Archive | Green Tips

Reuse and Reuse Again: Green Benefits of Vintage Wedding Rentals

by Kate Lerman of Chicago Vintage Weddings

Running a vintage rental company is rewarding work but working with vintage wedding rentals is always rewarding. I started my own company, Chicago Vintage Weddings, after realizing that there were a lack of unique rental options for couples planning weddings in Chicago. My collection of furniture and mismatched china had already been growing steadily, so this would be the perfect excuse to rescue more pieces! Since then my inventory has grown to thousands of items which rents out for multiple events every weekend.

I’m in good company. Aside from Chicago Vintage Weddings, other vintage rental businesses in the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance include Nimble Well, Aged Vintage Rentals, and Vintage Place Settings. Each has a beautiful collection of goods for rent.

Vintage rentals are a clear green choice. Beautiful objects with rich history are kept out of landfills, reused countless times, and are a wonderful alternative to purchasing or renting something with a “Made in China” label. The vintage rental companies in the CGWA take things even further, finding good use for pieces that can no longer be rented out.

Broken plates are an unavoidable part of running this kind of business. Thankfully, mosaic artist Leesa Tolbert turns broken plates from my collection as well as that of Vintage Place Settings into works of art. Listen to this recent story by DNAInfo on Leesa’s collaboration with Coreen and Stacy of Vintage Place Settings. This kind of upcycling is what Green Wedding Alliance members are all about!

Whether it’s rentals, planning, music, or food you can rest assured the CGWA members are finding creative ways to conserve that can help the planet, help your wallet, and still be beautiful and upscale.

Stress-Free & Sustainable Engagement Tips

The author, Carolyn Mullany is a recently-engaged bride and is also a wedding-vendor, whose insider’s perspective into the wedding world has been extremely helpful. She’s passionate about reminding people to keep their engagements enjoyable, stress free, and special. Here are a few engagement tips that worked best for her:

Don’t Worry About “supposed to-s”: I’m all about taking back the wedding. Some people (cough cough names will not be named!) will feel they deserve a say in your wedding when no opinion is asked. A wedding is about the start of a marriage and a marriage is between two people. Worried about leaving someone out of the bridal party? Don’t, they’ll get over it! Heck, don’t even have a bridal party if you don’t want one! Anxious over having to register for kitchenware even though it’s not 1950 anymore and you’ve lived on your own for 10 years? I say register for that bicycle you’ve been eyeing! For me, I didn’t want a cheesy engagement session, so superheroes it was!

Doing What We Want: Engagement Session - Photo by Chrystl Roberge Photography Doing What We Want: Engagement Session – Photo by Chrystl Roberge Photography

Get off Pinterest! Pinterest is for collecting or sharing ideas, not inspiration. If you want your wedding to reflect your style, think about what inspires you. Reflect on yourself and your partner and put aspects of those things that best represent you into your wedding. Is it the outdoors, a certain artist, a song, a tucked away spot in the city? For me, I’m inspired by modern art and the colors of Kandinksy. Comparing your wedding to what you see on Pinterest will only stress you out.

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), “Composition VII, 1913 Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), “Composition VII, 1913

Save the fun stuff for last! Once the date is set, venue booked, caterer and photographer selected, and dreaded guest list made – things for me were more fun. This allowed space to really enjoy the things I found exciting like dress shopping, cake tasting, and honeymoon planning! It may be tempting to go out and try on dresses immediately, but saving it for later will be worth the wait!

If it doesn’t get done it doesn’t matter. Think about it, if there is something you don’t have done the week of your wedding, it truly doesn’t matter. If you really didn’t bother to take care of it earlier – it wasn’t that important to you.

Thrift store finds Thrift store finds

Seek Out Alternate Resources: Thrift stores, garage sales, scrap warehouses are your friend! Yes weddings are expensive, but whatever your budget is you can work around it. Seriously. As a designer, I have a huge inventory of vases and I’ve never paid more than $2 for each vase. It may be second hand but anything and everything can be altered to reflect your style..get creative!! Check out CGWA’s The Great Wedding Recyclery on April 27th for amazing goods!!

The Great Wedding Recyclery

Remember the bigger picture. At the end of the day you should be planning for a marriage, not just a wedding. I love weddings but I believe in marriages and I believe every relationship (whether married or not) deserves care, time, and cultivation. Remember this the next time you wake up in the middle of the night worried about floral arrangements!

Photo by Chrysl Roberge Photography Photo by Chrysl Roberge Photography

Tips for Eco-Friendly Wedding Decor

by Lisa Gordon from Lisa Gordon Events

Since everyone is thinking about holiday parties now, I am revisiting some thoughts on eco-friendly wedding decor. You can adapt many of these ideas to any party, but since I have Channukkah and Christmas on the brain, I’ll start with them.

For decor that is environmentally friendly, I suggest using live plants. There are several traditional holiday plants (for example, miniature live pine trees, ivy, poinsettias, Christmas cactus) that could be part of holiday decor. Try juxtaposing a miniature red rose bush with English ivy for a festive centerpiece. For extra credit on the environmental side, look for live plants that have been grown locally and organically. Local greenhouses are a great place to find them. If you don’t want the plants at home after your party, be sure to send them home with guests who want them. Locally grown, organic flowers are always a sustainable choice. In the winter, that means greenhouse flowers, too. There are florists who specialize in local, organic flower arrangements, including members of the Green Wedding Alliance.
basil centerpiece
You’ll probably be looking for some candles for your festive table. Chicago Honey Co-op is a local organization that keeps bees and makes products, including beeswax candles, and Bright Endeavors provides job training for at-risk women and produces soy candles. Beeswax and soy are less polluting than petroleum-based wax candles, and coming from a local source makes it doubly eco-friendly. It also smells nice! If you are celebrating Chanukkah, beeswax Chanukkah candles are available in specialty shops and online, although I have yet to find any made locally.

In the last few years, LED holiday lights have really taken off. In my opinion, most of the white lights look too bluish to be very attractive, but the red, green, and real blue ones I have seen are quite nice, and the pale yellow ones are a fine substitute for white. LEDs use a tiny fraction of the energy of traditional incandescent lights, and they ought to last a very long time. Both those qualities make them environmentally friendly.

outdoor tablesFor any kind of party, any time of year, you can make your food part of your decorations. Edible centerpieces look nice and taste great. You can buy “flower” arrangements made of fruit, or create something yourself. Even something as simple as a basket of unshelled nuts or fresh fruit with a colorful napkin can provide both snacks and visual interest. If you’re playing dreidel, the unshelled nuts of your centerpiece can also be the “chips” in the game.

For eco-friendly food service, nothing beats real china, linen, silver, and glassware. Yes, it uses a lot of water to clean up after the party, but it is still a better eco choice than disposables. It also looks very festive. Compostable disposable dishes are another option, but you will probably have to pay a composting service in order to compost them. Most home compost piles are not hot enough to break them down.

But the most environmentally conscious thing you can do when decorating is remembering that less is more. The more new stuff you acquire and the more you have to throw away, the less eco-friendly your decorations will be. Consider renting large items, instead of buying them, if you are doing elaborate decorations. But if you do find yourself with decorations you don’t plan to use again, minimize their impact by either donating them to a second-hand shop or giving them away on your local Freecycle group.

Have happy and green celebrations!

Green Wedding Tips: Choosing Alcohol Responsibly

by Michelle Marchisotta from FIG Catering

Wedding season is upon us and with it here’s another of our green wedding tips! With all of the important customizable decisions to make such as the venue, food and music, couples often don’t put much personalization and thoughtfulness into their libation list. Whether your guests are the type to drink & dance all night long or simply sip a cocktail or two, they should have a selection to choose from that stands alone, reflects who you are, and is of good quality. Often relegated to the groom or passed off on an unsuspecting friend, the bar selections can actually include meaningful selections. Trust me, I know from personal experience.

Michelle at the bar (photo by Cage & Aquarium) Michelle at the bar (photo by Cage & Aquarium)

When it came to the bar for my farm wedding last year, my soon-to-be husband and I were dead set on choosing what we wanted. We chose Revolution Brewing’s ‘Bottom Up Wit’ because it’s what we had our first date. Even if it meant driving to the brewery the day before our big day to trek 2 kegs with us all the way west to the cornfields, we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We chose Two Brothers ‘Domaine DuPage’ because the farm worked closely with the brewery and it’s local, only a 15 minute drive from where I grew up and have frequented over the years. My husband home-brewed a farmhouse ale, with some Midwestern hops from the insanely friendly and educated men at Home Brew Shop in St. Charles. During our cake cutting, we clinked with flutes filled with Buffalo Trace. Not only is it our favorite bourbon because of taste but because we connect with the distillery’s integrity, values and sustainable practices.

Photo by Gina Cristine Photo by Gina Cristine

Sounds like we did a not so shabby job with our alcohol selections, right? We did, up until here. Unfortunately, we involved friends and family in the rest of the decision making process which took us in a direction we didn’t intend to travel. We were told we were being too obscure and selfish. We got it all: “My bosses friend’s wife only drinks this,” “ I guess there just won’t be anything for Aunt June to drink,” “You know if you picked something more mainstream your bar package wouldn’t cost as much.” So, what did we end up doing? We added Ketel One, Bacardi, Tanqueray, and some macro-brews to our list making it completely unbalanced and as a whole, not representative of us and what we believe in. When I joined FIG they had just recently acquired their liquor license and I was happy to see that they had put together an awesome list of local brews (including Bottom Up Wit) and spirits from responsible producers.

As it turns out, Buffalo Trace was the first thing to go and most talked about. Since the wedding, my dad and brother have it as a staple in their home bar set-up. The homebrew and the “perfect for summer” witbier with hints or coriander and orange were also talked about long after our big day. We would have loved to and should have included Prairie vodka, Letherbee gin and Old New Orleans rum completing what would have been our ideal list.

There is a lot involved in planning a wedding and sometimes it just feels easier to pass off one of your ‘To Do’s,’ but choosing good drink is just as important as choosing good food so take a few extra minutes to do it. In the end choose what’s best for you, the Earth and be happy that you kept your integrity. Your friends and family just like mine, might just find their new drink of choice. Cheers!

If you’re looking for some great local brews for your celebration, head over to the Dank Haus tomorrow night for Bridetoberfest where there will be over a dozen selections on tap.

Portrait Session Tips: Outdoors Lighting

by Genevieve Burruss of Genevieve Lauren Photography


Photo by The Way We Click Photo by The Way We ClickIt is extremely important to keep the lighting in mind when shooting a portrait session outside. Unlike indoors, where we can control all of the light natural light is a little harder to predict, but there are some things to keep in mind. When photographers suggest a session time to you, it’s usually not because we are trying to fit you into our schedule, but rather, we are trying to create a feeling for you based on your style, and the time of day makes a huge difference in how that is created.

Morning light tends to be a bit “thinner” so you will get really pretty long shadows since the sun is still low enough to illuminate from the side, and colors tend to be a little less vivid. A lot of times if you shoot near the lake or in a meadow area you will get some mist from the night’s condensation evaporating which can be extremely beautiful and dreamy. Mid morning to afternoon light, while typically not our favorite, can be great for areas where there are lots of trees to use as filters, or if the skies tend to be particularly epic. A little fill flash in conditions like these where the sun is high and bright can create a truly magical shot if you know what you’re doing. Late afternoon and evening tends to be most photographers’ sweet spot and shooting just before and just after sunset to catch “magic hour” lends itself to some of the most romantic, pretty, and ethereal light. The colors in the sky can also be highlighted at this time of day and there just seem to be more options. Make sure you communicate with your photographer about what images you saw on his or her website that speak to you, and then let them decide the time of day you will shoot to create that same feeling for you. There is no way you will get dreamy golden soft light in a portrait session if you’re shooting at Noon!
Photo by The Way We Click Most importantly, let yourself go a little. Some of my favorite shots are the ones that happen when I pretend to fiddle with my camera for a minute and let my couples interact with each other in a natural way. Holding your breath, trying not to move, and holding a smile for too long are all sure-fire ways to make pictures of you look stiff and boring. Instead, listen to your photographer when they tell you to do something, even if it sounds insane, and trust that we will do everything in our power to make you look your absolute best, no matter what!


Engagement Portrait Tips: What to Wear

by Genevieve Burruss of Genevieve Lauren Photography

So, you’ve got your photo locations picked out; now comes the part that everybody struggles with at some point in their lives – what to wear!? Well here’s part two of my engagement portrait tips.

How to Dress Well

Photo by The Way We ClickThis is often a point of some stress and it really shouldn’t be. First the weather will affect what you can/should wear and the accessories you may need on any given Chicago day. In the middle of summer with high humidity you probably shouldn’t wear a long sleeve shirt and pants, and you may want to plan on a cute umbrella just in case. I usually have at least one client each spring that shows up to her engagement session in April or May wearing a super short summer dress without a sweater or jacket to layer (in the middle of winter it’s easy to forget that it’s often still pretty cold in April and May). I understand you want to wear your favorite outfit, but if the weather is too cold to wear that silk jersey sun dress and sandals, don’t wear it. You will be cold and uncomfortable which makes it hard to get a good shot (unless you’re a professional model it’ll be hard to hide this discomfort and you want to look happy in your photos!). As we all know Chicago also has a fair amount of windy days – especially along the lakefront or on bridges (see location post above) – so the styling of your hair may be affected by a big gust here and there. Try to choose an easy hairstyle that will be easy to tame back into shape should it get a little tousled in a few shots.

Photo by The Way We ClickSecond, beyond the weather, there are some general rules to follow when dressing for photos. Choose a color that complements your skin tone (think about whether you’ll be paler or tanner at that time of year). Sticking to solid colors or small prints generally works better. You’ll probably take color and black and white shots so think about how your color/pattern will look in both. Some couples choose to wear matching outfits – unless you do this in your normal life I urge you to resist matching, but it probably is a good idea to talk about what each other is wearing. It’s always fun when I have a guy show up in a casual olive green plaid shirt and khaki pants while she is wearing a bright red fancy dress. Being complementary does not equate to matching!

Third make sure you are comfortable in what you’re wearing. If you’re going to be on the beach or trekking around choose shoes that you can walk in. Even though you want to wear something a little nicer than your normal, every-day wear don’t go overboard or it can seem forced to your guests who know you. You still want to look like yourself.

Finally, stop stressing! Relax and enjoy a little time with your partner; it’ll show in your photos.

Photo by The Way We Click

Engagement Portrait Tips: Part One

by Genevieve Burruss from Genevieve Lauren Photography

As the summer sun starts to warm our fair city, so starts the engagement and portrait session season for me and my fellow photographers. Everyone wants to be outdoors and take advantage of Chicago’s gorgeous sites and landmarks to capture their special moment, so here are some engagement portrait tips to keep in mind when planning for outdoor photos.

Photo by The Way We Click


Photo by The Way We ClickThe first thing that I would recommend to anyone who is looking to have a portrait session outside this year is to figure out what kind of location you would most like to have as your background. A lot of people think they want that cool city skyline in their shots, but once you have that shot in the can, what are your options for the rest of the hour or two? Each location is going to have its own unique feel, and of course, there are some spots in town that everyone else seems to want. If you’ve ever been to the Kinzie street bridge area or the Adler Planetarium on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in summer you’ve seen at least one bridal party lining up for that perfect Chicago shot. While these locations are great, and are popular for a reason, it really takes the creative juices out of your photographer and a lot of times the surrounding area may leave your session looking “one note”.

Photo by The Way We ClickI encourage you to explore. Talk to your photographer about whether you’d like a more urban landscape or a more natural lush background talk, and be open to alternate suggestions they may make. I have a library of unique spots up my sleeve that I haven’t seen in pictures a hundred times before and relish the opportunity to flex my creative muscle to create some amazing, one of a kind imagery for my clients! I really love shooting in “weird” places and I can tell you right now the shots I’ve taken in dirty alleys next to smelly garbage cans, weird streets in the middle of an industrial area, parking garages, or stairwells of hotels and abandoned buildings are always the my clients favorites.

Ask the Expert: Are Eco-Friendly Weddings Expensive?

by Lisa Gordon of Lisa Gordon Events

tent wedding receptionOne concern I often hear about eco-friendly weddings is that it is going to be too expensive to be eco-conscious.  While it is true that some environmentally friendly choices are more expensive, others are less expensive. There are always trade-offs, and, in the end, it is up to you to make the choices.

Organic food and flowers are almost certainly more expensive than conventionally grown or raised food and flowers.  Organic growing is more labor-intensive, and so the price goes up.  Also, retailers sometimes raise the price of organics when they can because it is a niche market.  But much of the increased cost is due to the high quality of the product.  On the other hand, local food and flowers in season may be less expensive than their counterparts from distant locations because of the lower transportation costs.  You can get local, organic; local, non-organic; or organic, non-local products.  Each of these is more environmentally friendly than non-local and non-organic products, so you can figure out what best meets your budget and your expectations.

When you’re thinking about decor, you can save money and go green by reducing the quantity of decor items at your celebration and by reducing the potential waste. For example, edible or grow-able favors with minimal (or reusable) packaging might save you money over an elaborate knick-knack that may end up in the landfill.  Finding a location that doesn’t require much decoration can save you a lot of money (and time) on decor.

A little creative thinking can both save you money and increase your green quotient.  And you don’t have to have a perfectly green event.  There are always trade-offs and purity shouldn’t be the goal.  But if there’s something you can do that suits your style and your budget, you can be just a little more green.