Surprisingly, this blog post is aimed more pointedly at men, who are the ultimate ring-bearers when a relationship becomes serious. You see, when a man hopes to merge his life with his girlfriend, he scouts out a local jewelry store, endeavoring to find a suitable diamond. However, in my humble opinion, such guys should first visit an even more local source for jewels: their families. Impressive family heirlooms may await them, gems with a story to tell.
My fiance Dan did just this, and I'm all the more thankful for his thoughtfulness. My engagement ring diamond came from his grandmother's ring, a diamond that her husband-to-be saved up for while he fought in World War II. For four years they were separated physically, yet held on to hope that a future together awaited them. Now, I'm reminded of their powerful bond and the love between me and Dan whenever I look at my ring. Additionally, smaller diamonds from my future mother-in-law encircle the engagement diamond, yet another treasure that bears a link to my new family. All of the diamonds are encased in a modern setting that I picked out from Mary Healy's Fine Jewelry (Little Rock), so essentially the jewels have been recycled in a custom-made ring.
Additionally, my and Dan's wedding bands will be his maternal grandparent's set, practically unaltered. Sure, Dan's ring may have to be adjusted a bit to fit, but my ring - his grandmother's - fits perfectly as is. Our family history will be as near as our fingertips.
By the way, I should mention that Dan didn't pay a cent for his family gems, though the customized engagement setting did cost a pretty penny, I'm sure. Thus, a thrifty alternative is for the man to present his prospective wife with an original family heirloom ring if it's nice enough, perhaps with the option of customizing it as she sees fit later on (whether with an engraved engagement date/wedding date/initials inside the band, extra gems, etc.). And don't think you're limited to diamonds - my cousin Sarah received an original family heirloom engagement ring adorned with a breathtaking ruby.
On the whole, reusing family jewels is a great way to include older family ties into a couple's enormous commitment, with an added bonus of boosting one's wallet and the environment.
Hands down, the most unique - and my favorite - aspect of the wedding is having live native Wisconsin wildflowers for our guests to take home after the wedding. I abhorred the idea of scrapped flowers once the party was over, so I did some research to see if this idea was even feasible.
I happened upon a "Wisconsin Native Plant Sources" pdf that contained a directory of native plant vendors in the state and called Lacewing Gardening & Consulting Services, based in Milwaukee. After I gingerly presented my idea to the landscape architect, Dianne Olson Schmidt, she approved, saying this would be her first green wedding but was up for the challenge. After months of planning, Dianne has masterfully created a plan in which eco-pots will house hundreds of wildflowers from Prairie Nursery which will line our pavilion ceremony area and highlight our tables as centerpieces. Post-wedding, local guests will take the flowers home and plant them in their yards, contributing to the local ecosystems. Potted Wild Geraniums and herbs will supplement the centerpiece wildflowers as well, and these also can be taken home by guests for home or culinary use.
Wisconsin has a wonderful variety of prairie and woodland wildflowers - Dan and I can't wait to see what blooms for us in May! These are among the showiest on the list:
Columbine The "Little Lanterns" variety of this flower will be displayed as centerpieces.
Shooting Star This is another centerpiece flower, one of which I found in my parent's woodlot when growing up.
Prairie Smoke One of Dan's favorites, this wispy bloom will beautify the ceremony area.
Wild Bleeding Heart I've always loved bleeding hearts, so having the variety indigenous to Wisconsin will be superb.
Large-flowered Trillium This wildflower often associated with mayapples would a treat to have, provided it blooms through the end of May. My fingers are crossed.
The beauty of an online bridal registry, particularly on www.myregistry.com, is that one can post virtually any item in cyberspace for guests to purchase. In light of that, if you choose such a registry, why not be picky and choose mostly eco-friendly items? Sure, your guests may have to pay a few bucks more for organic bamboo towels versus mainstream ones, but the end result is that "green" companies get revenue and you get what you want: quality products good for you and the environment.
Here are my favorite environmentally-conscious products from my registry:
Protect Our Water glasses These tasteful glasses are made from the bottom halves of wine glasses that would have otherwise gone to the landfill. According to the Web site, these glasses are made from prefab bottles that didn't have to be melted or crushed, meaning they didn't require as much energy to produce as ordinary glasses.
Indoor Compost Bucket If the weather outside is frightful, there's no need to trudge through it to the compost pile to dispose of table scraps - provided you have this nifty bucket. Equipped with activated carbon filters to mask odors, this kitchen compost bucket can store organic matter for days without ruining your kitchen's ideal rosemary or lemon scent.
Bamboo Utensils So many household items - from bowls to clothes to salad servers - can be purchased in bamboo form, an eco-friendly material that grows rapidly and when harvested does not often harm the plant itself. Unlike cotton, bamboo requires no herbicides or pesticides. As a bonus, bamboo does not scratch cookware and is stronger than wood.
Organic cotton tea towels Aside from the awesome frigatebird design, these tea towels are made from organic cotton, exponentially better than regular cotton.
Rainforest Sprinkler As water's value continues to increase, why not save some of this precious commodity when you water your lawn? This little sprinkler uses 1/3 less water than conventional sprinklers. Better yet, why not replace a green lawn by landscaping with beautiful native plants for wildlife?
Besides Holschbach honey, another treasure lay in my parent's abode, hidden away in the basement. On Christmas Eve Dan and I searched high and low through basement boxes and containers in a quest for my mom's stamping supplies from the early 2000s. We eventually found the containers and unleashed our creative juices in a stamping frenzy, creating homemade wedding thank-you cards. Dan found a punch that cut tiny oak leaves in the cards, while I enjoyed tying bows with a rustic raffia ribbon to accent cards. Mom's smorgasbord of stamps with a nature motif gave us all we needed to reflect ourselves perfectly - through birds, trees and leaves, honeybees, bugs, nests, and more.
We were able to kill two birds with one stone by making homemade cards. First, by fashioning the cards ourselves, we reflected our love for nature while adding a personal touch for our guests even beyond the eventual written message. Second, we used pent-up resources that were hidden in my family's basement. It made sense to utilize my Mom's vast stamp collection and ink pads that hadn't been used in years - all I had to do was purchase blank cards. Though I'm not sure if the cards I purchased were made of recycled paper (I deserve a slap on the wrist for that!), I rest assured that I got to control the decorations and inks. Now, after seeing my and Dan's handiwork, Mom is inspired to get back into stamping!
A few months ago, Dan and I tried to find favors infused with Wisconsin flair to complement our Milwaukee wedding venue. Once our guests came to Wisconsin, we thought, we'd give them "something special from Wisconsin" to enjoy once they're home.
We didn't have to look far for our treasures. My beekeeper Dad reaped a huge honey harvest this year - nearly 100 pounds of extractable honey that the bees would not need to survive. He gladly volunteered to fill 60 jars of honey for wedding favors, which will be placed on the reception tables. We couldn't ask for a more appropriate treat for our guests, one that originates from the forests and field flowers of the Kettle Moraine-State Forest that sparked my love for nature. We sincerely hope our guests like our rich, unique honey accented with alfalfa, goldenrod and other local plants.
Best of all, our honey favors are green because the honey is 100 percent natural and harvested with a minimal amount of energy (only the electricity to run the extractor, and my Dad's labor). Once the honey is fully enjoyed, guests can re-use the jars for their personal canning/cooking purposes or recycle the glass. It's a definite eco-friendly situation!
To supplement the honey, Dan and I will soon purchase jam and jelly from Door County, Wisconsin, famous for its many cherry orchards. This way, we won't take the whole lot of Dad's honey harvest, though Dad of course insists that he has more than enough.
As a bride-to-be, I want to have the perfect wedding - and one with a low impact on the environment. Follow me as I detail how my fiance and I are greening our nuptials. You'll also find inspiration from others who have already tied the [green] knot - feel free to follow suit!