The bride wore green: Eco-friendly weddings are a budding business in Manitoba

Don't just save the date — save the Earth. That's the message some contemporary couples are sending with weddings that are increasingly eco-friendly.

From compostable invitations to 'gently used' wedding gowns, more couples look for green wedding options

Botanical PaperWorks in Winnipeg uses post-consumer material to make paper embedded with wildflower, herb or vegetable seeds. The paper is popular for wedding items like invitations and menu cards, says owner Heidi Reimer-Epp. (Submitted by Botanical PaperWorks)

Don't just save the date — save the Earth. 

That's the message some contemporary couples are sending with weddings that are increasingly eco-friendly.

Just in case fretting about the rings, the guest list and cost wasn't enough, now the about-to-be-wed are worrying about the planet, too.

The trend toward greener weddings isn't just admirable, or even chic — it can also save couples a bundle.

The reality that wedding and bridesmaid dresses are worn only once is a long-running joke, but what producing all those gowns do to the environment isn't funny.

Acres of satin and miles of lace are worn with joy for a few hours, then languish in a closet or the landfill forever.

It was Amanda Murdoch's own elaborate bridal gown that launched her Winnipeg company, Pearl & Birch Wedding Consignments.

Pearl & Birch Wedding Consignments owner Amanda Murdoch in one of her shop's grad gowns, holding a picture of her 'Nona' — the 'Pearl' in Pearl & Birch — on her wedding day. (Submitted by Amanda Murdoch)

"I had this wedding dress that was taking up a lot of space at my mom's and she wanted it gone" says Murdoch.

When her husband fell off a roof and broke his back, she started selling some of her formals to make money, and discovered an uptapped need.

"I sold my dress to someone new to Canada, from Syria, for $300. It was three years ago that I opened up what seems to be the only wedding consignment store in Winnipeg."

Her business is all about supplying brides and bridesmaids who need a fabulous dress for a finite length of time.

Murdoch sells and re-sells designer dresses, tailored for a perfect fit, for less than half the price of brand new.

As part of the re-wear revolution, their motto on the Pearl and Birch website says "Zero waste. Zero BS. 100 per cent love."

"We have brides leave notes on their dresses when they consign them — this creates a connection between the buyer and the seller," said Murdoch.

Some of the vintage items at Pearl & Birch Wedding Consignments. 'We have brides leave notes on their dresses when they consign them,' says owner Amanda Murdoch. 'This creates a connection between the buyer and the seller.' (Submitted by Amanda Murdoch)

Sometimes those notes include advice.

"Things like, 'remember to enjoy your spouse on your wedding day' and 'this dress made such a difference for me on my day — I was comfy and beautiful. Enjoy.'

"We've had brides burst into tears reading them. It's one of those things where you really get to appreciate that someone else love the dress as much as you do." 

For Murdoch, the re-wear revolution is a matter of principle, but it's also about finding the perfect dress for that perfect day.

Plant this invitation

The idea of saving the planet without sacrificing style goes beyond gowns.

Think of how much paper weddings can consume, between the invitations, the programs, the menu cards and confetti, to name a few items.

That's a lot of dead trees as silent wedding guests.

Yet those important items can be compostable, growable and eco-friendly.

That's the idea at the heart of Heidi Reimer-Epp's company, Botanical PaperWorks, which uses post-consumer material to make paper embedded with wildflower, herb or vegetable seeds.

Heidi Reimer-Epp is the owner of Botanical PaperWorks in Winnipeg. (Submitted by Botanical PaperWorks)

After serving its wedding purpose, the paper gets planted in a pot or outside, where the seeds germinate and grow into an eco-keepsake.

The idea originated with Reimer-Epp's mother, who was an elementary school teacher.

"The amount of paper the kids wasted drove her crazy," she said.

"So she learned to use it to hand-make paper, and got her class making their own little books out of the paper.  My mom made the programs for my own wedding and people loved it, and after we learned how to incorporate seeds into the paper, we launched the business. That was 20 years ago."

Wedding items like placecards and favour made from plantable paper help couples avoid creating waste, says Reimer-Epp. 'They're just creating beauty.' (Submitted by Botanical PaperWorks)

Reimer-Epp's company sees a heightened awareness around reducing waste in general, and couples are keen to have environmentally friendly paper products at their wedding.

"They love the fact that it lets them live out their values and their desire to have a more eco-friendly wedding by not creating waste. They're just creating beauty."

Eco-friendly flowers

Flowers — lots of flowers — usually play a starring role at a wedding, with their colour, fragrance and symbolism.

It's natural for the bride to toss her bouquet — but how natural are the flowers in it? 

Usually, wedding flowers are grown far away and arrive sprayed, cellophaned and sealed in plastic and cardboard.

They may look beautiful, but the damage all of that packaging and shipping can do to the environment is pretty ugly.

Flower farmer Kelly Tellier offers an alternative at Lily Stone Gardens near Rosenort, Man. — about 50 kilometres south of Winnipeg — where she raises flowers that are wedding-worthy but sustainably produced.

Kelly Tellier is the owner of Lily Stone Gardens in Rosenort, Man., which focuses on raising flowers that are sustainably produced. (Réanne Berard/Lilystone Gardens)

"I'm a farmer florist, so I see a lot of waste in terms of packaging from imported flowers," she said.

"When our flowers are in bloom, that kind of waste goes down to nothing. That's a real positive for us. Local florists that buy from us love it when we drop off flowers in buckets instead of boxes," said Tellier, who has a degree in agriculture.

She said she currently has about a hectare of healthy plants at different growth stages, rotating newly planted flowers with those that are ready to cut.

The flowers are not necessarily native to Manitoba, but they are grown outside like any other crop after an early start in the greenhouse.

"It's surprising what we can grow here sustainably," said Tellier. "We don't grow varieties that have to be sprayed, like gladiolas. To protect our blossoms, we put little organza bags on their heads."

Working with flowers that are in season, 'we can get something completely magical and completely different than a traditional wedding bouquet,' says Tellier. (Réanne Berard/Lily Stone Gardens)

Focusing on sustainability can have surprising results, she says.

"I find that more and more people are willing to work with what's in season. That is so helpful because then we can get something completely magical and completely different than a traditional wedding bouquet."

The green tinge on weddings in Manitoba is a trend that's expected to keep on growing, as couples make a commitment to protect the planet along with each other.

You can always get a divorce, after all, but climate change is forever.