Eco-Chic Weddings: An Event Planners’ Workshop

Pollen is excited to be a part of the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance‘s workshop on green weddings, being held later this month. Entitled “Eco-Chic Weddings: An Event Planners’ Workshop,” the half-day workshop will highlight achievable ways that wedding planners can incorporate green elements into their weddings. Planners will leave the workshop with real, tangible ways to help their clients plan more eco-friendly weddings.

I’ll speak about why there needs to be concern about such a seemingly harmless aspect of weddings, and offer up ideas for the more sustainable options out there, such as working with locally grown flowers or flower alternatives.  Also, I’ll recommend many simple ways to green up weddings, without compromising their elegance!

The workshop is intended for wedding planners, so please share this info with any planners who may be interested.  Registration information is available here.

Other businesses involved include City Provisions, FIG Catering, Logan Square Kitchen, Pivotal Production, Spilled Ink Press, Tweedle Press, and West Loop Studio.

Indie Wed Recap v2

Pollen was lucky enough to be selected to display at Indie Wed not just once, but twice!  I have described last year’s display as “showing off.”  I created a bouquet, centerpiece, and boutonniere for three different looks, showing the range of styles Pollen can do.  Intimidated by a sophomore effort, and no longer feeling the need to be all things to all people, I took a different approach this time around.

This year, I kept it simple, and focused on the direction Pollen is heading, both in style and philosophy.  The style we’re honing is one that is naturalistic, a little gardeny, and seasonal.  And we’re making the transition to working only on weddings where sustainability is a focus, which was the original idea behind Pollen.

When I tell people that I started Pollen to be an eco-friendly option for couples planning weddings, I’m often asked, “What does that mean?”  This year, Pollen’s Indie Wed display answered that question.

Sustainable floral design means…

Designing in water, not floral foam. Floral foam (that green spongy stuff) is a petroleum-based product that is not biodegradable.  And it contains formaldehyde.

Working with sustainably grown flowers. Locally grown flowers are Pollen’s first choice, but in winter, we need to look to warmer climates for our flower supply.  We seek out flowers that have been certified as sustainably grown by a third-party certification program, such as Veriflora.  Or flowers that have been grown in the Netherlands, which leads the way in the cut flower industry with technology, conservation, and labor rights.  Our sourcing decisions are based on a thoughtful hierarchy of the least harmful impact of the cut flower options available, while fitting the budget and color scheme of the wedding.

Working with the seasons. What is seasonally available typically also is more affordable.  A display of forced spring bulbs (in recycled glass containers with vintage marbles) as a centerpiece demonstrated a seasonal option.

Considering the life of the centerpiece after the event. By using plants (such as the forced bulbs) as centerpieces, guests can take them home to enjoy for long after the wedding.  Alternatively, flowers can be donated to a retirement home or shelter.  Pollen can arrange to have your wedding flowers reused after the big day.

Supporting the community. Our display featured votive candles from Bright Endeavors, a local social enterprise working to break the cycle of poverty.

Working to reduce, reuse, and recycle.  We try not to buy more stuff if we don’t have to.

  • Pollen participates in Bright Endeavors’ votive refill program, in which they refill votive holders with soy wax for reuse.
  • Pollen will rent out containers for larger weddings, and otherwise offers a vase return program, in which clients (with prior agreement) can return unwanted vases from their wedding for a partial refund.
  • Pollen looks for alternatives to buying new.  The bridal bouquet in the display was wrapped with a vintage necktie, instead the usual satin ribbon.  Oh, and our table cover was upcycled from curtains and linens.

Special thanks to Kelly and Shannon for organizing Indie Wed; to Sarah (pictured below, on the right), who braved the crowds with me to be the face of Pollen; to Julie, who lent me her marbles (no joke); to Carla, who cut and folded paper for the display signage and handouts; and to Jessica and Peter of Matushek Photography, who took the photos!

An Eco-Friendly Option: VeriFlora Certified Flowers

I’m often asked what makes Pollen an eco-friendly florist.  One way we are a green florist is in where we get our flowers from, and, more specifically, how the flowers have been grown.  Locally and organically grown flowers provide the most eco-friendly option, as explained in a previous post.  But being in the Midwest, locally grown flowers are most widely available only about half of the year.  What to do from November through April?

Another eco-friendly option is to buy cut flowers and potted plants that have been certified by a third party as being grown in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.  One such certification program is VeriFlora, administered by Scientific Certification Systems.  To qualify as VeriFlora certified product, the flowers must be sustainably grown, not only with regard to the environment, but also with regard to fair labor practices and a sensitivity to the community in which the product is grown.

What does VeriFlora certified product look like?  No different from conventionally grown product.  In fact, VeriFlora also has a quality component in its certification.  I recently used VeriFlora certified Black Beauty roses for a winter wedding.

Here’s a look at the Veriflora label, on a package of Black Beauty roses: VeriFlora Label on Roses

And the VeriFlora product, a Black Beauty rose:A VeriFlora Certified Black Beauty Rose

When you can’t go with locally grown product, VeriFlora certified flowers offer another option for ensuring your wedding or event is working toward the goal of sustainability.

Chicago Honey Co-op’s Beeswax Candles

The quest to offer greener options to my clients continues.  Piece by piece, I’m trying to find eco-friendly wedding items as alternatives to  the less eco-friendly ones!

Nothing beats the flicker of candles at a table for creating a warm and soothing environment.  For this reason, votive candles are often used as a part of wedding table centerpieces.

The most commonly available candles are made of paraffin, a (non-renewable) petroleum product that creates indoor pollution.  An eco-friendly alternative is to use beeswax candles.  Beeswax is a renewable product, and beeswax candles burn much longer than paraffin candles.

Recently, I came across the Chicago Honey Co-op‘s beeswax candles.  The Chicago Honey Co-op not only raises bees sustainably, but also provides job training for people getting back on their feet.  I am now offering these locally produced and chemical free candles to couples looking to green up their weddings!

More resources:

Chicago Honey Co-op buzzes on Chicago’s West Side

Where to Buy Chicago Honey Co-op Products

Are Candles Bad for the Environment?

Green Wedding Tip: Source Eco-Friendly Jewelry

recycled gold ring from Dawes DesignI just finished watching Eco Trip: The Real Cost of Living (a Sundance Channel show, available to stream from Netflix), and–wow–there is so much I didn’t know about gold mining.  In this episode, the host follows the path of production of a gold ring.  A little about what I learned…

Most gold mines in the US are located in Nevada.  The air and water pollution caused by the mining operations have become a serious problem.  Material from the open pit mines is blasted away and hauled into piles for extraction.  It’s hard to believe, but the production of one gold ring creates 20 tons of mine waste.  To extract the gold, the mined material is drenched with cyanide, which makes its way into the local waterways.  The byproducts of gold mining create acid mine drainage, which raises the acidity of water and is detrimental to the plants and animals that rely on clean waterways.  Mercury released into the air in the process is captured in rain and snow, and deposited in waterways as well.  And most often, the pits are left open when the mining company is finished with them, continuing to leach acid mine drainage.  The show didn’t cover mining operations in other countries, but I imagine they face even greater environmental and social problems due to mining.

But there’s good news.  There is a growing movement of ecological and social responsibility in the jewelry industry.  With a little research, you can find jewelers working with recycled gold, such as,, and  Using recycled gold means there is no additional mining necessary for the production of your jewelry.

An even less resource intensive option is to reuse a ring.  Many brides prefer a vintage piece of jewelry to a new one.  Antique jewelry dealers are a great resource for interesting vintage pieces.  If a family member has jewelry to share, an heirloom ring makes a meaningful engagement or wedding ring.  Or, check retailers like for used rings.

Just as most consumers aren’t aware of the social and environmental impacts of the cut flower industry, I wasn’t aware of the impact of gold mining.  It was an eye-opening program–check it out!  Hopefully they’ll do one on flowers soon!

Further Resources:

Green Wedding Tip: Choose an Eco-Friendly Wedding Date


Creating a sustainable event can begin with one of the very first steps of planning a wedding: choosing the wedding date.  The process of selecting a date is a complicated one.  Season, holidays, availability of key people… these all factor into the wedding date selection.  Add one more factor–locally grown product availability–and you’re on your way to a greener wedding.

For a green wedding, choose an eco-friendly wedding date by planning the wedding for the season when the best selection of locally grown food and flowers are available.  For Chicago and the Midwest, this means between between June and September for the best selection of locally grown cut flowers.  According to Molly Schemper of FIG Catering, “July through September are great months for local produce.”  Work with a caterer, such as FIG Catering, that offers locally grown organic menu options and create a menu to take advantage of the season’s best locally grown food.

To get the best of both worlds, schedule your event to feature locally grown food and flowers between July to September!  And, of course, go for organic!

Green Wedding Tip: Skip the Aisle Runner

For a greener wedding, skip the aisle runner!

The use of an aisle runner, rolled down the aisle of the church before the bridal party processional, is a tradition that has outlived its necessity.   Historically, aisle runners were used before the days of asphalt and concrete to protect the bride’s gown from dirt tracked in by guests.  These days, few guests are coming in by gravel or dirt road, so the aisle runner isn’t really necessary.  But the aisle runner has remained a tradition nonetheless.

Modern aisle runners are disposable, single-use purchases.  Once they’ve been torn up by the wedding guests’ heels, they’re headed for the landfill.  Beyond that, modern aisle runners are typically made of plastic, which is not biodegradable and requires oil in its production.  According to the Green Bride Guide, if every wedding in the US this year used a disposable aisle runner and they were laid end to end, they would circle the globe twice.  For a green wedding, skip the aisle runner.  Proof that a green wedding can be cheaper… by eliminating the unnecessary!

If you really want to define the aisle, an alternative is to line either side of the aisle with flower petals.  Just be sure to steer clear of dark-colored petals as they may stain your dress.  And of course, use flowers that have been grown in an eco-friendly way!