To Love, Honor and Protect the Planet
Our guide to throwing a sustainable New England wedding
BY BROOKE JACKSON-GLIDDEN
Weddings are never what we expect them to be. We expect everything about the day to be beautiful, magical, easy to manage—then, on that special day, you’re begging your bridesmaids for a cigarette as your expensive hairdo collapses during a surprise rainstorm. On top of that, you realize you are going into massive debt for a party and resenting all your relatives for buying you the same spiralizer.
Then there’s the invisible price tag of environmental costs that is harder to spot but you know it’s there: the shockingly large amount of food waste your leftover canapés accumulate, the gallons of water used to wash those wine-stained tablecloths, the thousands of miles your Champagne travels to arrive in time for your sorority sister’s awkward toast.
So you want to go sustainable. But what does that even mean? How do you include the planet’s needs in your wedding plan?
Various wedding planners, caterers and venues throughout New England have started to design eco-friendly engagements with sophistication and style. Environmentally sensitive full-service caterers have sprouted up throughout Massachusetts, and Maine hotels have started sustainability programs perfect for wedding season. Farm-to-table restaurants host patio weddings, and at least one music venue serves 100% local catering. We chatted with several of these sustainable wedding makers to build our how-to guide for the conscious couple looking to cut down their carbon footprint as they walk down the aisle.
Michael Katz and Kim Haflich knew they wanted their summer wedding to be outdoors. The couple hikes often, and they wanted to bring their family and friends into the place that meant so much to them. So when they were looking for a venue, Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary stuck out. The Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Belmont, Massachusetts, property is fully protected, with overflowing live florals and massive oak trees perfect for an all-natural nuptial. The society is a nonprofit dedicated to protecting Massachusetts’ green space. Like Katz and Haflich, anyone renting this venue for their wedding is helping a worthy cause.
In Vermont, Stowe Mountain Lodge, at the base of the Stowe Mountain Resort, is an Audubon International “green leaf” certified hotel dedicated to water and energy conservation. The entire lodge uses energy-efficient lighting, eco-friendly cleaning supplies, even organic cotton towels. It would be perfect for a mountain marriage amid colorful foliage, a winter wonderland wedding or, really, any time.
For the couple who dreams of a coastal wedding, Inn by the Sea has you covered. The Cape Elizabeth, Maine hotel is LEED certified, and it shows. Housekeepers clean rooms with Green Seal products, the towel and sheet program funds habitat restoration for local rabbits and the tiny shampoos are all-natural and packaged in recycled plastic containers. Not to mention, the indigenous gardens surrounding the estate include plants like milkweed, which support local wildlife. Plus, the hotel’s catering uses Maine seafood that is identified by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute as underutilized—so feeding your wedding guests won’t endanger any shellfish.
Massachusetts has a handful of excellent sustainable caterers that travel throughout New England. Season to Taste Catering, which catered Katz and Haflich’s July wedding at Habitat, serves sophisticated, sometimes show-stopping meals (if that’s what you’re looking for) with local, seasonal ingredients and minimal waste. They compost and recycle, use a diesel-powered van and even deliver leftovers to homeless shelters in Cambridge. To save money and resources, chef-owner Robert Harris tends to use multiple cuts of the same animal, designing menus that highlight the month’s best vegetables and the area’s best meat.
An East Coast Grill alum, Harris knew he wanted to focus on seasonality and local sourcing when he started his business—but it wasn’t for any real political reason. For him, it comes down to flavor. “At the beginning… I went off the French model: What are the best ingredients, and then the ingredients determine the technique,” he says. “The best ingredients tend to be the ones that are grown locally, because they taste best, they’re better for you, they grow and support the local economy.”
Season to Taste isn’t 100% local, and they do use products like plastic wrap and olive oil. But Harris tries to remain as transparent as possible, and offer options when he can. For instance, he may offer a couple the choice between a Rhode Island–grown chicken or a Pennsylvania-grown chicken—the closer bird, however, may cost four times the price of the other. For that reason, a Season to Taste wedding can range from $135 per person to over $200. “We try to let the customer decide how sustainable they want to be,” Harris says. “It’s always this fine line on trying to make the most sustainable choice but offer what the market is asking for. If we’re not profitable, this model is not going to spread, and this industry isn’t going to change.”
If money isn’t a concern but time management is, Jennifer Freedson and Lindsey Wishart of Chive Events have everything on lock. This full-service caterer from Beverly pledges zero waste and local options whenever possible. They source their herbs and veggies at local farms on the North Shore, and make sure all their rentals are washed and cleaned using the least amount of water possible. They even stick to local flowers. Wishart, chef and initial contact, will chat with the couple several times to discuss menus, design and concepts, and then decide whether or not the couple is a good fit for the company. Then, the team begins building the wedding with a line-item proposal and a “vision board.” Holly Erickson, Chive’s design coordinator, starts working with Freedson to source cups, linens and even moss to start creating the dream wedding. Pick a date and a venue, and the rest is in their hands. But be aware: Not everyone fits the Chive model. Maybe you’re really set on your favorite Russian vodka, or you can’t afford to spend $300 per person for your wedding. That’s OK—sustainability is about what fits your lifestyle as well.
For those most interested in locality and keeping costs down, JJ Gonson's Cuisine en Locale serves almost 100% New England–grown ingredients, from the turmeric in the pilaf to the sea salt on the lamb kebabs. Gonson, a full-service caterer, will go to any barn or backyard in New England with a local rental company’s tables and locally sourced spirits. “We are not a particularly straight caterer,” she explains. “We’re more like the ‘We have a barn and we want you to churn ice cream in it’ caterer.” The rock ’n’ roll fan may skip the forest wedding and use Gonson’s venue, ONCE Lounge & Ballroom, as a hip alternative. Guests can rent the upstairs or downstairs rooms for a little over $1,000, and owner JJ Gonson throws in bartenders and all glassware (she uses her own). Upstairs, weddings give off a 1990s Oregon vibe, with pool tables and Addams Family pinball, glowing red lamps and Christmas lights. Downstairs, a stage and dance floor are perfect for the couple who chose their wedding band first. No matter how you throw your reception, Gonson generally keeps costs at around $100 per person—a steal for a seasonal, sustainable wedding.
Your Beefeater Gin for cocktail hour travels around 3,000 miles to get to your New England wedding. Your Dom Perignon for the toast travels another 3,000 miles (trust me, they’re not sharing a flight). By the time you’ve stocked your bar, you’ve also stocked up on unnecessary air mileage. Sticking to local distilleries, microbreweries and vineyards will help you cut down on the gallons of gas fueling your wedding. Finding a local distributor can seem daunting, but many caterers and restaurants specialize in 100% local bars. Woods Hill Table in Concord hosts weddings in their dining room and patio, and their bar service specializes in local spirits, sodas and syrups. “The only thing that people get angry about is the fact we don’t have Jack Daniel’s or Grey Goose,” Woods Hill Table owner Kristin Canty says. “As soon as they taste our version of their favorite drink, it changes.” So maybe you can’t get your rum and Coke, but the Maine Root soda and Privateer Rum of Ipswich, Massachusetts, will do the trick. If not, go straight for the watermelon margarita with housemade triple sec.
Mainers looking for high-end bar service at their reception can find locally sourced beer and wine and excellent service from The Bar Association. The Maine cocktail caterer will provide everything from the local booze to the licensed bartenders. Other options include partnering with a producer, like Berkshire Mountain Distillers. The award-winning distillery offers couples a 45-minute tour, where experts can tailor drinks and cocktails for their wedding.
Katz and Haflich chose to use Arlington’s Menotomy Beer & Wine, a company they’ve supported for years. Menotomy provided the booze, and Season to Taste provided the bartenders. Supporting the local economy is a part of sustainability, so finding a small distributor or shop you like is a great route to explore. But ask and you shall receive: If you ask for Greylock Gin and Medusa Brewing Company beer, you’ll probably get what you need.
If you’re looking for a cheap bouquet of roses, I have some bad news: South American farmers probably grew those flowers for too little money, kept them in chemical preservatives and then shipped them north for the wedding. That’s a huge waste of fuel, and a remarkably large carbon footprint for something so delicate. Luckily, New England has a handful of excellent local flower farms that grow seasonal, organic flowers. One such place is Aster B. Flowers in Essex, Massachusetts, run by Bay State native Melissa Glorieux. Glorieux’s farm only grows seasonal New England flowers with minimal water irrigation, recycled and reused equipment and they compost field clippings. With a price range from $200 to $2,500, Aster B. has options for most wedding budgets. Glorieux recommends couples interested in specific colors should contact her before February of the year they intend to wed, so she can plan her greenhouse accordingly.
Remember, sustainable doesn’t just mean eco-friendly. It needs to be sustainable for you, for the life you live and the life you’re starting with your partner. That doesn’t mean going into debt to make sure your linens are local and environmentally sound. Some concessions are inevitable, and that’s OK. Just figure out what matters the most to you, and move in that direction. The planet—and your future—thanks you.
Planning your own wedding? Remember to ask the right questions, or adapt this list as you see fit:
For the caterer
· Where do you source your produce?
· Do you cook seasonally?
· Do you use organic ingredients, or do your farmers use organic practices?
· Which conventional products do you use?
· What do you do with leftovers or food waste?
· Do you compost?
· Do you use disposable utensils, plastic wrap, heating trays?
· Where do you source your alcohol (if applicable)?
For the florist
· Who grows your flowers?
· Where are these flowers grown?
· Are these flowers grown organically?
· How are these flowers packaged or shipped?
· Do you treat your flowers with any pesticides or chemical fertilizers?
For the venue
· Are you LEED certified?
· How do you light wedding halls/event spaces?
· Do you use green cleaning products, electrical options?
· Do you recycle or compost?
· Do you replace and wash sheets every night? (for hotels)
· Do you use efficient or eco-friendly appliances, like dishwashers and washing machines?
· Do you have any green initiatives you’d like to mention?
For the rental company
· What alternatives to plastic products do you offer?
· Do you recycle disposable products after use?
· Do you use efficient cleaning appliances like dishwashers and washing machines?
· Are you locally owned and operated?
The caterers, venues and other providers below, all mentioned in this article, are just a representative sample of resources available for putting together a sustainable New England wedding.
Stowe Mountain Lodge
7412 Mountain Road
Inn by the Sea
40 Bowery Beach Road
Cape Elizabeth, ME
Habitat Education Center & Wildlife Sanctuary
10 Juniper Road, Belmont, MA
Season to Taste Catering
2447 Massachusetts Ave.
252 Rantoul St.
Cuisine en Locale
156 Highland Ave.
Woods Hill Table
24 Commonwealth Ave.
The Bar Association
120 Whitney Road
Berkshire Mountain Distillers
356 S. Main St.
Menotomy Beer & Wine
Aster B. Flowers