Green weddings marry ecofriendliness, elegance

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For many couples planning their nuptials, green, as in carbon footprint, is the new white. In growing numbers, brides and grooms are saying "I do" to sustainable nuptials, seeking hotels and wedding businesses that can help them in their environmentally correct quest.

The new paradigm seems to be mindful indulgence. With the average wedding costing about $27,000, green weddings, ironically, can cost up to 20% more.

One might think less is more, but green weddings, once considered "hippie" events lacking style or sophistication, can now be cosmopolitan affairs, distinguished by fleets of hybrid luxury cars and wedding bands made with "conflict-free" diamonds and recycled metals.

The concept is not lost on Hawaii, one of the world's wedding meccas.

Green weddings now figure on the event menu at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka'upulehu, on the Big Island.

The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai was recently honored with a "Who's Keeping Hawaii Green Award" by Hawaii Home + Remodeling, Honolulu and Hawaii Business magazines.

Green vows on Hawaii

With the resort's Sustainable Nuptials package, the goal is to create a memorable experience that is socially responsible without sacrificing elegance, said Jennifer Gillis, wedding planner at the hotel.

HAW-FourSeasonsHualalaiTo offset the carbon footprint of traveling to Hawaii and staying at the resort, the wedding package includes a credit paid to one of several organizations in the Sustainable Travel International carbon-offset portfolio.

The portfolio currently consists of MyClimate (verified emission reductions and certified emission reductions) and Bonneville Environmental Foundation (green Tags).

The carbon credit to offset a Four Seasons wedding's carbon footprint is good for up to 25 guests.

"Since its introduction ... our Sustainable Nuptials Wedding package has generated significant interest from brides and grooms to be," Gillis said. "More and more couples are seeking custom, eco-conscious weddings."

The Four Seasons Hualalai reminds couples that the reception is usually the priciest part of any wedding; holding the wedding ceremony and reception in the same place cuts down on resource consumption.

An outdoor wedding also may be more energy-efficient than one held indoors.

Another environmentally friendly practice is to use glassware and cloth napkins.

The good news, Four Seasons event planners agree, is that food is one of the easiest areas in which to go green.

According to Gillis, Four Seasons chef James Babian partners with local farmers and fishermen to create sustainable regional and seasonal menus.

A sample wedding menu includes Keahole lobster and Pa'auilo vanilla bisque; Waimea organic greens; hearts of palm and Hamakua mushrooms; seared Kona kampachi with chili mango butter; and Big Island chocolate cake.

The buzzwords for this green reception are recycle, reuse and reduce. The Four Seasons suggests taking advantage of Hawaii's natural beauty and the Kona-Kohala Coast's reputation for sun-filled days with an outdoor wedding and reception.

Think of the benefits: No air conditioning or electricity required.

If a sunset wedding is the choice, clients should consider silk lanterns lighted by compact florescent bulbs.

They can also incorporate natural beeswax candles, which are clean-burning, energy-saving light sources that can be reused.

Some other ideas from the Four Seasons:

Use biodegradable and sustainable bamboo plates, utensils, cocktail napkins and cups.
Donate potted plants or flowers, bought from local growers for centerpieces, to local hospitals or elderly care establishments after the reception.
Look for a gown in natural, pesticide-free fibers such as organic cotton or silk. Some brides buy a used dress that's also Earth-friendly. Others rent a gown.
For invitations, opt for recycled paper inscribed with soy ink, which looks almost as good as traditional invites. Save paper by using postcards for "Save the Date" reminders and have guests RSVP by email.

Sustainable ceremonies

Going green on wedding days is even easier at the Four Seasons. The marriage license office happens to be within walking distance of the resort lobby.

Less expensive, nondenominational officials are available to perform ceremonies. Solo acoustic musicians playing guitar, ukulele or violin can save electricity.

And the hotel florist can recommend the best locally grown flowers for the bridal bouquet and groom's boutonniere.

Gillis and the rest of the Four Seasons staff have put considerable thought into the property's Sustainable Nuptials package. What else comes with the $10,050 price tag?

Perks include a teak chair setup for up to 25 guests; 2,000 locally grown dendrobium orchids sprinkled at the wedding site; floral leis for up to 25 guests; a wedding arch made of ohia wood or bamboo; a two-hour photography package; a two-tier wedding cake with floral topper; a bottle of champagne on the wedding night; free steam-pressing of the wedding dress and groom's attire; ground transportation to and from Kona Airport; and a 50-minute couple's massage at the Hualalai Spa.

For more information, call (888) 340-5662 or (808) 325-8000 or visit www.fourseasons.com.

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