By Kathy Vogeltanz

Many brides dream of a white wedding, but that doesn’t mean the day can’t also be green. Couples committed to lessening the environmental impact of their once-in-a-lifetime event can find help through the products and services of several Atlanta area businesses.

The Beautiful Bride

La Raine’s Bridal Boutique is known for their gorgeous range of wedding gowns and exceptional one-on-one service. Among the selection is a romantic wedding dress made in the U.S. with 100 percent cotton. “It doesn’t look overly formal, and the cotton is very high-quality,” explained La Raine. “It’s actually as smooth and soft as butter.”

It’s also more expensive than many of the silk dresses, but then silk is another natural fiber, so brides have a wide variety of choices while looking for a flattering style among organic fabrics.

Jennifer Barry, Owner of Vivid Hair Salon, agreed that going green adds to a bride’s beauty. She said that the salon draws several green wedding clients a year.

“Our open space is designed with select sustainable woods and materials, and we even have an on-demand high-efficiency instant hot water heater to eliminate wasteful use of energy sources,” Barry said. “Vivid is also introducing an exclusive product line that’s botanical-based with essential infusions. All of our packaging will be pre-cycled containers that are 100 percent recyclable and re-usable.”

According to Morgan Boszilkov, Owner and Designer of Morgan Boszilkov LLC, having an eco-friendly gown is a way for a bride to share her interests, personality and passions with her friends and family. Boszilkov’s gowns allow a bride to be green without sacrificing beauty and style.

She went on to suggest that brides find a silhouette that flatters them, then locate a designer who offers that style. “My other advice is to accessorize to complete the look. Take a dress that is ‘almost you’ to being ‘totally you’ by adding the right shoes, veil, sash, pin, jewelry, bows or fabric flowers.”

Many brides have found her detachable “convertible” dresses especially appealing, she said. The bottom tier or the skirt can be removed to reveal a shorter dress to wear at the reception for at a later date.

Recycling clothes is a standard of an eco-friendly lifestyle, and that doesn’t exclude wedding dresses.

Le Dress Boutique stocks quality dresses less than two years old, including more than 200 bridal gowns, many from high-end designers. About half were “once-loved,” and others have never been worn.

Owner Linda Morado said that the shop serves more than 100 brides every month as they look for the dress of their dreams. While she suggests brides stick to their budget and shop smart, she added: “If you must have that very expensive dream dress, do recycle it after the wedding. Your daughter is never going to want to wear it!”

Small is Beautiful

An easy way for an event’s environmental impact to stay low is to keep it small, with just 20 guests instead of 200. But that’s not always possible. There are other ways to lighten the impact.

“Couples should aim to be wise when choosing which elements to incorporate in an eco-friendly wedding and really decide what is most important and will impact the day in the most eco-friendly way,” advised Rebecca Hansmann, Owner of The Bridal Bar.

She directs local brides to ecoEMPORIUM for everything from organic gowns and attendants’ gifts to bamboo invitations, plates and utensils. Carol Held, ecoEMPORIUM Founder, noted that many couples find small, meaningful ways to make their special day more eco-friendly.

“Environmentally friendly weddings can be just as beautiful and there are many choices available to make their special day even more meaningful,” Held said. “It’s also a wonderful education for the guests.”

VerdePaperie Owner Kimberly Daniels said couples should ask questions: Does the caterer recycle? Is the dress produced in the USA? Are the invitations made with recycled paper?

“All of my invitations are green,” Daniels stated,” that is, printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks. My biggest suggestion is to use fewer envelopes. Not only does it save money, but a thick Save the Date or RSVP postcard is so beautiful and different that an envelope won’t be missed.”

Floral arrangements offer a wonderful opportunity for making sustainable choices. Rather than decorating with cut flowers, couples can adorn the wedding and reception with potted plants or small bushes to be given to guests as they leave.

Foxgloves & Ivy Floral Design Studio, Atlanta’s only registered Green Florist, offers several eco-friendly options to clients, including votive candles that burn vegetable oil rather than wax or other petroleum products. Owner Larry Hammack explained that the studio uses only flowers and greenery grown without harmful chemicals or pesticides, and all labor is fair trade and humane.

“We will not purchase from companies that can’t give us that guarantee,” he stated. “Another important aspect of our business is that when we bring flowers back from an event, we either repurpose them to a retirement home or shut-in program, or recycle them in a compost bin.”

The Time and the Place

An outdoor wedding uses natural beauty and saves wasteful decorations. Piedmont Park and Atlanta Botanical Gardens rent their grounds and facilities for weddings and other special events. Rental fees help support their efforts to keep Atlanta green.

Indoor weddings can still be eco-friendly in a LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) space. Eco-friendly venues in town include the breath-taking Stonehurst Place Bed & Breakfast, awarded as the EarthCraft and Southface 2008 Renovation Project of the Year. One benefit of a B&B wedding is that wedding guests can rent rooms and stay on-site, and driving can be eliminated between the ceremony and reception.

Robert Oskouei, co-owner of Atlantic Limousine & Transportation, said his company already has two BioFuel/BioDiesel limo buses and Hybrid SUVs available, and plans to add 10 more Hybrid, FlexFuel, BioFuel vehicles to the fleet.

“We see more couples using greener options when arranging guest travel,” Oskouei said. “It’s become popular in the last few years to provide full transportation for the whole wedding, including shuttles for bachelor and bachelorette parties. It keeps everyone safer and takes more cars off the road.”

Travel specialists like Jennifer Campbell, CTA, with Explorations are happy to make recommendations for eco-friendly honeymoon trips. For example, Campbell pointed out that Fairmont Hotels and Resorts have been recognized for their environmental stewardship. Camping trips are another popular option.

More Green for Green

It may seem counter-intuitive, but a green wedding can cost up to twenty percent more. An organic menu, for example, can raise costs about 10 percent. However, if it’s important, find a trustworthy caterer and request that they shop for seasonal and locally grown foods.

“People are becoming more and more aware of organic options,” said Juanita Threlkeld of Sweet Infinity Cakes. “We do special request baking and honor a couple’s requests and dietary considerations.” She added that she’s supplied several brides with gluten-free cakes. “I expect to see more of those in the near future as the population becomes more aware.”

There are ways to reign in the budget. Rather than supporting the ‘blood diamond’ industry, consider unique wedding jewelry crafted by American artisans. Conflict-free diamonds are available and vintage stones can get new life in an updated setting. Some couples choose wooden engagement rings and wedding bands, while others prefer ring tattoos.

All the experts, planners and designers have a final piece of advice, however – couples should relax as they share and celebrate one of the most joyful days of their lives! Be responsible, but most importantly, be happy.

Retailer Information

La Raine’s Bridal Boutique: (404) 607-7444, larainesboutique.com

Morgan Boszilkov: (404) 387-2885, naturalbridals.com

Le Dress Boutique: (404) 842-1955, ledressboutique.com

The Bridal Bar: (770) 804-0001, bridalbar.squarespace.com

Vivid Hair Salon: (404) 685-3557, vividatlanta.com

ecoEMPORIUM: (404) 875-5224, theecoemporium.com

VerdePaperie: (404) 589-8128, verdepaperie.com

Foxgloves & Ivy Floral Design: (404) 892-7272, foxgloves.biz

Stonehurst Place Bed & Breakfast: (404) 881-0722, stonehurstplace.com

Atlantic Limousine & Transportation: (770) 751-7078, atlanticlimo-ga.com

Explorations: (770) 432-3247, explorationstvl.com

Sweet Infinity Cakes: (770) 599-1775), sweetinfinitycakes.com

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.