Wedding Flowers: Greenery that’s anything but green

By | 5th July 2015

You could be forgiven for thinking that wedding flowers and floral decorations, being “natural,” are not a primary source of environmental concern. Sadly that’s a long way from the truth. Many commercially derived cut flowers are imported from hundreds or even thousands of miles away and because of their perishable nature, they come by air. The countries where they are grown are not always as fussy about use of pesticides and other chemicals as we are in this country, so pollution from that is a serious issue on top of the air travel problem.

All this may make you take a second look the next time you walk past a brilliant display of exotic blooms in your local flower shop, and certainly may make you want to reconsider the traditional floral decorations if you’re planning a wedding. Happily, there are some alternatives that are much kinder to the planet.

Eco-friendlier flowers

A lot depends on when your wedding is to take place, but if it occurs at an appropriate time you should be able to source flowers locally, preferably grown organically.

If organic flowers aren’t a realistic proposition you can still make a significant reduction in planet damage by using locally grown flowers, perhaps bought from a local farmer’s market or nursery. This will mean you must use flowers that happen to be in season at the time of your wedding, but even so in the UK that still leaves you and your flower arranger with a good choice for the summer season, and also late spring and early autumn.

Some brides these days – especially in North America – are determined to grow their own organic flowers for their weddings. Obviously this assumes that they are planning many months in advance, but it’s a lovely idea! If you are – or a close friend or relative is – a keen gardener with a decent sized garden or allotment, and your wedding is not due to take place for some time, that’s an option you might like to consider.

Working with florists

If you use a florist, even if they do use locally-grown, organic flowers or at least import fairtrade flowers, they may still use accessories which can be hard or even impossible to recycle. For example, the green foam used by florists in arrangements – often called “oasis” – is not recyclable. The same applies to some of the other things they use like packaging and preserving solutions.

You might also like to ask them about their own approach to eco-friendliness and particularly recycling and composting: do they donate still-usable arrangements to nursing homes and other deserving causes? Do they operate a sensible composting policy for flowers that really are past it, as well as all the trimmings and cast offs?

Finally, you may feel that although not all flowers used are local and/or organic, to use a florist local to your wedding venue makes a great deal of eco-sense. As always, it’s about getting the balance right.

Doubling up

One way of conserving energy and minimising the use of flowers is to double up on the flowers used for your ceremony, with those used for the reception. Naturally if the ceremony and reception are held in the same place this is not a problem. However even if the two venues are separate, sometimes it is possible to arrange for people to transfer the floral arrangements from the ceremony venue to the reception, while you and your guests are having photographs done and getting the first glass or two of bubbly under your belts.

Another element of “doubling up” that can provide a greener solution is to consult other couples getting married at the same venue on the same day, and see if your flower arrangements and other decorations can be co-ordinated to avoid wastage. That idea may save money and certainly will be greener.

Bouquets and things 

I know that upon the bride’s bouquet hangs a whole load of tradition, not least of which is the bridesmaids’ and other girls’ burning desire to catch the bouquet as you throw it over your shoulder so they may be the next in your crowd to marry, but…!! There is no reason why your bouquet should not consist of an eclectic mix of local, seasonal fresh delights. And if you want really to be eco-chic, consider – instead of a bouquet – one single, stunning, bloom held close to your heart.

Bridesmaids do not necessarily have to carry bouquets, either, and the men do not necessarily have to have elaborate buttonholes.

For the girls, why not consider getting them to carry elegant paper fans, or pretty, handmade little beaded or embroidered bags? And then for the lads, how about a flamboyantly coloured pocket handkerchief, or a fabric rosette?

Dried or fake flowers

I’m certainly no expert on things horticultural but friends of mine who are, say that dried flowers really are stunning to look at, and carry the added advantage of being virtually everlasting. Certainly, dried flowers can be purchased from florists and other outlets, but also they can be made to measure, so to speak – provided that there is sufficient time in the run-up to your wedding. Fake flowers – not the ugly plastic type, but those made from delicate fabrics – look stunning. And these bouquets and arrangements can be taken home by the bridal party – and guests – to treasure for many years to come.

Why not go potty?

Oh, shock, horror! No cut flowers? But let’s calm down and think about this one. In many “green” weddings in North America, so I’m told, people dump the cut flower ethic altogether in favour of having all wedding decorations courtesy of potted plants.

Of course, you could cultivate your own potted flowering plants and use those as decorations. But if this is not a realistic proposition in your case, there are other options. There are companies in the UK offering to rent potted plants out for special occasions. Try keying “potted plants”+hire, or “indoor plants”+hire, into your favourite search engine and see what’s on offer. (Tip: do not key in “plant hire” … if you do you’ll get URLs for companies that rent out construction and other heavy equipment!)

However investing in potted plants to use as decorations for your wedding – on a purchasing basis, not one of rental – makes quite a lot of sense in green terms.

The huge advantage of potted plants is, obviously, that they will live to see another day. And it’s worth thinking creatively here. Potted plants, as you know, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. So if you want to go down this route, you can think in terms of large or even very large potted plants (hired of course) to decorate your ceremony and the major areas of your reception, but then stop down to much smaller potted plants as table and other small decorations which you buy, and pass on to your guests so they can keep them going.

Top marks for topiary

One popular option for the larger plants – and one that is readily available here in the UK – is to hire topiary plants. In case you didn’t already know, these are usually evergreen trees, plants or shrubs which have been clipped and/or trained into a range of weird, wonderful and often very beautiful shapes.

Some people – wedding organisers – I know filled the church with elegant (hired) topiary plants, one at the end of each pew with others placed strategically around the area. The only other decoration was lots of white ribbon and fairy lights added to some of the topiary. I wasn’t at the wedding, but people who were said it looked absolutely stunning.

There is even a school of thought that says, get small potted plants to use in individual place settings at your reception, so that people not only will appreciate them on the day, but also can take them home and keep them as indoor houseplants – or even plant them out in their gardens, depending of course on what they are.

So whatever your choice for wedding flowers and floral decorations, make sure that your greenery really isgreen!

Excerpted from “How To Get Married In Green” by Suzan St Maur, published by How To Books, from Amazon and all other good booksellers.