Greenwashing 101 :: “green” wedding planners


The Minnericks Photographers

So, I am often asked about green weddings, obviously. But when I’m discussing my business with other wedding pros, I often have a lot of reading in between the lines to do. I think there are questions that industry pros want to ask, but are maybe a little afraid to for fear of sounding skeptical.  But, lucky for me, it takes a lot more than curious skepticism to ruffle these feathers!

Being a green wedding planner doesn’t seem like it would be all that different than being a ” normal” wedding planner. And many wedding planners will tell you that is the case. After all, anyone can plan a green wedding. Right?  Well, that is true, in the same way that it’s true that anyone CAN plan any wedding.  But when you are hiring a wedding planner, you are hiring someone for their expertise.  They know exactly what vendors to go to that will make your budget work with your tastes and expectations.

The Niche market is fun.  But, the whole point of a wedding planner catering to a specific niche is that they are different from other wedding companies who are more traditional.  For example, I would never claim to be an expert Indian wedding planner.  I’m not going to be able to tell you who the best henna artist is, or who serves the best paneer, or even be knowledgeable about everything that is necessary to be present at a Hindu ceremony.  Of course I could do research and use my best judgement to find these things, but I could not go from past experience on having planned dozens of Indian weddings.  Although I have worked with several Indian brides, and even planned a full traditional Hindu wedding and all of the side ceremonies, I can not call myself an expert in the area.  The same is true for green weddings.  Someone who has planned one or two weddings with a few eco-friendly elements doesn’t particularly fit the bill of being an experienced green wedding planner.

Lauren Larsen Photography

It is important if you want to have an eco-friendly event to hire someone who knows exactly which vendors and resources are the real deal.  For example, some catering companies boast that they use local sources for their foods.  But technically, if a restaurant orders their food from Ben E. Keith, which is a local company, then they are sourcing their food locally.  Unfortunately they still have no idea where that food came from.  A traditional wedding planner who is unfamiliar with greenwashing and what to really look for in a sustainable catering company might recommend someone who is not what they seem.  Whereas a true green wedding planner will do continuous research and know all the right questions to ask caterers about how they source their products.  I personally keep a running tab on which companies are taking measures to offer green business practices.  I know the farmers set up at the farmer’s markets and ask them about what restaurants they work with, and they are usually excited to promote them to me.  And for the record, if a company is truly using local sources they will be able to tell you exactly where they get their eggs, milk, veggies, and meats come from, and most of the time they are purchased farm direct.

I’m not a fan of green certifications.  Most companies will tell you that if a business carries their seal of approval then they are the real deal.  Unfortunately, most of these organizations have no real verification process and are a pay to play opportunity.  Anyone can say on a form that they recycle, therefore they are a green business.  But when you look at their websites they have weddings with beautiful over-sized floral arrangements, and disposable items with custom lables, and the whole nine yards.  These items are beautiful, but don’t necessarily showcase a green wedding.  And a green business certification program that does actual verification will see that and not approve the business.  Does your wedding planner provide recycling boxes and carry them away at the end of the night?  Because most DFW venues do not offer recycling services.  Are they showcasing huge flower arrangements?  Because there are only two eco-friendly florists in North Texas who source local, organic, and fair trade flowers, and chances are they aren’t the ones who made those arrangements.  If a business (any business) touts being green certified check into the certifying organization.  Do they require coursework?  Do they have a real verification process?  Or do they have a checklist and paypal account?  If an organization does research and checks referrals and requires proof that a business is practicing what they preach, then you can feel more confident in their seal of approval.  If it is an organization that will issue anyone with $50 and who can justify their practices on a checklist then you might want to dig a little deeper.

As a wedding planner and green business owner there is one certification program that I suggest above all others.  I talk quite a bit about The Green Bride Guide, and what a great resource it is.  Their founder Kate Harrison has teamed up with the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners to offer an in depth certification course.  What I like about this course is that it gives wedding planners the tools and education to build a green business, and to know where to start with finding the best resources for planning a green wedding.  Of course just because someone has gone through this process doesn’t mean that they actively implement what they have learned in their work, but it is a great starting point for determining if your wedding planner is holding true to their claims.  I in fact am so supportive of this program that this year I am teaming up with Kate Harrison to host a green wedding workshop for wedding planners to learn from national and local experts about how to execute the perfect eco-friendly affair right here in North Texas.  I am so excited about this event, and encourage all of my wedding industry friends to join us.  There are so many brides out there who are seeking out these services, and I am so excited to help educate North Texas wedding pros on giving their clients TRUE eco-friendly wedding services!

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