Monday, March 15, 2010

Green Weddings Encourage Life-long Environmental Stewardship

He who plants a tree,--
He plants love,
Tents of coolness spreading out above
Wayfarers he may not live to see.
Gifts that grow are best;
Hands that bless are blest;
Plant! life does the rest!
Heaven and earth help him who plants a tree,
And his work its own reward shall be.

~ From “Plant a Tree,” by Lucy Larcom

A wedding is one of the most treasured moments in a person’s life. Last summer The North Carolina Arboretum launched a new Green Wedding Program, offering elegantly designed green buildings and sustainable landscapes as sites for ceremonies and receptions.

Events & Facilities Coordinator Cindy Blankenship manages the Green Wedding Program and sees it as a natural addition to the Arboretum’s rich 25-year history.

And she should know. Cindy has been with The North Carolina Arboretum since the beginning. Before the 434-acre site was developed, she was hired on as the first office assistant – even before the Arboretum hired on its first and current executive director, George Briggs.

In order to meet its mission to cultivate connections between people and plants, the Green Wedding Program requires couples to follow guidelines for using organically grown and natural products as part of their wedding and pledge to reduce consumable products as part of their activities.

Adam Grauer and Erin Mahaffey-Grauer were the first to participate in the program, and their July 18, 2009 wedding still influences environmental decisions they make every day.

To honor the Arboretum’s guidelines, Erin and Adam’s favors for their guests were tree seedlings which contained lines from Lucy Larcom’s poem, ‘Plant a Tree’.

Erin and Adam’s wedding ceremony also centered on ideas of recycling. “We incorporated sea glass into decorations and as a way to think about processes of life and personal relationships – the ways in which personal relations shape the contours of persons and how each and every person at our ceremony had led us to that very moment. It brought a sense of interconnection to the ceremony.”

“The green requirements at the Arboretum definitely carried over into aspects of our daily lives,” Erin said. One of the lasting changes the couple has made is to consider using live plants as opposed to cut flowers for their tables.

“Since our wedding and vows at the arboretum, our commitment to each other has found resonance with metaphors of nature, growth, and nurturance,” Erin said.

With more than 40 weddings booked since the program launched less than a year ago, Blankenship said she believes the credit for program’s popularity belongs to staff, gardens, building design and nature itself.

Erin and Adam agree.

“We chose the Arboretum because we wanted an outdoor wedding ceremony and an indoor reception that could hold at least 100 people comfortably,” Erin said. “The Arboretum is gorgeous with tons of beautiful plants and walkways. We had a cocktail hour in the gardens and our ceremony in the Greek-like amphitheater – perfectly suited to a ceremony outdoors.”

When choosing the Arboretum for their wedding ceremony, Erin and Adam also responded to the venue’s high ceilings, fireplace, wood beams, and ample windows which give it the feel of being outdoors while still providing a comfortable place for dinner and dancing.

“I am proud of all the hard work staff members have put into making the Arboretum what it is today and then having couples choose us as the site for their most important day – it warms my heart to see people in love as well as their love for nature,” Cindy said.

For more information, call Cindy Blankenship at 828.665.2492, ext. 216 or e-mail, or Katie Edwards at 828.665.2492
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