Throughout the Hudson Valley, the month of June is typically packed with storybook weddings unfolding in a variety of settings. Rich in clusters of tropical flowers, elaborately decorated cakes, and exotic menus, the ceremonies certainly create places where dreams take hold and root, and no one can dismiss the romance or magic of these elements. But this is, after all, a tradition that often results in a lot of waste. Long after the happy couple and guests have departed, mounds of disposable plates, uneaten entrees, and plastic wineglasses all head to the landfill. Concerned with the environmental impact of their weddings, some brides- and grooms-to-be are planning celebrations of the greener variety. So before you take the first step down the aisle, take a moment to consider the ways your wedding can make a statement past its date. With a little information and planning, you can have an event with the extra-positive aspect of a minimized environmental impact.
Where to start
Luckily for those soon to be wed in the area, the Hudson Valley is overflowing with creative, enthusiastic, and environmentally conscious vendors and artisans who strive to surpass expectations while maintaining a commitment to their own ecophilosophies. A great place to start searching for such providers is Hudson Valley Weddings (www.hudsonvalleyweddings.com), a huge online resource of vendors, services, and products covering every considerable aspect of wedding planning—and even those you haven’t thought of yet. Judy Lewis, the Kingston resident who manages the site, says this area is chock-full of eco-friendly businesses—which also means it’s much easier than it has been in the past to plan such an event. So stop worrying about tofu cake and dandelion wine—thinking green doesn’t mean skimping on style or taste. In fact, the most important aspect of planning a green wedding is communication. “The toughest thing is when the couple interviews professionals, “ Lewis explains. “They need to communicate, immediately and from the start, their desire for a green, ecofriendly wedding.” Don’t be shy about speaking up—it is, after all, your day.
Every wedding begins with an invitation, and what better way to put your greenest foot forward than with an ecofriendly invite to your wedding. “It sets the tone for the wedding,” says Maureen Missner, who, along with Serine Hastings, owns the Paper Trail stationery shop in Rhinebeck. “[Invitations are] the first thing people are going to see.” Options abound for environmentally friendly invitations, announcements, and thank-you notes. Recycled and handmade paper and soy-based inks are readily available. And while it would be easy to think that larger companies are less environmentally responsible, Missner points out that the stationery giant Crane’s has always used cotton to make paper, fitting the bill for both green thinking and presentation. This addresses the concerns of many environmentally aware couples, she says, since most are requesting recycled or nonwood pulp invites because of worries over deforestation.
Once the invitations are sent, couples turn their attention to the ceremony and reception. Food is an important part of any celebration, and especially so for weddings. But is it more difficult to create an ecofriendly menu? Lewis predicts that most caterers in the area will accommodate requests for menus featuring local and organically grown ingredients. Bruce Kazan, executive chef and proprietor of Main Course Catering & Restaurant (www.maincoursecatering.com) in New Paltz, agrees. “Organic is totally in,” he says. “Everyone knows it’s better for you.” As ecoawareness has moved to the mainstream, it’s become that much easier for couples to plan organic, vegetarian, or vegan menus. Kazan estimates that approximately 55 percent of the couples he speaks with want organically grown food as the focus of their menus. It can be more expensive than traditional fare, he says, but it’s easy to create environmentally aware menus to fit smaller budgets. And in addition to produce and meats, it’s possible to take things a step further with organic wine and beer.
Many couples have a set menu in mind when they approach a chef, which may make planning easier in terms of narrowing options, but it also ignores the bounty of local and in-season fruits, vegetables, and meats that can be most easily (and deliciously) accessed. Flexibility is important, and a chef is always happy to hear the phrase “Use what’s in season.” Indeed, one important element of a green wedding is recognizing the environmental cost of shipping nonlocal or nonseasonal produce and flowers. Local organic and natural ingredients are more affordable than the Californian variety, especially when transportation is factored in. Plus, says Kazan, there’s so much available locally, it’s often unnecessary to go too far afield. “The source is right here,” he points out. Which assures the dishes will be as fresh and flavorful as possible.