Planning a green reception

What you serve at your reception will be among the most important decisions that you make. Not only will it reflect your desire to pamper your beloved guests with excellent food and drink, but it will also be a great opportunity to put your earth friendly convictions into practice.

Sustainable food and beverage options are abundant, but you'll need to do some research to find out what the best choices will be for your wedding location and time of year. The eco-rule of thumb is to use local, seasonal, and organic produce and meat whenever possible. If not all of these variables can be satisfied, think local first. Besides ensuring freshness, it also helps save the earth from the pollutants released into the air when food is transported thousands of miles to your wedding buffet. Buying local also helps support small and medium sized businesses that have a stake in the community and generally work hard to maintain their good reputations for social and environmental responsibility.

You may wish to consider a vegetarian menu for your reception, even if you are not currently vegetarians. Eliminating meat from the menu saves water, fossil fuel, and the raw material used in meat production, and will also help prevent the deforestation required to create grazing land. If you do choose to serve meat and/or poultry at your reception, be sure that the animals have been raised in a cruelty-free environment and that they have been fed organic feed free of hormones, antibiotics and chemicals. Be sure to also include some vegetarian options to satisfy your vegetarian guests and to help lessen environmental impact.

If you plan to work with a caterer, look for one in your area who specializes in using organic ingredients and seasonal produce, or who is willing to seek out and use sustainable foods at your request. One challenge for caterers is that couples generally work on their menus several months in advance and they will often sample menu items at a different time of year than when the wedding will take place. Caterers may feel that they are unable to give an accurate sampling of foods that will be in season on the wedding date. They can, however, offer guidance regarding what is generally in season during a particular week. A caterer may even recommend that if a particular food item is an absolute must-have for a couple, it may be best to schedule the wedding when that item will be in season - for example, springtime for asparagus or early summer for strawberries.

The best option for creating an earth friendly wedding cake is to find a baker who specializes in organic ingredients and natural decoration. If you are not able to find such a baker, request that your traditional baker use as many organic ingredients as possible. For embellishments, consider organically grown flowers or other natural materials in place of the commonly used plastic and metal cake toppers. A very special touch is to use family heirlooms or vintage pieces to top the cake, thus forming a connection to the past as well as employing the "re-use" principal of environmental responsibility.

Your choice of beverages is another area that offers great opportunities for making environmentally and socially sound choices. Undoubtedly you will be serving coffee and tea, and likely alcoholic drinks as well. Think organic and fair trade, and you'll be doing your best for the planet and its people. Organically grown coffee and tea, and organic wines and beers, are good choices for the environment because they help cut down on pesticide use and its resulting negative environmental impacts.

Green reception tips:
◾Serve local, seasonal, and organic foods and beverages whenever possible.
◾Rent or ask your caterer to provide glasses, dishes, and linens rather than using disposables.
◾If outdoor weddings make the "real thing" impractical, use biodegradable and compostable dishes and cutlery made of cornstarch, sugar cane, or tropical leaves.
◾Keep it simple - true elegance results from quality, not quantity. Decide on the things that are most important to you and then make earth friendly decisions to bring your choices to life.