Sending wedding invitations to your family and friends is a joyful act. Together, you and your life partner are asking those you love to share in the event that will formalize your loving commitment to one another. Your invitation will be your guests’ first impression of the elegant earth-friendly wedding that you’re planning.

By selecting recycled, handmade, or tree-free paper for your invitations, you launch your wedding announcement with an air of environmental awareness. Using one of these papers will help reduce the demand for logging, save water and energy resources, and result in less trash and other disposal costs.

Invitations made of recycled paper and non-wood fiber are becoming easier to find all the time. Attractive paper options include hemp, banana stalks, bamboo, kenaf, organic cotton, and recycled denim and currency. Some papers even include wildflower seeds so your guests can plant the invitation in the ground and have a floral reminder of your wedding day! Ask your stationer for eco-friendly paper samples, or check online for vendors who offer these products.

Also, be sure to look for paper that is either natural in color or tinted with natural dyes. The “processed chlorine free” (PCF) label assures you that the paper has not been bleached with environmentally damaging chlorine bleach. Avoid metallic and plastic coated papers, as they often are not recyclable. And look for earth-friendly embellishments such as natural fibers and dried flowers and leaves.

Whenever possible, ask your printer to use soy or vegetable based inks to avoid the use of petroleum-based inks that result in smog-producing hydrocarbons. Soy and vegetable based inks are biodegradable in landfills and do not necessitate use of toxic cleaners. Metallic inks should be avoided because they often contain toxic pigments and may complicate the de-inking process when recycled.

For small print runs, digital printing using nontoxic toner is considered by some to be a more environmentally sound choice than running the job on offset presses. Digital printing avoids the use of the film and chemicals that other printing methods require. If you are planning to print invitations on your own printer, buy remanufactured toner cartridges when possible and then recycle them. An added benefit to you is that most of the major office supply stores now offer incentives such as discount coupons or free paper when you recycle your empty cartridges.

Use standard-sized cards and envelopes, and attempt to keep weight to a minumum. Over-sized mailings will require more postage and in some cases special handling by postal workers. While at the post office, take a look at their selection of postage stamps. There are “Love” stamps and wedding stamps, and many others are decorative as well as socially and environmentally related. If you would like a truly personal postage stamp, you can now put your own design or photo on a stamp. Search the Web for companies that are approved and licensed by the USPS to create your own real US postage stamp.

If your wedding style is not too traditional, consider providing a postcard for RSVP’s rather than a paper card and envelope. And for the most environmentally sound approach you might even consider sending invitations and request RSVP’s via e-mail!