You’re engaged to the man of your dreams and it’s time to start planning your big day. You want to plan your wedding yourself and you begin to consider the supplies, decorations, food and money that go into a wedding…just for one day. But then you wonder, what happens to all that stuff after the wedding day? Do you throw it away? Does it get shoved into that closet you use for Christmas decorations only to be thrown away in a fit of claustrophobia? You may have a minor panic attack and consider eloping. But after that, you remember that this is a once in a lifetime celebration, and there’s no way you’re skimping on any of the details. You deserve a magnificent celebration, this is your wedding day—a day you’ve probably been planning out on your Pinterest board for years now, before you even knew your fiancé. So don’t stress. Having an eco-friendly wedding is 100% possible.
No bride sets out to have an environmentally disastrous wedding—although the average wedding generates between 400-600 pounds of waste. Environmental impact is a factor that often gets overlooked. When planning, we default to using products that are visually appealing and services that we already know deliver great results, regardless of what that means for our environment. The fact that an eco-friendly wedding can be just as beautifully curated doesn’t immediately strike us. A vision of a lackluster wedding stripped of pretty little details flashes across our minds. A minimalist, no glitz wedding is totally great, but what if your vision is more lavish? You can find peace in this list of eco-friendly services and ideas that enable us to have a traditionally fabulous wedding, without the burden of traditional waste.
How to plan an eco-friendly wedding
1. Invites & Stationary
Invites: E-invites are huge now, and an obvious choice for a green wedding. But if you’re a paper kind of gal check out Botanical Paperworks. Not only is the paper locally sourced and recycled from schools and businesses, it also has little seeds in it! So fun. You can literally stick the invite in the soil and grow flowers from it.
Stationary: Things like place cards and table assignment sheets can add up to huge amounts of wasted paper. Find a friend with great writing, get some plant based metallic ink and go leaf hunting. Compost when done. (This idea is totally on my Pinterest board!)
2. Bride, Groom & Wedding Party
Wedding Rings: Buy a recycled ring or use a family heirloom. There is no rule that states what a wedding band must look like. Consider alternate materials like sustainably sourced wood. I knew a carpenter who proposed to his girlfriend with a ring he made from wood—I thought it was the sweetest idea! Save money and resources by using your engagement ring as your wedding ring or buy one made from recycled materials and ethically sourced stones like Do Amore.
Dresses & Suits: Consider renting, after all you will only be wearing it once. But if you are set on buying, there are designers like Reformation who use sustainable practices and dead stock to create their gowns. Encourage bridesmaids and groomsmen to either wear something they have already, or to rent.
Choose a location that has a green policy. Eco hotels already have practices in place like banning the use of plastic straws and cutlery or following a composting program.
As fun as they can be, and as much as it pains me to say this—if you want a green wedding, make sure it’s not a destination wedding. CO2 emissions from travel are phenomenal if 100+ people have to fly or drive to your wedding. It’s a tough one, I know, because sometimes where you live doesn’t have an ideal vibe. But if it’s at all possible, try to stick to this one.
4. Food & drink
Food: This is perhaps the trickiest one. So talk to your vendor. Would they be bringing your fruit and vegan cheese assortment on a recyclable tray or a plastic one? Would they be willing to bring it on your provided tray of choice, instead? Do they run a low-to-no waste kitchen? Do they buy local produce? These are all questions to consider asking your caterer or the restaurant for your reception.
Drink: Make sure to confirm the bar will have soft drinks in cans and water in glass bottles. Or if you set up your own bar, you can be in control of what is served. Choose local wine and spirits. Check out this website to see what’s made in your area.
Barware & Tableware: Rent it all. Never for a second think of plastic plates, cups or cutlery. Make sure to rent fabric table and cocktail napkins as well. Buy some reusable straws, they can double as wedding favors.
Flowers: Yes, you can be eco-friendly with flowers! Buy recycled flowers from a service like Bloomerent. Or use local greenery for decoration and skip the flowers altogether. Use a garden location for built-in beauty.
Rent things like lanterns, twinkle lights and props from your local event planning agency.
6. Wedding favors
Botanical Paperworks also makes the sweetest wedding favors like these. Remember, wedding favors don’t have to be something big, only meaningful and sweet: get a vintage Polaroid camera (garage sales and local secondhand stores are a good bet) and have your photographer snap photos of guests through the night. They get to leave with a photo and a great memory!
7. Wedding gifts
It has become the norm to ask for a monetary wedding gift, but if you do want to receive material gifts (maybe a reclaimed wood bread board for those dinner parties you can’t wait to host?), create an eco-friendly registry your guests can shop. Make sure to ask guests to please not wrap the gifts, this will eliminate extra paper and ribbon waste.
8. Little details
Confetti: Eco Confetti meets all your glam needs. My favorite is the Metallic, which gets its shine from sustainably sourced eucalyptus.
Dried flowers or fresh leaves make great confetti too and have no carbon footprint if picked in your area.
You’ve booked a great reception space outdoors. Add 100 guests, food and alcohol to the equation and that beautiful spot is a wreck come morning. Garbage Goddess is an eco cleanup service. “At the end of each event [they] compost all organic matter, reuse and recycle all relevant materials, and return supplies to [their] partner vendors.”
If your reception spot is at a hotel or restaurant, the staff will handle clean up, but as Kate Harrison in her book, “The Green Bride Guide” warns, let them know what isn’t to be thrown away ahead of time or make them a list of items and where they should go.
Food: Before your wedding day, check to see what shelters or charities will accept leftover food, there may be certain regulations for donations, but if packed away properly at the end of the dinner period it may meet their regulations.
Flowers: donate your flowers to a church or charity event.
Decorations: If you’re anything like me, I like to “collect” things. But there is no use storing more than one to two of your wedding decorations as keepsakes. If you did buy your own decorations, you most likely will not need fifty rustic lanterns again.
Since it’s your day, you will find guests are more than accommodating with keeping to your code. You can even mention it on your invites so guests know what to expect. Happy planning!
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Photo: Do Amore; Reformation; Bloomerent