Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Q & A: Wedding Tableware

Reader Question: The idea of using paper plates for serving food outdoors, picnic-style, really pains me. I would hate to have bags and bags of trash full of paper plates and napkins and other nasty plastic-ware. Any ideas on how to get around this?

The tableware issue was tricky for us. Most people insist on having real tableware because it's classier and they can't imagine their weddings being anything but classy. For Matt and me, we weren't striving for classy. We were striving for comfortable and connected.

However, we, too, wanted real tableware because it's better for the environment. It takes a lot more energy to produce throw-away products and then a heck of a lot of landfill space to store them for the next thousand years or so, as opposed to the energy it takes to run real tableware through the dishwasher.

Unfortunately, our venue didn't have quite enough real tableware, and Matt and I quickly vetoed the idea of renting some. We tried to avoid wedding vendors as much as possible, just to cut down on our own stress and the need to follow-through with said vendors to make sure they were going to follow-through. We were also holding ourselves to a very strict budget so we could a) afford the down payment on the house we bought four days after our wedding and b) resist the urge to get crazy-obsessed about details.

In the end, it worked out well for us (although myriad other options could've worked out, too). We decided to seek out biodegradable plastic wear. Our reception venue volunteered to set up composing bins (and take it all to the recycling center when it was over). We made signs for everything, as well as cloth napkins (simply by using pinking sheers to cut fabric into squares).

Yes, we did have big trashcans full of stuff, but it felt good knowing that it was at least compostable. It was also a great way for us to model our values. Many of our guests didn't even realize you could compost food, yet alone special biodegradable tableware. One of our friends even said the wedding weekend inspired her to start composting!

It also helped our wedding weekend feel casual and comfortable, which is what we were striving for. Our assumption was that people would have more fun and enjoy themselves more if they were comfortable. Our second assumption was that the more casual an event, the more comfortable most people would feel. Those assumptions worked out for our wedding. (Not to mention the fact that I felt completely composed and relaxed through the entire ceremony and reception, which seems to be a real rarity for most brides, based on other blogs I've read.)

Obviously, many people aren't going for the comfortable and casual thing when it comes to their weddings. The trick is to figure out what you are going for--What do you want guests to think and feel?--and then make the smaller decisions that align with that end goal. It's important, though, to figure that out on a macro-level first. If you start applying that strategy to all the smaller details, you'll lose sight of the bigger, more important things that really matter. A wedding should be about community, connection, and commitment, not tableware.

E-mail your questions to: saracotner@yahoo.com

Share |


nikkimatt said...

i've been waiting for this post!! i've been planning on using clear recycleable plastic ware for our wedding but wondering exactly how to tactfully tell guests to basically scrape their plates. your pics have shown me the light! it CAN be done tastefully!! thank you! this blog is amazing..i'm slowly planning a backyard wedding in ut for next fall and i'd already planned on doing things you guys did before i even found you and now i'm finding new inspiration almost daily!

Sara E. Cotner said...

P.S. I would recommend also posting sample items to be recycled on the actual signs (like Whole Foods does in their composting area). For some reason, it's difficult for people to get items in the right bins!

Damaris said...

Did you also make your tablecloths? We have a pretty limited budget but we want to also be as ecologically responsible as possible.

Sara E. Cotner said...

We bought old sheets from the Goodwill. Sounds gross, but we washed them really well. Good for the environment and the budget!

Related Posts with Thumbnails