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Have Your Say: How can couples plan weddings to match their eco and social values?

Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.

When celebrated human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin married some actor named George Clooney, her ethically-mined diamond engagement bling was a big part of the story.

Granted, most Canadian newlyweds-to-be might find the A-listers' subsequent $1.6-million, three-day Italian dream wedding out of reach. But the non-rich-and-famous can make their big day reflect their deepest values.

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Marc and his bride Roxanne, for example, replaced the conventional wrapped-candy party favours with traditional Maasai wedding necklaces – hand-beaded by women in rural Kenya who benefited from the extra income for their families.

The average North American wedding now costs over $30,000. It also produces up to 600 pounds of garbage and more greenhouse gas in one day than a family of four produces in a year. So there's ample opportunity to dramatically lower the collective footprint–and boost the social impact–of your pending nuptials.

Our favourite idea, suggested by Vancity Bride editor Jeannine Avelino, is to donate your wedding dress to charity. Brides' Project in Toronto allows eco- and socially-conscious newlyweds to donate their once-worn dresses, with the proceeds totalling more than a half-million dollars for various cancer charities since 2004. Brides on a tight budget can also buy their gowns from the organization for half the retail price. Original Bridal Swap in Vancouver has a similar program, and it's expanding to Calgary later this month.

With an expected 160,000 marriages taking place across Canada this summer alone, lovers can show their passion for the planet and be philanthropic while still throwing a rocking party.

This week's question: What's the best socially conscious or eco-friendly wedding idea you've seen?

THE EXPERTS:

Danielle Andrews Sunkel, president of The Wedding Planners Institute of Canada, Markham, Ont.

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"Use caterers that follow the 100 mile diet, and keep all events outside and during the day to cut back on electricity. My favourite initiative is being eco-friendly with decor, using potted plants and the natural beauty of a location, rather than throw away, one-time use items."

Lindsay Coulter, "Queen of Green" blogger at the David Suzuki Foundation, Vancouver

"Many cut flowers are grown overseas in developing countries, where growers frequently use pesticides banned in Canada. Ask your florist for local and seasonal choices. That way you'll support local growers and significantly reduce the carbon footprint of that lovely bouquet."

Robyn Holmes, owner of Peachy Green Events, Winnipeg

"Most local jewellers have their own metalsmith who can makeover, resize or melt down your grandparents' old gold jewellery so you can design your own while keeping family history in it."

Have your say in the comments section.

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