Of Compost and Weddings: Trash, Beautiful Trash

My friend Jon Rowley, he who knows everything about fish and seafood and peaches and brix and bread and beer and gardens and, yes, compost, met his now-wife, Kate McDermott, she who knows all about music and pies and pie crusts and the art of the pie, met on the soil, compost and mulch forum of  So, when their wedding invitation arrived, it seemed perfectly normal that they’d ask for compostable trash instead of trays from Tiffany.  The invitation, which came from Jon and informed us that he’d met his “mulchmate” online, said:

“The altar will be at one of the compost stations at the Interbay P-Patch Community Garden, where I am currently the Site Coordinator.  Making a Wedding Compost will be a symbolic part of our vows.  Guests will participate in the miracle of renewal by contributing ‘brown,’ ‘green,’ or ‘brown and green’ ingredients for the compost.”

The compost would be used to plant a Wedding Rose and Jon closed by saying:

“I would be honored to receive your leftover lobster shells, vacuum-cleaner bags, coffee grounds, poached-salmon carcass, pet llama’s manure, banana peels, dryer lint, moldy vegetables from your fridge.”

I imagine that it was easier for people attending the wedding in Seattle to bring their presents.  And I’m sure because they were going to toss their offerings into the heap, they didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about how to arrange their trash most attractively.  But for those of us who had to send our gifts, the pressure was on.  After all, our packages had to be opened, our cards read and our selections inspected one by one in the privacy of the Rowley-McDermott residence.

If you know me at all, then you won’t be surprised to learn that I had a hard time deciding what to send and subsequently didn’t get my gift to the FedEx office until the very last moment.  Oh, you might think that because what I was sending was garbage and that because the whole purpose of a compost is to let things rot, that there’d be no need to worry about the condition in which it arrived, but that’s not the way I looked at it.  Nor evidently was I alone — as you’ll read, FedEx did well the week of the wedding. 

I was particularly concerned about freshness because, in addition to sending along the trimmings from an heirloom tomato salad, I slipped in two slices of freshly made — and glazed — chocolate cake.  Not at all compostable, I knew, but this was a wedding present, after all.  Of course, I was counting on Jon and Kate recognizing that this wasn’t meant to finish as mulch, and, of course, they did.  They reported that they ate the cake the instant they opened the box.

To see what Julia Child and others sent for the wedding, click over to read Molly O’Neill’s account of the gift-giving in The New Yorker.


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