As pretty as they are, balloons are just deferred trash. Think about what aspects of balloons appeal to you most. Is it their bright color? Is it the feeling of freedom their floating evokes? Is it just a quick and easy way to decorate without blowing your budget? Whatever you love about filling a room with bobbing balloons, rest assured that there are other ways to capture the same festivity. Try a few of these tips and you'll wonder why you ever considered another plan.

Why Balloon Releases Are Bad News

You wouldn’t celebrate your wedding by asking all of your guests to bring their household garbage and ceremoniously dump it on your lawn, would you? Take a moment to consider that a balloon release is, in effect, doing just that. The helium that causes the balloons to rise so prettily will leak out over the course of the next few days, depositing the deflated balloons as garbage in people's homes, lawns, and gardens, and, worse yet, in lakes and rivers where they can pose a serious threat to wildlife.

Even if you live thousands of miles from the seashore, when the wind is right, that's not too much distance for a balloon to travel. They end up being mistaken for food by animals and causing deaths of endangered species. That's hardly the kind of start to give your marriage! If you do use balloons, be sure to keep them indoors and contained.

Create a Lasting Reminder

A balloon hangs in the sky for a moment and is gone. It can escape and fly away, coming to rest as garbage in someone's driveway, or it can stick around, wilting and looking more wrinkly and pathetic until someone finally takes pity on it and throws it away. Don't do your wedding the injustice of being represented by this sad sack of air. Instead, commemorate your special day with a reminder that won't wilt or drift away.

You can plan a ceremonial tree planting to create a lasting reminder of your wedding day. What metaphor could be more perfect than a living tree, which takes root on the day of your wedding vows and continuously evolves and grows more beautiful each year? In time, the tree will bear flowers or fruit, and could become a destination for your great-great-grandchildren.

If you don't have space for a tree in your yard, you can call local parks and gardens to schedule a tree-planting ceremony. (They should be able to advise you on which types of trees will best flourish.) You may also wish to have a tree planted in your honor in a national forest, which can turn into a perfect excuse for a cross-country road trip.

Looking for something a little less involved? You can capture the same spirit of growth and beauty with a flower planting. The bright petals will light up the day better than any balloons–and they'll smell nicer, too.

Use Reusable Decorations

Fluttering streamers and banners can look every bit as lively as balloons, and they can give your guests some useful information, too. Let your decorations play dual roles as colorful eye-candy and informative signs. Which way is the ceremony? Where should guests park their cars? Your brightly-colored flags will let everyone know. You can find (or commission) vibrant flags with any images to match your wedding theme, or customize them with your names, faces, and wedding date. Better than balloons, these decorations can be used again and again, and will still be every bit as beautiful on your anniversary.

Decorate with beads, feathers, and swaths of colorful material. Paired in the right color combinations, these can give a room any atmosphere you desire. Layer soft, cream-colored fabrics and strands of pearly beads for an elegant look, or layer semi-translucent bright colors to create a room that's as iridescent and exotic as a peacock's tail. When you take down your decorations, you can use them around your house.

Intersperse garden spinners and pinwheels among potted flowers or herbs along walkways to give your party a sense of liveliness and vibrancy. You can find them in nearly any colors to match your wedding theme, or stick with the classic rainbow spinners for a delightful addition to your garden that you can enjoy during your wedding and for years afterward.

With balloons, you're limited to rounded, floating objects. A commissioned painting, however, knows no bounds. Commission custom-painted signs, wall tapestries, or banners to fit your exact wedding theme. You can replace famous paintings with the heads of you and your spouse-to-be, if you're feeling playful, or you can decorate your venue with paintings of palm trees and ocean sunsets to create a mood.

Just can't get your mind off of floating decorations? Don't worry–colorful kites can soar even higher than balloons, and will provide a fun activity for your outdoor wedding reception. Kites come in all shapes from dragons and butterflies to flames and flowers, and adults and children alike will have fun keeping them aloft.

For evening receptions, turn to strings of colored lights. When suspended from rooftops and trees, these hang in the air just as prettily as balloons, and a lot more brilliantly, too. Look for custom light strands in any shape, from hot peppers to hearts to mini-lanterns, so your lighting can match your chosen theme.

Looking for a DIY approach? Your wedding decorations can be built by the very people you're celebrating alongside. Present your guests with a stack of cloth squares and fabric paints or markers in a wide range of colors. Ask them to write or draw you something meaningful in lieu of a traditional guestbook. As you hang each square on a long string, you'll not only add color to your reception–you'll create a chain of well-wishes to treasure for years to come.

Use Biodegradable Alternatives

While it's become popular for manufacturers to bill their balloons as "biodegradable," the unfortunate reality is that latex balloons take many years to biodegrade. In that time, they will have already caused much harm to wildlife. The only way to be sure you're not creating a lot of litter is to look for decorations that are truly biodegradable.

If you happen to be celebrating near a stream or river, a lovely alternative to a balloon release is the releasing of flower petals or paper boats. The current will spirit them away and they will look beautiful as they travel. Although paper creates trash too, it poses less danger to our aquatic friends and will biodegrade in a few short months.

No matter where you celebrate your reception, you can always have fun blowing bubbles. A bubble release is whimsical, delightful for all ages, and beautiful to watch. Soap bubbles are more graceful than balloons, and the rainbows that sparkle on their surfaces rival any colors that can be dyed into latex.

If you really have your heart set on balloons, look for truly biodegradable ones made of paper. You can buy "Bio Doves" online which are actually coated paper balloons that can be filled with helium. They're pop-resistant, unlike traditional balloons, and they're shaped like white doves so they're perfect for weddings. They even "flap their wings" when released.

Celebrate with Live Entertainment

Why trust your wedding day to inanimate bubbles of helium? For real energy and color, hire entertainers to dazzle your guests. Fire dancers will light up the night with flashy, exotic flair, while ribbon dancers, hoop dancers, drummers, and belly dancers will lend far more color to your proceedings than balloons ever could. For ideas on unusual types of dancers to hire, watch some videos of the "rhythmic gymnastics" section of the Olympic Games.

Humans aren’t the only way of bringing living color to your event. You can plan a humane butterfly release or dove release, or even a ladybug or firefly release above your reception. Their fluttering flight will fill the air and add a sense of magic to your celebration.

By using balloon alternatives, you're giving your marriage a positive and healthy start. You're actively creating a better, cleaner, and safer world, which is a wonderful message to share with your guests and all of your loved ones. Celebrate with a free spirit and freer conscience as you enjoy your wedding day.

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