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!

FAQ’s: Can You Recommend a Green [insert wedding vendor type here]?

Sure!  I’m happy to recommend caterers, invitation designers, photographers, etc. that I’ve enjoyed working with, and share Pollen’s interest in greener weddings!  Putting together a little directory of other green wedding vendors that I know seemed like a simple idea.  After talking with the folks at Spilled Ink Press, we realized that this simple idea has a lot more potential.

And the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance was born!  The CGWA is a group of like-minded vendors who are working to encourage more mindful weddings and commitment ceremonies.  We’re putting together a directory and a website, planning a workshop on greener weddings, and planning a green wedding show/tour.

The CGWA has a core group of very involved founding members.  Our first task has been to figure out how to vet candidates for membership.  Until we finalize that procedure, let me direct you to the people who have been actively involved with founding the group.

InvitationsSpilled Ink Press, Tweedle Press

VenuesLogan Square Kitchen, West Loop Studio

CaterersCity Provisions, FIG Catering, Lula Cafe

JewelryGreen Diva Jewelry

FavorsKatherine Anne Confections

PhotographyChristina Noel Photography, Light on Life Images, Vrai

PlannersLisa Gordon Events

Gifts/RegistryUrban Worm Girl

If you’re a vendor interested in getting involved with the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance (or if you are involved and I forgot to list you here!), please contact me!  You can reach me by email at lynn (at)

Spilled Ink Press is a husband and wife team of former architects that now design custom wedding invitations, party invitations, stationery of all kinds, and greeting cards.

Green Wedding Vendors Unite!

The folks at Pollen, Spilled Ink Press and Logan Square Kitchen have been hatching a plan.  A plan to get like-minded wedding vendors together.  And we did it!

Earlier this week, we pulled together a group of eco-friendly Chicago area wedding vendors to talk about ways we can work together to educate consumers, ourselves, and other vendors about being mindful of the choices we make when planning events.  Some of the ideas we’re talking about are to create a directory of eco-friendly wedding vendors, put together a website for the green wedding vendor community, and host a green wedding show.  And of course, we’ll be holding regular networking events to bring together the community of mindful wedding vendors.

If you’d like to join the group, please send an email to me at lynn(at)  We’re so excited to get this community together!

Green Wedding Vendor Happy Hour

I’m so excited to be working with my friends at Spilled Ink Press and Logan Square Kitchen to organize a green wedding vendor networking event!  First, the details (which can also be found in the pingg invite and Facebook event).

  • Wednesday, March 10, 2010
  • 6-8PM
  • Logan Square Kitchen (2333 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL)

Feel free to bring a drink or beverage to share.  I’ll be stopping at Provenance on my way there to pick up something tasty.

I’ve been talking with Amanda and Tony of Spilled Ink Press about ideas for getting together an alliance of Chicago-area green wedding vendors.  This would create an opportunity to educate consumers and other vendors while establishing a referral network of like-minded vendors.  Sounds cool, right?  We think so!

So if you’re a green wedding vendor, come by on Wednesday!  Photographers, florists, wedding planners, caterers…  We’d love to meet you!

Indie Wed Display–Modern Theme

For the “modern” theme for Pollen’s Indie Wed display, the inspiration was a beautiful pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes.  The decor picked up the fuchsia color of the shoes with deep pinks, as well as pewter and silver, and conveyed simple elegance.

Modern Theme Mini-Inspiration Board

I featured fuchsia phalaenopsis orchids in the centerpiece, bridal bouquet, and boutonniere.  These flowers are so gorgeous and striking, that they really can stand alone.  I added lily grass to the tall centerpiece, and allowed the orchids to have some space, so the individual stems could be appreciated.

Tall and Modern Orchid Centerpiece

These beautiful orchids were grown in a western suburb of Chicago, so they only had to travel 25 miles to get here, instead of 2500 miles!  So not only are they very fresh, but they have a smaller carbon footprint than imported orchids, since they don’t need nearly as much fossil fuel to get to their ultimate destination.

For the bridal bouquet, I again allowed the orchids to stand alone, with a little lily grass added for a modern flair.  I wrapped the stems in pewter ribbon, then silver wire, to carry through the silver accents in the centerpieces.

Modern Orchid Bridal Bouquet

These flowers would be perfect for the couple planning a simple and elegant wedding that still makes a  statement!

These beautiful phalaenopsis stems were grown in a western suburb of Chicago, so they only had to travel 25 miles to get here, instead of 2500 miles!

Indie Wed Display–Quirky/Woodsy Theme

The Quirky/Woodsy vignette from my display at Indie Wed definitely got the most attention.  About a week before Indie Wed, I thought about cutting out this vignette, because I really hadn’t figured out yet what I was going to do for it.  I was thinking of the theme as Wintry/Rustic, and envisioned using birch bark as a focal feature, but the birch bark got the boot.  Twig balls and acorns took center stage, and the theme became Quirky/Woodsy.  I’m so glad I didn’t give up on this theme, because so many people reacted to it.

Here was the mini inspiration board for the theme, showing the inspiration piece: these somewhat strange-looking handmade owls I found a photo on Shelterrific’s blog.  The color scheme was green, plum, grey-ish aqua, and brown.

The Quirky/Woodsy Theme

For the centerpiece, I started with a natural basket made of twigs and moss.  I inserted a 5X5X5 inch glass cube vase to line it.  Thankfully it fit perfectly!  Instead of using floral foam–a much depended upon floral industry material–I designed the centerpiece in water.  I avoid using floral foam as much as possible, because it is both non-biodegradable and a petroleum-based product.  Oh, and it contains formeldehyde.  A couple of days before Indie Wed, I placed in the arrangement the non-floral items: a moss ball that I made from moss and waxed thread to provide some structure (my floral foam substitute), the branches, twig balls, and the succulent.  Here’s what that stage looked like:

The First Step of the Quirky/Woodsy Centerpiece

I later added the kale, stock, trachelium, and acorns.

The Final Quirky/Woodsy Centerpiece

For the bouquet, I used many of the same elements as were in the centerpiece. When I was thinking the theme would be Wintry/Rustic, I was planning on using a sweater-like material to cover the stems of the bouquet.  Instead, I used a green grosgrain ribbon with brown wooden buttons on the handle.

Quirky/Woodsy Wedding Bouquet

I didn’t get a good isolated shot of the acorn boutonniere, but here you can see it in the final display.  The boutonniere had matching ribbon and buttons to coordinate with the bridal bouquet.

Quirky/Woodsy Vignette

Another sustainable aspect of these designs is that many of the elements, such as the twig spheres, acorns, and branches, could be saved and used to create a keepsake.  The succulents could also be removed and would last for months kept in a low glass container with river rock and a little water. It’s a reusable bouquet!

The vignette I almost axed was the one I enjoyed making and looking at the most.  I’m so glad I kept it!

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: