Tuesday, October 16, 2007

And The Bride Wore Green

Well actually, she wore white...
but consider the fact that the average wedding costs almost $27,000 according to cnn.com. As I start to plan my own wedding, I have found myself accidentally watching shows like "Bridezillas" and "Platinum Weddings," and they certainly do set a unique standard for what weddings should look like. But since I try not to over-consume in any other area of my life, planning a wedding feels like an overwhelming prospect for this environmental activist on a budget. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for a "green" wedding, and the recent wedding I attended in the Pacific Northwest was a wonderful example of what a wedding should be - not only was it environmentally and socially responsible, it was also fabulous and filled with love.

Lesley and Joe, my dear friends in Seattle were married this July. Their wedding felt both lavish and local at the same time. Many friends and family gathered days (and weeks! - guilty as charged! - but who can say no to a month in Seattle in the summer?) before the event to help prepare for the nuptials. According to Lesley (pictured right), "Our wedding planning was guided by our core values about community, place, family and friends. Our goal was to have our choices fit with who we are and what we believed in (as opposed to pre-existing traditions about what a wedding should and shouldn't be). When you start to plan a wedding, the first logical step is to tap into the ever-growing wedding industrial complex of websites, magazines, books, and conventions. Weddings Inc. is a huge industry, and we realized that we did not want to be a consumer at our own wedding. We wanted to actually be the creators of our own wedding."

To that end, Lesley and Joe used local sources for most of the food, wine, and decor. Even the photographer was local. They held their ceremony at a local park that overlooked the Puget Sound, and their reception was in their backyard. In lieu of a gift registry, they asked people to contribute to a travel fund, which they will use at a later date to go on a "family heritage tour." Their gifts to the guests were trees planted in their honor through treesforlife.

Friends and family helped to prepare for the big day using their particular brands of talent. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the prep, but I will try to describe the scene in a few words - The bride's twin, Alexis, spent months organizing the event - really she should start her own business. She also mowed the lawn a few days before the ceremony using an electric lawnmower, which is much more efficient than a standard gas mower. Steve (my husband), Lesley, and Joe spent many hours on home improvement projects as the reception was going to be held in their backyard, and I had an unsuccessful attempt at caulking windows, followed up by more capable help on the cleaning, cooking, and organizing front. Steve, aka DJ Sleepy, also made sure the dance floor was full on the wedding night. Lesley and Joe's families were both on hand several days before to help with all of the last minute details. Our friend Robin made the cake, helped to level the garden (where the tables and chairs would be), and cooked many a feast for the housemates using the delicious beets and greens from the garden. Lesley, in her infinite wisdom, had not wanted to have a fallow garden due to the festivities, so she planted crops that would be ready to eat by late July. The long planting season in Seattle allowed her to replant in August. She also planted flowers all around the house that added to the overall natural beauty of the reception.

1. The former and future garden 2. DJ Sleepy getting warmed up! 3. Happy and sated wedding guests (in case you couldn't tell from their big smiles) --> 4. Wedding planner extraordinaire Alexis, minus the electric lawnmower, plus one proud Aunt Joni

As for the food, it was incredible! Some of the highlights of the food from The Savory Gourmet included fresh shucked local oysters, bruschetta with Mediterranean toppings, grilled wild Lummi Island reef net caught salmon with Asian marinade and Javanese sauce, many shades of green salad with lemon vinaigrette, and grilled Tall Grass Bakery hominy bread with sweet butter. The Savory Gourmet's owner, Marcia Newlands says, "The Savory Gourmet focuses on food that is healthy and good for your body. To me, this means food made from what is local and fresh that day, not what is growing in Argentina or Australia and shipped thousands of miles to a grocer in Seattle. By shifting the focus to the ingredients, I have found that the flavors are enhanced as is the enjoyment of my food by its recipients." Of course, the wine and beer were also all from Washington State.

<--- This guy got a workout! Grilled Northwest Marinated Beef with Horseradish
and Salpicon Sauces and French Potato Salad

As for dessert, no wedding would be complete without the cake! This sweet masterpiece was created by our dear friend Robin Posey, the new executive chef at The Hi-Life in Seattle, and it was the creamiest, moistest, tastiest, fruitiest, most deserving of many more superlatives, cake I've ever eaten (and I'm not just saying that because I want her to make our wedding cake too!) The cake was officially a six layer lemongrass-ginger scented white cake with seasonal stone fruit and mascarpone buttercream frosting. As for her ingredients, Robin says, "The cake was about 72% organic -- most of the butter and heavy cream were, and all of the fruits were." Robin also used as many local ingredients as possible including Black Raven Plums, which are as scrumptious as they sound.

The newlyweds, Robin, Marcia, and a special guest appearance from the cake!

This wedding was amazing because it reflected the values of the bride and groom; it was a day (and night!) about love, community, and the responsible and respectful use of local resources. Any party can be thrown in this manner without compromising the celebration of special events. In fact, hosting an environmentally responsible bash can be even more meaningful, because you are gathering your friends and family together and leading by example.

I'll leave you with a story from Lesley, which I think encapsulates the entire spirit of the affair:

Here's a story. It's about flowers. While our wedding ceremony and reception settings (local park and our backyard) had quite a lot of natural beauty, we wanted flowers to decorate tables and add the special romantic touches that flowers do. Our first idea was to grow our own! We chose dahlias for their late and long summer bloom, their love of the Pacific NW climate, and the nooks and crannies and colors that make them beautiful and unique. No wonder they are Seattle's city flower. After carefully planting and caring for our 25 pots of dahlias, only two small buds had opened a week before the wedding. Our large plants of dahlias were blooming magically, but they weren't nearly enough to use for the wedding. Plus, we couldn't bear to cut these living beasts and the new burst of color they added to the south side of the house, and end all the buds and life they had to give for the rest of the summer (they are still blooming as I write).

So...we turned to our next local source...The Pike Place Market. The day before the wedding, we purchased dahlias and a few other varieties from several Hmong families that have been growing and selling flowers in the market for decades. We had friends and family throughout the day and night help arrange flowers into various jars that had been recycled over the past months. It was supporting and building community that guided these decisions, helping local growers continue their family tradition, and having our friends and family contribute to growing our wedding--we had everyone from Joe's Aunt Bobbie with many years of flower arranging to Matty and Stephane, buzzed at 2 a.m. and psyched to be arranging flowers for the first time in their lives. It was beautiful, and the tables reflected all the delicious personalities of the people that shared in the wedding day.

The next day, Barndi spontaneously put out cut flowers on the street with a "Free" sign. As we headed off for our trip to Vancouver Island, we were delighted to see someone stop by and pick a few up.

Was this the most enviro-friendly method? Probably not...at one point we had considered using living herbs and young vegetables, so people could plant them after the wedding, as opposed to the cut flowers that inevitably die within a few weeks. Likewise, our choice to not use a traditional registry was because we really wanted the wedding to be about experiences, not products. While our family heritage tour to Eastern Europe to visit old towns of our ancestors will be made possible through the generosity of our guests, we'll also be stamping our carbon footprint with our several thousand mile airline flight.

What's the moral here? Planning a wedding is complex, just as changing the world is. You have to feed people, get people to one place, figure out where they are going to stay, entertain, etc. It became clear fairly quickly that this wedding was going to cost money, whatever it looked like. We also soon realized that the answers to what we wanted our wedding to look like, a tribute to family and friends and place, were not to be found in the wedding resources available to us. What worked for us was to be the socially-conscious consumers that we are in our day-to-day life. Some of these are environmentally friendly and low impact, and some are not. Some can be created from the ground up, others cost money. We learned that whenever we hit a point where we didn't know what to do or where to go, going back to our core values always worked. Almost two months after the wedding, we are still buzzing with the love energy created by having everyone we loved in the backyard.


alexis said...

thanks for the shout-out! loved the blog...brought back many warm memories from the wedding. by infusing your writing with personal anecdotes, I can taste, smell, and breathe your experiences, which inspires me to live life organically and environmentally. xo!

Braxton said...

Thank you for documenting this phenomenal experience. I am so impressed with Les' viewpoints on balancing idealism with realism. She and Joe set a great example that I continue to use as a point of reference for my own choices.

barndi said...

I was there and can attest to the beauty and FUN of the wedding. Someone should put together a green wedding resource website. Anyone know someone who is websavvy, great at gathering resources and has a HIGH environmental IQ??? =)