellent, down-to-earth websites and blogs early enough in my planning to keep me grounded. I’m talking about offbeatbride, apracticalwedding, intimateweddings, and even weddingbee. Sure, I looked through all the wedding dress images and used the timeline feature on theknot, but the advice on there seems to be for women who are nothing like me. And stylemepretty? Oh please.

In the last few weeks I am proud to say that I have made some practical decisions that left me feeling liberated! With little more than two months to go, I am finding that I can more easily discern what is important, and what is not. Confirming your numbers and catering order with your venue/banquet manager? Important. Having your bridesmaids’ dresses match the table overlays? Not so much.

Speaking of bridesmaids dresses, that was one area where practicality was paramount. I knew early on that I wanted them in different dresses, one that they chose that flattered their body. My partner and I eventually settled on coordinated mismatched, asking them to get a dress in shades of purple. We went shopping together one weekend, and couldn’t believe the prices! What started out as a reconnaissance trip to look at styles and see what was out there, ended up being a reality check.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve worn second-hand clothes all my life. I still buy new sometimes, but I have no issue with consignment and thrift stores. So I suggested that my ‘maids go that route, and continue looking on their own free time. Within 10 days they had both found dresses: one for $32 (silk chiffon!) and one at $7!!! My third bridesmaid, my sister-in-law, already owns some great dresses in purple so I think she’s set. Hooray!

Next was shoes. I had started a pinterest board of some possibilities for my feet. I discovered that Sears (a big department store in Canada) carried a lot of the brands I had been looking at. I immediately fell in love with one of them (really comfy Clark’s- strappy 2.5 inch heels), but they only carried them in brown or black. If I wanted the white, I would have to order through their website (meaning I wouldn’t get the 30% off sale that day).

To be clear, I don’t wear white really, ever. So why I was even humming and hawing over this seems silly now. I walked around Sears, considering the implications of not wearing white shoes. Huh? I finally got over myself, after talking to my sweetie, when I realized that if I bought the white pair I would probably never wear them again after the wedding. And for the good money I was about to spend, I wanted to continue to enjoy them. So I bought beige. Scandalous, I know.

Another area that my fiancée and I are trying to be really practical is decor. We naively under-budgeted for this initially, and had to eventually accept that we were going to spend more than we first intended. I’m planning to offset this extra expenditure after the wedding by selling as much as I can through craigslist. This fits with my “green” wedding M.O. that everything we use must be already second-hand, recyclable, biodegradable or edible, and/or have a life and purpose post-wedding. If that purpose brings some money back my way by another bride-to-be, all the better.

Now, let’s talk briefly about money. Oooohhh, such a touchy subject, I know. And certainly one in which to value practicality! Be very clear with yourselves and each other what you are willing to save, spend and go into debt over for your wedding. Early on, discuss with your parents (both sides) to determine whether they are willing and able to contribute anything. That way you know what kind of budget you have to work with before you book any vendors. Budget high, and try to come in under. Know that things will change (usually going up, unfortunately!).

Make lists: what is absolutely important to have, what would be nice to have, and what you are ambiguous about having and could let go. Don’t waste any energy and time on things that you don’t care about, even if every wedding you’ve been to had a, b, or c, or your Moms think you really need an x, y, or z. If anything feels like it’s more trouble (or money) than it’s worth, it probably is. Axe it- without guilt. At the end of the day when you aren’t starting your marriage in a ton of debt (whether you are actually carrying it, or it’s emotional debt for one of your parent’s carrying it) you will be glad that you didn’t waste the extra money on things you could care less about!

Ultimately, I feel that 21st century brides have more choices- and this can be negative and positive. It’s negative when, like I described above, we get sucked into thinking we “need” things for our wedding that we DON’T. (off the top of my head: air-brush make up, white limos, $150 bridal bouquet, dove release…)

But it’s a positive when we realize that we have more choices than ever before: meaning almost NOTHING is “required” anymore unless YOU want it. Don’t want to wear a white dress? Cool! Rather have burgers and beer and a backyard wedding? Awesome! Want to save your money for an extended honeymoon? Opt for a small courthouse ceremony and dinner at a fancy restaurant. Lovely.

So think outside the box! You can be imaginative and practical at the same time- in fact, it’s required. Tell me, what practical wedding decisions have YOU made?

Making paper heart strings

In my last post I talked about the pulling-out-hair moments that can accompany your DIY attempts. What’s that famous quote? “The best laid plans of DIY brides often go astray.” So true. Fortunately, they are not all grief and despair. Some craft projects are easy, pain-free, and so affordable that you just love making them. This was my experience making heart strings!

I first came upon the inspiration on Pinterest (imagine that!), and pinned it to my wedding DIY board:

I had to figure out how to make them by studying the photo, since there was no tutorial. They seemed to be constructed from four, identical paper hearts, glued together with a string down the middle. So, I went to Michael’s to get pretty paper. I lucked out and got a big book of 180 sheets of craft paper at 50% off, with lots of patterns and colours.

First we had to make a stencil. I downloaded a simple heart shape from the interweb (after my sweetie’s attempt at “free hand” didn’t work out so… symmetrically), uploaded it to a word doc, and made two different sizes. We also made a star stencil, since we plan to make star strings as well. My partner drew them onto the card stock, and cut out the shapes with an exacto knife. Then we traced as many hearts as we could fit onto the craft paper.

these are all the supplies you need

You need four to make a heart, and I chose to use two different colours that had the same background pattern. To assemble them easily, you will need to fold them in half.

make sure you fold them the correct direction

Then, take the glue stick and attach three of the hearts together, aligning as best you can with the center fold. The 3-D heart quickly takes shape.

ta da!

Have your twine/string ready, and put a line of white glue down the “spine” of the heart, on the open side.

mmm… glue…

Place the twine into the glue, where you want the heart to be on the string. I used my finger to push the twine into the glue, to make sure it adhered nicely.

gotta get a little sticky

Glue the last heart on, and make sure it’s all stuck together.

Trim the edges to your satisfaction. You can adjust the length, decide how many hearts per string, have various sizes or all the same- it’s up to you. 🙂

For a few days in a row I worked on this craft. I even started watching really bad wedding shows on Netflix as I traced, cut and glued the hearts. After three episodes of Bridezillas, I’d had enough. Of the show, that is- I love making these!

purdy heart strings!

We finished them off by tying two wooden beads at the bottom. In total I made 6 strings, and intend to make more. They are a cheap, easy, and pretty DIY craft for wedding decor, and I will definitely use them to decorate my home after the wedding, or if they are damaged they are easy to recycle. Bonus! Please let me know if you give these a try too!

The dark side of DIY

It’s almost a given for every couple getting married that they will do some DIY. The type, style and amount of DIY projects is up to the individuals involved, but gettin’ crafty and saving a few bucks is the norm these days.

However, it’s not always a sunny day in Martha Stewart’s craft room. Glue guns can burn you. Paper really can cut you. You may run out of a supply before you are finished, or realize halfway through a project that you are doing it wrong and need to start over. Or, such as in my case this week, technology can fail you.

Two weeks ago we received a package in the mail. Our invitation paper supplies had arrived!

Tree-free, recycled, handmade cardstock from

I’ve been very excited for this- we just passed the 100-day mark, and putting the invites together and getting them in the mail really sends a clear message of “this s#!t is gettin’ real.”

We chose to assemble them ourselves at home because a) it would save us money, b) I wanted design control, and c) I thought it would be easy to do. I. Was. Wrong.

I spent hours getting the layout just perfect. We deliberated over the wording for a few days. We spent three evenings cutting the gatefolds, in preparation for the big assembly, and even had a friend who has fantastic hand writing come over to address all our envelopes.

we cut the gatefolds from handmade Hemp paper from Thailand

Then, when we tried to print a sample on the vellum paper, the printer didn’t like it. It pulled it through, but wouldn’t print on it. Angrily beeping, crunching noises coming from within, the warning on the screen read: Paper loaded incorrectly.

A quick google search and I discovered that vellum is notorious for being difficult with home printers. I called the lady who I purchased our supplies from, and she suggested we try it on a friend’s laser printer, that maybe it was the ink-jet printer that was the problem. One woman online said she had to tape it to regular paper and then it worked. We tried that, and it worked once, and then continued to chew up the others. As well, that one good print we got turned blurry after 10 minutes of drying. And really, I didn’t want to have to tape 70 invites- too finicky. Overall, it was a complete bust.

Was I upset? Did I cry and throw a tantrum? Surprisingly, no. I knew that I could eventually troubleshoot this problem and figure it out, and I wasn’t stressed about the time because we were doing this early.

Therein lies one of my best pieces of advice for all DIY brides: get things done early. If you want something done by a certain date, start it a month, or months, before. Pay no mind to your bridesmaids or co-workers who tease you for working on your wedding crafts/decorations/favours 6, 8, 12 months ahead of time. Who wants to leave it all to the last minute? You want to be able to enjoy your engagement, so spread out the work load (and yes, that means delegating tasks to your hubby-to-be-too!).

Fortunately, this warning tale of the Dark Side of DIY has a happy ending. Turns out, the business owner was right, and my friend’s laser printer worked perfectly. My fiancée and I went home and right away spent the 45 minutes it took to glue the vellum to the card stock.

Then we tested the Celtic knot rubber stamp on the invite.

putting our personal “stamp” on our invites

Here’s how it will look inside the gatefold, and then sealed with our monogram sticker.

our finished invites!

My other fabulous pieces of advice in regards to DIY-ing your invites are to have extra; address the envelopes while they are empty; and don’t stamp them until they are addressed. We did one and two, but eagerly stamped before they were all addressed, and one goof and you waste a stamped envelope.

Despite the bit of stress at not being able to print them on our own printer, I am glad we chose to DIY our invites. With the right supplies, time, and some imagination, you can create truly unique invites that reflect your wedding style and even, in our case, your environmental values. Best of all, these were affordable! 70 invitations cost us $137: that includes the cardstock and vellum paper we bought from sweetinvitations, the gatefold paper we got at a local paper store Ya-ya Paper, and the monogram stickers from Vistaprint. Add postage and our grand total is $168. That’s $2.40 per invite.

It’s been such a crafty week here at our place. I’ll leave you with a little teaser of the other DIY wedding decor we’ve been working on… heart strings!

Making Earth-friendly choices for your wedding

To commemorate Earth Day, I am dedicating this blog to discuss how you can make your white wedding a little more “green”!

If you’re like most people, you care about the environment, recycle, use a travel mug, buy organic and local food when you can, and probably make a lot of small, but positive, earth-friendly actions and choices in your day to day life. So why wouldn’t you want to do the same when planning your wedding? It’s a great way to not only feel good about your event, but show others that eco-weddings can still be affordable AND fabulously chic.

Top 10 Things to Consider for an Earth-friendly Wedding
1. Have your ceremony and reception in the same location.

Unless they are so close that you and your guests can walk or bike from the ceremony to the reception, you and all your guests will be getting back into their cars and driving. Car exhaust is the number one way that individuals contribute to air pollution. Choosing to have your wedding all at the same location is a good idea for other reasons too: convenience, cost-effectiveness, and less stress!

2. Use recycled paper for your stationery needs, or use e-vites and your wedding website’s RSVP feature.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but deforestation is a serious concern, and the process of paper making is toxic to human and environmental health. There are many options for couples to use recycled, tree-free, and even seeded paper (plantable paper that contains wildflower seeds!) so you are supporting ethical and sustainable paper companies. I purchased mine from a terrific local company, Another option is to use the internet. Wedding websites are very common these days, and you can send out very pretty email invites and direct your guests to RSVP back on your wedsite (or give your phone number if Grandma isn’t online).

3. Hire a caterer that uses organic, locally-sourced produce and free-range, ethically-caught meat and seafood.
Organic food tastes better, and you feel good knowing it was grown without pesticides or GMO seeds. When you buy free-range and ethically-caught meat and seafood, you are “voting with your dollars” against factory-farming, and unsustainable wide-net ocean fishing. When you can’t get organic, always choose local.

4. Wear a pre-owned wedding dress.
Sadly, many brides think they need to buy a brand-new, $1500 dress to fulfill their wedding fantasy, without looking into other options. Does someone close to you still have an old gown? A creative seamstress can re-work that dress to update the look and suit your style. Or, capitalize on all those gorgeous gowns being worn for only one day and go hunting on craigslist, ebay, preownedweddingdresses, smartbrideboutique, or the classifieds of online wedding communities like weddingbee and offbeatbride. Oh, and for the bridemaids: co-ordinated mismatched is IN! Choose a dress (together, ideally) that they truly will wear again.

5. Grab deals on used decor on Craigslist, in thrift stores, or borrow from friends and family.
This one saves you money AND is a good environmental choice. Your decor doesn’t need to be new- with “shabby chic” being a popular trend right now, there has never been a better time to decorate your wedding with thrift store finds or gently-used items from a newlywed bride, desperate to sell her stuff.

6. Consider the post-wedding usefulness of everything you buy/make.
My fiancée and I refuse to use any disposable, one-time-use decor. Anything we buy or DIY must have a use post-wedding, double as a gift to someone, be able to be re-sold, be recycled or second-hand to begin with, or be biodegradable or edible!

7. For “bridal beauty”, support a salon that uses organic, cruelty-free hair products and cosmetics.
I have been using all natural products for my hair and skin for the last 15 years. Natural, organic cosmetics can be harder to find. Thankfully, one of my bridesmaids connected me with a make-up artist that works out of Vancouver’s only green-certified earth-kind salon, Clover. I am very excited for my salon experience on the morning of my wedding, and knowing that their eco-ethics are aligned with mine makes it so much better.

8. Buy only fair-trade, organic flowers if they are imported, or support locally-grown blooms.
Hands-down, the floral industry has the heaviest pesticide use of any crop, and workers on the flower farms in South America have terrible respiratory diseases because of it- never mind the almost-slavery conditions. Choose local whenever you can when it comes to flowers, or buy from somewhere like Whole Foods that is dedicated to providing fair-trade blooms.

9. Encourage your guests to carpool or use public transit.
I’ve included this on our wedsite. You can’t control what other people choose to do, but you can at least mention it to make them think about it. As for limos for the wedding parties, I’m actually torn on this one. Because if renting a limo means one vehicle is transporting 8-10 people instead of three, then maybe the good offsets the bad. I’ve looked into hybrid limos, and they aren’t very common- yet. So I’m on the fence.

10. Wear ethical jewelry.
Is that slavery or strip-mining on your finger? You want beautiful bling AND a clean conscience when it comes to your wedding jewelry. If you can, going the antique route by wearing a family heirloom is a wonderful choice. If you don’t like the style, you can have the stones re-set in a new band, or somehow re-worked. Otherwise, we are fortunate now in 2012 that there are many, many ethically-minded jewelry companies and diamond alternatives. Check out brilliantearth, bluenile, ingleandrhode, and ruffandcut to name a few.

This is by no means a comprehensive list! Check out these online resources:

Happy eco-wedding planning!

It Ain’t Easy Being Green

Boy, Kermit the Frog had it right. I am finding it very difficult to find affordable, eco options for our invitations and other paper needs. This is one area where I have already changed my mind at least six times- and we won’t be sending the invites out until next May!

The wedding invitation carries a lot of responsibility on its thin, papery shoulders. It performs many roles: to convey the wedding’s theme and level of formality, represent the couple’s personality, adhere to tradition or fly in the face of it, and yes, relay all the essential information of the event. What a lot of work for a few pieces of paper!

I never gave any thought to wedding invitations before I started planning mine. I cannot recall a single one from weddings I’ve attended. So, because I have a “stand out from the crowd” attitude and personality, combined with earth-friendly ethics, I want to create an invite that is unique, beautiful and on recycled or tree-free paper.

Our theme is beach/seashell, so I want that to come across. I like the look of these:

If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know I have been searching far and wide on the interweb to find companies that provide such products. They are out there; Forever Fiances and My Good Greetings for example, but their selection is either limited in design, or beyond my modest budget.

I had hoped that my go-to printing place, Vistaprint would have what I was looking for, but unfortunately they offer the recycled paper option on only a select few of their invitations. Fooey.

I then turned to looking for templates, such as Printable Wedding Invitations and Wedding Chicks, hoping to find the perfect template to create my invite and print on my own eco-friendly paper. But alas, I wasn’t in love with any of the designs. Picky, I know.

So, I am now coming to the realization that I will need to DIY my invitations if I want to accomplish my goals of a unique, beautiful, and recycled paper invite. I searched for boutique and recycled paper shops in my city, and found some. One even offers a complimentary wedding invitation consultation as you browse their paper stock. Sounds pretty cool to me. As well, I’m warming up to the idea of rubber stamps. That way I can end up with something that’s truly one-of-a-kind.

Today I also found a template online to create your own petal-fold or pouchette envelope.

They look so cool, and something I want to try. I will keep you informed of what I discover along the way, and show pictures as I start to craft my own. I’m not normally a crafty person, so this task is slightly daunting, but at least I have time on my side.

What kind of invites make your heart go pitter-patter? Did/will you DIY, or get them professionally printed?

Wedding planning can be delicious

Today my partner and I attended a tasting hosted by our wedding venue, Celebration on Water.

You might wonder, like I did, why you would have a tasting eight months before an event. However, they set it up like this so a lot of couples can attend at once, and they host two tastings a year. I am very glad we did since it gave us a chance to meet our new venue coordinator, measure some things, size up the space and take more photos, and sample the delicious food!

The adventure started when we arrived at Dock A in the Marina, where the pontoon boat picked us up along with another nice couple we had met while waiting. We didn’t take the boat during our previous visits, so it was fun to experience first hand the transportation that our guests will receive. Really, how cool is that to get to a wedding by pontoon boat?! A harbour seal was sunning itself on one of the docks as we rode up to the Spirit of the Nation ferry- again confirming that we have chosen the coolest venue in the city.

The coordinator Suzanne greeted us as we walked onto the boat, and my first impression was good. Being back on the boat was a thrill for both of us; immediately we started talking about where we wanted things to be set up, how we would decorate this and that, etc. It’s such a great feeling to share the excitement of getting married together.

We were seated in the dining room with the other couples. The sun poured in through the windows as we enjoyed the view of the Salish Sea inlet across to the Vancouver skyline. I took it all in, this perfect moment. Then, to elevate this beautiful afternoon even higher, the food arrived.

To start we tried Peri-peri chicken drumettes, Chevre cheese and asian pear on yam blinis, papaya and Mongolian chicken salad rolls, and a trio of dips with crackers: candied salmon blended with cream cheese, spinach with garlic cream and ricotta cheese, and root vegetable with white bean. The dips were our favourite, and we definitely want to offer them to our guests during the cocktail hour. Next came the entrees.

There was Maple Salmon with a Miso Crust, Pork Tenderloin with a Cranberry Demi Glaze, Chicken breast stuffed with Pancetta, Basil and Ricotta, and Moroccan Quinoa Corn salad. We loved it all, but the quinoa salad and maple Salmon were the winners. We decided they would both be included in our wedding dinner buffet.

As if we could eat anything more, then came dessert. A mandarin orange sponge cake, and a chocolate praline caramel turtle cake.

Overall it was an extremely positive experience. We now feel more comfortable with the new coordinator, we have confirmed that the food is fabulous, and I got to ask all sorts of questions to satisfy my overactive brain. Happily, I was assured that the company’s ethics are in a good place and that our wedding dinner will reflect our values surrounding food. They source all their meat and poultry locally, as well as produce when possible. They only serve Oceanwise seafood, and they are very flexible to offer more vegetarian or vegan options if we so choose. They recycle, and no food gets wasted because staff takes it home.

I still cannot believe how lucky we are to have found such a beautiful, unique, eco-responsible and affordable venue to celebrate our wedding. I am overjoyed at the whole situation: marrying my dream partner and having my dream wedding without creating a lot of waste.

So what are YOU eating at your wedding? Are you in love with your venue?

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