It’s getting hot in here

Winter is a wonderful time of year for a wedding, and first choice for many couples who adore the serenity and beauty of this frosty season.

There’s nothing that beats the pristine elegance of a cold winter’s day.  Imagine the enchantment of gathering together to celebrate in a warm, softly lit venue ensconced against the winter’s chill outside.

Trees in the snow

But the environmental impact of a wedding is intensified in winter.  With the temperatures plunging and the nights closing in, the extra heating and lighting required, especially for a large venue, can seriously deepen your carbon footprint.

For any eco-conscious couple who want the impact of their big day to remain low, there are things to consider, and to help you, we’ve put together some tips and info so you can enjoy the best parts of this romantic season without hurting the environment.

A taste of honey

Lighting is especially important at a wedding celebration.  Low, golden lighting creates an atmosphere of intimacy and warmth, and candles are one of the best ways to get it.

But though low-tech, you’d be mistaken in thinking that candles are the earth-friendly option. A paraffin wax candle is made from petroleum, which in turn comes from refined oil and releases more pollution for every lumens of light produced than an electric light bulb.

According to figures produced by enochthered,  for every candle burned to replace electric lighting, greenhouse emissions are increased by 9.6 grams of carbon dioxide over the space of just one hour.  This means that for every switched on 40 watt light bulb,  the equivalent amount of candle light would make an extra 295 grams of carbon dioxide per hour. And if that doesn’t put you off, the soot from a paraffin candle can contain toxic chemicals such as toluene and benzene which have been linked to cancer and neurological damage.


Beeswax candles

The good news for those with their hearts set on candles is that there is an alternative. It’s beeswax. Beeswax is the only naturally occurring wax available,  and beeswax candles are non-toxic, non-polluting and actually clean indoor air.   (Source: http://www.organicauthority.com/sanctuary/4-tips-to-choose-eco-friendly-candles.html)

Winter sun and wind

A growing number of wedding venues now use solar and/or renewable power to generate heat and hot water for their rooms and buildings. But it’s good to bear in mind when approaching venues that just because it’s a green venue, it shouldn’t cost more than the alternatives. Solar generated electricity and solar thermal hot water not only significantly reduce the greenhouse emissions produced by a winter wedding but make bills significantly less.

School roof solar panels

Commercial solar power  slashes fuel bills and offers great returns on investment, leaving more funds for an eco-business to throw back into growing their green business.  According to Sussex based company Southern Solar,  installing a solar photovoltaic system on the roof of a considerable sized venue could displace over 4 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Figures produced by the Energy Saving Trust reveal that a well-sited small scale wind turbine can generate around 10,000kWh per year, equivalent to around 5.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide, and generate income and savings of around £3,200 a year.

Tips for a greener winter wedding

  • Electric lights are less polluting than candles, but your most earth-friendly option is a combination of low level lighting, preferably LED and CFL light bulbs (which can reduce your energy use by 20% or more) and beeswax candles for that dreamy, romantic glow.
  • Honeymoon on home turf.  There are a number of unique and inspiring eco destinations in the UK, where you can enjoy an unforgettable winter’s honeymoon while avoiding the carbon footprint of a long haul flight. From windmills in Norfolk to Scottish castles to heated yurts in the depths of the forest, these fair isles could make your winter honeymoon dreams come true.
  • Source winter wedding venues with sustainability and the environment at the heart of their business ethos. There are a number of wedding venues which are 100% committed to offering their customers a distinctive and memorable experience, without doing damage to the environment. We contacted some of the green venues listed at Ethical Weddings to see how they combat the extra energy use associated with a winter wedding.

Green winter wonderlands

The Longhouse
The Longhouse is an award-winning, eco-friendly, country wedding venue in Bruton, in rural Somerset, overlooking the stunning Brue Valley. The venue includes traditional old stone buildings and a contemporary, architect-designed modern building, with masses of light and glass. Geothermal heating warms the building, and sheep’s wool and even recycled newspaper in some places help to reduce the heating requirements.

They produce 70% of their electricity onsite and have a large wood burning stove in the main room burning wood collected on their 25 acres.  Solar thermal panels heat the water, and a huge underfloor tank collects rain water which is pumped back into the header tank and used for flushing toilets.

Somerset wedding venue, The Longhouse in winter
The Longhouse in winter

Director Matt Rawlingson-Plant is passionate about offering guests an amazing time, while caring for the environment. He told us:

Since my parents bought Trendle Farm 28 years ago we’ve planted about 6,500 trees, good offset for things and a great source of timber

He went on to say that providing both a special venue and commitment to the environment are of equal importance:

You can be seriously environmental but unless you have a beautiful venue couples will look elsewhere.  I think it can also increase the feel good factor knowing that the day’s impact on the surroundings has been significantly reduced.  Not many venues are able to seat 140 guests and have a ceremony in the winter time.

We try and be completely upfront with couples as I think it’s more ethical and how I would like to be treated.  It’s a question of building up an understanding of what they are looking for and how we might be able to help them achieve that.

One couple were concerned that their guests were going to be cold whilst having drinks outside under our gazebo.  I don’t like patio heaters but we do have them on for only a limited set time, so the compromise they made was to plant a tree.

Abbey Home Farm – Organic Farm Wedding Venue
Abbey Home Farm is a gorgeous, organic and ethically run, green wedding venue in Gloucestershire surrounded by ancient woods and winter greenery.   You have the choice of the green oak room, the outside terrace arbour, the veranda or cafe, the little garden shed, or you might enjoy the open fronted hut in a woodland glade or a blessing in the stone circle.

Wedding hut in the woods
Wedding hut in the magical glade at Abbey Home Farm

Director, Hilary Chester-Master says:

Winter weddings can be lovely.  The woods look so beautiful without the leaves on the trees and a walk to the magical glade hut can be truly magical!

Environment is at the core of the way this small business runs. All the rooms are heated by a woodchip boiler and a number of large wood burners.  The wood is harvested from the sustainable coppice woods on site and the hot water is heated by the same woodchip boiler aided by solar thermal panels.

Power for lighting, fairy lights and other electric appliances is generated locally by photo voltaic solar and two wind turbines, “newly arrived this month and whizzing around like mad in this wind!” says Hilary, who adds that she adores the atmosphere created by candles, but makes sure that only UK-made, beeswax candles are used.

Gants Mill
Gants Mill is a secluded and historic green wedding venue in a riverside setting, with the most evocative country garden and, like The Longhouse, is located in delicious, rural Somerset. Gants Mills don’t do weddings in the winter but their season is fairly long (from late April to early October),  so those couples looking to celebrate at the edge of autumn or spring can expect a low impact event in an unbeatable, and most romantic setting.

Gregory Beedle is the proud owner who displays dedication to the environment in the way he runs the venue,

Our main (but not our only!) eco credentials come from being a hydro-power producer, so in the winter we are busy pumping clean electricity into the grid.

One ‘silver lining’ to the weather in 2012 was that we produced an awful lot more than in most summers, e.g. 5x the norm in June 2012 alone. In the winter our main heat source is wood we harvest from our own land

Take a look at more green places to tie the knot in our Ethical Weddings Directory.

Keep warm!

Tara Gould

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