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GREEN CITY The desire to go green is starting to color everything, even the traditional white wedding. There is an increasing desire to make an ecofriendly statement on the big day, according to the Feb. 11 New York Times article "How Green Was My Wedding?" In fact, the demand is large enough now that a directory called Green Elegance Weddings (www.greeneleganceweddings.com ), which aggregates contact info for green wedding vendors and services in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, was created to satisfy it.
In her new book, One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding (Penguin Press HC), author Rebecca Mead estimates that during her three years of research from 2004 to 2006, the US wedding industry's annual revenue grew by $40 billion to $161 billion, twice the amount of 1990. With so many greenbacks going into weddings, it's no wonder that everyone from brides to entrepreneurs is considering how to marry the ceremonies with a desire to do the right thing.
One enterprising environmentalist, Corina Beczner, started Vibrant Events, a planning service based in Marin that pulls together local resources to create resource-efficient weddings for like-minded couples who are about to tie the knot. She got the idea after witnessing the weddings of friends while in business school.
"I realized the lack of meaning in modern weddings ... and that aligning values of sustainability with weddings was a great way to integrate a more meaningful experience for everyone," Beczner wrote in an e-mail to the Guardian.
Weddings planned by Vibrant Events and other green wedding planning agencies, such as Chico's Love Events, are fairly similar in time frame, staff volume, and other traditional planning factors. But they also use fewer finite resources, offset any possible pollution caused by the wedding, and take other steps to promote localism and sustainability.
This can mean using locally grown organic flowers and ingredients (in hors d'oeuvres and the cake), local vendors, and shuttle services and venue selections designed to cut down on emissions. Those who want a green wedding must be committed to the cause before any planning gets done.
Kelly Nichols and Alan Puccinelli of Danville, who met four years ago at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, are set to get married in October and hired Beczner to help them create a sustainable wedding. "I had taken a class on global warming, and I just felt that a wedding was the best venue to show my friends and family what they could do" to combat it, Nichols told us.
Nichols says that Beczner, who holds an MBA in sustainable management, let her take the reins in picking vendors, a location, methods of transportation, and other expenses. "There wasn't any specific part of the planning process that was mandatory. [Beczner] made suggestions based on what we wanted to do for the wedding, such as telling us where to go to offset our carbon emissions and get local and organic food."
The couple's green choices include the wedding site, Wildwood Acres in Lafayette, which rents chairs, tables, and china plates to patrons, cutting down on the long-term waste of resources on those obligatory supplies. Also, the couple reserved rooms for out-of-town guests near the Lafayette BART station, meaning celebrants can take the train in lieu of polluting taxi rides from the airport.
But greening one's wedding isn't cheap. Beczner estimates that a green wedding costs up to 15 percent more for items like flowers, food, and alcohol; that increase comes on top of the Bay Area's higher [tk: mean or median? average] total wedding cost of approximately $35,000, according to Beczner 125 percent the approximate national average of $28,000 reported in Mead's book. This money ends up in the pockets of an average of 43 businesses at wedding's end, according to Mead.
However, all those involved in the industry don't share the benefit equally. When asked how lucrative Vibrant has been, Beczner replies, "I'd have to say that I'm making less money now than I was when I worked for nonprofits."
Of course, the financial aspect isn't the most important to Beczner. She told us, "I'm much more excited [about helping] the earth than anything else."<\!s>*
Comments, ideas, and submissions for Green City, the Guardian's weekly environmental column, can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.