Green Weddings

IMG_0721Martha’s Vineyard Catering on the Vineyard. Creating Weddings with a  Low Impact on the Environment

Something borrowed… Something simple… Something beautiful… Something GREEN!

It is an interesting time to be planning a wedding. Weddings are a big investment in time, money and resources. I say spend loads of time thinking about what you really want and you will spend less money and use fewer resources. I think it is a great opportunity for us to approach the whole process of weddings differently. You can have a beautiful event, save money and save the planet! Start with core values by looking at what is really important to you and your future spouse.

Every engaged couple wants their wedding day to be a special celebration that reflects who they are and what they care about. Having a wedding that is sensitive to the environment is a great educational opportunity for everyone involved.

The biggest impact one can make is in informed decisions on decorations. Let’s start with flowers. On the Vineyard, we are lucky enough to have several folks who grow flowers and arrange them. You are buying the flowers straight from the grower (contributing to the local economy) and the only transportation fuel cost are from the farm stand to the wedding site and reception site. Most of the florists on the Vineyard use their own vases which makes for very personalized and lovely table settings, but we have had some weddings where the flowers arrived off the Fedex truck inside boxes in throw-away containers. The costs in shipping and throwing away the containers equals several bouquets of flowers.

Trends – what does that mean? What’s in? What’s not? We all want some uniqueness to our wedding that goes beyond trends. Trends come and go and they have all come around at least twice in my 2 decades of service. The one constant I can say is always there: it is the personal touches that come from the future spouses and their families which make for a more memorable event, and most likely, low impact on our environment because it is usually something borrowed and meaningful that enhances the occasion. This season, the thyme seems to be “Found Places”. Using eclectic farm tables, chalk boards, antique ladders, old crocks, hay bales and refurbished tables creates spaces that look like you cleaned our your grandmother’s precious collections for the event. Creating intimate spaces with this and that make for cozy places that invite conversations and surprise.

Considering the environment when making purchases: Thank goodness disposable cameras are long gone. There are many things that just aren’t needed and a waste of resources (and money!) – flip flops, personalized champagne glasses, purchased table numbers and throw-away floral containers. Thoughtful and well executed decisions show that you are aware and conscientious. Your personal touches can very easily be considerate of the environment.

There are loads of decisions to make along the way when it comes to planning an event that can contribute to supporting the local economy and to preserving the culture of our surroundings. It’s pretty basic stuff really!

Support the local growers, and keep it simple.
By supporting the local growers, the ingredients are guaranteed fresh and the menus will reflect the seasons. Ask your caterer where the food comes from. If they can’t tell you, it isn’t local, and most likely it is from the feedlots and/or commercially grown, which is NOT sensitive to our environment.

Protein can be a bit complicated because there is so much misinformation about organic, free-range and bulk quantities are not always easily available. Also, getting the quantities that a vendor needs is most likely not available from a small local producer and there will be a need to go to a larger supplier. Organic, pastured chicken is probably your best option in the chicken department. Free-range doesn’t necessarily mean humane or that they animal wasn’t raised on corn and antibiotics, it only means that at some point the chicken was cage-free, but most likely the chicken never saw daylight.

There are sources for local meat, but is hard to get for a large event because farmers will not have 40 pounds of tenderloin on hand, nor will they have 350 lamb chops or 150 chicken breasts because they sell either the whole, half, or quarter of the animal. There are options: you can purchase a whole animal and have a roast or there are cooperatives in New England that follow protocol on feeding, raising and slaughtering of animals. There are several available and depending on quantities and timing, your caterer or venue should be able to provide this in the menu quote.

One thinks seafood and fish when they think of menu planning on the Vineyard, but season plays a big role in what is available. Fishing practices worldwide are damaging our oceans—depleting fish populations, destroying habitats and polluting the water. It is more common that the fish comes off the ferry, not off the shores on Martha’s Vineyard.

By the 1980s, locally harvested seafood plummeted. Over-fishing by the larger fleets made for declines in stock and restrictions on what fishermen could take. Fish distributors can bring in fish from all over the world and offer lower prices; Wild shrimp from Maine can cost twice as much as farm-raised shrimp from Vietnam. As these markets took over, we saw a different offerings in our local fish markets. Gone are the days when you walked into the fish market in Menemsha asked for a slice off the rack and it was a slice off a 265 pound swordfish. Today the average weight of a swordfish is 65 pounds and you never see a whole fish on display. Local fish markets keep a display of fresh seafood, but most (75%) is not from the local fish market.

Wild salmon is a nice choice, but for us on the East Coast, it is being flown all the way from the West Coast and stocks in several of the states have been closed to commercial fishing because they are being depleted. All Atlantic salmon is farmed. These fish have been found to have particularly high levels of PCBs, and the farms where they are raised tend to have pollution problems and pose a threat to wild salmon and other wild fish.

Shellfish is a great way to go and a raw bar is a terrific way to support our local fisherman and also offer the true Merroir of Martha’s Vineyard. Lobster risotto is a very popular menu choice. Clambakes are a very traditional rehearsal dinner menu option. For those who wish to save on the mess and the cost, lobster rolls served with clam chowder are greeted with excitement. For the vegetarian, offer corn chowder and vegetable tarts.

Using local foods means that you can’t always get want you want, but you will get the freshest and it will taste better. Be willing to be flexible when it comes to your menu. For the most part, you can ask your caterer to specify the farms, but sometimes last minute changes happen and an option is: “Today’s harvest vegetables” or “Catch of the Day” on the menu cards.

There are all kinds of great interesting “good-for-you drinks” out there. Or better yet, ask you caterer to make a delicious tea or blueberry soda with blueberries and sparkling water… Ask your caterer to supply a specialty drink and avoid all pre-made mixes (margarita mix, etc.). Caterers will supply simple syrup and fresh lime juice and loads of freshly cut mint for a mojito. A new rage among bars is infused bitters, and last season we infused bitters with sassafrass (a local tree that is the origin of root beer).

Offer a few specialty drinks, great beers, good wines and a few simple mixes. One of the most festive weddings we did this past season offered 4 specialty drinks – one was more delicious than the next and none of them were too sweet or complicated. Exotic tonics and elixirs are interesting objects for lively discussions. Our favorite soda is Spindrift, bottled with pure juice and sparkling water.

Recycle! Compost!
The amount of garbage a wedding can generate is abundant from the amount of boxes and containers that goods come in. Wedding presents that are shipped to you come in boxes. All the “things” that go on the tables come in boxes and are generally wrapped several times in plastic that can only be thrown away. Consider what you purchase and then consider how it is packaged.

Beach Picnics
The three-day event has extended to four days or a beach party on the day of. Use biodegradable utensils and dishes made out of cornstarch, potatoes, or wheat, if your venue can compost them. Bamboo plates are very nice and can be reused. If they are just getting thrown in the landfill, then it doesn’t really matter if you use paper or “biodegradable” as long as you don’t use plastic.

The flameless, battery-operated real wax candles are perfect to light pathways as they never blow out. Petroleum based, toxic paraffin candles seem to be the norm in candles. Soy and beeswax candles are readily available and becoming competitive in pricing.

Paper Invitations
Let’s see… make your own and print then on handmade papers. On-line RSVPs are becoming more and more acceptable. Assigned seating: use natural things, stones, clothespins, shells.

Something Old, Something Borrowed…
Incorporating something from families traditions is important. The past holds memories that should be expanded and celebrated. Last year, one family wanted to use all their antique napkins and it looked very charming on the tables. I think the brides mother spent days ironing the napkins which then had to be collected and she had to wash them all herself, but it was a lovely personal touch. Another creative person collected pie plates for her pie display. Big Sky rental company has antique mixed china that round out nicely with their farm tables. Below is a photo from Jocelyn Filley of antique coffee cups stacked.

Honor traditions, celebrate what is important and take the time to spend with family and friends. Consider your purchases carefully, Incorporate less stuff and make more time for what is really important.

coffee cups-JFilley

Photo by Jocelyn Filley

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