Friday, August 20, 2010

From the land and back again: A Virginia farm wedding

Let me present Exhibit A in my case that weddings can be gorgeous, green and environmentally-conscious.  Marisa, who blogs at Park & Belmont,  responded to my call for stories and inspiration about planning a consciously sustainable and eco-friendly wedding.  Oh boy, did she ever succeed!  The flowers for the wedding, and much of the food, were grown on her family's farm, where the wedding was held.  Even better, the biodegradable cutlery and plates went back into the land as compost after the wedding.  Talk about coming full circle.

We spent about $12,000 on our wedding for 250 people which took place on my family's farm in Rappahannock County, Virginia.

The Place:  A family tradition

Padua is an extremely important place to our family. It originally was owned my great-grandmother and my grandmother, and though my parents are the primary "owners" of the house and the fields, when I refer to "our family" I'm also including my father's 8 brothers and sisters and their children (my cousins). It is an important and wonderful place to all of us, and I hope a few of my cousins will decide to get married at Padua as well.

While the venue was taken care of, it look a lot of sweat to get the farm in order. We spent many weekend planting and seeding the garden and building rock walls. Getting the farm in order was hard, but it was also a moving experience as both sides of the extended family came to help on several work days.
Jon and I are up there quite a bit (though not as much as we were prior to the wedding).  It is a small farm, but it is functioning. My mother sells her produce, flowers and pies at the Charlottesville farmers market every weekend and we have six cows which roam the numerous acres at their leisure and which will eventually become organic grass fed beef.

The Wedding Vision: "Local, seasonal and beautiful" [and clearly a ton of fun!]
Our primary goal, was that our wedding be local, seasonal and beautiful. We also wanted a wedding that was laid back, fun and inviting.  

My dress was J. Crew and came from OnceWed. It was a steal ($58!!!!).  

My mother, her two best friends and my maid of honor created all 11 bridal bouquets, all 28 table centerpieces, and "aisle" flowers for the wedding. 

All of the flowers were seasonal and were grown locally by our family or my mother's friends.  They were absolutely stunning.

The Food:  Regional delicacies
We have large families and good food is important to both sets of relatives.  Having good food was definitely the most important aspect of our wedding. Jon's family is from Wisconsin and so our appetizers were Kewaskum cheese and summer sausagues, driven down from Kewaskum, Wisconsin by Jon's amazing aunts and uncles three days before the wedding. 

We hooked up with a local county caterer who used lots of veggies from our late August harvest in her recipes, thus discounting the total fee and ensuring the food was local.  Rather than serve one main course, we had pulled pork barbque and 20 different salads.  We had pie for dessert, all baked by my amazing and awesome mother, made with apples from Nelson County, Virginia.  

Seriously, so much love went into the food - it was the best part of the wedding and there was more than enough food for everyone.  The beer was Starr Hill, brewed an hour and a half away in Crozet, Virginia, (the brewery provided biodegradable cups), and the Wine was Gabrielle Rausse, a Virginia vinter (and luckily a family friend) located just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Special Touches:  Edible, Reusable, Decomposable
We had clearly labled [composting] bins that were obvious to even the tipsiest of guests.  The day after the wedding was spent properly composting the plates and cutlery with my brother in our family's garden. [Eds. note:  Call me a green geek, but this is my absolute favorite detail of the wedding!  I love the idea of the party leftovers returning to the ground to enrich the soil at the family farm.]

Our wedding would have been squat if it wasn't for our family and friends.  They helped us so much- our DJ was a dear friend, and his wife (one of my bridesmaids) made chocolate covered pretzel favors for guests.

 The majority of our guests camped out, but those who chose not to were bused in and taken home at the end of the night, thus reducing the number of cars on the road and preventing DUIs and accidents.

Again, our wedding would have been nothing without the love and support of our family and friends.

The amount of effort that goes into creating a sustainable, practical, local wedding is huge.  Not only was September 5, 2009 the day that Jon and I promised to love and cherish each other for the rest of our days, it was the day that two families came together as one community, and had a rocking good time :).  The fact that everyone participated and enjoyed themselves  added even more value to this already important day. Jon and I felt so unbelievably loved it was incredible.

Our photographer, the wonderful and amazing Denny Henry, is a former co-worker of mine, and did a fantastic job capturing the mood of the wedding.

I asked Marisa what prompted her to plan her wedding with an eye to environmental sustainability.  She said:

I don't think anything really prompted us to take considerations for a green, local, sustainable wedding--it is just who we are, as a couple and as a family.  My parents have always tried to live and create a sustainable lifestyle and it has rubbed off on me...lucky I have married a man who embraces sustainability whole-heartedly. Growing up in Charlottesville, we had a large garden and chickens in our back yard (for eggs), we never had a dishwasher, always recycled, composted and always sun dried our clothes (my mother has never even owned a dryer, and I don't think even knows how to work one).  As a kid, I think I was sometimes embarrassed of how "into sustainability" my parents were, but now that I'm older I'm so grateful that their values have been ingrained in me! The wedding just was the way it was because that is how our family operates, we are frugal, like our food and flowers fresh and local, respect the earth, and are blessed with amazing and creative friends and family.  I don't think Jon and I could have had a wedding that was any other way. It was just us. We felt comfortable, we felt like ourselves. It was beautiful. 

Beautiful, indeed!  Thank you so much, Marisa, for taking the time to walk us through the details of your gorgeous wedding, and for sharing inspiration for other sustainability-minded brides and grooms!  

This wedding has so many wonderful sustainability-oriented principles and practices, not the least of which is giving the guests a place to camp overnight, so they don't have to worry about drinking and driving.  And, composting = love!   

I'm looking forward to sharing other examples of weddings planned with environmental sustainability in mind.  If you've got something to share, please send it my way.  
Green smooches to all!


Brittany said...

What a gorgeous wedding! I love that Marisa and Jon's family and friends helped to make their day both sustainable and special!

I'd love to have a wedding like this!

Claire said...

A beautiful wedding. I love that all the party decorations were able to be composted back to the earth. How wonderful to have your wedding somewhere that means so much to the family and has a personal connection.

Ms. Bunny said...

Thank you for sharing what an amazing wedding you had. I'm so impressed with your composting and locally grown flowers, and amazing food. You made me so hungry just by reading your recap!

My parents also don't use a dryer (they have one, but it never gets used). Everything is hung to air dry. I was embarrassed as a kid too, but those values were internalized and now I want to live more sustainably in my own life and at my wedding.

Wedding Flowers Co said...

Love the fact that you were able to find and use local flowers. The flowers were stunning! Glad you shared your story!