Wed, Nov 26, 2008 - Page 2 News List

FEATURE: Couple gets married in eco-friendly fashion

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Bowing and passing through a “tunnel” lined with friends and family holding oyster-shell-clad sticks, Taiwan Environmental Information Association (TEIA) secretary-general Chen Rui-bin (陳瑞賓) and his bride, Cheng Hsiu-chuan (鄭秀娟), tied the knot last Saturday under an oak tree in the plaza of Taipei City's Jingmei Junior High School (JMHS).

“The oyster shells symbolize the couple's love because the pair, both of whom are long-term environmentalists, met at a sandbar conservation working holiday last year in Tainan County's Chigu (七股) coastline,” said association vice secretary-general Sharlin Hsia (夏道緣), a long time friend of Chen's.

During last year's Lunar New Year break, the couple, who had known each other for more than a decade but never had the chance to get closer, spent four days trying to retard erosion of sandbars along the Chigu coastline, Hsia said.

“Sandbars are an important ecological habitat for many coastal creatures such as crab and fish because they serve as a buffer that shields the nests from strong waves,” Chen said.

However, because factories in the Chigu Industrial Park continually haul sand from the seafloor to reclaim land, the sandbar has been receding at a speed of 25m per year, Chen said.

While sandbar conservation requires a much longer-term effort, Chen and Cheng hit it off and decided to spend the rest of their lives together — less than six months into their courtship, Chen said.

At the wedding, Chen, who was recently named one of this year's Ten Outstanding Young People, danced hand in hand with Cheng, the newly appointed principal of Wenshan Community College in Taipei, which holds its classes at JMHS, to live music by an independent band and mingled with guests that included environmental activists, reporters, friends and family.

Aside from the unorthodox outdoor venue, the wedding was different in many other ways.

Instead of following the Taiwanese tradition of accepting red envelopes containing money from guests, the couple made their big day a fundraiser for TEIA, which Chen founded in 2000.

“We raised about NT$400,000, all of which will be donated to TEIA,” Chen said.

The newlyweds also defined their day of union as a “green party/wedding,” with a mission to minimize expenditure and waste.

“We wanted to show others that weddings can be done this way. We wanted our wedding to be more than just a formal occasion where people gather and eat,” Chen said.

Compared with a traditional wedding banquet in Taipei, where a meal for a table of 10 may cost anywhere from NT$10,000 to NT$25,000, the couple spent less than NT$20,000 on food for 150 guests, while all the decorative materials — white and pink veils, glittery feathers and all — were saved by TEIA staffers from other weddings, Hsia said.

“The materials can be used over and over again, even after this wedding,” she said.

Instead of sending out invitations on paper, the guests received electronic invitations, Hsia said, adding: “We also asked guests to bring their own eating utensils to avoid using disposable ones.”

The wedding also became a platform for the couple's friends and family to get to know TEIA, as well as the organic products the organization promotes.

“We want independent farmers working on small farms to receive recognition and business,” the groom said.

The buffet-style banquet, including organic tofu tiramisu, banana spring rolls, sweet yam sandwiches and sliced oranges and guava, were mostly homemade, organically grown and donated by friends and family, he said.

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