Every choice makes a difference. That’s Kate L. Harrison’s motto at the Green Bride Guide — the online bridal guide Harrison founded and created.
Harrison was planning her own wedding in 2007 when she realized that the resources she needed to plan the green wedding to reflect her own life did not exist. Additionally, the information she could locate tended to be outdated and lacked a local focus. As Harrison researched and discovered ideas for her wedding, she decided to share her knowledge and ultimately wrote the best-selling green wedding book, The Green Bride Guide: How to Plan an Earth-Friendly Wedding on Any Budget (Sourcebooks, 2008).
Although her book was complete, the publisher held its release until December 2008 to coincide with holiday engagements. During that time, Harrison began a blog to share the constantly updated resources she was finding as she planned her own green wedding. The site grew from the blog into an award-winning business plan she developed while taking an entrepreneurial business class at the Yale School of Management. The site was relaunched in May 2010 to add more content, including a bridal registry. The Green Bride Guide covers the United States, Canada, and England.
Last month, the Green Bride Guide received $150,000 from Connecticut Innovations’ Pre-Seed Fund. Matching funds were provided by Advantage Capitol Connecticut. The funds are to be used to create jobs in Connecticut, so Harrison is currently interviewing candidates for a marketing position and an IT position to add to her current staff of five.
Working from offices in New Haven, Harrison and her team believe that their role is to provide brides and grooms with as much information possible to make educated choices. Harrison understands that “there are many shades of green” and that people need to make the choices that work best for them. What makes a wedding green? Any wedding that tries to lessen its impact is green and with over 2.5 million weddings in the United States each year, every choice really can make a difference.
The e-commerce site, which received over 200,000 unique visitors last year, offers local choices on vendors and products, including the ability to buy or book directly through the site; offers a gift registry and honeymoon options; shares real green weddings and advice from Harrison; and all the information every bride and groom need when planning a wedding, in particular, a green wedding. Each product and vendor lists any third-party certifications, price, eco-strategy, and the site’s own, green-leaf rating system for vendors. According to Harrison, the ratings are industry- or product-specific. Couples can choose the product or service based on the eco-strategy that is important to them.
Harrison and her staff attend bridal shows creating green pavilions comprised of local green vendors, really allowing couples to really learn about their own local options for a green wedding. Trying to constantly expand the green options available, Harrison also attends trade shows to talk to businesses on how to be green. The market for green weddings is ever increasing. Harrison noted a study conducted by David’s Bridal, which found that almost 50 percent of all brides wanted a green wedding.
Harrison current focus is expanding the opportunities on the site for gift registry. The wedding gift industry is a 20 billion industry.
The Green Bride Guide strives to help couples support their local green economy. Harrison’s office is filled with examples of green gifts, including non-toxic, non-stick cookware that is made in the United States from recycled materials; large, colorful bamboo salad bowls; luxurious, soft bath towels; and recycled cutlery. All of these gift ideas and many more are available through the Green Bride Guide site.
When asked about their favorite wedding gifts, Harrison and husband, Barry, agreed that the “experience” gift was their favorite. The Green Life Guide offers couples the opportunity to register for an experience, which, in Harrison’s case, was a cooking class while on honeymoon in Morocco. The experience can also be something local, like an art class, or an experience to be chosen later by the couple. Some of their other favorite gifts can now also be found at the Green Bride Guide, including a soda maker and an oak chair made from wine casks.
So what’s next for this green bride? Harrison says that maybe a Green Baby Guide is next or at least a green baby gift registry. Harrison and her husband recently welcomed a son into their family.