A 'Green' Bride's Self-Involvement is Not Less Self-Involved Just Because It's Green

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Feb 13, 2007 4:21 PM

The New York Times ran a story yesterday about the phenomenon of "green" weddings-- one of those little special-interest, socially conscious cottage industries that becomes just popular enough to warrant a "trend" story in a major newspaper every couple of months. You know, like vegan bike repair shops or conflict-free swimming pool construction or some such.

To me, these stories are delightful both because of the extent to which the Lefty lifestyle can parody itself, and because they're the perfect example of the market working efficiently, creatively, and unexpectedly to respond to even the most outlandish predilections of the very people who doubt the market's ability to do any such thing.

It's like dramatic irony. So amusing to hear them talk about recycled invitations and organic three-course meals without realizing that it's the market they dislike so much and the Western prosperity the market grants them that allows them to reduce their "evironmental footprint" in such silly ways.

How Green Was My Wedding, the NYT headline cried-- a borderline challenge to the rest of us not refined enough to use soy-based unity candles in our ceremonies. But here's the part that gets me. Here's a run-down of Kate Harrison's dream wedding:

Kate Harrison’s idea of a fairy tale wedding goes something like this:

Gather more than 150 friends and relatives at an organic farm for a prewedding day of hikes and environmental tours.

Calculate the mileage guests will travel and offset their carbon dioxide emissions by donating to programs that plant trees or preserve rain forests.

Use hydrangeas, berries and other local and seasonal flowers for her bouquet and the decorations, instead of burning up fuel transporting flowers from faraway farms. Design an organic autumnal menu (same reason). Find a vintage dress to avoid the waste of a wedding gown that will never be worn again.

“It’s well worth it to start your life together in a way that’s in line with your values and beliefs,” said Ms. Harrison, 28, a graduate student at Yale, who is to marry in October. “You don’t want this event that is supposed to start your life together to come at the expense of the environment or workers in another country.”

Now, Kate is welcome to celebrate her day of lurve exactly as she wishes, and it doesn't hurt at all for it to reflect her values and beliefs. It's a statement about what she and her intended (presumably, although he may just be going along for the ride, as many grooms do) think are important, and if Gaia wants to bless the wedding, then so be it. But this part, I gotta take issue with:

Call Ms. Harrison the anti-Bridezilla, whose wedding is all about the planet, rather than “all about me.”

Just because Harrison's particular requirements tend to be greener than the average bride, doesn't mean she's any less self-involved than any other bride. Wearing a conflict-free diamond don't mean she can't bring the pain when the caterer shows up with bleached-white synthetic napkins. Oh, and she would. You know she would.

Wedding days are important days. They're expensive days. They're highly anticipated days, and they belong to the bride. For these reasons, brides turn into Bridezillas. Being a environmentally conscious bride does not automatically make one immune to such a transformation. In fact, I'd wager that a self-righteous enviro-Bridezilla is worse than the run-of-the-mill florist-Nazi bride. If anything, she's even more particular and harder to please. A trip to David's Bridal is much more easily done than a trip to the artisan dressmaker in Portland, Ore. Doesn't it say something about the NYT's institutional state of mind that any environmentalist is so self-evidently selfless and gentle that she is necessarily immune to the natural state of about 75 percent of all brides?

People in the wedding business say the eco-friendly or “green” wedding has arrived, its appeal having expanded to spur a mini-industry of stores and Web sites offering couples biodegradable plates made of sugar cane fiber and flowers grown according to sustainable farming practices.
The quality and choice of products has so steadily improved that the green concept is spreading to other kinds of parties, allowing hosts to embrace the earth without sacrificing style, party planners and others say.

Yay for the free market! And, now for the self-parodying...

This may include finding halls that recycle, hiring caterers who use locally grown ingredients, decorating with potted plants that can be transplanted and using soy-based candles, rather than those of petroleum-based wax...

Joshua Houdek, 32, and Kristi Papenfuss, 35, are planning a “zero waste” wedding for 250 guests in August. It will take place on a farm and include compostable plates and utensils, organic and fair trade-certified food, locally brewed beer and organic wine and wedding rings that are “100 percent reclaimed, recycled, ecologically responsible gold,” said Mr. Houdek.

Now, add the perfect picture of mildly oblivious Western environmentalists, bent on preserving poverty for others so they can enjoy it on vacation. This sentence is really in the story. What passes for a green honeymoon, you might ask? (emphasis mine)

Today, some in the eco-business note, even the honeymoon can be green without roughing it. “You used to have to go camping,” said Ted Ning, the executive director of the Lohas Journal, a resource guide for businesses that serve the environmentally conscious market. “Now you have these amazing luxurious spas in Africa or Fiji. You can look at different animals while getting a massage in a tree.”

Wow, leaving your green wedding to take a trans-Atlantic flight, so you can relax in a luxurious spa in a Third World country? Gee this reminds me of something. A guy in Madagascar with a catamaran. Now, I don't mind this kind of development in these countries, by which the folks who live there can benefit and earn a living by catering to the self-absorbed honeymoon plans of Western environmentalists. That's good stuff, economically speaking, but aren't evironmentalists generally opposed to it? Until they need somewhere to go on their honeymoons that'll produce the requisite number of Peace Corps-style photo ops to please their friends back home, I guess.

I wish all these brides the best of luck and happiness, but let's not pretend they, on balance, are any less self-absorbed than any other bride simply because their brand of self-absorption is politically correct. And, if you need proof, apparently enough of them need this sage advice to prevent them from forcing guests to contribute to the Sierra Club:

For private parties, as for weddings, Ms. Martini Bratten advises couples that no matter how well intentioned, they should not appear to be coercing guests into contributing to a cause. Asking them to buy a certain gift or donate to a specific group is fine as long as that is conveyed as just one choice, she said. “It shouldn’t be a requirement,” she said. “Imposing your wishes on someone else is crossing the line.”

Yeah, I'm gonna try that with my wedding, only everyone's gonna have to buy an NRA membership or become a member of The Heritage Foundation. I'm sure the NYT will report on me favorably as an "anti-Bridezilla" whose wedding is all about protecting people from the horrors of the modern socialist welfare state, not "all about me."

Start holding your breath now.