Table of Contents
- 1. Choose sustainable wedding rings
- 2. Pick pollinator friendly invitations, confetti, favors….
- 3. Choose a green wedding venue
- 4. Go plant-based and local!
- 5. Rent rickshaws or bikes!
- 6. Consider accessibility
- 7. Wear a sustainably sourced wedding outfit
- 8. Rent what you can
- 9. Ask for donations instead of gifts
- 10. Consider the clean-up!
The last couple of years have certainly put many plans for big, splashy weddings, including destination weddings, on hold. The silver lining is that more people are choosing an eco-friendly wedding. This means you can start your married life by saving money and supporting the environment.
I was fortunate enough to get married just before the pandemic began. Our small, outdoor ceremony was a surprise for friends and family who thought they were coming to a potluck! This ‘eloping at home’ approach helped me and my wife keep things simple, low-stress, low-cost, and sustainable. And it was really fun too!
Whether you want a similarly low-key wedding or something far splashier, it’s easy to keep your big day low impact and memorable. Here are ten tips for an eco-friendly wedding.
1. Choose sustainable wedding rings
Looking for wedding rings? There are plenty of great options that are eco-friendly, sustainable, and socially responsible. Skip the conflict diamonds and opt for a vintage diamond, lab-grown diamond, wooden ring, or even matching tattoos!
Check out our favorite conflict-free, sustainable diamond rings.
2. Pick pollinator friendly invitations, confetti, favors….
I helped friends plan their big backyard wedding a few years ago and was so happy to find eco-friendly invitations. These biodegradable seed paper invitations from Botanical Paperworks are pollinator-friendly and just delightful.
Botanical Paperworks boasts a wide range of paper-based products that support biodiversity and natural habitat for bees, birds, and butterflies across North America. So, whether you’re looking for plantable wedding favors, eco-friendly confetti, place markers, or thank you cards, this company has you covered. They even offer biodegradable, plantable, pandemic appropriate wristbands using a traffic light system to help your guests navigate personal space!
It’s super easy to order, with preview options and samples available, and quick delivery using sustainable packaging. Botanical Paperworks collects and recycles paper waste, helping to divert an estimated 10 tons of paper from landfills every year.
You can also ask your local stationer to print invitations using eco-friendly inks on recycled paper. Keep costs and waste low by choosing a reply postcard style. Or go digital for paperless, eco-friendly wedding planning.
3. Choose a green wedding venue
Wherever you live, consider an outdoor wedding venue. This way, you can rely on the location’s natural beauty. No need for wasteful décor, cut flowers, and garlands.
Great options for a green wedding venue include the beach, forest, meadows, a city park, or your own or a friend’s backyard. You might also want to consider getting married at a nearby botanical garden or local plant nursery! Ideally, your ceremony and reception will take place at the same venue or very close to each other. This helps minimize transport-related carbon emissions.
If you’re looking at a more traditional wedding venue, ask about sustainability efforts such as the use of non-toxic cleaning products, recycling, and green energy use.
Other socially sustainable wedding venues can include those where your rental fee supports a charitable cause. This might be a non-profit arts space or community venue, or an animal shelter or wildlife rehabilitation center. If you really want to be bold, consider hosting a park or beach (clean-up!) wedding. Guests get a personalized trash bag invitation and everyone takes a post-ceremony stroll while picking up litter!
4. Go plant-based and local!
We all know that cutting out or reducing meat and dairy consumption can significantly reduce our carbon footprint, so it makes sense that a locally sourced, predominantly plant-based wedding menu can also help keep your big day low impact.
Keep it kind with a farm-to-table wedding spread! If you’re catering your own wedding or having friends or family help out, try to source ingredients from local farmers’ markets. There may even be a local caterer who prioritizes using locally sourced produce, so ask around.
If you’re serving a sit-down meal, consider using reusable cutlery and dinnerware, rather than disposable paper plates and plastic flatware. These items can often be rented for the day and returned for repeat use. Or create a custom flatware bundle for every guest, complete with cutlery, a reusable napkin, and a placeholder fabric bag printed or stitched with their name for them to take home.
5. Rent rickshaws or bikes!
Got out-of-town guests arriving in droves? Need to move everyone from a hotel to the ceremony venue to the reception? Consider renting a fleet of bikes or rickshaws, or renting electric vehicles to keep carbon emissions low. Make it memorable with biodegradable bunting and banners (see Botanical Paperworks!) to personalize your chosen transport.
6. Consider accessibility
While it’s great to focus on sustainability when making all those big decisions about invitations, favors, venues, food, flowers, and more, it’s also important to keep an eye on accessibility. If you have guests with mobility, sensory, or sensitivity challenges, just a few thoughtful touches can make sure they’re comfortable being a big part of your big day.
If you have guests who are hard of hearing or Deaf, see if your venue offers an interpreter. If you’re having a potluck wedding, ask guests to bring a printed list of ingredients. This helps those with food allergies and sensitivities feel confident in their food choices. And for guests with sensory challenges, consider setting aside a low stimuli space where they can take a break from all the noise and kerfuffle that often accompanies weddings big and small.
7. Wear a sustainably sourced wedding outfit
Wedding attire is notorious for costing the earth and being used only once. This goes for wedding dresses, tuxedos, and other outfits for bridesmaids, groomsmen, and other members of the wedding party. Keep it eco-friendly by renting wedding wear (rent the runway), sourcing sustainable fabrics, or letting your party wear their own clothing. This can also help keep costs down for everyone involved.
Some excellent designers to consider for sustainable wedding dresses include Reformation and Pure Magnolia. You can also buy a sample dress or pre-loved designer wedding dress from an online seller such as Stillwhite.com or Nearly Newlywed, then re-sell the dress after your wedding.
If you do buy new, choose a dress made locally using sustainable fabrics like organic cotton, hemp, or linen. Etsy offers some amazing handmade wedding dresses, and this is where I bought my linen wedding dress for my nuptials. I chose a style that can be easily transformed into a simple summer dress for long-term use, and my wife chose an outfit (a gorgeous black jumpsuit!) that was fancy enough to get married in but subtle enough to dress down for everyday use post-wedding. This approach helped us keep costs low and minimized waste, water, and other resources, as well as transport-related emissions.
8. Rent what you can
In addition to renting your wedding dress and other outfits, consider renting any and all decorations and furniture needed for your big day. After all, you probably don’t have room for all those vases, table runners, glasses, napkins, and other odds and ends. You can even rent your wedding flowers (check out Bloomrent)!
9. Ask for donations instead of gifts
Because our wedding was a surprise (to guests, not to me and my wife!), we didn’t have a registry. This was a great strategy for preventing our guests from feeling obligated (or able!) to buy us a wedding gift. If you’re announcing your wedding well in advance though, give your guests good options to minimize unnecessary consumption and gift-giving and maximize social impact.
One easy way to do this is to open a fundraising registry using So Kind Registry, the Good Beginning, or Go Fund Me. You could also ask guests to bring donations for a local food bank, shelter, or other charity. Or, if you do want gifts, be really specific about which items you’d like, with links to eco-friendly products at different price points. This approach can also help guests discover sustainable brands they might not otherwise have encountered!
10. Consider the clean-up!
Once the vows are said, the first and last dance danced, and the guests waved off, it’s time to clean up. This is where waste rears its ugly head, and where there are great opportunities to reduce your wedding’s environmental impact.
If you have food leftovers, distribute these among guests, take them home and freeze or redistribute what you won’t eat immediately, or donate untouched food items to a local charity. This can require advanced planning, so you know where to take leftover food and to ensure you have reusable containers on hand for safe food transport.
As well as donating food, you can also donate leftover flowers. Check out Random Acts of Flowers and Floranthropy – two organizations that can pick up spare flowers and redistribute them to nursing homes and hospitals. You can also send guests home with flowers and arrange to compost any flagging florals as necessary.
If you have duplicate gifts and can’t return these for credit or a refund, arrange to donate these to local non-profits or reach out to your nearest Buy Nothing club. Consider donating your wedding attire and that of your wedding party to a local consignment or charity that assists low-income couples.
Finally, set up a robust recycling system that is foolproof even for guests who have been slurping champagne all day. Label large recycling bins for paper, plastic, metal, and glass, and have a separate food scraps bin for compostable waste.
When we popped the champagne at our wedding, we poured our guests drinks in small Mason jars that could be reused again and again. If you’re feeling fancy, you could even personalize these with some chalkboard paint or other fun labeling as a wedding favor.
These are just a handful of ideas for making your wedding more eco-friendly. If you have other ideas, let us know in the comments below!