The Bride Wore Green

green wedding

Mother Earth gets
special attention in
modern weddings

Green is the color of an ecofriendly, environmentally safe and healthy planet. And now it’s the “color” for earth-kind weddings.

It used to be that “love, honor and obey” was the wedding mantra. Today, it’s “reduce, reuse and recycle.” Brides, grooms and the multibillion-dollar wedding industry, including those in Hawai‘i who cater to them, are paying more attention to the environmental implications of their choices.

And not only do green weddings provide a feel-good atmosphere in the event, they also can be cheaper—by as much as 30-percent in Hawai‘i—than traditional weddings in the Aloha state, says Klaus Bandisch, owner of Paradise Maui Weddings, and other Hawai‘i wedding planners

“We encourage brides to use recycled dresses—maybe one their mom or sister wore— and weddings rings. That really cuts down on expenses,” he said.

Remember that weddings are not just expensive, but they’re resource intensive, especially when you’re planning them on an island in the middle of the Pacific. From the food to the flowers to your auntie and your tutu, the most important elements of your wedding must often be flown in from across the world. The flights, the hotels and the rentals cars can amount to a huge carbon footprint, and that’s not counting the entertainment, gifts or decor. An energy-neutral wedding is best accomplished when keeping the Earth’s best interest in mind as well. 

So the first step in greening your wedding is assessing its carbon footprint, how you can minimize it and what you’ll need to offset it. 

Since nearly all of Bandisch’s wedding clients are visitors, they naturally want the event on the beach—where decorations are few largely because of strict state restrictions.

Wedding companies throughout Hawai‘i say they have experienced more interest in green weddings for at least the last three years. 

“When couples come to Hawai‘i to marry they always embrace the beauty of the ‘aina and want to help preserve it through being green and environmentally conscientious,” said Kalona Ortiz, owner of the A Rainbow in Paradise wedding company on O‘ahu. 

“I haven’t had clients ask specifically about green weddings but I always suggest that option,” Ortiz said. Unanimously, they agree that “going green saves a lot of green.”

Ortiz pointed out different choices couples can make for their green wedding.

“Most of what is used to decorate a wedding to be aesthetically pleasing for the bride and groom comes from the flowers they choose and the different items they select as favors, linens, dinnerware,” she said. “But there is a real growing movement for more Earthfriendly options to leave less of [a carbon footprint] while still having the wedding you want your friends and family to remember and talk about long after it is over.”

Some options (not necessarily allowed for a beach wedding) include water-soluble, biodegradable confetti that’s available in a variety of colors and can be divided into many smaller bags for easy handout and tossing. Invitations, save-the-dates, place cards, menu cards, even a guest book can all be made from handmade, 100% recycled, dye-free paper, made in an eco-friendly facility using recycled water, Bandisch said. 

As guest favors, rather than throw-away token gifts, one wedding caterer suggested selecting instead a special desert, like mochi, specialty chocolate or locally made cookies to place at each setting.

The majority of A Rainbow in Paradise weddings happen on the beach. So Ortiz uses glassware or paper cups for beverages instead of plastic cups. Apple cider is used in place of champagne, since alcohol is prohibited on Hawai‘i beaches.

“I reuse and recycle all of my props, including decorative fabrics, ribbons and bamboo,” Ortiz said. “If I resell them, the charge is just for the labor it cost to make them.”

Like other Hawai‘i wedding companies, including Kaua‘i Island Weddings (KIW) in Kapa‘a, the tropical flowers used for the wedding and reception are all locally grown and mostly organic.

“What’s a wedding without flowers?” said KIW’s Mike Hough.

He said some colorful tropical flowers could be a traditionally carbon-heavy element to every wedding.

Brides often don’t realize that the orchids in their bouquets are flown in from Thailand; the roses from the Netherlands, said a Honolulu wedding planner who did not want to be identified. So make sure your florist knows you want locally grown flowers like monstera leaf, heliconia, bird of paradise and red ginger, which are always in season and have a huge impact in a room.

Hough said the majority of his flower arrangements are grown on Kaua‘i unless the wedding couple requests flowers not grown in Hawai‘i. Ortiz suggested using potted orchids from local nurseries and giving them to guests as a favor is treat for everyone. 

“After the wedding and reception I take our flowers to friends, family or to graveyards for use,” she said.

For her just-started wedding reception business, Ortiz uses caterers that use fresh food and organically grown fruits and vegetables. 

“Brides may not be thinking green at first and focusing on booking the event and choosing the right purses, but when they learn how much less a green wedding costs they’re always on board,” Ortiz said. “Green weddings make my job a lot easier because I can recycle almost everything I use.”

Maui’s Bandisch, who also owns Green Weddings of New York, is so green privately that he doesn’t even own a car but uses the all-electric Segway to get around. One of the company’s favorite wedding locations is the Wailea area of Maui.

“We try to have the wedding where they can walk out the backdoor of their resort to the spot so no autos or limos have to be used,” he said. “We also use very few decorations and of course all organic flowers. When the wedding party travels to the restaurant reception we like to have it close by, again to avoid driving.”

As for using recycled wedding dresses, that can have the occasional malfunction. 

“One woman used a recycled dress that was a bit too large for her,” Bandisch said.  “When she raised her hand to throw the bouquet the whole top fell down. That was quite a photo!”

Some Hawai‘i wedding companies suggested for place cards to use shells, stones or sea-glass, saying they’re much more beautiful than the regular paper place cards.  The green wedding trend was barely on the cultural radar screen a couple of years ago, but now there’s dozens of websites, stores and catalogs to assist the couple.

Hawai‘i wedding planners say it’s a natural undercurrent in Hawai‘i, where residents automatically choose to care for the ‘aina.



Green weddings, those that make an effort to be more environmentally friendly, are becoming increasing popular—especially in Hawai‘i, where the Earth’s natural beauty is particularly easy to appreciate.

After interviewing several Hawaiian wedding companies it turns out that incorporating “green” strategies into your wedding day can be accomplished on several levels.  Here are some ideas and resources for an eco-friendly wedding.

Every minor contribution helps.

  • Recycle products like cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles and bags used at your wedding.
  • Print notes or wedding invitations on recycled paper.
  • Use caterers that cook with organic foods.
  • Shuttle your guests or suggest carpools to reduce the amount of cars used.
  • Minimize transportation by holding the ceremony and reception in the same location.
  • If you have to light the wedding area, try using LED lights.
  • Donate leftover food and/or flowers to hospitals, churches, shelters, etc.
  • Reuse flowers for the events after your wedding, such as the day-after brunch or in your hostess suite.
  • Rent real glasses, dishes and cloth napkins to avoid using disposables.
  • Use biodegradable, compostable dishes and flatware made from cornstarch, sugar cane or tropical leaves.
  • Use local or organically grown plants and flowers.
  • Use online invitations, a wedding website and/or a wedding blog for your savethe-date, to let people know about the bachelor/ette parties, rehearsal dinner, wedding events and gift registry.
  • Use biodegradable confetti or wish lanterns, or organic rose petals for the ceremony recessional.
  • Provide eco-friendly guest favors.
  • Use digital cameras for your candid photos instead of disposable table cameras.
  • Hire professionals who are eco-friendly.