Interview with Tonia from Itty Bitty Impact

Tonia is the blogger behind Itty Bitty Impact. Her green lifestyle journey began when she and her fiancé Mike bought a home together two years ago. They started “greenifying” everyday household tasks and realized that their small changes were adding up and making a difference. As part of their process in “greenifying” their everyday lives, Tonia and Mike decided their greenification should include the whole of them — including their upcoming wedding.. We decided to talk to Tonia about her wedding plans and what’s she’s doing to make sure their special day is eco-friendly.

You can follow Tonia and Mike’s plans, along with adventures with their dog, Lake Superior on Twitter at @IttyBittyImpact or on her blog, Itty Bitty Impact.

JDB: First off, congratulations on the engagement and the pending wedding!

While many brides seem to give in to the pressure to have the biggest, baddest wedding ever, you and your fiancé have decided to take a more simple, eco-friendly/green route. Was this something you’ve wanted for a long time, or something you decided upon after getting engaged?

TS: I like to think of myself as a tomboy…or, at least I’m no girly-girl. However…I will admit that my BFF (best friend forever) and I used to buy wedding magazines when we were 14 or 15, and we’d sip hot chocolate at the bookstore and pretend we were brides-to-be planning our weddings. We did that all the time. I cringe now to think of what my wedding would be like if I had let my 15 year old self do the real planning. ;)

It wasn’t until I owned my own home that I got really into low-impact living. There’s something about watering your own lawn (and watching all that water get wasted), buying your own groceries (and realizing a lot of the stuff you eat comes all the way from Florida or Mexico), and washing your own laundry (and reading the ingredients list on the detergent bottle…yikes!), that made my fiancé and I think, “There’s gotta be a better way to do this stuff…”

Two years ago, we changed how we live at home and “got greener.” And as a result, a lot of our friends and relatives have made similar changes in their lives and reduced their daily impact on the environment. We realized that setting a good example for others is probably one of the most important results of living a greener lifestyle. We want our wedding to be one big green party– because it’s the right thing to do, and it’s who we are, and it sends a great message to all our loved ones.

JDB: Expound a little bit on vision for an eco-friendly wedding.

TS: Basically, we’re going to do most of the usual “weddingy” stuff, but do them more simply or more resourcefully. I say “most” because we are forgoing a few of the typical traditions (i.e. a wedding cake) either because we couldn’t pull it off it in a non-wasteful way, or because it just wasn’t meaningful to us in the first place.

Here are some of the main things we are doing to keep the wedding low-impact:

  • Rings: Our rings are custom made by Tamara McFarland, a vegan hobby-farmer in California. She uses 100% recycled metals and fair trade stones in her jewelry. The stone in my ring is man-made, which means it was not mined and did not impact the environment or society in a negative way.
  • Glassware: We are providing mason jars for guests to drink water/beer out of instead of using the disposable plastic cups that the bar provides.
  • Caterer: We asked every caterer in town whether they use disposable plates/flatware or not. Only one said that they do not use disposable. We went with them.
  • Decor: Our decorations/favors are almost completely thrift-store finds, and we’re making everything else ourselves, so we’re not buying any plastic crap that will promptly enter a landfill afterwards.
  • Registry: We are carefully choosing high-quality items that will last us a long time. My parents are still using many household items they received as gifts for their wedding. When something is made to last, there’s no need to ever replace it.
  • Save the Dates: We emailed our Save the Date announcements, expect for five of them because the recipients don’t use email.
  • Invites: Guests will receive a snail-mail invitation, but they will RSVP by going to our website. This reduces the paper we use, and is more convenient for most people. Our grandparents, and a few other guests who don’t use the Internet, will RSVP over the phone.
  • Rehearsal dinner: We wanted a BBQ, so my fiance’s parents tracked down a local WI guy who does pig-roasts. All his pigs are raised right there in town, free-range. He’ll also be grilling some fresh veggies for us from his garden.

JDB: Has this been an easy journey for the two of you or are you finding it harder than expected?

TS: Harder than expected! The thing is, we have other priorities besides keeping things green (gasp!). It’s really important to us that our guests feel appreciated and comfortable the whole weekend, so we had to really consider things like, “If we make everyone drink out of the same glass (mason jar) all night, will they get annoyed/want to rinse it out if they switch from, say, beer to lemonade?” With every decision we make, we have to weigh our different priorities against each other.

JDB: What’s the response been like from your close friends and family?

TS: Our immediate families have been really supportive and they totally believe in our vision. Our extended family and friends…well, most of them are from the Twin Cities or Chicago, and they have NO idea what they’re in for! The Minnesota relatives will probably say something neutral, like “Well this is a little different…” and the Chicago relatives will just tell us we’re hippies and then drink all our beer.

JDB: Have you had to make concessions along the way, or have you been able meet all your expectations and vision for an eco-friendly wedding?

TS: Yes, concessions have been made. One of my obsessions from the early days of planning was to have everyone sitting on handmade benches during the ceremony, which is taking place outside. I strongly dislike the look of folding chairs, and they’re super expensive to rent! But my family finally talked me into renting chairs after explaining to me that Nonna and Nonno just really won’t be comfortable on a wooded bench for an hour. And now looking back I think I must have been crazy to expect my dad and brother to hand-craft 50 benches, out of reclaimed wood no less!! Yeah…I’m over it. :)

The reception food was another concession. Our caterer wasn’t OK with the idea of us bringing in our own chicken (we wanted to provide locally raised, free-range chicken for the entree), but seeing as they’re the only caterer in town that doesn’t use disposable plates for their food, we decided we had to just go with whatever chicken they have, which is most likely not local or organic. =\

JDB: What are some simple things brides and grooms can do in planning their own weddings to keep it simple and eco-friendly?

TS: 1. Cut out the fat: Don’t do every single “weddingy” thing just for the sake of it. If it doesn’t mean something to you, then why do it? Your planning process will be instantly simplified if you stick to what really matters and lose the rest.
2. Eco-friendly is also budget friendly, so stick to your budget and you’ll naturally make greener decisions. For example, we saved tons of money because we didn’t mail out save-the-date cards. It was such an easy decision because it was good for our pocket as well as the Earth.
3. Explore alternatives. Your wedding will be more personal, and greener, if you don’t go with the first florist, the first caterer, or the first venue you find. Leave time for research…the really cool lady who grows organic peonies in her backyard and makes gorgeous bouquets might not pop up on the first page of Google, but she’s out there if you look for her.
4. Elbow grease! Why buy stuff that was made in China when you could make it yourself? And if you’re not crafty, I have one word for you: www.etsy.com

JDB: Thanks so much Tonia for sharing a bit of your experience with us. Best wishes on your upcoming wedding! May you and Mike be blessed for years to come.