Your wedding day is an opportunity to express what you’re passionate about, and more couples are opting for a more sustainable wedding. No matter what you call it—“eco-friendly”, “sustainable”, “zero-waste”, or “going green”—it’s totally attainable. Here are ten simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint on your wedding day.
The Number Game
In the wedding industry we like to say, “less is more”, and for sustainability’s sake it’s totally true! When the global pandemic hit, more couples turned to mini-monies, micro weddings, and elopements, and it’s an environmentally friendly choice. With less people to feed, wedding décor to put up, and favors to buy, it’s less waste to put into the world. Plus, this allows couples to focus on why they’re having a wedding to begin with—to simply get married!
Have you ever thought about how much paper is used for a wedding? Save the dates, invitations (including all the little cards that come inside), envelopes, programs, place cards—the list goes on. There are so many ways to cut down on paper waste, but the easiest thing to do is eliminate paper altogether.
In our digital-savvy world, going paperless isn’t completely insane. Wedding websites are marvelous; guests can save your date, get all the wedding details, submit their RSVP, and even choose their menu option.
This way you don’t have to buy stamps and hunt down relatives that haven’t sent in their RSVP cards on time (or at all). If you still want to send a digital invite, Paperless Post and Greenvelope are awesome options.
While we’re at it, skip the paper place cards and go for a cool place setting sign on a chalkboard or windowpane. Do the same thing for your wedding programs. There’s a good chance your guests will only read it once during the ceremony, anyway, and you don’t want them throwing it away during the reception.
If you still want to use paper, go eco-friendly. There are so many websites that offer recycled invitations. Botanical Paperworks and Paper Source print their invites on seed-infused paper. Your guests can literally plant the invitation and it will turn into a flower.
Meanwhile, Paper Culture offers 100% post-recycled paper invites and will plant a tree in your honor with every purchase. It’s a win-win!
Another way to go eco-friendly is to register for sustainable items. Pick a nice dinnerware set made of recycled ceramic or a cool cutting board made from reclaimed wood. Made Trade and Newly are great places to register for these types of items.
Have a lot of home goods already? You could just skip the registry altogether. Have your guests donate to a non-item registry. Honeyfund is a great website where guests can contribute towards your honeymoon fund. Other websites like Blueprint and Deposit a Gift allow guests to send gift cards or put money towards a larger item like a new couch or a down payment for a house.
Another option is to have your guests donate to a charity of your choice. The Good Beginning is a great website to check out! Just browse their charity options, register your wedding, and send the info out to your guests.
What You Wear
Choosing your wedding dress is a big deal, and there are dozens of designers who practice sustainability with their designs. Designers like Grace Loves Lace, Pure Magnolia, and Reformation focus on ethical production and use recycled or eco-friendly fabrics.
Alternatively, you could buy a used wedding dress! You’ll find thousands of options on Nearly Newlywed and Preowned Wedding Dresses. Buying a vintage wedding dress at a local thrift shop is another way to give a pre-owned dress some love.
Don’t want to buy? Renting is a great option, and not just for the bride! Your entire bridal party can rent their gowns from websites like Rent the Runway, Lending Luxury, and Poshshare. This is a great option because your bridesmaids will love the options, and the dress won’t sit in the back of the closet when the wedding is over.
Beyond the clothes you wear, think about the rings you choose. Lab-grown diamonds are the perfect conflict-free option and are super popular. Plus, they look like real diamonds but are less harmful than mined diamonds—and typically cost less! You could also choose a vintage ring. Shop an estate sale or use a family heirloom to incorporate into a one-of-a-kind ring.
A Sustainable Venue
There are so many wedding venues that are going green, you just have to search for them! Start looking on the Green Building Information Gateway website.
Search for hotels and event venues with Energy Star ratings and LEED certifications. Many sustainable-focused venues use eco-friendly practices to run their businesses and feature things like solar panels, green roofs, energy-efficient appliances, and more.
Another eco-friendly solution? Getting married outside! There are literally thousands of outdoor venues to choose from, but don’t limit yourself to just event spaces. A park, barn, winery, the beach, or the botanical gardens are all great picks. Some non-venues may include a small fee, but many of the proceeds go towards cleanup or conservation efforts. Bonus: using natural light saves energy!
When searching for the rest of your wedding vendors, go local! Look for caterers that source their food from local farmers and be sure to choose food that’s in season. Buying local eliminates the need to ship food across the country, reducing carbon emissions.
You can take it a step further by serving vegetarian and vegan options. Plant-based meals typically use fewer resources than animal products.
Do the same research for your florist. Find a small business flower shop close to your venue, or a florist that sources all organic, local flowers and greens. Potted plants are a great investment as well and are much better for the environment. They last longer and are a great option for centerpieces or décor around your venue.
Rent Items for the Day
Another way to cut down on waste is to rent all your tabletop needs. Even if you’re serving a buffet, it’s best to rent all your plates, glasses, and silverware.
Single-use plastic is terrible for the environment, so upgrade your wedding look with rented china. Instead of paper napkins, rent linen napkins, tablecloths, and runners. For mixed drinks, go for paper straws over plastic, or rent reusable stainless steel ones.
Reuse Items on the Day
One of the easiest things you can do is reuse and repurpose things from the ceremony to the reception. Use your aisle floral arrangements and lanterns as centerpieces on your reception tables. Reuse your bridal party’s bouquets as décor for the cake table. It’s super easy!
You can also double up your favors and use those as place cards with your guests’ name on them. Some great ideas include a potted plant, a bag of seeds to plant a tree, a personalized wine glass, and a reusable tote bag.
Donate, Donate, Donate
So, what happens to all the leftover food, florals and favors at the end of the night? If you don’t plan ahead, many of these items will be thrown away. The best thing you can do is find ways to recycle and donate leftovers!
Talk to your caterer about saving leftovers and bring extra containers to take home. If you don’t want to take the food home, consider composting the food waste or seeing if you can donate to a local food bank or homeless shelter.
Don’t let your beautiful centerpieces go to waste either! Have your family, guests or even vendors take home floral arrangements as a favor or thank you, preferably a potted plant as mentioned above. Then they’ll have a constant reminder of your wonderful celebration.
Some companies like Repeat Roses and Random Acts of Flowers will take your flowers and vases and donate them to local hospitals, senior centers, or homeless shelters. If all else fails, ask your florist to compost your greens after the wedding.
What about leftover décor like mirrors, signs, and lanterns? If you don’t want the hassle of trying to sell them, donate the items to a local thrift store like Goodwill or Salvation Army. Bonus: donations are tax deductible!
Sustainability doesn’t have to end when you say I do—you can choose a sustainable honeymoon location! Websites like Six Senses, Jacada Travel, and Kind Traveler are your best resources. They’ll find locally owned and sustainable-focused hotels, stores, and attractions for you.
Pick a few eco-friendly activities to do with your new spouse like visit an animal sanctuary, take a hike in a national or state park, and eat at locally sourced restaurants. If you pay an entrance fee, the money typically goes towards keeping the area and wildlife conserved and in great condition.