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!

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

 

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Organizing your event: Decor Prep


This week we are coming back from a little break and kicking it into high gear to prepare for a very busy fall wedding season. At this point all of our weddings are planned, the decor has all been procured, and now it’s time for us to get our brides and grooms organized for their big day.

For our clients we prepare an inventory check list that details how much of what needs to go where, and although in most cases we actually source all of the props and accessories for our brides; on occasion our clients do prefer to control this aspect themselves. When this is the case organization and clear direction is key. This is not only from a communication aspect, but more importantly that knowing everything is clearly dictated gives you a sense of calmness and keeps that inner bridezilla at bay.

Today we want to share our tips for how we organize all the little details for our client’s events, and how brides can keep their wedding items together and effectively communicate their vision for what these items are to be used for.

How we prep and keep props organized before a big event:

  • When we design an event for one of our clients one of the items that they will receive from us is a master document that outlines every detail, how many they ideally need for their particular wedding, and where to find them.
  • If we are sourcing the details for our clients, then we keep everything tagged and filed away in our studio.  Everything is separated by each event in a color coded box.  For example, the Albrecht wedding is a purple box, and the Mentzel wedding is a gold box.  We also have a master inventory list that is checked regularly to ensure that everything is on track to be secured prior to the event.
  • After everything is filed by event, we then have a secondary system where we keep items grouped by location at the event, i.e. place cards, favors, and guest book are in a separate box that is labled “sign in table”.
  • We often have several people who are assisting us as we set up for an event, so it’s important that each person know how to stage a particular area should I be off fighting fires prior to an event and unavailable to dictate to them.  For this reason we will have a sketch or photo of a mock up available with each box so that there are no questions or surprises causing a delay in set up.
  • Finally, we insist that EVERYTHING that can be done in advance is done in advance.  Years ago we had a wedding that was located at a private estate.  We had everything taken care of prior to the event, except for one big surprise.  The bride decided last minute to purchase sparklers for her sendoff, and remembered about an hour before the wedding was set to end that they were still in boxes in her closet.  So we ended up spending the last hour of the wedding unwrapping 250 sparklers that were individually wrapped inside four pack boxes.  It was no skin off our back, but it did take us away from doing other tasks that we usually assist with as a wedding draws to an end such as organizing everything to be packed away after the party is over, or getting the getaway car loaded so the bride and groom can take off.  The point here is that when more is done in advance, we, your coordinators, have more time to spend on YOU!

How can you to translate these tips to work for you?  As I mentioned earlier, many brides prefer to source their own details for their wedding.  This not only allows them to maintain a sense of control, but also saves a little money in the long run.  When this is the case, it’s evermore important for us to be sure that we as well as our clients are organized.  We want to be able to devote every moment setting up for an event to actually setting up, instead of tying ribbons on mason jars or figuring out what to do with 200 mini wine bottles.

 How to make wedding organization work for you:

  • Get boxes- or bags, or whatever is easiest for you to keep your wedding items organized in.  They don’t have to be nice, but keep in mind that the easier they are to organize your accessories in the easier your wedding day setup will be.   We suggest to our clients that they do it exactly like we would.  Separate items in boxes by the area that they belong in your wedding.
  • Create a checklist- Actually, you should create several throughout the course of your wedding planning, but for this particular area you should make one that details your details, where to get them, when you got them, and when you need them by.
  • Create a manefesto– this is different from a checklist.  See the image above that we found on apartmenttherapy.com in a great article about using technology to organize your home.  Give it a read, because it easily translates to prepping for your event.  Your manefesto should list every item that you have secured for your event, what should be done with it, and where it can be found.
  • Do the prep work-  I think we covered this pretty well above, but seriously, don’t expect the people setting up your event to have time to do everything.  If it can be done in advance do it.  If you don’t have time to do it in advance, pay someone.  You deserve to not stress about these little things.
  • Be clear in your delegation-  It doesn’t matter if it’s a rough sketch on the back of a napkin, an immaculate professional mock up, or advanced auto-cad rendering, the best way to explain your vision is to show it.  Never assume that your set up crew is going to assume what to do with an item just because you think it might be obvious.  This will cut down on unnecessary questions and people bothering you before you walk down the aisle, and it will save time for whoever is setting up your event.

If there is anything that you can do for yourself before your wedding, it is taking the time to get organized.  Just a little bit of time will save you a lot of grief, and make you enjoy your engagement so much more!

What steps are you using to organize your details for your big day?  We would love to hear new ideas!

xoxo
Ashley Paz
Owner | Creative Director
Vera Green Productions | Vivi Gray Design

Menu Planning :: Making the most of the seasons


Fall is officially here, even if the temps aren’t quite cooperating yet. And with that we have been dreaming of our favorite fall food staples. This is by far my favorite culinary season with so many deep flavor options. With apples and figs to wild mushrooms and every kind of squash you can dream up at their peak, the possibilities are endless! In today’s post we’ll be discussing why it’s so important to know what is fresh during the season of your wedding as well as sharing a fun fall menu that we used for a recent project.

People ask me all too often, “How can I make my wedding more ‘green’ where the food is concerned?” It’s easy to spout off the standard, “Use a caterer who sources local and seasonal ingredients.”  Blah, blah, blah!  In reality most people don’t know how to find those caterers, or the right questions to ask to make sure these companies are legit in their claims.  After all, it is difficult to be certain that they are actually using seasonal ingredients if you don’t know what those are. It’s also important to be educated about what is in season so that you can work with your caterer to create a custom menu for your event that satisfies your pallet using your season’s bounty. I.e., if you aren’t a fan of figs, then maybe you would rather substitute plums, or parsnips for turnips.

Fort Worth has some amazing catering companies that utilize the best of the season. Our favorites include Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine, Ellerbe Fine Foods, and Brownstone Kitchen. Chefs from all of these restaurants can be seen on any given Saturday morning shopping at Cowtown Farmer’s Market, so you know they are the real deal. These restaurants also have revolving menus, to keep their offerings fresh and utilize what is available locally, which is why we are thrilled to offer referrals for their businesses to any of our clients!

But you may ask how do you actually put this knowledge to use?

I was excited to put my culinary prowess to the test this past weekend as we kicked off our first big Texas cold front with a “glamping” (glamourous+camping=glamping) styled bachelorette party shoot. I just had to incorporate some delicious fall treats that highlight some of my favorite fall foods!

Our menu entailed:

  • Home made trail mix with mixed nuts, dark chocolate chips, pumpkin seeds, and dried raisins and cranberries.
  • Antipasti platter of prosciutto, hard salami, fresh figs, champagne grapes, goats milk blue cheese, Irish cheddar, and soda crackers.
  • Baby kale salad with apples, figs, pumpkin seeds, and crumbled blue cheese with a blue cheese yogurt dressing.
  • Soup and sandwiches consisted of fire roasted tomato and carrot bisque with fresh ginger and greek yogurt served with fresh mozzarella and marinated tomato sandwiches on seeded rye bread.

And what camping trip would be complete without s’mores? We had a trio of cookies from my favorite Fort Worth bakery Artisan Baking Company, that we paired with gourmet marshmallows and fine chocolates.  Our flavors were:

  • Lavender shortbread cookies with vanilla bean marshmallows and Godiva white chocolate.
  • Cowboy cookies (oats, coconut, and chocolate) with toasted coconut marshmallows and Godiva 72% cacao dark chocolate.
  • Peanut butter cookies with salted caramel marshmallows and salted caramel milk chocolate.

Can you say yummy?

It’s not difficult for anyone really to create a unique custom menu that complements your season. I found this great guide on the Brenda Evans food blog and it is a great resource for those who are new to seasonal dining.

Seasonal Food Chart from Hubpages.com

If you are curious about creating a unique and sustainable dining experience for your foodie guests my suggestion would be to request to sit down with your catering manager and let them know that you would like to customize your menu. By educating yourself on this subject you are more likely to have foods that speak to your pallet, and showcase what you really love.

What is your favorite culinary season? Will you be customizing your wedding menu? We’d love to hear your feedback!

xoxo
Ashley
Owner | Creative Director | Green Wedding Guru