Grandparents' Garden - A Family Wedding

Dustin Ohlman and Ashley Place Ohlman were married on July 26, 2008 in Plano, Illinois.

How they met: "I was born and raised in the midwest- Aurora, Illinois, to be exact, and Dustin is a Chattanooga boy through-and-through. We met at an arcade and miniature golf place when I traveled to Chattanooga to visit my cousin at college, and we got along really well. We hung out the rest of the weekend I was there, then stayed in contact for the next year. The following summer, I decided to move down to Chattanooga for a change of scene, and Dustin asked me out soon after I got here! We were married 3 years from the same weekend we met!"

Why a Green Wedding: "I grew up being taught to be very environmentally- and economically-conscious, and I still try to live as 'green' as possible. I didn't want to abandon those beliefs for one day, just because it would be easier or fancier." To this end, Ashley and Dustin tried to utilize the resources in their community. "Supporting the local economy was very important to us. We made a conscious effort to hire vendors that were from small, local companies, or to use the talents of family friends. We didn't want to contribute to large companies or imported pieces when we had small business and local products to use that were just as good." They also made a concerted effort to minimize waste. "We tried to rent and resuse as much as possible, because there was no sense in wasting things- for example, we rented china instead of having disposable plastic plates, the potted plants that were bought as tent decorations are now hanging at my grandparents' home, and we had our ceremony and reception during the day so no lights were needed."

The Location: After scrapping plans for "a large, traditional, Southern wedding in Atlanta," Dustin and Ashley decided to have a smaller, family-oriented wedding in her grandparents' backyard.

"We were the second couple to marry there- my aunt and uncle [had their ceremony in] almost the same spot, over 20 years ago. It was wonderful to have it there! I grew up playing in the same spots we got married, and I got ready in my grandmother's bedroom, among all my family's photos, and a photograph of my aunt, Yvonne, who had passed away before I was born and to whom I have always been compared."

Bridal Attire: Dustin and Ashley paired items from their wardrobes with things that could easily be worn again. "I wore shoes I already owned, and borrowed my mother's earrings. Dustin wore a navy suit, white shirt and shoes he already owned, as well. We bought him a tie that he will be able to wear again. My dress for the reception was a Jcrew "final sale" find, and I have since had it shortened and have already worn it again! The bridesmaids bought matching, navy JCrew dresses that can be worn again (although doesn't every bride say that?), and they picked out their own shoes. I gave them individual necklaces as gifts, and told them they can wear the gifts at the wedding if they wanted (only my sister wore the gift necklace- the other two girls wore their own). The groomsmen wore their own navy pants, white shirt, and shoes. Dustin gave them ties as gifts for them to wear (something that, as two of them are college kids going on interviews, they will definately wear again!).

For her 'something blue," Ashley chose a handmade blue and cream mantilla veil- from Etsy seller Honeycombveils. "It was my favourite piece of my ensemble."

Flowers: "The girls and I carried wildflower bouquets from The Wild Rose - a small, local florist shop run by two hilariously fantastic sisters. They also did all the floral arrangements for the wedding, including the centerpieces and the two hanging pieces for the entrance of the tent."

"After the wedding, we donated the centerpieces and hanging pieces to a local nursing home that had taken care of my great-uncle before he passed. My mom and grandmother collected potted flowers in the months before the wedding to decorate around the tent and yard, and along with my family, my grandparents' neighbours Rob, Adrienne and Cindy and their friend Mary worked tirelessly in getting the property ready for the wedding! There aren't words to describe their selflessness and generosity. Mary even brought three beautiful flower arrangements from her own garden to decorate the gift table, the beverage table and the bathroom counter. My parents, Randy and Rhonda, picked up stones from a local gardening center to line each side of the aisle and to serve as paperweights for our escort cards. The stones are now used in my grandparents' landscaping.

Paper Pleasures: "We wanted something unique, and we didn't want to give our business to some large corporation that churns out the same, boring invitations all the time. We ordered our invitations from Etsy seller InkyLivie, who designs and produces custom stationery from her home. I borrowed the design from the invitations for our programs, menu, escort cards, and favour cards, which were all homemade.

Food & Drink: We chose a local catering company called Upper Crust Catering for our meal. It was a little bit more of a headache to deal with a small company like that, but it was worth it in the end because everyone really enjoyed the food. It was more important to us that we give our business to local vendors and have good, homemade-tasting dishes that everyone recognizes, than to go with a bigger, trendier company with artistic, gourmet dishes that our down-home family wouldn't enjoy. The catering company even gave us all the leftover food, rather than throwing it away! For drinks, we borrowed two big beverage jars from my parents' church for our homemade lemonaid and the 8 gallons of sweet tea that Dustin made for all our southern guests.

Cake: Our cake was made by a very talented family friend, Sue Hipple. Oh my goodness, it was wonderful! One tier was a coconut cake, to represent Dustin's southern heritage, and the other tier was a cinnamon-vanilla cake with a Mexican chocolate buttercream filling that tasted like Mexican hot chocolate, to represent where I grew up. The cake was iced in white buttercream and decorated with conceptual fondant papeles picados, which mimicked the papel picado banners that fluttered under the reception tent. Sue even made us a small cake to act as a cake topper, because she knew we were staying for a few days in Illinois and then traveling to Chattanooga, so we wouldn't be freezing a top layer. We enjoyed that cake with my family on the last two nights we were in Illinois.

Favors: For favors, Dustin and Ashley paired a small gift with a charitable donation. "I am a childhood cancer survivor, so as favors, we chose to make a donation to the Children's Cancer Research Fund. We handed out butterflies made from natural resources (the butterfly is the symbol for the Children's Cancer Research Fund) in small organza bags, with cards explaining the donation."

Photography: "Our photographer was Stephanie Clark of Louis Joy Photography. She is amazing. She was so much fun to work with, and she was so laid back and easy going that it was wonderful to have her there. My gratitude goes out to her for not only capturing our personalities so well, but for so fearlessly putting up with our friends and family."


Mother Knows Best!

Many moms help their daughters plan and prep for their weddings. However, Denee wrote in telling me about how she helped her daughter, Shaylan Brown (pictured with mom above), after the wedding was over by launching a website to help her resell (read: recycle) all of the treasures from her big day.

"While helping my daughter, Shaylan, plan her wedding I had searched online for a site that was dedicated to JUST previously owned Wedding accessories in one Central Location as opposed to jumping from specialty site to specialty site. At that time I couldn't find what I was looking for but I thought that newlyweds surely didn't want to keep all their leftover merchandise stacked up in their new homes (or worse...in their parents' garage!!). I grew up knowing that one man's trash is another man's treasure because my parents loved garage and estate sale shopping. You can't imagine the beautiful things they found that people just no longer wanted. They also taught us about recycling and conservation (my brothers and I were fined a nickel every time we left a light on). So the idea of "She Just Got Married" a site for Newlyweds to sell their gently used accessories AND a place for the Brides to Be to find them and save a little money, came naturally."

A few of the items from Shaylan's wedding are already available in the boutique including:

The black scroll centerpieces...

The heart/calla lilly card holders...

and a beautiful Oleg Cassini dress.

Buying and selling gently used wedding wares is a great way to save money while decreasing waste and the environmental footprint of your event. I bought my wedding shoes on eBay and my husband and I listed the fountains we used for our wedding on another auction-based site.

She Just Got Married is a great idea and I wish Denee and Shaylan the best of luck.

Did you buy something used for your wedding or donate your gown or other items after the event - share your story with the community!


What's Black & White and Green All Over? A Zebra Crossing Wedding!

Beth Richardson and Steven Kent were married on March 1, 2008 at Duke Gardens in Durham, NC.

The couple met in South Africa, while Beth was working at the Amy Biehl Foundation helping artisans start small businesses.

In 2005, Beth started Zebra Crossings, a fair trade wedding boutique whose mission is to provide couples with "unique handmade items that improve the lives of the producers who make them and whenever possible preserve the health of our environment." Beth and Steven used many of Zebra Crossing's products in their own wedding - and generated over 200 hours of employment for artisans in developing countries in the process! "We felt it would be appropriate for our wedding celebration support artisans like those that were the reason that we met in the first place."

Here are some of the Fair Trade highlights:

1. Beth and Steven announced their wedding electronically using Zebra Crossing e-stationary.

2. For their invitations, Beth and Steven used these beautiful Bodhi leaf cards (made from tree-free paper) with a bamboo stick closure.

3. Their programs and menus came from Nepalese Paper and their place cards and table numbers came from Cards From Africa. Both fair trade stores offer handmade recycled paper stationary.

4. Their guestbook was handmade in India with tree-free paper.

5. Beth gave her bridesmaid's (pictured below holding bouquets of snapdragons, daylilies, and irises from Tre Bella Flowers & Gifts) luxurious all-natural Indian silk shawls to match their dresses.

6. Beth's diamond ring is certified conflict-free and their wedding bands were handmade by artists in South Africa.

8. Each guest received a fair trade, hand-beaded zebra keychain from South Africa.

9. Even the topper on their zebra striped cake was fair trade!

10. Finally, to ensure that the gifts purchased for their wedding were in line with their values and beliefs, Beth and Steven set up a registries with Global Exchange, Gaiam, and The I Do Foundation.

To learn more about fair trade visit the Fair Trade Federation's website and be sure to check out Zebra Crossings to find more fair trade products for your wedding.

Finger Puppets available at Zebra Crossings

Photo Credit: Steve McCaw


A Brown and GREEN Wedding

Christine Mentink and Greg Diedrich were married July, 26 2008. Christine is a managing editor at a nonprofit medical society where she leads "the Green Team" - getting co-workers to "recycle everything from paper to batteries and cell phones." Greg is a bicycle fanatic. "He builds them, teaches other's how to maintain theirs, and constantly promotes bike riding and less car driving. In fact, he doesn't own a car and bikes year round---through Chicago rain and winters!" In addition to being a bike enthusiast, Greg is also a graphic designer.

The ceremony took place at the First Congregational Church in Des Plaines, IL. "We chose this location because it accepts all people and all marriages. The church will marry people regardless of religious affiliation and believes that all people have the right to their individual beliefs. The church was also very green."

"We didn't waste electricity by using air conditioning to attempt to cool the high-ceiling space - instead we used overhead fans and open doors. We used an aisle runner provided by the church that is washed and reused for all wedding services. We let the drinking fountain do its job instead of promoting the use of bottled water. Throwing rice is not allowed by this church, so we completely skipped the tradition of "throwing stuff" at the bride and groom to reduce waste of any kind. Also, the church is located very near public transportation, so some of our guests took the train to our wedding."

The reception was at Old Orchard in Mount Prospect, IL (pictured above). "We chose this location for its beautiful landscape, ability to house 200+ guests, and willingness to take green measures. The venue manager and I had an in-deph conversation about green concerns during planning. In addition to the usual washable china, napkins, and tablecloths, we did not serve bottle beverages at the bars. The venue buys in bulk and reduces garbage whenever possible as their usual practice. The venue also allowed me to provide multiple meal options for my guests, including vegetarian and gluten-free."

The Dress and Bridal Accessories "My dress was bought from a consignment store [I DO Designer Bridal Consignments, in Chicago], which I feel is a very important green element. Too often, exorbitant amounts of money are spent on dresses that are mass-produced, overpriced, and distributed for one-time use. I found a beautiful dress from my local consignment store and was able to give 'new life' to this dress and to support a local, female-owned small business in doing so."

"We also incorporated "green" elements by using independent artists to contribute to the wedding as much as possible. The ties, cuff links, and all jewelry and wedding party gifts were made by hand by independent artists instead of being mass produced. [Local artisans] almost always reuse as much material as possible, create less waste, and use less energy. One of these artists created the favors for our wedding shower: We gave all our guests homemade, all natural soaps."

Flowers "Greg's cousin owns a flower shop [Locker's Flowers in McHenry], so they provided all of the flowers. The shop is family-owned and a local, thriving business in the community where many of the groom's family lives and where he grew up. It was important for us to include his family in the planning this way."

Instead of wearing a veil, Christine commissioned, Mikiye Creations, whose work can be found on Etsy, to create a reusable silk flower clip. "She designed [this clip] for me, based on photos I sent her of my dress, flowers, and jewelry.

For the reception decor, Christine and her mother created simple, elegant displays with limes, which guests took home and used after the wedding. "My mom and I went to the local market and bought 400 limes! How often does anyone get to buy 400 limes! The limes were taken home by many of the guests, including one who told me that she'd be using her to make margaritas the next day for her own guests! My mother-in-law used hers to make limeade! I love that the centerpieces used live ingredients that were reused."

Programs + Seating Cards Greg's sister created the programs (printed on recycled paper) as their wedding gift. They seating cards also matched the brown at lime color scheme.

Favors Each guest received a favor box tied with a green ribbon. "The favor boxes had two truffles in them. I did not want to give out favors that would be thrown out or regarded as "tchotchke." The truffles and the boxes were made by Truffle Trolley, a family-owned business. The truffles were a delicious treat that everyone could enjoy immediately and would not go to waste."

Photography Their photographer, Jay Crihfield, provided them with "the digital negatives instead of printing out any prints." Christine and Greg plan to provide their guests with electronic copies of their photos and to create their own wedding album so "nothing is wasted and we do not print a single picture we do not want."

Carbon Offsetting The couple is also planning to "'give back' by donating money for tree planting or carbon emissions to offset and celebrate the wedding."


Carbon Offsetting

Many couples are now choosing to lessen the environmental impact of their weddings by purchasing carbon offsets. I just discovered Brighter Planet - a new company that works with Native Energy and other partners to fund renewable energy projects. They offer carbon calculators for driving, flying, home use and weddings. Click the image below to learn more.