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Up Your Eco-Weddings Smarts

Martha Stewart Weddings, Winter 2013

Eco-weddings pro Kate L. Harrison is known for turning her book, The Green Bride Guide, into a comprehensive website that teaches to-be-weds how to lessen the environmental impact of their big day. Her top tip? "An all-in-one venue that can host both ceremony and reception is a fast way to lessen the carbon footprint -- and the cost of travel," says Kate.

Start your green wedding planning with these six lessons from Kate.

Make an Impact with One Act

The average wedding produces 400 to 600 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of carbon dioxide (C02) emissions. For all of the services that happen each year, that's the equivalent of 8.3 million cars on the road. Anything you can do to reduce those numbers matters. For instance, use a nondisposable aisle runner. I've seen customized heavy burlap that was later reused in the couple's garden, local organic petals, even a chalkboard. Think of it this way: If every couple getting married this year laid out their runners end to end, they would circle the globe twice!

Go Green to Save Money

It's true that organic food costs about 10 percent more, but overall, you can save up to 40 percent off total costs by making environmentally sound substitutions. I got married during October in New England. We spent $200 on organic dahlias, roses, and hydrangeas we found at local farms and family gardens, then hired a nearby florist to ar range them. They looked beautiful, and we saved $1,600!

Use Herbs to Keep Bugs at Bay

To avoid chemical-laden lawn sprays at an outdoor wedding, try lavender, rosemary, thyme, and mint: They're natural mosquito repellents, plus they smell great and are beautiful. If your ceremony is outside, set potted plants on tables or sprinkle clippings along the aisle. For something more powerful, enlist all-natural citronella torches, like those from Big Dipper Wax Works. Anything more than that and you might want to reconsider a less buggy location or time of day.

Get More Mileage out of Garb

A lot of designers are now using natural fabrics, which is a great choice if buying new. Pure Magnolia makes amazing gowns with organic cotton. After the big day, you can donate the dress to a group like Brides Against Breast Cancer or St. Anthony's Bridal, which lets disadvantaged brides borrow gowns for their vows. And look for used accessories. I found Vera Wang shoes for my wedding on eBay for $50; afterward, I went back to eBay and sold them to another bride for $50.

Focus on Food and Flowers

These two things will make up the bulk of your budget and your wedding's C02 footprint. The average meal at a reception travels 1,500 miles from farm to table, and 70 to 80 percent of flowers are flown to the U.S. from South America and Africa, where they were doused in pesticides. Use what's available when and where you wed. Besides keeping costs down, your day will be unique, and local ingredients just taste better. If it's wintertime, get creative with nonfloral centerpieces. Even bouquets and boutonnieres can be gorgeous when made from reused objects, like the button-and-felt options from The Button Florist.

Say "I Do" with Recycled Metal

Jewelers, such as Green Karat, will melt down any gold or platinum pieces you no longer wear and credit you for the cost of the metals. Then, they can add vintage stones or synthetic diamonds, which are created in a lab as opposed to mined from the ground.

Earth-Friendly Extras

Just because something's sustainable doesn't mean it can't be beautiful. Here are three cases in point.

Stationery

These "Royal Bird" cards announce your news on 30 percent recycled material (formal-invitations.com).

Groomsmen Gifts

He can give each of his BFFs an Eco-Chic Essentials grooming kit, which includes all-natural soap and a shaving set with a reusable tin.

Late-Night Treats

Offer guests a sweet send-off (free of artificial flavors and corn syrup) with handmade apple caramels by The Groovy Baker.