The whole family got together at my Aunt Debi's house for an "Al Fresco Birthday Luncheon". It turned out to be a beautiful day, with family, friends, and good food.
My aunt's vision for the lunch was an Italian theme, and she has a big patio in the hills above Ojai, California, so it was easy to pretend we were actually in Italy.
There were also lots of ecologically-friendly touches throughout the day. It struck me that you could use similar strategies to increase the greenness of any party - even a small wedding.
Tables and Chairs
There was one long table outside; it was just a bunch of smaller tables put end to end. Since the party was going to have a relaxed vibe, it didn't matter that the chairs and tables didn't match. It seems like the desire for entertaining perfection, fueled by all the lifestyle magazines out there, is the enemy of green living, because it forces people to consume more. If you want everything to match, then most of us aren't going to be able to use the stuff we have on hand.
Rather than use paper, plastic, or even bamboo, we used china plates and real silverware. How did we have enough place settings for everyone? Simple - Aunt Deb borrowed a set of dishes from my mom. Again, it didn't matter if everything matched. I thought it looked as beautiful as something out of Martha Stewart, even if it wasn't "perfect."
They rented wine glasses, but didn't go overboard being green. With a bunch of cousins under the age of 10 running around, there were plastic cups on hand for the little ones. Of course, those can be recycled!
The centerpieces were white roses from my aunt's garden, as well as framed pictures from my grandmother's life. Family members brought the pictures they already had on hand, which meant we weren't printing new ones or buying new frames.
Flowers produced commercially can be extremely damaging to the environment. Use the ones you grow yourself, and you know exactly what chemicals were used -- plus, they haven't been refrigerated and transported over thousands of miles, saving energy costs.
We cooked the feast ourselves, and everyone had a great time. It was so fabulous to be together, and it was great knowing that the our celebration wasn't harming the Earth.
Entertaining doesn't have to be an excuse to increase consumption. Just a few simple steps, and a willingness to prioritize joy over perfection, can mean a celebration that everyone can enjoy without feeling any green guilt in the morning.