Monday, February 23, 2009

We Have Moved!

Dear friends,

I am delighted to announce that the Wedding Lessons Learned blog has moved! You can get advice from real brides here or navigate to this page from our new green wedding homepage.

I hope you enjoy the new site!


P.s. You can still share stories and lessons form your wedding by emailing me at

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You Can Save Money and Be Green Too!

From Shawn in San Diego:

With a little bit of effort and research the wedding of your dreams is possible on a budget. The key is to not give up and continue to look if you do not find something that fits within your pocket book. Be creative, check out the bridal magazines, see what they are doing and visit your local craft store to find ways to hand make the details. Most importantly, add eco-friendly touches where you can... being eco-friendly will never go out of bridal style!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hire a Good Wedding Planner

Tara and Michael wrote:
If anyone is considering having an eco-wedding, the most important suggestion I have is hiring an eco-event planner. An eco-event planner is there to serve you, but they are also there to protect and serve the environment. On Green Lily’s Events website, they sum it up very well when they say: “We believe that making responsible choices in the early stages of event planning can minimize waste and create a lighter footprint. Our mission is to create unique, eco-chic events that balance style with sustainability.” My wedding would not have been the same with the help of Green Lily Events.

Kate's comments:
Hiring a green wedding planer can take a lot of the pressure off you and can also expose you to new ideas and resources. Contact the Association of Bridal Consultants and ask for green event planners in your area.

Tara and Michael wrote:

Skeptical Guests

Tara Wrote:
Having an eco-wedding in Houston is interesting because it is a new concept in our city so skepticism is normal but there was quite a bit of support from our guests. Overall, the reaction from our guests was positive, but we did receive some laughs and jokes along the way. I attribute that to people being scared of change.

Kate's Comment:
My husband Barry and I experienced this too - and we live in the North East. I think certain members of my family expected to show up and be forced to eat granola for three days and dance barefoot under the moon. While there was some granola, and lots of dancing, they were surprised and delighted to see that a green wedding can be (and often is) just like a traditional wedding in every way but one - it has less impact on the environment. I am glad to hear everyone rallied behind you on this special day!

Image: Spokesman Review Blog

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Offer Gifting Alternatives

Claire & Jose did something very clever. In addition to setting up a registry with (which allowed them to take any product on the internet and put it on their registry) they offered guests other creative - and even FREE - ways to give as well. The following is taken from their website:

For Our Houston Guests:

If you were expecting a more traditional registry, please consider getting us a gift card from Whole Foods. We were not able to find an eco-friendly store in Houston that has a registry option. Whole Foods has a wide range of luxury home goods that would delight us.

If you choose not to give from the registry but still want to pay tribute to us, please do one of the following:

A. Make a donation to those with more pressing needs such as your favorite charity, or one below, and give in our names. Let us know to whom, and if you like, what you gave.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Boomer Esiason Foundation
Doctors Without Borders
Habitat for Humanity International
Humane Society of the U.S.
Make-A-Wish Foundation
Scholarship America
YMCA of Greater New York
National Transplant Assistance Fund

You can give FREE donations with 2 clicks by following these links:

Check out: to learn about giving gifts to charities in a loved one's name.

B. Make us or buy something that you know will be treasured and will not take up too much space in our small New York City apartment(s).

C. Ask us if we can use the gift you had in mind.

D. If you were thinking of having a shower for us please know that we would much rather spend quality time with you than have people watch us open presents!

Image: Jane & Phillips Wedding at Our Big Day

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Don't Be Afraid to Scale Down!

From Ashley in Illinois:

"My husband, Dustin, and I had originally been planning a large, traditional, Southern wedding in Atlanta. As the date neared, the wedding grew and the budget exploded, and we realized that this wasn't the wedding we wanted. We both knew that you aren't supposed to hate your wedding, so we decided to scrap the big, Southern soiree and start anew- with a drastically reduced guest list, an even smaller budget, and the goal of creating a wedding that was a natural as the location in which it was set. My grandfather has a lung disease, and has to wear oxygen, so he has a very hard time traveling. It was more important for us to have my grandfather be able to attend the wedding than to have our extended family and all our friends from the south come, so we moved our wedding to my grandparents' backyard! We had a small, intimate wedding of only about 40 family members and close friends. Both Dustin and I are very close to my grandparents, Ron and Shirley, so we held our ceremony and reception in my grandparents' backyard garden. It was wonderful to have it there!"

Kate's Comment: I think Ashley's lesson is so important. Sometimes couples feel pressure from parents, friends and the wedding industry to have a "blow out" event. In fact, the average couple goes into $25,000 of debt to have their wedding! If you find yourself feeling like your wedding is running away from you find the courage to do what Ashley did - take a step back and make a new plan that is more in line with your beliefs and values. You will be happy you did.

Image: Anna Kuperberg

Hillary's Comment:
"I think it's so important not to let your wedding be co-opted by other people who want it to be a certain way--or by feeling pressured into doing certain things just because that's what everyone else does. Be creative! Buck tradition! It's all about inviting friends and family to celebrate the life you've chosen, so do it your way. Everyone always has a better time when the wedding reflects the couple's values and personalities instead of being just another cookie-cutter wedding."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Port-o-potty Nightmare

Image: Snackfight

Never never never put candles in or around your port-a-potties! They can catch fire. It happened here folks, and it was VERY bad.


Kate's comments: Yikes. I am SO sorry! I hope everyone is okay. To those reading this I suggest investing in LED votives. They will give you the ambiance without the risk.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Coordinate With Other Couples

Lisa Yuen and Kevin Rhoads contacted the couple who was using their wedding venue the next day and coordinated their chair rental. This is a great way to save money and to decrease your environmental footprint (because the equipment only needs to be delivered, set-up and broken-down once). Don't be shy about asking your venue about other couples. Good "share items" include tents, tables, dance floors, lighting, and chairs. Some couples share flowers, candles, and other decor items as well. There is no harm in asking.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Non-Wedding Dress Option

Instead of buying a bridal gown, Alissa Harvey chose this lovely white bridesmaid's dress. "My dress was actually a bridesmaid dress that cost less than $250--a great tip for budget-savvy brides. Many of those bridesmaid dresses come in lots of colors including traditional ivory or white. Mine had a gorgeous sapphire sash around the waist to coordinate with my sapphire wedding and engagement rings."

Non-wedding dress options often require less fabric to make and are easier to recycle. If you or your maids wear bridesmaid's dresses consider donating them after the wedding to The Cinderella Project or The Glass Slipper Project.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Choose Seasonal Colors

Joann, a professional designer, who had her wedding on a vineyard in California last fall suggested using seasonal colors as a way to enhance decor (and save money).

"My theme colors were blood orange, dark red and brown. Because we got married in September, and we knew the vineyard was turning into those colors, we picked that combination to accent the surroundings. It's a good tip to consider if you dont have a specific color that you must have, and you dont want to spend/decorate too much on creating a whole new color palette against the existing environment."

Image from Jewelry by Cheryl

Friday, July 25, 2008

Kids and Cameras Don't Mix

Photo Credit:

Patricia wrote in sharing an important wedding lesson - if you plan to have cameras for guests to use - don't let the kids do all the picture taking!

"Children should be supervised in using the cameras or else they take pictures that you can not use. It is hard in a wedding situation as everyone is having a good time and not really paying attention to what the children are doing or the amount of photos they are taking. We had 2-3 cameras [full of pictures taken by kids] that seemed a little wasteful."

So that kids can still get involved, she suggests couples "just single out 1 camera just for the kids" and put an adult in charge of making sure they each get a turn.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Be Yourself

Photo by Heidi Huber / California

Photo by Antonis Giannelis / Greece

I found these photographs on Divine Caroline as part of their photo contest "More Wedding Photos We'll All Remember." (Definitely worth looking through the entire collection!). I wanted to share them because I think they illustrate an important point - you may be dressed up, you may be surrounded by everyone you ever knew, but you will still be you and your spouse will still be your spouse so DON'T WORRY! Try to relax, enjoy your special day and remember that it is just a big party. Have fun and let your personalities shine. Don't sweat the small stuff. If something goes wrong, just fix it. If you forget your line, smile and ask the officiant to repeat it (or look at your hand). If your cake falls over in transit, have a friend run out and buy your favorite childhood snacks for everyone. Your wedding may not be perfect. Life isn't perfect. You two can weather any storm - that is why you are getting married!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

DIY flowers

Kassie and Andy bought flowers from a local flower farm. But Kassie said,"we underestimated the amount of work it would be to set them up - thank God one of our neighbors turned out to have been a florist in a past life!"

My mother did the flowers for my wedding as well and reported the same thing. In fact, she ended up enrolling my grandmother and cousin to help her set up the flowers on the chuppah and lots of friends had to help out with the rehearsal dinner and reception set up. I think the experience is best depicted with the picture I have of my mother literally pulling her hair out (which I cannot show here out of respect to her).

So what is the lesson? Enroll EXTRA help if you plan to do your own flowers. You can always let your friends head back to change early and you will not leave anyone pulling their hair.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Share Your Green Message Early

If you are planning green elements for your wedding let your guests know form the beginning. A lot of couples include a page in their program or on their website highlighting some of the eco-friendly elements they have included in their planning. Suzanne Parmet & Michael Whelan, added a comprehensive "green choices" page to their website with the following information:

Green Choices We've Made

This Website
We are using this website because it enables us to reduce the amount of paper needed to share important information with each of you. (We also think it's an easier - and more interesting - way to accomplish these goals.) Instead of sending you each a lot of cards with information about events, printed updates as details change, and reply cards with envelopes, you can instead find out everything you need to know and RSVP right on this site. Any paper product you do receive from us will be on recycled or tree-free paper. (For example, the cover wrapper and envelope liner for our invitations are made from mulberry & sugar cane paper. The printed sheets and envelopes are made from milkweed post-consumer recycled paper. And, the thread tying it together is linen.)

Wedding Location
We chose Bethesda as the location for our wedding weekend because it is easy to get here by mass transportation. And, all of our events are located within a short walk from the hotels we recommend and from one another so you will be able to get around without driving.

Reuse & Recycling
Only reusable plates, glassware, silverware and linens will be used during the wedding reception. And, any recyclable products used at our house on Saturday will in fact be recycled.

Carbon Offset
Travel, whether by air or by car, emits large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, and for most weddings is the biggest contributor to the wedding’s carbon footprint. We plan to calculate the carbon footprint of our guests' travel and buy carbon offsets to compensate for the emissions. One donation recipient we are considering is the Green Communities Offset Fund, which raises funds to support the development of green, carbon-reducing (more energy efficient) homes for low income families. (If you'd like to match our donation for your carbon footprint, see Offset Your Carbon Footprint in Green Choices You Can Make below.)

Food Selections
Our menu will offer mostly vegetarian choices. Raising cattle uses much more energy than growing vegetables. And, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), chemical and animal waste runoff from factory farms is responsible for more than 173,000 miles of polluted rivers and streams. Runoff from farmlands is one of the greatest threats to water quality today. Agricultural activities that cause pollution include confined animal facilities, plowing, pesticide spraying, irrigation, fertilizing and harvesting.

Green Choices You Can Make

Travel Options - Getting to Bethesda
Please consider mass transit options.

If traveling by car, please don't travel alone. (Let us know if you'd like us to find a fellow traveler from your area with whom you may be able to share the ride.)

Travel Options - While In Town
Getting to Bethesda Events:
Please walk to the events. Everything is located within a 5 - 15 min walk from the Hyatt, the Residence Inn and the Bethesda Metro Station, and about a 10 - 20 min walk from the Doubletree. If you do drive, please car pool.

Getting to DC: Take Metro. Check the WMATA website (or ask us) for details on how to get to and around DC using Metro.

Use The Internet
RSVP: Please RSVP through our website (or by phone) rather than use additional, unnecessary paper.

Gifts: If you plan to get us a gift, please select it from the online gift registries (linked to this website) or another website, when possible, rather than traveling to a store to shop.

Offset Your Carbon Footprint
You can calculate your carbon footprint for traveling to our wedding (by using a carbon-footprint calculator such as Then balance all or some of your emissions by buying carbon offsets. Some options include making a contribution to Native Energy (, an offset company that invests in renewable energy projects on Native American land, to Carbon Fund (, which supports renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects, or to an environmental group that works on climate change issues such as Natural Resources Defense Council (

Tips for More Sustainable Living & Home Operating

Reduce Energy Consumption
Use Energy Star rated appliances; use electricity during off-peak hours; bake with glass or ceramic pans, instead of metal; spot clean stains to minimize the times you use the washing machine; use rechargeable batteries; use a laptop instead of a desktop computer; use an LCD (liquid crystal display) rather than a CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor; put your computer in sleep or standby mode rather than using a screensaver; don’t use an electric blanket or only turn it on for a brief period to warm up the bed before going to sleep; use a voicemail service instead of an answering machine; wear an extra layer of clothes in the winter instead of turning up the thermostat; use a power strip for electronics and unplug them when off (e.g. TV, DVD / VCR / CD player); use ceiling and pedestal fans; turn off appliances when not in use; use compact fluorescent lightbulbs; plant trees around your house to provide shade; use an Energy Star approved tankless hot water heater; if not in the market for a new heater, insulate water pipes to reduce heat loss; insulate at least the first 6 feet of pipe from the water tank; hang clothes to dry rather than use a clothes dryer; caulk and weather-strip exterior doors and windows; choose double pane, over single pane, windows; if you already have single panes, install storm windows; use a storm door with your exterior door; install programmable thermostats; get a home energy audit

Reduce Fuel Consumption
Walk, bike or take public transportation, rather than drive a personal car, when you can; when public transportation doesn’t work, carpool; drive a hybrid car; properly inflate tires and keep the engine tuned; reduce the load in your car; avoid aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration, and hard braking)

Reduce Water Consumption
Turn off water when not being used (for example, don’t run the water while you’re brushing your teeth or shaving); restrict water flow with a faucet aerator; use a low-flow or dual flush toilet or, if you have a pre-1994 model, adjust the float valve to admit less water into the tank; run the dishwasher when it’s full, rather than hand washing; use a short cycle; if dishes need pre-rinsing, fill a bowl with water or wet a sponge, rather than continually run water; use drought-resistant plants and grasses for landscaping; keep your lawn small; use native plants, efficient irrigation, and mulch (to slow erosion and evaporation); group together plants with similar watering needs

Recycle & Reuse
Recycle all materials that you can (e.g. paper, plastic, glass, metal, rechargeable batteries); use post-consumer recycled paper products (e.g. paper towels, tissues); look for recycling labels on packaging; use re-useable bags for shopping; if you don’t want to buy a re-useable bag or forget to bring one with you when you shop, reuse the bags you receive (for your next shopping trip, for your garbage, to put out your recycling, etc.) and choose paper over plastic; avoid buying plastic bottles (e.g. use filtered tap water instead of bottled water)

Avoid Petrochemicals; Select Natural Products
Use cleaning and hair products made from plant-based ingredients; select no or low VOC paints; use environmentally friendly cat litter (such as pine sawdust from mill waste, straw pellets, newspaper); buy dry pet food in cardboard boxes or paper bags; choose mercury-free thermostats, thermometers, and switches; choose low-mercury fluorescent bulbs; dispose all mercury-containing materials (including fluorescent bulbs, old thermostats, mercury light switches, and old batteries) at hazardous waste drop-off sites; choose organic clothing, bedding & towels

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Watch the Mic

Watching the tape [of our wedding] this past week for the first time, I realized that a bunch of people didn't put the mic close enough to their mouths, and were super hard to hear -- and everyone was too polite to say anything. I wish I'd designated someone to make sure everyone was loud enough and if they weren't to actually say something to them in the moment. - Justin

Kate's Comment: I have heard this complaint from a number of couples. It is always a good idea to have someone in charge of monitoring people holding the mic- making sure they speak loud enough, are not taking too much time (I have been at a few weddings with a 5 minute rule and think it is a good idea), do not start telling inappropriate stories, etc. This is a good role for a best man or savvy friend.

Tag Your Gifts


We put scotch tape on the gift table for people to secure their cards. We had very few 'orphan' gifts as a result. - J.R.

Kate's Comment: You would be amazed at how many gifts can lose their cards during transport and sorting out the mess can be very embarrassing. Putting out a roll of tape and a framed note asking guests to tape their cards to their gifts is a great idea! You should also have a friend or family member (preferably with a van) designated to collect and move the gifts at the end of the night so everything stays together.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Photography Lessons Learned The Hard Way

When my husband and I got our proofs back we were shocked to discover that about 25% of them, including significant parts of the wedding, had chemical spots. It looked like we had the chicken pox or were on an episode of Ghost Whisperer. The photographer also forgot to bring the shot list so my brother had to stand by and direct everyone (which he was good at but it was a pain) and some of the key pictures I wanted never were taken. SO - my advise is 1. Bring an extra copy of the shot list and 2. consider going digital or having friends double up. I also recommend changing your expectations to having more candid pictures instead of formal portraits in case things don't work out. - Tina

Share the Day!

I think that it is really important to remember that the wedding is not only for the bride and groom, but also your family and friends. So don't worry if your mom wants different flowers, or the bridesmaids dresses are not exactly what you had in mind. It is a day to SHARE and an exercise in sharing. After all, you will share your spouse with all your family and friends for the rest of your life. At the end of the day, you are married to the most incredible person you could imagine, designed just for you!


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Count the Cake

My wife and I were disappointed when the baker underestimated how much cake our guests would need. We had to use the mini-cake we were supposed to save for our anniversary and we barely got a bite. Make sure you confirm how many slices you will need before your wedding day. - Anon.

Kate's Comment - You can use this rough guide to double check the quantity of cake you will need:

10-12 people = small oval or 6" round cake
10-15 people = 6" square cake
16-25 people = 8" round or 8" square cake
30-45 people = 10" round or 10" square cake
40-55 people = 1/4 sheet cake (9x13)
55-80 people = 1/3 sheet cake (11x15)
75-100 people = 1/2 sheet cake (12x18)

4/6 ............................12-20
4/8 ............................20-25
6/8 ............................20-30
6/10 ..........................25-35
8/10 ..........................35-50
6/12 ..........................50-60
8/12 ..........................50-65
6/8/10 .......................55-65
6/8/12 .......................65-75
6/10/12 .....................85-95
6/10/14 .....................105-120
6/8/10/12 ..................105-125
8/12/14 .....................120-135
6/8/10/14 ..................135-150
8/12/16 .....................150-175
6/10/12/14 ................150-175
6/8/12/16 ..................175-195
6/8/10/12/14 .............180-200
6/10/12/16 ................200-220
6/8/10/12/16 .............220-240
6/8/10/12/14/16 .......280-300

6/8 ........................28-40
6/10 ......................50-65
6/12 ......................70-85
8/12 ......................70-90
6/8/10 .................75-90
6/8/12 .................95-110
6/10/12 ...............115-135
6/10/14 ..............150-165
6/8/10/12 ..........145-160
8/12/14 ..............170-195
6/8/10/12/14 ......245-260

Friday, March 28, 2008

If You Plan to Bake = Get Ingredients Delivered

My husband and I decided to save money and ensure we would have 100% organic baked goods at our dessert receptions by baking the desserts ourselves. We started about two weeks out with things that could easily be frozen and baked about one thing a day. It was a much bigger project than I imagined (you will be amazed at how many last minute details pop up that need to be dealt with RIGHT THEN and will suck your time away). The thing that made it doable was the fact that we were able to get many of the organic ingredients (apples,dried cranberries, milk, butter, bananas, carrots, etc.) delivered. We did one big shop at Whole Foods and then the supplemental Peapod order that saved the day.

Although not available in all parts of the country - I highly recommend using Peapod or a similar delivery service - like Fresh Direct - the week before your wedding, even if you are not doing the cooking. They also offer organic yoghurt, cereal, eggs and other staples.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Handmade Dress Fiasco

Even if you are good at sewing or have a close friend that is it might be best to let a professional make your wedding dress. A friend of mine is a designer and I hired her to make my dress. It ended up being more expensive than I expected and did not fit perfectly. Needless to say it was a very tough situation. - Anonymous

Note from Kate: If you do want to use a friend - or anyone really - it is probably wise to ask them to make you something else first. If they do a great job you can ask them to do the dress. If you are less than thrilled they don't even need to know you were thinking about asking. Also, If you sew yourself and you really want to be involved, but don't want the pressure of making a perfect dress, you can have someone else make the foundation of the dress(or buy a very simple dress) and do the embellishment by hand yourself.

Wedding Co-op = Brilliant

And now for a small excerpt from my book:

I don’t know who thought of the wedding co-op first, but it was immortalized in the “Offbeat Bride,” by Ariel Meadow Stallings and I love the idea. In a wedding co-op like-minded brides pool their resources to buy generic items that can be reused at each of their weddings. Participating in a wedding co-op (no matter how informal) decreases your costs and your ecological footprint in one fell swoop. It is probably easiest to do a co-op if you are getting married the same year as a number of your friends, but with the Internet, you can establish or join one in almost any community. Good co-op items include glasses, vases, folding chairs, tablecloths and napkins. When the last wedding is over, the co-op can resell the stuff and split the money evenly. You can also use the co-op to save on labor expenses if all of the brides pitch in and help set-up/break-down each others’ weddings. Genius I tell you – genius.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Take your honeymoon "off season"

If you go on your honeymoon off season - even one or two weeks before or after the peak - you can save a lot of money (about 40% on average) and still have good weather. To find off-season deals on flights click here: Off-Season Travel Deals

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Buy a few extra

If you plan to bring your own glassware (vases, dishes, etc.) make sure to buy a few extra in case a few break en route. When you have extras be sure to add a note to the container you bring them in so whoever sets the items out knows they have not miscounted. The same "extra" principle goes for flower girl baskets, favors, gifts, etc. The day of our wedding we added an impromptu "bell boy" (little boy ringing a bell) as well as a flower girl. Having the extra supplies spared tears and allowed us to seamless integrate the tots into the event.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Do NOTHING new - and be careful!

Here are ten things you should not do the week before your wedding (collected from real life tragedies):

1. Try a new food (hello allergic reaction)
2. Wax anything you have never waxed before (bumpy red irritated skin... and itching)
3. Cook in the middle of the night (hello second degree burns - on my face!)
4. Overeat (it is a tight white dress after all)
5. Starve (it can be a loose white dress if you are not careful - and you can faint)
6. Do anythings too sporty (although the cast is white too - it just doesn't look so good with the dress)
7. Try new makeup (see number 1 and number 3)
8. Get a hair cut from a new beautician (I think this one is a no brainer)
9. Stay awake and worry (no makeup can hide truly dark circles)
10. Forget that it is just a party (down Brideziila! - down girl!).