How to Plan an Eco-Friendly Jewish Wedding

Posted by The Mrs.

I recently heard a story that got me thinking all about green weddings. I don’t mean “green” as in color scheme. I mean “green” as in “eco-friendly.” Although “being green” is somewhat of a new idea to us, it is deeply rooted in Judaism. If you think about it, the whole idea of Tikkun Olam or “repairing the world” relates to being green.

Brenda and David Jaffe were concerned about the effect their long-distance courtship was having on the environment. Brenda lived in Dover, DE and David in Havre de Grace, MD. They met on JDate (surprised?) and once they started dating, they were soon driving almost 375 miles weekly just to see each other. To address the Jewish guilt they were experiencing over their environmental concerns, they not only got married, but they also turned to the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Using JNF’s GoNeutral Calculator, they were able to determine the approximate amount of carbon their cars had emitted during their three-year relationship. They then donated towards the planting of trees in Israel to help offset those emissions and reduce their carbon footprint.

brenda_and_david_jaffe

All it takes is a bit of creative thinking to come up with ways to reduce your wedding’s negative impact on the environment. Here are some ideas:

1. Many Synagogues are joining the greening trend with environmentally friendly buildings and eco-conscious initiatives. Consider holding your wedding at a venue that is in line with your own earth friendly values.

2. Consider constructing your own chuppah out of a tallis and found branches, or a quilted chuppah made of keepsakes that are meaningful to you.

3. Give out yarmulkes made of recycled materials, like these made out of soda bottles, yes soda bottles!

4.  After your guests yell “Mazel Tov!” save the glass shards from your breakable wedding glass.  The glass can be made into a mezuzah, candle sticks, kiddush cup and many other items.  Not only does this reduce waste but it also makes for a special wedding keepsake!

5.  Choose a tallis made of natural fibers like organic cotton or hemp, which are less likely to have been grown using pesticides and fertilizers.

6. Rent or buy a used wedding dress. Seek out a gemach in your local Jewish community. A gemach, is an organization that lends out items such as wedding dresses for a small fee or donation. Gemachs often have a great selection of wedding dresses and will also offer alterations!

7. Ask your caterer to supply your wedding with organic Kosher wine. The Jew and the Carrot recommends Four Gates Winery and Hafner Winery which both offer organic meshuval wines as well as many of Baron Herzog’s wines which come from sustainably grown and low spray grapes.

8.  It’s customary to offer guests a small favor at weddings. Most of the time these favors are tchotckes that are forgotten and discarded. Consider gifts that keep on giving like seed packets, small plants, or beeswax candles. Sites like Beau-coup, Wedding Things, and Little Things Favors all offer a wide assortment of eco-friendly favors.

9. Planning to give your out-of-town guests welcome bags? Stay away from paper products and present them with reusable bags instead. These Schlep Tote Bags are not only hilarious, but are also eco-friendly (They make great bridesmaids’ gifts too!) You can also include other goodies like Organic Kosher Chocolate, a green guide to your city, and tickets to your local botanical gardens or a map of a local nature preserve.

10. Register for eco-friendly wedding gifts at places like the Green Bride Guide, or if you have all the home furnishings you need, consider asking guests to plant trees in your honor.

Have any other great eco-friendly wedding ideas? Please share them with us in the comments section below!

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10 comments

1 Lauren { 04.22.09 at 12:47 pm }

11) Don’t worry like about whether your friends will send you their photos later. consider bringing in a device that lets them share digital photos with you between dances. and no matter what, don’t do the disposable camera thing!


2 Darya Mattes { 04.22.09 at 2:40 pm }

Jews United for Justice has a resource that lists ideas like this – and many more – for planning Jewish celebrations that are green and just. You can download our booklet at http://www.jufj.org/green_just_celebrations, or order a hard copy. Would this site consider linking to the JUFJ guide in a more prominent place as well? – it seems like it might be a good resource for many of your site visitors!


3 Sharon Halper { 04.23.09 at 11:05 am }

Be certain that your caterer donates leftover food… write it into your contract.
The Good Samaritan Food Donation Law – a Federal law – protects such donors… don’t let anyone tell you that they would be liable for any damages caused by their donation!


4 Chavi { 04.23.09 at 2:58 pm }

StereoSinai.com got married not too long ago, and they also did a lot to green-ify their wedding. I think their placecards were the kind that you can take home and plant to grow your own plant! What a nifty idea!


5 adesignaffair { 04.24.09 at 10:11 am }

Such great ideas….Also giving away the flowers to a local hospital or senior home is a nice way to continue the life of the beautiful things purchased for a wedding. I love that placecard idea! Our company used that paper ‘you can plant later’ for meeting nametags.


6 Ruby K { 05.12.09 at 11:22 am }

1) Consider an eco-friendly wedding band with a company like Green Karat. They use recycled gold for their rings, and the process for finding the tiny bits of gold to create new rings involves destroying A TON of earth for every ounce.

2) In terms of food, vegan and dairy meals have less of an environmental impact, but if you’re going to have a meat meal, work to make it organic, free range and local. Wise Organic, Kol Foods, and Mitzvah Meat are out there, see if your caterer can work with them to make your meal.

3) In terms of yamulkes (well, I suppose this is more fair trade than environmental) there’s this webpage to help you find yamulkes that are made under decent working conditions. One couple I know used Mayaworks for their ceremony and they are great! http://www.fairtradejudaica.org/kippotlist.html

4) It’s better to try to cut down on paper, but when you do use it, try to use 100% post consumer or tree free paper. We used it for our save the date cards, programs, and bentchers, made by an awesome worker collective/union organized print shop: http://www.collectivecopies.com/cchome.htm

5) Make it easier for your guests to get to your wedding in an environmental way- try to make sure the destination is near public transportation, put together ride boards on the internet, rent a party bus to get your guests from the train station/bus stop/hotel to your venue. Cuts down on fossil fuel and makes sure folks don’t drink and drive!

6) Alert people to the option of buying carbon offsets as a gift for you, to offset the carbon pollution of air/car travel by investing equivalents in green energy.


7 Ruby K { 05.12.09 at 11:35 am }

one additional note re: carbon offsets: tree planting is awesome, but to help make an impact to offset the carbon now, it’s more effective to get those offsets from companies who are putting green energy, such as wind, immediately into the electricity grid.


8 Sally Conant { 05.28.09 at 10:59 am }

Something brand new! We now offer ZeroCarbonTM gown preservations. When you choose one of our Certified Wedding Gown SpecialistsTM to give your beautiful gown the care it deserves, you can also choose to help safeguard the future of our planet. Learn more at http://www.WeddingGownSpecialists.com/zero-carbon-weddings.htm


9 Maria Bywater { 01.28.10 at 5:46 pm }

You can cut down on resource consumption and waste by renting rather than buying or even making items for your wedding.


10 Putting Baby to Sleep { 04.19.10 at 8:51 pm }

On wedding day the easiest thing to think about is oneself. I want this, I want that, after all I’ve been waiting my whole life… But the truth is that a marriage is not about that at all- it’s about caring about someone else- the new husband. And when we have babies who constantly need us in order to eat and sleep and survive then we must consider them before ourselves. What a great way to start a marriage by showing that it’s not just ourselves that we care about :)


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