Why Couples are Choosing Country Weddings

Not only are nuptials in nature rustic and romantic, they’re also increasingly eco-friendly with couples creating stylish and memorable parties that don’t cost the earth.

September 8, 2023 | | Community

When Darcy Martin and Marcus Farmer tied the knot last October, they were lucky enough to hold the ceremony on a private country property that held deep meaning for them. The verdant open space, which belonged to their Caledon neighbour, sits by a picturesque natural pond edged with trees.

“We spent a lot of time by the pond having lazy afternoon picnics and talking about the future we wanted to build together,” Martin says. “When we became engaged and started planning our wedding, the pond was the first place that came to mind for our ceremony location. We were ecstatic when our neighbour allowed us to celebrate this incredible life moment there.”

It also set the tone for a wedding day marked by the couple’s thoughtfulness about their environmental impact. Martin and Farmer, who have since moved to Rockwood, opted for an intimate celebration of 65 guests. The ceremony location needed little decoration, just a few floral touches, many of them foraged. And they used dye-free and repurposed mulch to create a walking path. “Our goal for our ceremony was to leave no trace,” Martin says. “We wanted to show the same respect to the land that had given us so many good memories over the years.”

The vineyards at Adamo Estate Winery form a romantic backdrop for Marcus Farmer and Darcy Martin’s wedding photos. By Lydia Ivy Photography.

Looking for ways to lower the carbon footprint on what can be an environmentally damaging, waste-filled day is becoming increasingly important to couples. Not everyone can tap a friendly neighbour or family member who owns green space, but in a largely rural area like Headwaters, more and more venues and like-minded vendors are emerging to fill the role – and bookings are brisk.

“The biggest environmental impacts of a standard wedding are the distribution of waste and the amount of carbon produced,” says Toronto-based event planner Holly Perrier, one of Canada’s leading eco-wedding experts. “When we talk about the concept of a sustainable wedding, it encompasses a thoughtful approach to creating a meaningful and memorable event that aligns with your values. A sustainable wedding can be just as impactful and beautiful, if not more so, than a traditional wedding.”

Marcus and Darcy rented a bus to ferry guests from the ceremony in Caledon to the reception at Adamo Estate Winery in Mono. By Lydia Ivy Photography.

The couple provided a selection of blankets and shawls to keep guests warm. By Lydia Ivy Photography.

Although the pandemic was a stressful time for couples getting married because the scope of so many celebrations had to be recalibrated, Perrier says it was good for the planet because of the surge in micro-weddings with low guest counts. The trend toward small can reduce the environmental impact of transportation, catering and waste generation, she reports. “Fewer attendees can also result in reduced resource consumption like energy and water usage. It’s been my experience that smaller weddings also encourage couples to source things like decorations, food, and flowers locally and sustainably.”

Florals go even greener

While wedding bouquets and arrangements are biodegradable, that’s not their whole footprint. Sourcing more local, seasonal blooms – sorry, you may have to give up on having peonies in October or sunflowers in April – and eschewing dated tools such as floral foam is becoming more common.

Thanks to the aspirational role of social media in our lives, floral designers are reaching new heights of creativity to deliver Pinterest-perfect installations, centrepieces and bouquets. Anything is possible, but florist Krystal Young, owner of Erin-based Snowberry Botanicals, says it’s important to fully realize the environmental cost of your wedding’s floral elements.

Many of the flowers at Darcy Martin’s wedding were locally sourced or foraged. By Lydia Ivy Photography.

Young worked with Martin and Farmer to include as many local and seasonal materials as possible. “We were able to access a few goodies abundant in the local area via foraging. Autumn florals and grasses added a huge textural component to the designs for the day,” she says. “And because Darcy and Marcus were so in love with a warm, seasonal and neutral look, we were able to incorporate flowers like wild asters and solidago [goldenrods] as interesting and beautiful dried elements.”

Blooms imported from regions such as Ecuador, Colombia and Holland often stay out of water for days, and travel very far on planes, trains and automobiles to get to us, Young says. “Local flowers can be comparable cost-wise to those you import, but in the long run they come at much less of an [environmental] price. Supporting our local growers – which we have so many in this area – means not only fresher, seasonal blooms, but they are procured easily and without multi-legs of environment-damaging travel. As a florist, I love that I can pick materials up fresh or have them delivered to me from the farm unpackaged in wasteful plastic, Styrofoam and cardboard.”

Martin and Farmer also minimized waste by using their flowers in multiple ways. For their reception at Mono’s Adamo Estate Winery, Young deconstructed and repurposed the floral arch created for their ceremony into table centerpieces.

Ecological event planning

Eco-savvy couples and planners are finding myriad ways to celebrate in nature and be mindful of it at the same time, from thrifting to setting high standards for wedding venues and vendors.

“When you are looking at rental items, you can work with companies who have eco-minded policies regarding packaging and transportation of goods,” Holly Perrier says. “You can choose vendors who reuse candles, use blankets as opposed to bubble wrap, and plastic reusable totes instead of cardboard boxes.”

Indeed, for Martin and Farmer’s Adamo Estate Winery reception, the operators also committed to no single-use plastics. And the dinner menu featured food sourced from the farm at Adamo’s sister property, Hockley Valley Resort, and others within 100 kilometres, says Martin. Adamo serves its own locally produced wines, which eliminated – or significantly minimized – the transportation footprint.

Megan and Jon Lemon choose Caledon’s Cambium Farms for their nuptials this past June to bring 100 of their closest friends and family to a rustic location that showcased their local roots. The Orangeville-based couple aimed to make their day as sustainable as possible with few florals to reduce waste, as well as thrifted decor items such as antique bud vases and glass jugs to hold the aisle floral arrangements at the outdoor ceremony.

Megan and Jon Lemon have their pre-ceremony “first look” in front of Cambium Farms’ carriage house. By Magna Arnott Photography.

Groomsmen for Megan and Jon Lemon’s wedding approach the rustic barn at Cambium Farms. By Magna Arnott Photography.

“I tapped into a network of previous brides on Facebook as well as some bride-buy-and-sell groups looking to resell some items from their weddings,” Megan says. “In turn, I will be looking to pass along some of our items to others getting married. It’s a beautiful way to help others out and significantly reduce the amount of waste. We also rented a lot of things like the wooden arch we used for our wedding ceremony as well as our table numbers and card box.”

It helps when your venue is committed to sustainable practices. Julianne Williams, whose family owns and runs Cambium Farms, says they have invested in eliminating excessive waste and plastic. “Most venues rent chairs, tables and glassware, which means a lot of plastic wrap and packaging that is thrown out every event. We’ve upgraded our facility by purchasing our own equipment so outside items are minimally rented. We strive to ensure floral and decorating items are taken home by guests and staff at the end of the night so they can be repurposed.”

Dining tables at the Lemon wedding featured secondhand vases and minimal flowers. By Magna Arnott Photography.

The flagship space on the farm’s 50 acres is The Barn, which dates to 1873 and has been fully restored with a 250-guest capacity, but weddings often migrate around the property. Megan and Jon Lemon got ready in the farmhouse, used the carriage house for their “first look” and welcome drinks, had their ceremony on the lawn, cocktail hour in the barn, and reception in the restored Byre (originally used to house cattle, livestock and horses). Cambium Farms is already taking reservations for 2025 and is fielding inquiries for 2026, says Williams.

The historic Alton Mill Arts Centre is an iconic wedding destination that itself is a symbol of artful recycling. The 1881 mill has been completely restored and renovated using reclaimed materials and old-world techniques. And sustainability is a huge part of everyday operations, but particularly when it comes to weddings set within the refurbished stone walls of the Annex Courtyard or on the banks of the Millpond.

“We don’t allow confetti, rice, fireworks or loud music here on our grounds. We have an incredible property here that is beautiful, rustic and natural, and for us it’s critical to respect our environment and avoid excess waste,” says general manager Martin Kouprie. With bookings well into 2024 and 2025, it’s a strategy that fits the times. Kouprie reports he recently fielded over 30 wedding requests in one week from couples looking to get married in the next 18 months.

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  • The allure of a country wedding has only grown since the pandemic with people wanting to get into nature for their celebrations, says Brooke Schmidt, director of sales and events at Mount Alverno Luxury Resorts in Caledon. The 100-acre property features rolling green spaces, a forest, a 7-kilometre hiking trail, and a tranquil pond which is the location of the resort’s newest wedding locale. Called the Pond Terrace, it is a dreamy, clear-roofed structure with sweeping views of both the sky and the property.

    Setting the tone

    Holly Perrier says a commitment to sustainability can start as early as the invitation. If couples choose to go with a physical invitation, they can select a material such as seed paper which is embedded with floral or herb seeds and can be planted after the event. Seed paper or hemp paper is a good choice for other wedding stationery essentials as well, such as signage, menus or place cards.

    Another area to consider is the wedding wardrobe. Brides, wedding parties and guests can choose vintage or consignment pieces, or rent rather than buy wedding attire. Julie Kalinowski is co-owner of Fitzroy Rentals. The company began in 2016 as a Toronto brick-and-mortar dress rental boutique, and has now grown to be a booming online business which ships across Canada.

    Kalinowski offers a clever virtual fitting service for every client, and approximately 70 styles of white dresses by luxury bridal wear designers, including Monique Lhuillier and Theia. Expect to pay $100 to $160 for a four-day rental. She reports bridesmaid dress rentals have become a cornerstone of the business too.

    “The textile industry is one of the most wasteful on the planet. Renting a wedding dress is not only being more mindful of sustainability for your wedding, but it’s also astronomically more affordable,” Kalinowski says. “We love that so many of our wedding pieces have gone to such special and beautiful experiences, and feel they really carry that magical energy with them.”

    Looking ahead to the 2024 wedding season and beyond, it’s clear eco-conscious parties in rural settings are less a trend than a lifestyle choice – one that, in the end, is also just a really good time. As Alton Mill’s Kouprie puts it, “The mood when you come to the country for a wedding is relaxed, less stuffy, not too formal and feels like a beautiful day away from every day.”

    About the Author More by Alison McGill

    Alison McGill is a writer, editor and podcaster who lives in Halton Hills.

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