Sustainable Weddings: How To Go Green On Your Big Day
It is no secret that weddings overall are not the most eco-friendly events. From throwaway decorations to mass food waste – generally, they can be a bit of a green nightmare. But with more couples and more wedding suppliers making a conscious effort to create a more sustainable and eco-friendlier event, there are some minor steps you can take to go greener on your wedding day. Planning a sustainable wedding allows you to enjoy your special occasion and say “I do” guilt-free.
Sustainable Wedding Stationery
Weddings can be rather wasteful when it comes to paper. Save the dates, invitations, order of services – the list goes on. When thinking about the stationery you use for your wedding day and being as green as possible consider the below:
Go virtual. The best way to ensure your stationery is eco-friendly is to simply opt for doing it online instead of using any paper at all. You could use your wedding website to send your save the dates, invitations, and collect the RSVPs. In fact, you can even add your order of service on there as well, so guests have access to it on their phones on the big day. This is not only kinder to the planet – it will save you money too.
If you would prefer to have physical stationery then only book a supplier who prints on recycled paper or use alternative materials, like upcycled fabrics, leather, and wood. My personal favourite is seed paper, a biodegradable material that grows into flowers when planted in a pot of soil.
For larger stationery decorations at your wedding venue consider having them made from recycled materials such as wooden pallets that can be sanded down and used again. You could even consider having that running order we mentioned earlier on a projector as well as your wedding website.
And finally, if you are making your own DIY wedding stationery, avoid using glue, ribbon, glitter, or other non-recyclable additions. Opt for friendly ink like vegetable and soy or use good old fashioned (and beautiful) calligraphy.
Image courtesy of Laura Likes Card
Sustainable Wedding Venue
The venue you choose will have one of the biggest impacts on the sustainability of your wedding. Just as we consider how to be eco-friendly at home, you will want a wedding venue that does the same and then some.
Book a venue that has energy-saving measures already in place when it comes to the source of the venue’s energy and water conservation methods. Find out what measures they already have in place and choose one that takes sustainability seriously.
Consider having the whole day only at one venue. This will reduce your work finding eco-friendly options and reduce any carbon emissions travelling from one venue to the next.
Book a smaller venue. Limiting your guest list will naturally reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding and save you money.
Opt for an alfresco celebration. Getting married outside will reduce your energy consumption (heating, lighting etc.) and really ties in with your whole eco-friendly approach. Even if you want to head indoors for the wedding breakfast and reception small changes such as asking the venue to turn the thermostat down a few notches or use beeswax candles instead of lights etc can make a difference.
And finally, look for a venue that already has beautiful, built-in décor to reduce the amount you have to bring in. Find a venue that perfectly tailors to your desired theme and you won’t need much in terms of additional decoration.
Sustainable Wedding Transport
Another major factor in the environmental impact of your green wedding day is transportation. Whilst transport is one of those unavoidable necessities for a wedding day (for you and your guests) you can still take steps to minimise the environmental impact:
Ask your guests to car share or consider putting on a coach. You could use your wedding website to register where guests are coming from to help them buddy up with other guests from the same direction.
If any of your guests need to fly in, consider offsetting their carbon emissions with helpful websites such as Carbon Neutral Britain.
Consider other alternative modes of transport that don’t produce as many carbon emissions such as electric vehicles for when a swanky car is needed, horse and carriage, or even a wind-powered boat if your venue has riverside access.
And finally, limit the amount of travel required by booking one venue for the ceremony and reception that is close to you and as many of your guests as possible.
Sustainable Wedding Flowers
Floral decorations are a key feature in weddings today, from buttonholes to bouquets, table centrepieces to ceremony backdrops. But freshly cut plants aren’t the best for the environment. Being so important the flowers aren’t something you are likely to want to skip out altogether, but luckily, there are fantastic eco wedding alternatives and measures you can put in place:
Use potted plants wherever possible. Avoiding cut flowers all together is the best way to reduce the throwaway nature of wedding flowers and still have beautiful floral displays. You can use large potted climbing plants to decorate the aisle and ceremony area or even potted trees, smaller potted plants for table decorations and even tiny potted plants for the wedding favours.
For the bouquets and buttonholes where it isn’t really possible to use potted plants aim for locally grown and seasonal flowers – wildflowers are even better.
If you have your heart set on an out of season flower, consider a dried version that can still be obtained when in the season to reduce any flying in. As a bonus, they also last a lot longer then fresh flowers so you can enjoy your wedding bouquet long after the day itself.
Avoid any flowers that are arranged in floral foam or oasis or other toxic and harmful materials that won’t break down after use. Ensure the florist you book doesn’t deliver in plastic as well.
And finally, if you do choose to go for cut flowers, don’t just throw them away at the end of the wedding. They can be given as gifts to guests or donated to local hospices and charities. Any given to guests can be accompanied with a little note on composting when they have had their day.
Sustainable Wedding Outfits
I wonder at what point in the wedding world it was deemed OK for the grooms to hire suits but not for the bride to hire a dress? Just the cost alone of buying new wedding dresses is surely enough for this to make sense, never mind the environmental benefits. So the men already do a great job at avoiding the fast fashion of weddings but for a bride, consider an eco-friendly wedding dress:
Buy a pre-loved wedding dress instead of buying a new one. With so many companies now specialising in pre-loved wedding dresses you can find a beautiful dress that is as good as new for a fraction of the cost – both the environment and the wedding budget will thank you for it. Oxfam has set up Oxfam Bridal Shops across the UK or StillWhite. Or go vintage for a real statement and look at Abigail’s Vintage Bridal and Open for Vintage.
Purchase eco-friendly fabrics and make your own – or if you have a nifty friend or family member you could ask them to. With this idea this also means you have a truly bespoke wedding dress, designed exactly how you want and eco-friendly – it’s a triple threat!
Borrow a dress. Did your friend have a gorgeous gown? Or perhaps your Mother has kept her stored away in the loft? Borrowing a dress potentially means that dress costs you nothing at all and is your something borrowed ticked off the wedding tradition list.
If you absolutely want to buy a brand-new wedding dress then make sure you go with an ethical wedding dress designer. Designers that use organic, sustainable materials like such as bamboo fabric and our British based that don’t use sweat shops.
And finally, don’t trash the dress!! A fad trend that thankfully seems to have slowed down. If you don’t want to keep your dress after the day sell it instead so another eco-friendly bride can have the pleasure of loving it as much as you did. Alternatively, donate that dress to someone less fortunate - I love Gift Of A Wedding, that appreciate any donations they can get to help give special days to people with life-long or terminal illnesses.
Of course, all the above can be applied to your bridesmaids and flower girls as well. But a bonus for the bride tribe – let your girls pick their own dresses. By giving your girls a style guide and colour palette, they are much more likely to buy a dress they can wear again and make good use out of.
Sustainable Wedding Catering
Food is always a key source of waste at any event, especially if you have opted for something like a buffet where the caterers will most likely over order to ensure guests have enough food. But with some extra consideration, you can make your wedding catering more sustainable by:
Book local caterers that use local produce – as close to your wedding venue as possible. Find a wedding caterer whose values are in line with your own and already uses local, organic, free-range and seasonal produce.
Avoid the temptation to over order. If you have concerns around the buffet and a hungry uncle, then ask your caterer if the buffet can be served to assure food portions are fair and the food will go around.
If your venue only uses in-house catering speak with the Chef as soon as possible, you want to know where the food comes from and if there are local alternatives to vegetables being flown in out-of-season with tons of packaging.
Choose a seasonal menu full of delicious local produce. A good caterer can advise you on the best menus. And dare I say it (sorry older generation) you could even opt for a completely vegan or vegetarian menu. Eating a vegetarian diet is one of the best things you can do for our environment – so why not on your wedding day?
Choose a main menu that can also double up as your evening menu – food that can be reheated later in the day for hungry guests or that can be packaged up to take away with you and enjoyed later.
Avoid disposable dinnerware – thankfully, plastic straws are slowly being removed as an option but for wedding catering, you may still find plastic knives and forks for a buffet are normal. Whilst it may cost a little more to opt for silverware and crockery it avoids any non-recyclable items heading to the landfill.
When it comes to your wedding cake the same can be said, order from a baker as close to home and check they only use organic and free-range ingredients. You could even opt for edible favours matching the cake and ensure those favours go home with your guests.
And finally, choose a caterer that deals responsibly with any food waste. Do they have a composting system in place or do they donate the food where possible? Even donating food waste to a local farmer to feed the animals is better than it simply being thrown in the bin.
Image courtesy of Eat Sensibly
Sustainable Wedding Decorations
In a world of Amazon Prime and online shopping for everything naturally, our carbon emissions have rocketed! Ordering from China with the click of a button may be the cheapest option but it isn’t very eco-friendly. When it comes to your wedding decorations and sustainability consider:
Hire, don’t buy. Instead of purchasing items that you are most likely only to use for one day, it is always more advisable to hire these instead. It usually ends up cheaper and you aren’t left with lots of items heading to the landfill.
Reuse décor items throughout the whole day. Instead of just having that ceremony backdrop used during your ceremony, consider having it moved behind the top table for the wedding breakfast and then transform it into a photoshoot backdrop for the evening. Wedding decorations can be quite versatile with a little forward planning.
If hiring isn’t an option, buy second hand. Charity shops can be wedding goldmines and save you money, equally the likes of Facebook Marketplace or Freecycle. And instead of simply disposing of the items after, use them around the home or give them as gifts. We often get thank you presents for parents, wedding party etc so why not double up your décor and know that your investment will be enjoyed for years after.
Use sustainable materials wherever possible such as wood, clay, straw etc. Upcycle as much as you can and get stuck in with a little DIY. It will be fun for you both to create before the wedding and much better for the environment!
Avoid some of the typical wedding décor that is harmful to the environment and not recyclable. Balloons, whilst latex balloons are classed as bio-degradable it can take up to 4 years and do a lot of harm before then. What goes up must come down and they return as ugly litter – balloons kill countless animals and cause dangerous power outages. Be careful with your confetti selection - opt only for natural dried flowers or herbs and avoid the shiny stuff. And finally, sparklers - the metal is coated with fuels and oxidisers, so they can't be recycled with other metals.
And finally, ask yourself, do you really need it? Will your wedding day actually be any less special for not having it?
To conclude, when it comes to anything for your wedding remember the three Rs:
Reduce – anything and everything
Reuse – hire, rent and borrow
Recycle - when it comes to what you use and what you do with it after
Ultimately it isn’t easy planning an eco-friendly wedding so be kind on yourself! Any small step you take will make a difference. Don’t feel you have to completely check everything off this list to have a guilt-free wedding – just knowing you took small steps within your comfort zone is worth celebrating and all anyone can ask for. the best thing you can do with minimum effort is to pick suppliers that align with your values - they are already doing all the eco-friendly work on your behalf.