Wedding season is right around the corner. If you are planning, or helping to plan, a wedding this year, plan responsibly to shrink the big day's carbon footprint. It's easy to make your nuptials memorable and green, all while saving some green.

Start with the guest list

The first hurdle to wedding planning that most couples encounter is agreeing on who to invite and who to include in the wedding party. The shorter your guest list and the smaller your wedding party, the greener your wedding will be. Shrinking the size of the party saves carbon emissions from fewer people having to travel. It also saves energy expenditures on hotels and food production. As a bonus to you, it's not only easier to manage a smaller guest list, but it saves you money. Diving further into bonus land, you'll get to enjoy more of the wedding if you don't spend the entire reception just trying to say hello to all your guests. So cut the guest list down and get more time to tear up the dance floor and celebrate.

Look for a green venue

Choosing the venue is probably the next big decision on your wedding planning list. Keep these four key points in mind to help you select the most eco-friendly venue:

  1. Same venue for ceremony and reception – Save more travel-related carbon emissions by having the ceremony and reception at the same place. You can create the illusion of different spaces with simple decorating tricks or moving locations within the venue, i.e., have the ceremony outside and move inside for the reception.
  2. Outdoors – While we're on the topic of inside vs. outside, a wedding that uses the outdoors as its location also uses less energy. Let Mother Nature supply the backdrop for your special day. Spring time is the perfect season for a garden wedding. Summer is ideal for a beach wedding. The fall is a great time to enjoy a mountain setting.
  3. Local – Keeping the wedding local also saves transportation costs and a lot of planning headaches. The less you and your guests have to travel the more eco-friendly your wedding will be. Plus, it's much easier to coordinate with vendors when you can just pop in to their places of business in the months, weeks and days leading up to your event.
  4. Eco-friendly practices – Look for a venue that offers eco-friendly amenities, such as recycling services or in-house services that help eliminate the need to hire vendors for things like seating, linens and catering.

Go vintage

Not only is vintage en vogue right now, it's always a green choice. You save raw materials and avoid waste when you opt for vintage clothes and rings for your wedding. Shopping previously loved dresses, suits and jewelry can save you money and also give your wedding one-of-a-kind charm. Some dresses never go out of style. Check out vintage clothing stores in your neighborhood or take to the Web to find a truly unique dress. And don't be afraid of alterations. If you bought new, you would likely need alterations anyway. Redesigning elements of a vintage dress to make something new is a great way to upcycle.

When it comes to the rings, new jewelry can have a huge environmental and social impact. If you do decide to choose new rings, look for a jeweler that uses recycled metal and sources conflict-free diamonds. Alternative gem stones are also gaining popularity right now, so feel free to get creative with something other than diamonds.

Smart alternatives to wedding budget busters

Two of the biggest expenses of a wedding are food and flowers. Save on food and go green with vegan or vegetarian choices. If you can't cut meat from the menu, be sure that the animal protein you serve is humanely and sustainably raised. Carbon emissions from factory farm operations are a major contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gas buildup and climate change.

Flowers can be a beautiful accent to your wedding day, but they can also be expensive and wasteful. Trade table flowers, garlands and decorative bouquets for candles, soft LED lights or personalized décor with pictures of the special couple. If you can't forego flowers completely, use the wedding party's ceremony bouquets as decoration for the reception. Also, look for a florist that will collect and reuse bouquets. Some florists will compost or donate bouquets and arrangements to hospitals or nursing homes.

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