Beautiful Multiculturalism

May 31st, 2010
Here is the lovely couple.  Photo shamelessly borrowed from their wedding website.

Here is the lovely couple. Photo shamelessly borrowed from their wedding website.

I had the best time yesterday coordinating a wedding.  The bride was a lovely Chinese-American woman.  The groom was Cuban-American.  They had a pretty simple church ceremony, but at the reception, their families’ heritages were on full display.

The reception had most of the usual traditions you would expect at a wedding.  The bride and groom had their first dance together; the bride tossed her bouquet; and the groom tossed the garter.  But after the first dance, the bride changed from her white wedding gown into a gorgeous red dress.  (Red is a traditional lucky color in Chinese culture.  Many Chinese brides wear red.)  She also put on a heavily embroidered Chinese jacket called a kwa and some special jewelry.  Then she and her new husband performed a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, which involved them serving tea to their parents and grandparents and receiving gifts from them.  Her aunts made the special tea and her uncles read a description so everyone felt involved in the ceremony.

After the tea ceremony, the groom’s family’s culture came to the forefront.  The groom’s mother is old friends with the leader of a hot Cuban salsa band.  The band played a late-evening set that got the crowd out onto the dance floor to dance salsa, cha-cha, and cumbia.  Everyone felt like celebrating–and there are some fine salsa dancers among the groom’s family and friends.

Finally, at the end of the evening, the groom had a surprise for everyone.  He’s a big fan of Michael Jackson, and he came out dressed in a full MJ outfit to dance to “Billie Jean.”  Let me tell you, this guy had all the moves.  The night ended on a high note.

And where was your humble wedding coordinator during all this?  I was in two places at once, most of the night.  I was lining up the wedding party for their introductions; making sure the best man and matron of honor were in place to make their well-spoken toasts; getting a dad and a mom ready to dance with the bride and groom; moving chairs and tables for the tea ceremony; making sure the bride had changed in time for the tea ceremony and had remembered to put on her garter; telling the band leader when to start playing, and when to stop; keeping the bride from finding out that her new husband was going to do a surprise dance for her; informing the DJ, photographer, and videographer about the next event; working with the banquet hall staff; and making sure everyone was happy.  It was a lot of work, but for such nice people, it was a pleasure.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the photos from this very special wedding.  I’ll post them as soon as I get them so you can see for yourself how beautiful it was.

Chicago Green Wedding Alliance

May 18th, 2010

Last week, I was at the second meeting of the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance.  This is a group of wedding vendors who are all committed to environmental sustainability and social responsibility.  The official mission statement is:

cgwa-logoChicago Green Wedding Alliance is established to encourage mindful weddings, commitment ceremonies, and social events by connecting a community of environmentally and socially responsible vendors with the conscious consumer.  Members are united in their effort to continually grow and inform their responsible business practices through the support of their like-minded peers.

This group is still quite new but it’s an exciting group of people.  Watch for more information on a vendor list at their website and some upcoming events.

“Compostable Disposables”

May 10th, 2010

Compostable disposables are a great idea for an eco-friendly party, right?  Well, maybe.

But let me back up a minute, first.  What is a compostable disposable?  Well, plastic (like, for plates, cups, silverware, etc.) can be made from petroleum.  That kind is definitely not compostable and you have to throw it out.  Plastic can also be made from corn, and dishes and so on made from that kind of plastic are marketed as being compostable.

007Technically, yes, it is possible to compost corn plastic.  But the best authorities I can find (Smithsonian Magazine, for instance), say that it can only be composted in very hot, commercial composting facilities.  Being curious about this claim, my husband and I tried some experiments, with the help of a friend who has a very good home composting pile.  We took some cups and lids from my husband’s coffee roasting business to our friend.  The cups were paper lined with a very thin layer of corn plastic.  The lids were somewhat thicker plastic, but thinner than a plastic water bottle, and far thinner than a plastic plate.

The cups were shredded (with the assistance of the friend’s gentle pit bull) and put in the pile.  The lids went in whole (since the dog wasn’t interested in them).  In a reasonable amount of time (a few months, I believe), the paper and thin layer of corn plastic disappeared into the pile.  So far, so good.  That was last summer.  A few days ago, we were back at the friend’s house, and she handed us a lid that had been in the pile for about 9 months.  It was intact, whole, undisturbed.  Even her warm, active compost pile had not been able to digest even that much corn plastic.  Apparently, it does take a hotter compost pile to compost them.

Here is the lid after sitting in a nice, warm, active compost pile for almost a year.

Here is the lid after sitting in a nice, warm, active compost pile for almost a year.

But where do you find a commercial composter that will take corn plastics?  You can search for them at Find a Composter.  Search by state and then under “Paper and Compostable Products.”  You will find that they do not exist in every state.  For instance, while there are nine commercial composters in the state of Illinois, not one of them takes compostable plastic.  Connecticut, on the other hand, has one such facility; California has fifteen.  You might find, however, that many facilities do not take composting materials from households.

What is the solution, then?  If you are throwing a party and want to keep it as eco-friendly as possible, use ceramic dishes.  Rent them from a nearby rental house to reduce transportation waste.  If you have to use disposables, consider paper.  It is a renewable resource, like corn, and is much more compostable.  And, as we discovered, paper cups lined with corn plastic are actually compostable, even in a home compost pile.  If you need disposable utensils, though, there aren’t any really good answers.  Something is going to be thrown away, whether it is corn plastic or petroleum plastic.

So, be wary of the claims of compostability.  This is new territory and there are still a lot of questions to be answered.