I don’t usually share all the juicy tid-bits of my wedding; however it is that time of the year nearing our anniversary and I wanted to share my top ten tips for hosting your own sustainable and green wedding.
Having a deep respect for nature and the environment, we wanted to plan a simple stylish and ecologically responsible wedding. We ended up choosing Playa Grande, on the gold coast of Costa Rica, pretty much the opposite end of where we are based in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.
Playa Grande is a beach town on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, internationally popular as one of Costa Rica’s best surfing spots as well as being home to Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas, the nesting ground of the largest marine reptile, the Leatherback Turtle; the second largest nesting area for the Leatherback and Ridley Turtles in the world.
We chose this location primarily for the surfing, as the majority of our friends and family love to surf. But also because we wanted to share with our loved ones that our wedding could go beyond just a weddings or event, but that it could positively impact the planet, not harm it.
By incorporating green elements and making choices to lessen the overall impact of our wedding we felt that in a tiny way we were helping preserve the earth for future generations. We always say, even small initiatives, baby steps, can affect a positive change!
Here are the top 10 ways we organized our wedding day by using our “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” principles.
- Location: Destination wedding, yeah! Lucky for us we live in one of the most eco-friendly and naturally amazing tropical destinations in the world. Ok, this is not possible for everyone; however we decided to invite our guests for an awesome vacation getaway while they joined us for our magical day. MAKE IT SIMPLE: Invites, hello mailchimp! No paper, no ink, no carbon footprint, zero waste. Where to stay, we could have provided a list of hotels and rental homes along with a plethora of info to everyone regarding the destination, however…. we decided that the least we could do to thank our guests, was by providing two large vacation homes right on the beach. No cars, no transport needed NO SHOES. In exchange we let everyone know that this was our wedding favor to them and a thank you for joining us on this special day.
- Decorations & Entertainment: How about Da Beach. Abundant tropical palms, tropical flowers, sea breezes and the sound of crashing waves. Music, ambiance, aromatherapy, yep. In addition we hand made super simple tropical floral arrangements that we gathered on our morning walks down the beach. My best friends and I then created an ubber simple recyclable and beautiful seashell candle using biodegradable soy wax and shea butter form the Raw Botanicals lab, and placed these all over the reception area a.k.a Da Beach. A local mariachi band was hired for the evening and we danced and laughed the night away.
- Food, Beverages & Cake: We decided that a simple yet traditional Costa Rican pig roast BBQ, using a local farmer who maintains free range farm animals was going to be the main menu item. Interestingly enough, free range around these parts is just the way it has always been done. Most farms in the area are sustainable by nature. So for us it was easy. In addition the whole traditional process regarding the preparation, roasting within a hand dug sand pit, enveloped in banana leaves and heated with drift wood was phenomenal to watch and help with. Everything in that pit was biodegradable! Drinks and plates, we went with edible and or biodegradable cook ware or as we say” living-ware”. Our famous Costa Rican agua de pipa a.k.a green coconuts shells, are found everywhere here and abundant. These served as beverage cups, then later the young coconut meat as a desert and digestive enzyme. Banana leaves were used as platters, and placemats. Zero waste, biodegradable. Appetizers were served in local handmade banana leaf wraps, pineapple bowls and oven baked tortilla bowls. For the entire vacation we ordered all of our drinks, alcoholic beverages and water in refillable glass containers which we collected at the local store and returned once emptied. This is the ONLY way it’s done in most of Costa Rica. Can you say Recycle, Reuse, Refill. Cake: For the cake we tried to include edible plants and flowers as the basis for the decorations and theme. We used a local cake baker, and hired all local waiters and attendants. The cake doubled as a beautiful centerpiece. Fare trade, zero waste. F.Y.I. our cake literally had almost no carbon footprint; it was delivered by bicycle from the baker’s son.
- Photography: Choose locally or within the family, find and or create a blog post/Facebook account/webpage that will host all the photos your guests take. Everyone can then enjoy and print these as they would like. One of my dear friends offered her professional services; in fact three of my besties are all photogs. We had so many digital images to choose from and we had everyone upload them on one site. It is a great to reminisce every once in a while, and a loving memory of a once and a lifetime experience for us all.
- Bridal Bouquet & Boutonnières: I chose simplicity so we used wild hibiscus and Bougainvillea plants from the decorations for my hair and the groom’s boutonnière. I didn’t see the necessity for a bouquet, as we had a simple non denominational prayer circle for the exchange of our vows. Below, you can see an example of an elegant and modern bouquet made form succulents and air plants which can be laid right back into the trees and earth once used. Also See below a clip I found on DIY fascinator for your wedding day using air plants. These are very abundant in Costa Rica.
- Ground Transportation: Unlike the hills in Manuel Antonio, everything in Playa Grande is flat, and locals typically get around by bike, foot and horse. We asked our house manager to provide any bikes that were available. Luckily the house had several, as well as the local grocery store and two nearby hotel receptionist, all who kindly allowed us use of these during our stay. We organized to fuel efficient mini vans to drive in those guests that were able to coordinate travel within a day of each other, thus caravanning in the group instead of relying on rental cars for everyone.
- Wedding favors/Gift Bags: We own a sustainable organic cosmetic company, need I say more. Raw Botanicals gift bags were left on each guest bed upon arrival. Since the gifts were unique to our wedding, we hand made our Raw Botanicals gift tags on recycled paper, which describes the many ways our organza gifts bags can be recycled. See link here. We also added in our favorite local coffee and a 2 ounce bottle of the world famous “salsa Lizano”, also hand made in Costa Rica. Locally made gifts not only provide work for small businesses, but they also add a unique and intimate touch to your wedding.
- Wedding Attire: I have a lovely friend based out of Miami who uses recycled silk scarves and hand paints wedding dresses with these for beach weddings. Several of my guests chose these dresses; however Adam and I chose non classic simple recycled linen, in turquoise for my strapless dress and his dress shirt. Choosing clothing that can be worn on multiple occasions and for years to come is a great way to decrease waste. I have also seen many websites offering “once worn” dresses and vintage gowns that can be a great option as well. Food for thought…who wants a wedding dress taking up loads of space in your closet or attic for years! Is your fiancé really going to wear his tux and or any element of it again, doubtful.
- Reduce Energy: Due to our location, at dusk lights were prohibited due to the leatherback turtle nesting season. Bright lights disorient them and can obstruct the final nesting spot for these gentle giants. It was not only wonderful and fairy-like to see the firefly’s, and low emitting red lights along the beach and homes, it was romantic and unforgettable. Candles were lit through out the house and we sat up each night and talked around an open fire, lying in hammocks and enjoying each others company without television, air-conditioning, I-pads, I-phones and lap tops. You can opt for a solar powered location, a sustainable farm or business, and or a family member’s home and do something similar.
- Wedding Gift Registry: Giving Back. If you do have a wedding at home or away, consider giving back to a local charity. This is an amazing way to help provide aid to the local community, everyone feels great for having done something good. Again, for us this just was not an issue, we had our favorite people around us who took the time out of their lives to travel all the way across the country, our gift was their time. An alternative to consider if the guests insist, (this did happen) is to ask them to donate to a local charity, one dear to your heart. We chose SASY and the Mono Titi Foundation and Rainforest Alliance. Local charities important to us. See link here.