April 9, 2007 / 1:03 AM / 12 years ago

British brides say "I do" to green weddings

LONDON (Reuters) - Here comes the bride, all dressed in — green.

An undated handout photo shows a bridal couple. White wedding gowns might have been the dream of fashionable brides of old. But the trendiest British weddings are now at least metaphorically green as couples seek to reduce the impact of their nuptials on the environment. REUTERS/Richard Merz/Handout.

White weddings might have been the dream of fashionable brides of old. But the trendiest British weddings are now at least metaphorically green as couples seek to reduce the impact of their nuptials on the environment.

That means everything from recycled wedding dresses and guests arriving by bicycle, to home-grown flowers and locally produced food for the wedding buffet.

“A year ago there was nothing green at wedding shows. I was really struggling to get the message across that green weddings are about “eco-chic”, not lentils and hessian,” said green wedding planner Ruth Culver.

“Now specialist venues, products and services are being launched every week.”

British celebrity Liz Hurley might have hoped to set new fashion standards with her lavish jetset wedding last month.

But her celebrations broke all the “green” wedding rules, and were dubbed “Liz Hurley’s big fat not-so green wedding” by The Independent newspaper, which pored over every opulent detail to determine its environmental impact.

The wedding, which flew in dozens of guests to India from Britain for a series of parties, produced an estimated 200 tonnes of carbon emissions — more than the average couple produces in a decade, according to researchers.

Bride-to-be Libby Smit will do her bit to make up for this on her wedding day in Northern Ireland this summer.

“We are using the parish church that is literally around the corner,” Smit, 30, said. “On the morning of the wedding, the bridesmaids and I are going to be walking to the church.”

“GREEN” GIFTS TOO

It’s not just the ceremonies that are environmentally aware. Guests are getting into the spirit with their gifts.

After charity gift-lists raised millions of pounds over Christmas, environmental groups WWF and Friends of the Earth have launched similar services for weddings.

Guests can donate to charities on behalf of newly weds, making up to 20,000 pounds ($39,000) a month for green and ethical causes, according to www.weddinglistgiving.com.

“A lot of people seem to feel that when they are making a big commitment to each other they would like to do some good as well,” said Nicola Baird, campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

Sarah Webber, 30, a Briton living in Australia, plans to keep the environmental footprint of her wedding to a minimum by having a ceremony in Australia and a party in Britain to prevent her family members from needing to fly across the globe.

She is also making sure her wedding buffet is locally produced: “We’re not crusty hippies or anything like that ... but thinking about where things come from is part of our lifestyle,” she said.

One of the biggest concerns for ‘green’ brides is how to find that all-important dress, and the Internet is where they begin their search.

“There is the charity shop option, there are vintage shops, where you could find something a bit more stylish ... or you can have a design made from scratch using fair-trade fabrics,” said Katie Fewings, who launched www.ethicalweddings.com in 2006.

Her site lets brides share advice on how to source tricky items — from organic confetti to recycled invitations — with nearly 130 registered members in its discussion forum.

With the average cost of a British wedding set to rise to nearly 18,500 pounds ($36,500) this year according to UK-based insurer Weddingplan, couples say the homemade approach personalizes the celebrations.

HOME-GROWN SALAD

London-based Rebecca, a 35-year-old bride-to-be who posts on the ethical weddings site, is being helped by her father, who will be growing lettuces and tomatoes to help feed 150 guests at her wedding reception this summer.

He is also providing a floral touch: “I love wild and home-grown flowers, so my dad has offered to grow all the flowers for me. Cornflowers are my favorite,” Rebecca told Reuters, asking to be known by her first name only.

Her fiancé Doron, 36, said although some people have found the couple’s choices unusual, the planning has paid off.

“For those for whom the environment is not a prime concern, it initially jars, perhaps ... but once everything is explained we’ve had 100 percent support.”

The couples say their wedding is not supposed to be fashionable: “Fashion is of absolutely no concern to us ... we want to make it really memorable without exploitation,” Rebecca said.

Campaigners say couples planning green weddings tend to already lead an environmentally friendly lifestyle, but increased awareness about green issues can take the trend to a wider audience.

“The trend actually gets the message out there and fortunately it also gets the resources for people to be able do this,” said Kim Ritch, WWF’s manager of partner marketing.

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