Going green on your big day doesn’t have to be difficult. Make a plan with our planet in mind by choosing organic flowers, an outdoor setting, farm-to-table food, biodegradable place settings, a litter-free send-off and other simple and environmentally-conscious touches. Vendors these days are used to working with couples who wish to love and protect each other and the Earth.
Photography: Michael Dragon, Dragon Studio
Coordination & Styling: Misty Prewitt, Misty Saves the Day
Venue: Norfolk Botanical Garden
Bridal Attire: Jeilyné Santana
Hair: Beauty by Sharra
Rentals: Distinctive Event Rentals
Jewelry: Either Ore Jewelers Strawbridge
Umbrellas: Big Top Entertainment
Catering: Marigold & Honey, the cafe at the Norfolk Botanical Garden
Cake: Kadi Bakes
Chargers: Pier 1
Flatware: Urban Outfitters
Plates: Joanne Hudson Basics
Wine glasses: Refresh Glass
Balloon from Jollity & Co.
Joyful Send-off Helps Couples Create Memorable and Litter-Free Wedding Finales
During summer last year, Laura McKay spent about five hours on a remote barrier island off Virginia’s coast and picked up more than 300 balloons and ribbons. "It was a real eye-opener!” says McKay, Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program Manager. "Clean-up events just in Virginia from 2010–2014 documented almost 5,000 pieces of balloon litter."
In 2013 the Virginia Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program held a marine debris summit which led to the creation of a Virginia Marine Debris Reduction Plan. The program quickly zeroed in on the deadliest debris to marine wildlife, and balloons were an obvious target. According to CZM, balloon litter poses one of the greatest risks to marine animals in terms of ingestion and entanglement. Balloons are mistaken for food such as jellyfish by sea turtles, and the ribbons on balloons are a major entanglement threat to birds and other animals on land and on the sea.
Further research led to an understanding of who plans balloon release events—and, most importantly, why. Katie Register, director of Clean Virginia Waterways and co-lead of this effort noted that, “Weddings are of course happy occasions. Balloon releases are also planned for sad events, like memorials. Doing this research was necessary to inform what we hope will be a series of successful campaign and education efforts to reduce balloon releases and litter.”
Findings led to the Joyful Send-off campaign kicking off in August 2017. Before launching, it was important that campaign leaders spoke and listened to brides about what a wedding sendoff ceremony meant to them. The campaign encourages send-off activities that provide memorable, joyful, picture-perfect, and litter-free alternatives to balloon releases.
“We hope that brides and grooms will learn that all released balloons become litter and will not organize or participate in a balloon release in the years to come,” says Virginia Witmer, Virginia CZM Outreach Coordinator.
Joyful Send-off is a project of the Virginia CZM Program funded through grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Debris Program and Office of Coastal Management and with technical and financial support from Clean Virginia Waterways of Longwood University, as well as contributions from many others.
On the website JoyfulSendoff.org, engaged couples will find many fun, memorable and picture-perfect send-off ideas. All of the ideas engage family and friends in a memorable celebratory send-off and have the added benefit of being litter-free. Some popular options include creating a curtain of bubbles or ribbon wands in a couple's wedding colors imprinted with their names and wedding date.
"Making these wands together with family and friends prior to the wedding can be a fun and quite meaningful activity," says Register. "Bells can be added to the end of the wand so a joyful noise accompanies the waves of color during a wedding send-off.
In the spring, flower petals offer a myriad of delightful color to a send-off, and in autumn, fall leaves against a bright blue sky are an amazing backdrop to a send-off. All of these send-off activities result in beautiful wedding pictures.
"We have spoken with many future brides and grooms and heard that there is great interest in having a beautiful ceremony that is also respectful of the environment." says McKay. "It is a legacy a couple can start together at their wedding—and grow and share throughout their marriage."
And the partners in the Joyful Send-off campaign are committed to helping and protecting and preserving Virginia’s environment. "Not only is this a goal of the programs we work for, but every day we each enjoy the natural beauty that Virginia has to offer," says Witner. "In the future, we hope to walk down the beach and in the waves, and find not balloons and other litter, but shells and other treasures from the sea."