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Nice day for a green wedding

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Indianapolis resident and recently married Britter Matthews-Cook sees the effects of waste every day and works in ways big and small to combat it.

Her career at Ray's Trash Service has given her even more of a reason to incorporate socially responsible habits into all aspects of her life. Matthews-Cook says it was just natural that when she was planning her wedding, its ecological footprint was always on her mind.

In order to create her dream "green" wedding, Matthews-Cook employed many clever tactics to make her wedding eco-friendly and stylish. It's a trend that is becoming more popular with couples, allowing them an abundance of green alternatives for their big day.

Although not everything can be green, use these following suggestions to lighten the global impact of the wedding day.

Adopt a "less is more" mentality

Although an old, familiar adage says, "Go big or go home," eco-friendly brides should opt to "Go green and save green." A small, intimate ceremony uses far fewer resources. Fewer guests equal less food, fewer dishes and fewer place settings. Fewer people will have to fly or drive to the event. Fewer decorations will have to be rented or created for a one-time-only occasion. Across the board, resources will be saved. This intimate ceremony will also allow the newlyweds to move around the room more easily, spending more time with the people with whom they have chosen to spend their special day.

Less paper equals fewer dead trees as a result of your nuptials. To save resources, opt out of some major offenders: menu cards and seating charts. Guests often don't miss what isn't there. Instead of printing individual menus and table charts. Indianapolis wedding planner Tonya Shadoan, owner of Circle City Planners (www.circlecityplanners.com), suggests printing one, large image that all guests can see. The money usually put into these finishing touches can be put toward something else, like a free-range or organic meal.

Let guests see it is an eco endeavor from the start

To some, a wedding invitation isn't complete without the invitation, response card, reception card, save the date note, registry list and inner and outer envelopes. To others, it is an egregious waste of paper. Rest assured, though, that classy invitations can still be had. For a stylish and one-of-a-kind twist, salvage old post cards from vintage stores and flea markets to use as RSVP notes. Not only will these rescue these artistic treasures, but postcards need no return envelope. Instead of save-the-date cards, encourage guests to RSVP by phone or online. Web sites such as eWedding.com provide couples with free Web space to create a custom wedding site. These wedding sights can be used for wedding party communication, RSVPs and links to online wedding registries.

Twisted Limb Paper (www.twistedlimbpaper.com) in Bloomington knows a thing or two about green wedding invitations. This local company hand makes its paper from 100 percernt post-consumer waste. They are made in-house, eliminating shipping, and embellished with ferns, flowers or grass cuttings. These invitations are rustic, unique and, best of all, not wasteful.

Find the perfect double-duty, green location

Although it may seem that where the nuptials take place has little to do with the environment, it does. Cookie-cutter "wedding factories" provide a one-stop shop for brides but often pull resources from far-away places to reduce prices. These establishments sometimes provide strict catering and florist lists, taking away personal choices. Support local restaurants, non-profits or landmark buildings by making them your wedding locale. Incorporating your community into the wedding will make for a memorable experience and be good for local businesses.

In order to maximize green potential, Matthews-Cook says brides must not be afraid to ask questions. In addition to checking the venue's recycling policy and composting practices, she recommends meeting with staff to find their willingness to incorporate green elements into the event. In the case of her reception, The Crown Plaza Union Station (www.crowneplaza.com/ind-downtown) supported her desire for an eco-conscious wedding.

"The chef was extremely excited about making a free range meal," Shadowan said.

Use local products when possible

Living in the heart of the Midwest has its advantages. Hoosier brides can find resources at their fingertips for nearly every aspect of their wedding, and local food is just the start. From Indiana's beautiful springtime peonies to full, summer roses, brides should have no trouble finding the perfect flowers close to home. If using fresh flowers, avoid floral tape and green oasis, which are toxic, not biodegradable and create more waste. Consider using potted plants as centerpieces instead. Old mason jars or antique bowls make a nice alternative to traditional pots.

Don't stop there, though. Take local products to the next level by making the location a theme in itself. Circle City Planner's suggests making Indiana-themed guest bags as well. "People love destination weddings," says Shadoan "so why not make Indiana a great destination for guests?" Indiana popcorn, wine from one of Indiana's 30-plus wineries and eco-friendly Endangered Species Chocolates all make tasty treats for out-of-state wedding guests.

Inspire other with thoughtful favors

These trinkets are often forgotten by guests or thrown away shortly after weddings. Instead of traditional favors, try giving back on behalf of your guests. Matthews-Cook, for example, made donations in her guests' names to local animal charities. These personalized favors not only give guests a glimpse of what is important to the couple, but also promotes active awareness of local and global issues.

Still want to leave your guests with something? Give guests organic coffee, chocolates, flower seeds or fair-trade lotions or soaps. Shadowan suggests using bags that could be used as shopping bags to present the favors or hotel bags. These bags are not only made out of recycled materials, but are durable enough to withstand post-wedding, daily use.

Be unique

Don't be afraid to be an individual. Eco-friendly weddings may not have all the extravagancies of typical weddings, but this isn't a typical wedding. It is different for a special reason, but can still be stylish and affordable. Best of all, it's socially responsible and a thoughtful way for newly married couples to start their new lives.

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