As more couples choose to take a stand for the environment, hosting a sustainable wedding has become a (hopefully lasting!) trend. If you want to hop on this movement and be a champion for the environment on your big day, there are a range of wedding planning options that allow you to limit your carbon footprint. Here are 16 ideas for a green eco-friendly wedding to help you craft a stunning celebration without sacrificing your ecological standards.
1. Search for Green Wedding Venues
One of the biggest components of a wedding’s ecological footprint is the venue. You can minimize that footprint by saying “I do” in the great outdoors or finding a venue that has upped its eco-consciousness. Look for elements such as solar panels, low-flow faucets and toilets, drought-tolerant plants, biodegradable cleaning products, composting, water bottle filling stations, energy-efficient lightbulbs, eco-friendly building materials, and a slew of other components that make Mother Earth happy.
If a venue is LEED-certified, you’ve really found a winner. The US Green Buildings Council, a non-profit that promotes sustainability in buildings, has confirmed the venue has met rigorous eco-friendly standards.
2. Hire an Eco-Conscious Caterer
Food can be a big source of waste at a wedding. Reduce that waste by selecting a caterer well-versed in the fine art of eco-consciousness. This type of caterer will likely source seasonal food from local farms and donate leftovers to a local food bank (if regulations allow). You can also ask the caterer to use compostable cutlery and dishes. And if you really want to be kind to the planet, opt for vegan food.
3. Find a Like-Minded Florist
Have you ever been to a wedding and wondered what would happen to all the floral arrangements composed of fresh flowers? In most cases, they end up in the trash. Prevent this unfortunate ending by hiring a florist who is a pro at creating eco-friendly bouquets, centerpieces, and other arrangements.
Some popular options include succulents or other potted plants, dry flower arrangements you can send home with guests, or bouquets made from foraged materials. You can also ensure you’re utilizing biodegradable centerpieces by skipping products such as glitter and glue and making sure traditional florist foam is not used (as it’s often formaldehyde-based).
Have your heart set on more traditional wedding flowers? Ask your florist to only utilize seasonal and certified organic blooms from local gardeners, ensuring they weren’t grown with chemicals and don’t have far to travel. Or you can go the opposite route by creating bouquets out of unexpected items such as paper, seashells, jewelry, fabric, or candy!
4. Select a Sustainable Wedding Dress
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a non-profit aimed at creating a restorative and regenerative economy, textile production produces 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas every year. Limit your contribution to that statistic by purchasing a wedding dress from a designer who uses sustainable materials. Popular eco-conscious designers and brands include Tammam, Leila Hafzi, and Lenka Couture.
You can also source a secondhand dress from a consignment or vintage shop, and your fiancé can find their wedding attire here, too. If you’re nostalgic, ask your mom or grandmother if you can wear the dress they wore on their wedding day. Then, work with a tailor to ensure it fits and emulates your style.
5. Purchase Ethical Wedding Rings
Many couples don’t think about where the materials for their wedding rings were sourced. For rings utilizing precious stones, it’s easy to unknowingly purchase a product that wasn’t crafted in the most ethical manner. To avoid this mistake, ask the jeweler if the stone is conflict-free and where it was mined. It’s possible for stones to still be labeled ‘conflict-free’ even if they came from an area of conflict, so ask the jeweler about the origin of the stones.
Additionally, make sure the stones were cut and polished under fair trade standards and that the metal is fair trade or recycled. While this process might seem tedious, it’s well worth it for a piece of jewelry you’ll wear every day for the rest of your life. Other popular options include having family heirlooms resized or purchasing vintage rings.
6. Send Eco-Friendly Wedding Invitations
To prevent your wedding invitations from hurting the environment, purchase them through Joy partners Paperlust and Paper Culture — both of which plant trees with every order. Other eco-friendly wedding ideas include invitations printed with vegetable-based ink on plantable or recycled paper or going paperless with digital invitations.
7. Allow Guests to RSVP Online
Instead of sending little RSVP cards that will eventually end up in the recycling bin, and contribute to carbon emissions as they’re shipped back and forth, set up a wedding website. This allows you to send guests a link where they can RSVP for your big day. Not only is this the most eco-conscious option, but it also makes your life easier by eliminating the task of manually-tracking RSVPs and regrets.
8. Register for Activities Instead of Stuff
As the production of new items can require significant resources, and shipping can place a heavy load on the environment, consider skipping a wedding registry filled with stuff in favor of one filled with experiences. For example, many registries allow you to request funds for honeymoon activities, meals, or transportation costs. You can also ask guests to donate to an environmental charity in lieu of gifts.
9. Host Your Reception Near Your Ceremony
Reduce the carbon footprint of your nuptials by hosting your reception at a location close enough to your ceremony that guests can easily walk. You can cut down the carbon output even more by encouraging guests to carpool to the festivities or hiring a shuttle to transport them around.
10. Repurpose Wedding Decor
Cut down on decor needs by reusing some, or all, of your ceremony decorations for your reception. For example, you can create a photo backdrop from a ceremony arch, reception centerpieces from flower arrangements that lined the aisle and bridesmaid bouquets, and textiles as tablecloths for the guestbook or cake table. You can also repurpose wedding decorations by primarily purchasing items you’d use in your home.
11. Purchase Secondhand Decor
Instead of purchasing new decorations, go on treasure hunts at flea markets and thrift stores. Look for wedding decor items such as textiles, table runners, cloth napkins, decorative lanterns, vintage china, cake holders, vases, baskets, frames, birdcages, candle holders, and anything else that will enhance your special day.
12. Have Guests Label Their Glasses
Cut down on the amount of water that’s needed to clean dishes from your wedding by having a glass-labeling station as guests enter the reception. This table can have mason jars, champagne flutes, wine glasses, or all of the above that guests can choose from before attaching a label to their selected receptacle.
13. Toss Organic Confetti
As we all know how bad dried rice is for birds, and how bad littering is for the planet, skip the rice and paper confetti in favor of leaf petals, dried flowers, or lavender. For the confetti container, you can create individual cones out of plantable paper or just have one big vessel of confetti.
14. Provide Earth-Enhancing Wedding Favors
Instead of giving out favors that end up in a landfill, why not gift guests items that will enhance the environment (or at least their personal environment)? For example, you can offer satchels of seed balls, seed packets, edible goodies packaged in mason jars instead of plastic, coconut wax candles, or small pots of planted herbs.
15. Summon Your DIY Skills
Many of these decorations and favors will be even more eco-friendly if you make them yourself. This ensures items are made with more sustainable materials, helping you save money. A few popular DIY projects for weddings include signs made from salvaged wood, ceremony arches decorated with foraged foliage, wildflower crowns for the bridal party, and birdseed feeders for wedding favors.
If you’re not into DIY-ing, hop on a site such as Etsy to connect with creatives who are transparent about the materials they use and where the goods are shipped. As an added plus, you’ll be supporting a small business!
16. Mail Plantable Thank You Postcards
While guests certainly appreciate Thank You cards, they usually end up in the trash bin. Prevent this outcome by making Thank You postcards on plantable paper, helping you skip the envelopes altogether. Just don’t forget to include a note at the bottom reminding recipients to plant the paper.