How to Have a Sustainable Wedding
by Jennifer Mathis March 12
If you’re wanting to know how to have a sustainable wedding, you’re in the right place! We’re sharing our guide to having a sustainable wedding — otherwise known as a green wedding, eco-conscious wedding, eco-friendly wedding or ethical wedding.
Whether you’re wanting a fully sustainable wedding with zero waste or simply looking to be more conscious about your choices on your wedding day, we’ve got you covered.
Photo // The True Gem, Kate Panza Photography
HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR WEDDING MORE SUSTAINABLE?
Weddings can have a reputation for being wasteful when it comes to things like single-use plastics or paper and carbon footprints, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Today’s couples have the ability to source ethical products and utilize eco-friendly wedding design in a way that wasn’t possible even just a few years ago.
What does that mean? All of the celebration and none of the guilt. Having an eco-conscious celebration is about more than being trendy. It’s about making decisions that benefit everyone involved from your local community to the world at large — any way you can.
How do you make your wedding more sustainable? By being purposeful and thoughtful as you plan your wedding. Eco-friendly and sustainable choices are merely about thinking about the impact of your decisions.
Now that we know it’s possible, let’s dive into some great ideas for how to have an eco-friendly, sustainable wedding.
Here are a few things you need to know before we get started —
- Set realistic expectations and don’t try to do all the things on the list.
- Prioritize what is important to you and focus on that.
- Don’t feel guilty if you’re not having a zero-waste wedding. Do one thing or a few things and feel good about the positive direction.
IDEAS FOR HOW TO HAVE A SUSTAINABLE WEDDING
Start with Responsible Ring Sourcing
Before the wedding planning comes the ring, so that’s the best place to start. There are a few ways to be eco-conscious in your ring shopping.
- Buy conflict-free diamonds or gems.
Most jewelers are very conscious of having conflict-free sources, but it’s important to ask and utilize people with transparent — and traceable sourcing such as with the Kimberley Process. The True Gem is our favorite conscious jeweler, and… they’re local!
- Purchase an alternative stone.
Often referred to as ethical engagement rings, lab-grown diamonds, gemstones and hybrids are considered more earth-friendly. They also prevent unfair labor and mining practices.
- Opt for Vintage Rings
One of the most sustainable choices is going vintage with your rings. Whether that’s buying estate jewelry, reworking a family heirloom or purchasing second-hand, this alternative can be a fun (and beneficial) way to breath new life into an old piece for a unique result.
Keep the Guest List Smaller
This isn’t for everyone, but if you’re interested in having an eco-friendly wedding, a smaller guest list is one of the ways to do it. This reduces waste, carbon emissions and more. Take this opportunity to consider why you are inviting the people you are and if that is still important to you. But don’t go smaller because you think you have to. There are plenty of ways to do good and waste less even with a guest list that tops 300+.
Make Your Registry Eco-Friendly
Yes, even your registry can be eco-friendly!
- Add sustainable items to your registry.
Stasher food bags, reusable straws, ethically-sourced linens and serve ware. These items are readily available on nearly any wedding registry. For heirloom-style items that are ethically-sourced and sustainably made, consider adding a registry as shops like The Dowry — whose whole focus is stocking items like this.
- Register for charitable causes — and do good!
This doesn’t have to be the only thing you register for, but consider adding your favorite charity — earth-friendly or some cause you are passionate about. This is a great option for couples who aren’t into getting gifts or already have set up house. Organizations like Greenpeace, Sierra Club and Care International are just some of the numerous organizations you could help. Even better, find non-profits in your area that are doing work you care about.
Keep Selections Local – From Vendors to Menus to Flowers
We wholeheartedly believe that local vendors are the best vendors, but they’re also often the most eco-friendly choice as well. Local wedding pros and products are sustainable because they reduce carbon footprint.
There are a few different types of local choices you can make for a more sustainable wedding.
- Hire local vendors.
It reduces travel and transportation impact on the environment and they are the best source to know other local wedding vendors to continue making eco-friendly decisions.
- Making your wedding menu local.
Choose caterers that support local farmers, offer fair-trade selections, and ethical sourcing practices. Add more vegetarian options as they create less carbon emissions.
Serve local alcohol from local breweries and wineries.
BONUS — One sustainable practice when it comes to the menu is to donate extra food. This can’t be done on the fly, so talk to your caterer and wedding planner to see what is possible. This is a simple and practical way to reduce waste — and extend the celebration!
- Select florists with sustainable practices.
This is one of the more direct ways to have a sustainable wedding. Fortunately for couples, there are some amazing alternatives to cut florals — and even if cut florals are important to you, there are ways to still minimize the negative impact on the environment. Many farmer-florists reduce the transportation of international flowers (which can be harmful to the environment) by growing their own flowers locally. You can find local farmer-florists in your area through Floret’s Farmer-Florist Collective here. If you have a green thumb or the time, you can grow your own flowers.
While it’s much easier to have locally sourced flowers, it may not always be possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t still make sustainable choices.
Go foam-free. Florist foam is not biodegradable and is made of toxic materials. More and more florists are creating stunning installations while going foam-free. This is a small thing that has a BIG impact.
Pick an Eco-Friendly Venue
Whether you want to get married in a small garden or a large venue, there are ways to keep your venue section green when it comes to the ceremony and reception.
- Opt for an outdoor space.
Cut down on the need for extra decor, heating or air conditioning and get married outdoors.
- Select a space that helps the environment.
Did you know that when you get married in certain outdoor spaces, part of the funds go to support conservation efforts? For example, if you get married in a national or state park, your fee will help maintain and preserve that land for future generations.
- Choose a venue with eco-friendly practices and certifications.
Your wedding doesn’t have to be outdoors to be sustainable. Having an eco-conscious wedding is about reducing your event’s carbon footprint. When you’re touring venues, ask about the venues green practices. From LEED certifications to Energy Star ratings — there are lots of ways venues can be environmentally friendly while still housing large-scale events in a beautiful space. And don’t feel like you need to know everything about going green in order for it to be important to you. It’s about making little steps forward.
BONUS — Consider distance when you are picking your venue. Travel is a big contributor to carbon emissions. A simple way to keep your nuptials more earth-friendly is to think of a location and venue that reduces unnecessary travel. But don’t feel like you can’t have a destination wedding if that’s what you prefer! There are plenty of ways to still go green.
Go Green with Your Wedding Paper and Signage
This is one of the bigger waste areas, but you don’t have to go paperless to be sustainable.
There are a few ways you can have your wedding paper and be green too!
- Choose eco-friendly wedding paper.
Look for companies that use recycled paper, plantable paper or alternative materials. Companies like Paper Culture use all post-consumer recycled paper for invitations and such, so no trees are cut down. Plus, they plant a tree with every purchase. Another version of this option is Botanical PaperWorks creates sustainable seeded paper so it adds value to the environment as it decomposes. See if your invitation designer orders from these brands!
In addition to this, there is a growing number of local companies that can help you find eco-friendly solutions!
- Use alternative materials in place of wedding paper.
When it comes to place cards and other day-of wedding paper, your local vendors can offer some creative eco-friendly choices like leaves, stones and more. This cuts down on waste and elevates the level of your wedding design.
Recycle, Reduce, Reuse When it Comes to Decor
The decor adds so much to a wedding space, but it can also be a source of waste if you’re not careful.
We’ve got some great ideas for how to make sustainable choices that will have you feeling as good as your wedding looks!
- Utilize built-in decor.
Greenhouses full of plants, wineries with stunning vistas, gardens with canopies — look for ways to reduce waste, by selecting locations that come with built-in decor.
- Rent as much as possible and avoid single-use products
Instead of using single-use plastic or paper, rent the real thing. Rent your linens, napkins and serveware — and anything else you can. Renting reduces waste and elevates the look of your wedding.
- Use decor that you want to keep.
That’s right! Consider selecting items that can be used in your home afterward.
- Donate the decor you don’t want to keep.
Donate the flowers from your wedding to a local hospital, senior care center or homeless shelter. (Most florists are able to help you do this, but it has to be planned in advance.) Donate other items from your wedding decor to Goodwill and other local companies where it can do good! Plus, your donations are tax-deductible, so it’s a win/win situation.
- Hire a company that specializes in eco-friendly garbage removal.
Companies like Garbage Goddess or Compostable have made it their mission to help the planet by offering a full eco breakdown service for events including composting and providing carbon emission offsets for their vehicles.
Select Green Wedding Attire and Beauty Products
Your clothes and how you get ready for the big day can be sustainable too. Even something as small as making more mindful beauty and hair product selections on your wedding day contribute to a better world!
- Wear second hand or vintage clothes.
This could be an heirloom dress or suit, or a vintage find. Give life to a well-loved piece and make it part of your story!
- Select items you’ll wear again.
Find ways to select items for your accessories, shoes and other attire pieces that you can wear again. Sometimes reducing waste is as simple as reusing something.
- Ask your hair and makeup vendors about eco-friendly products and practices.
If this is an important issue to you, make sure you ask your potential vendors about what kind of products they use. Let them know that eco-friendly, cruelty-free products are important to you.
Make Your Wedding Favors Fun — and Sustainable
We’ve talked about a lot of different areas of waste when it comes to weddings, but let’s be honest — many wedding favors go forgotten and tossed, but that doesn’t have to be. Let’s talk about a few ways you can delight your guests and go green at the same time!
- Edible favors are a big hit with guests — and the environment.
After a long afternoon or evening of celebrating, send your guests off with a snack — in eco-friendly packaging of course! Or let them enjoy their “favor” at their table to save on packaging all together.
Need some suggestions? How about fair-trade coffee, local treats or snack bags?
- Plantable favors help the environment in a practical way.
Succulents, cacti, herbs and more! These types of favors add beauty to the event and are something guests can enjoy long after the day is over. Plus, if they leave their favor, that’s more for the couple to plant and enjoy or to donate. Waste-free and beautiful!
Don’t Leave Behind Waste After Your Wedding Exit
The exit is a show-stopping moment, but the sustainable goal is to have the picture-perfect moment without leaving trash behind. Fortunately, there are some amazing, eco-conscious wedding exit options.
- Fresh leaves
- Dried flowers
- Flower petals (from a flower petal bar)
- Biodegradable confetti
Your Honeymoon Can Be Sustainable Too
You don’t have to stop at a sustainable wedding. You can have a sustainable honeymoon too! Remember, being environmentally friendly or eco-conscious is about making mindful decisions. Consider booking your honeymoon with a luxury eco-resort or dive deep into nature at an ecolodge. Do your research or ask your travel agent about sustainable, eco-friendly honeymoon destinations.
PRO TIPS FOR HAVING A SUSTAINABLE WEDDING
We’ve covered a lot of options for going green on your wedding day, so let’s review a couple of quick pro-tips to keep in mind as you start your sustainable wedding journey.
- There’s a lot to remember about eco-friendly, ethically-sourced and sustainable options, but the golden rule is — wherever possible, reduce single-use items, reuse whatever you can and donate the rest.
- It’s important to discuss all donation options when it comes to florals and food ahead of time. Don’t wait until the last minute. Make arrangements for these things in advance.
- Rent or reuse as much as possible of anything you need for your wedding. That can include everything from flowers to decor and more!
- Ask your wedding planner or vendors for help when it comes to making sustainable wedding choices. When you make it clear that is a priority for you as a couple, your vendors will make that their priority too! (And it’s great to have a team of experts helping you.)
- Don’t feel guilty if every item isn’t 100% sustainable. Having a sustainable or green wedding is about being conscious of your decisions. Do the best you can — even if that’s a few small things and be happy because you made steps towards a goal.
- Decide what is important to you and prioritize that. Don’t try to do all the things. A sustainable wedding is a positive step, but it’s even more important how you live your life than how you did a single day.
- When in doubt, go with the seasons. Working with nature’s rhythms and selection food as well as flowers and more in the right season will help you to begin making sustainable choices.
It’s official, you’re an eco-friendly wedding expert! Take it slow, keep it simple, and make mindful choices. Don’t worry about making all the right decisions, just make the best you can and enjoy this special season in your life.
Take the first step to find amazing local vendors who can help you plan a sustainable wedding by visiting our expert vendor page.
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