Most brides want to be dressed in white, or some shade of ivory, cream or champagne, as they walk down the aisle.
But more are choosing to add green to their wedding day.
As people become more aware of ways to protect the environment and to save money, so do brides and wedding vendors.
Rai-Lynne Alexander of West Knoxville makes eco-friendly wedding dresses from organic fabrics.
Her business, Threadhead Creations, which she runs out of her home, doesn’t serve typical brides.
“They are all brides doing green weddings,” Alexander said. “It’s all for one big day, but weddings can be incredibly wasteful.”
From the dress to flowers, decorations, food and transportation, couples can find ways to make their big day less wasteful, more environmentally friendly and, in some cases, less expensive.
Rai-Lynne Alexander of West Knoxville stitches the back of one of her eco-friendly wedding dresses. Alexander makes and designs wedding dresses from natural and organic fabrics.
Flowers that live forever
Leah Teague, owner of Flourish Floral Design Studio, and Sarah Brobst, volunteer coordinator at Ijams Nature Center, make bridal bouquets from brooches, fabric or paper to save on floral waste.
A brooch bouquet, which is gaining popularity due to Pinterest and Etsy, is made of vintage brooches and broken jewelry. Sometimes handmade fabric flowers serve as a base.
Brides are turning to these alternative bouquets because they are unique, can be personalized and last forever. They can be passed to future generations, and they’re easy and pretty to display.
“You have something you can keep, one that doesn’t mold or rot,” Brobst said. “And they’re made from things that would be in a landfill. Pins are broken or you have one clip-on earring — who wears that?”
Brobst, who began making brooch bouquets in January and already has orders from eight brides, buys brooches at thrift stores or flea markets. Sometimes brides collect brooches from family members.
If a bride doesn’t have a favorite flower, a brooch or paper bouquet could be a great option.
“They’re really easy to personalize,” Teague said. “One bride was an avid reader. For the paper flower accents, we used a lot of vintage books.”
Teague said brides can use these alternative bouquets for bridesmaids, mothers’ corsages or centerpieces. Then, they become a gift.
Though 95 percent of her business is still cut flowers, Teague said it’s hard to see beautiful flowers tossed away after only a few hours.
Brooch bouquets are more expensive than cut flower bouquets because of materials and labor. Brobst said it takes several weeks to collect materials for and assemble a medium-sized brooch bouquet. She charges between $150 and $500 depending on size and number of brooches. Teague charges an average of $250 to $300.
Another example of a brooch bouquet made by Sarah Brobst.
Morgan Buccafusco didn’t have real flowers at her Feb. 29th wedding. She carried one of Brobst’s brooch bouquets.
“I didn’t want to spend money on something that didn’t last,” Buccafusco said. “I wanted something more unique. Not having flowers is pretty unique.”
Plus, the vintage brooch bouquet went perfectly with her vintage-style dress.
Brobst said the bouquets can fit any wedding style, not just vintage. She can make them romantic, Victorian, “bling-y” and industrial.
“People don’t realize they have a lot more options than just a rose bouquet,” Teague said. “Weddings don’t have as many rules as they used to. Girls are just looking to make it their own.”
If brides use real flowers, Teague recommends donating them to Random Acts of Flowers, a local organization that collects flowers from events and gives them to hospitals and nursing homes.
Dress for the environment
A wedding dress doesn’t have to be seafoam, lime or teal to be green.
Alexander’s dresses are usually white or ivory, but they are eco-friendly due to fabric she uses. Most of her fabrics are hemp-silk blends, and the silk is “wild or peace” silk.
“They let the silk moths emerge from their cocoons before they harvest the silk,” Alexander said. With traditional silk, the moths are destroyed.
The hemp or cotton she uses is grown without herbicides or pesticides and is certified organic.
She began making eco-friendly sundresses and ready-to-wear items for college students and concertgoers in 1999. Several years later some customers asked if she could make eco-friendly wedding dresses. She made her first one in 2003, and, after nicer eco-friendly fabrics emerged, she moved to “green” wedding dresses full-time in 2006.
She’s seen a shift in the mind-set of her customers as more brides are looking for greener wedding options.
“(At first,) they were buying from me because they wanted custom (dresses) or they had bought from me before,” Alexander said. “Now, they’re searching me out by searching for eco-friendly wedding dresses. They’re finding me because they are doing a green wedding.”
She sells her dresses internationally. They cost between $500 and $1,500.
One of Rai-Lynne Alexander’s eco-friendly wedding dresses.
A few dresses feature a touch of color as some have cherry blossoms, forest designs or yellow daisies on them.
Her husband, an artist and photographer, helps with the designs.
Alexander keeps her business green by using recycled packaging, reducing paper waste with digital invoices and repurposing scraps for samples, dog toys and pillows.
Weddings are a great time to repurpose items found in the closet, at a garage sale or thrift store.
One of Teague’s brides used teacups from her grandmother’s china for flower planters on each table, and brides could use mason jars as votives for candles.
Teague said about 75 percent of her brides are taking a greener approach to wedding planning.
“Whether it’s for financial reasons or their own personal style, it’s very on-trend right now to use these reclaimed items,” Teague said.
Rita Cochran, who does rental and special events for Ijams, said a 10-cent vintage floral sheet from the thrift store could make table runners.
“You need to think outside the box and when you see a teacup, you see a planter,” Cochran said.
Buccafusco collected rocks from a nearby creek and used decoupage to put people’s names on them. Those became place cards and a keepsake for guests.
For invitations, she and husband Mike Dearing used recycled paper and saved paper by having people e-mail RSVPs.
They had the ceremony and reception at a bed and breakfast so people didn’t need to drive.
Cochran runs a catering business on the side called Public Food that uses locally grown and made foods. She encourages people to make jam or pickle vegetables as wedding favors, use local breweries or shop farmers’ markets. Brides can make jewelry for their bridesmaids by repurposing vintage jewelry, Brobst said.
Going green and repurposing items can save a bride and groom money.
“It’s about asking friends, ‘This is what I’m thinking, what do you have in your closet?’” Brobst said. And the last weekend of the month Goodwill sells everything half off, Brobst said.
Going green and repurposing items can make a wedding more personal. Brides are shying away from traditional, formal weddings to plan events that better fit their personalties, Teague said.
“A lot of things can be used that are already out there,” Teague said. “Maybe they weren’t made for a wedding, but they can be turned into something. Anytime you can use something you already have and love, it makes it that much more personal and meaningful.”