The Best Green Wedding Services in Toronto
The best green wedding services in Toronto might soon have a little more competition. In a shaky economy and during a surge in environmental awareness, more couples are opting for sustainable and do-it-yourself celebrations. Let's face it - "green" is more than a passing craze. It's catching on in every industry from food to fashion, and weddings are no exception. Smart business owners who spotted the emerging trend are reaping the benefits of this niche market. They won't be alone for long. Shops and services catering to eco-minded brides and grooms are popping up across the city faster than you can say, "I do!"
Here's a round-up of the best green wedding services in Toronto, listed here by type.
WEDDING DRESSES AND TUXES
My recent visit to Cabaret was not unlike my others in the past; charming customer service and a refreshingly uncluttered space had already made me a repeat customer. Employing the most basic in environmental principles - the 3 R's - Cabaret revives vintage garments giving them yet another waltz down the aisle. An impeccably preserved collection of timeless and classic silhouettes lines the racks in Cabaret's quaint Queen West digs. The shop specializes in high fashion couture for men and women, including their own line of custom made bridal cocktail frocks in eco-friendly peace-silk. Owner Tao Drayton can't contain his boyish enthusiasm for the new line: vintage inspired dresses made right here in Toronto.
Going green on the big day doesn't mean wearing a recycled potato sack. Sustainable fabrics have grown up, and hemp no longer resembles itchy burlap. Adele Wechsler's Eco Collection is handcrafted locally using the creamiest of luxury organic hemp and silk blend fabric. It's like butter. And the gowns even look like wedding dresses! Guests will marvel at your beauty rather than guessing that you just wandered out of a Dead concert.
CAKES AND SWEETS
LPK's Culinary Groove
In the heart of Toronto's Riverside neighbourhood, shop owner Lesia Kohut and her team churn out countless pastries and truffles and cakes (oh my!). Although the storefront business is only in its second year, Lesia has been mixing up good-for-you sweets for more than a decade. One might pause before biting into an immaculately iced mini cupcake, if only to preserve its wonder for one last moment. Beauty isn't skin deep here; they're gorgeous on the inside too, packed with local, fair-trade and organic ingredients. Wedding cakes and cupcake towers are fully customizable to suit dietary restrictions and themes.
This Etobicoke bakery whips up made-to-order goodies for its West Toronto clientele. Crafted using premium organic ingredients, Schelle's sinful cakes are easy on the guilt reflex. All of the decadent offerings, in fact, are made with the same care. Ditch the plastic icing; chemical-free cheesecakes and cupcakes are perfect for small celebrations.
Wild Earth Bakery & Cafe
You might never know that this unassuming Beaches cafe does an amazing amount of business in wedding baked goods. But, it does. Owner Brad Owens tells me that he has recently completed a wedding order - a nut-free, gluten-free creation that I am sad to have missed. Pretty cupcakes are abundant on my recent visit, however, and I know they're not as bad for me as they might look. Wild Earth is proud of its commitment to healthy and earth-friendly ingredients. Strangely, the owners also operate a DJ service. It's music to the ears of the budget-conscious couples (excuse the pun) that benefit from a discount by hiring both businesses.
You can't help but think you've just been teleported to a small village in Europe, when you see Vert's Pickle Cycle. It's catering delivery on wheels - two wheels! While bicycle delivery may not be ideal for a nuptial affair, it was too cute to ignore. Vert pedals sandwiches and hearty stews to corporate clients across the city, but they do clean up nicely with the ability to cater fancy sit-down affairs. Don't worry - they'll leave the bike at home. Vert serves up socially and environmentally responsible dishes like Lavender Encrusted Pork, Forest Mushroom Cannelloni, and Maple Crème Brulée.
Although charming, Loic's Riverside digs aren't what you'd expect when looking for a wedding caterer. Don't be fooled by its deli appearance; the magic happens behind the scenes. Loic's bread-and-butter is its take-out business - freshly prepared gourmet on-the-go - but they can also cater events with up to 150 guests. Named for the owner's son, this family-oriented business is run by David Kokai and his wife Kathleen. Both are proud of the quality, natural and locally sourced ingredients. What's hot with wedding clients? "Local food is very big," Kathleen tells me. "Also, people love food stations instead of a traditional sit down dinner."
The green and newly engaged may want to start here. Navigating wedding shows and the 'net to find likeminded businesses can be overwhelming. Words like "organic" and "natural" are tossed around all too casually. Talen Events has weeded through "greenwashing" claims, eliminating the frustrating elements of planning the party of all parties. Hiring these savvy event planners will give you access to their exclusive vendor list. Talen has made its business in event coordination for organic lifestyles, offering free consultation and packages to suit any budget.
Eco Stems celebrated its one-year anniversary this month. As a young new business owner, Joseph Delarge should be experiencing growing pains. In reality, this award-winning designer is already fully booked for weddings and events through the summer and most of the fall, although he admits, "If someone really insists we'll squeeze them in!" It's the kind of customer service that keeps the business flourishing. The sidewalk display is reminiscent of a Parisian market, sure to inspire romantic gestures in the most unwitting of passer-by. Scattered petals have a Hansel & Gretel effect, leading brides right through the front door. The details are swoon-worthy, really. Eco|stems specializes in responsible floral decor, offering the best in seasonal local, fair-trade and organic varieties.
This west-end florist purchases its stock from local farmers and organic wholesalers. EcoFlora provides sustainable décor options via wild crafted, organic and seasonal local flowers. Don't go knocking at 1982 Islington, though; EcoFlora does not operate a retail store. They do specialize in weddings and special events, however, and can discuss any décor vision via a scheduled consultation.
Indigo's newest little sister had aggressive plans to expand into a chain of her own. But for now, Pistachio's lone uptown location feels more like a community mom-and-pop than the brainchild of book mogul, Heather Reisman. Thoughtful details and an airy atmosphere attract repeat locals, and brides from across the city. Nestled in the rear of the store, past towers of recycled tableware and organic chocolate, is Pistachio's custom service - a cozy spot to browse invitation options, from DIY recycled stock to luxury eco-letterpress suites. During a visit, brides might browse the Green Beauty Bar for great bridal party gift ideas.
The Paper Place
Creative young lovers may opt for the DIY option. Beware: creating handmade and truly personal invitations and décor can be rewarding but also a bit daunting. Quell pre-production jitters with a trip to The Paper Place, where experts like Judith can guide you through their invitation centre - a one-stop source for recycled paper stock and invitation-making supplies. The shop's jovial colour scheme and myriad of options may induce sensory overload, but also serve as cheery inspiration. Design-challenged? Judith suggests enrolling in one of the shop's many paper-themed workshops, like "Paper Flower Making".
Mill St. Brewery
Mill Street Brewery crafts its beer in its centuries-old Distillery digs. How fitting. For couples looking to minimize their environmental footprint, sourcing locally is a no-brainer. Most venues and caterers take care of the booze, but those opting for backyard affairs may need to supply it themselves. Mill Street's repertoire includes everything from Wit, a spicy-fruity white beer, to Coffee Porter, a dark and brooding variety with a hint of Balzac's beans. One-up the local factor: Mill Street also offers an organic lager.
Frogpond Farm - via Summerhill LCBO, 10 Scrivener Square (and other select locations)
Another (somewhat) local business, Frogpond Farm's Niagara region winery is the only producer of certified organic wine in Ontario. While your friendly neighbourhood LCBO may have made going organic a whole lot easier lately, you can't beat the environmental impact of supporting local wineries. Frogpond's family of wines encompasses varieties to please the most discerning of tastes - from an earthy Cabernet Franc to a fruity Riesling - all made traditionally with hand-picked grapes.
Pure + Simple
Two convenient locations provide pure organic spa products and services to their diverse clientele. Brides can indulge in some pre-wedding upkeep, including waxing and facials designed to minimize negative impact to sensitive skin and the planet. Pure + Simple is first-aid for skin woes caused by wedding planning stress - they specialize in treating acne, rosacea and dry mature skin. Spa gift certificates make great bridal party gifts, too.
Elixir Organic Spa
A downtown spa that's unexpectedly serene if you consider its surroundings, Elixir is a chemical-free oasis. The spa's receptionist offers me "something to drink" while I poke around; I suspect then that guests are in good hands. Manis, pedis and facials are only a few of the goodies on the menu, all administered using natural and organic products. Elixir offers "spa parties" for groups of up to five or more - perfect for wedding parties and pre-nuptial pampering.
Toronto Botanical Garden
Wedding guests might forget that they're still in the city when they arrive at the Toronto Botanical Garden. The "garden" is actually 12 separate themed green spaces providing a gorgeous backdrop for big-day photography. Facilities for rent include outdoor courtyards and indoor spaces in the award-winning LEED-Certified building. Located within minutes of Yonge Street and directly accessible by TTC, the venue is ideal for couples looking to minimize their travel footprint. And who needs cut flowers when surrounded by thriving plant life?
Its entertainment district location is anything but romantic, but for the urban and eco-minded, The Richmond is a brilliant venue option. Walk through the door and you may forget that you've just stepped off of Richmond Street - the neutral and natural décor is soothing and drenched with natural light thanks to the massive windows. The Richmond aims to have zero impact on landfills at the end of each event and uses only reusable and recyclable serving dishes and containers. The downtown location isn't the only convenience (guests can reach the event easily via TTC); the Richmond also offers in-house catering and can connect couples with trusted suppliers.
Kortright Centre for Conservation
Get in touch with nature without the 3-hour drive. Woodbridge's Kortright Centre is tucked away from all signs of civilization, within acres of preserved forest surroundings. A forest? In Toronto? I know. It's true though, as is the impressive list of environmental considerations. Bullfrog-powered facilities, organic catering, and solar powered water heaters are only a few of the earth-friendly aspects of the venue. Couples who cringe at the concept of DIY can rest easy; full packages are designed to minimize wedding planning stress. For the not so detail-oriented of clients, Kortright thinks of the little things like soy-based tea lights and fair-trade coffee, leaving brides and grooms to focus on the big picture: having fun and marrying for love.
Cabaret photo by James Kachan.