Unless we manage to colonize Mars in the near future, we are going to have to face the facts that there is only one world and if we don’t treat it with respect then we might lose our place here. Weddings have a bit of a tendency to use up a lot of resources that are thrown away after the fun is over and the bride and groom have escaped in their getaway car.
Some people think having an eco-friendly or green wedding means making huge sacrifices in the aesthetics, traditions, and fun of the day, but this is just not true. Some people think going green means paying more money, but this is also just not true.
Going green and being eco-friendly can actually save money and help reduce your environmental impact without sacrificing your ideas of a dream wedding. Keep in mind that the smaller the guest list and the shorter the travel distance, the smaller the carbon footprint and the smaller the cost of the wedding. Here are some pain-free choices to help make your wedding a little more environmentally friendly without looking tacky:
Ceremony and Reception Location
Having your wedding ceremony and reception at the same outdoor location is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint. Mother Nature creates a perfect backdrop for any wedding. The sun provides your light, and you won’t be using heat or air conditioning.
An outdoor wedding will also help improve the quality of your wedding photos, as natural light always looks better and more flattering than artificial light. If you can find a garden location that is full of flowers and some shade, you will be able to save money on purchasing additional flowers that will be thrown away after the ceremony.
This may go without saying, but I will say it anyway: Destination weddings are not eco-friendly, unless you are piling everyone on a charter bus and driving there. Choose a location close to home.
Going green on wedding invitations is one of the more touchy subjects. The ideal, most eco-friendly option would be electronic invitation and RSVP, which can be seen as tacky to many and not practical if you are inviting older relatives who are not Internet-savvy. Instead, consider using wedding invitations that are made entirely of recycled materials with vegetable- or soy-based inks. This doesn’t mean your invitations have to look any different from normal invitations; check out Seaside Invitations on Etsy, who sells lovely custom letterpress invitations on recycled paper. Invitations that are infused with seeds are a fun and environmentally conscious option.
Are you planning on lighting unity candles at your wedding or using candles as part of your reception decor? Consider choosing soy or beeswax candles instead of typical candles that are made with paraffin. The beeswax options will burn longer and brighter, plus they do not drip. Paraffin candles come from petroleum which is a nonrenewable resource, beeswax is natural, non-toxic, and a renewable resource. These candles are also a great idea for wedding favors.
Most wedding photographers shoot digital instead of film these days which is already considerably better for the environment. Try to choose a photographer who is willing to be flexible with your photo package and provides your images on a disk. You probably will not be framing the massive quantity of prints offered with most photo packages in your home so see if they offer a la carte prints or will allow you to have the photos printed on your own. A digital photo frame will allow you to have your wedding photos rotating on a regular basis without losing print quality. Just make sure you unplug it when it is not in use!
Encourage Guests to Recycle
Provide an extra trash receptacle for guests to dispose of recyclables such as plastic cups, plates, or flatware, cans, and bottles. Make sure it is clearly labeled for recycling. If you have vendors cleaning up your reception area, try to find ones who pride themselves in recycling, composting, and being eco-friendly.
Try to find a caterer to who serves locally grown and/or organic food. You can also purchase wedding cakes that are made of organic ingredients. These are easy substitutions that your guests will not notice unless you decide that you would like for your guests to know that you are having a green wedding. Some people are skeptical of efforts to be environmentally friendly and can be overly critical, by not telling your guests you can derive extra joy from those individuals not noticing your environmental savvy.
Look for a local, organic source for cut flowers. For centerpieces try using potted plants that can double as table numbers and wedding favors. I have even seen potted flowers used as bridesmaid’s bouquets!
You may have your heart set on a specific wedding dress; this does not mean that you have to buy it new! Scour the internet, check on eBay, RuffledBlog’s Marketplace, and Craigslist. Even if you cannot find the exact dress you are looking for, you might be able to find a similar one that you can take to a tailor to have it altered to make your own perfect, custom wedding dress. This will help save money, look great, and be environmentally friendly so don’t cry over the Vera Wang dress you didn’t get, celebrate the used J. Crew dress that you turned into the masterpiece you saw in your mind and how you will spend the money you saved later on!
Wedding Party Attire
For the rest of the wedding party consider choosing clothing that is made of natural fibers that will be worn again. Choose bridesmaid dresses that they really will wear again focusing on cocktail dresses. Ann Taylor and BHLDN bridesmaid dresses are great options for dresses that will be worn again and again. Renting clothing for the men can be tempting, but see if they may already have similar slacks and button up shirts to wear instead.
Rental clothing is cleaned with harsh chemicals that are damaging to the planet and might be unnecessary if all the guys will need are matching sports coats and ties to go with clothing they already own.
Centerpieces and Wedding Decor
Easy ways to save money and help the earth while putting together your wedding decor are to use borrowed, used, rented, and already owned items. Anthropolgie and BHLDN are popular places to for many brides to gather inspiration. Create a list of items you are looking for and hit up thrift stores and relatives to put together a stylish, vintage look out of repurposed items. Rental companies for vintage decor items are springing up all over the place; try to find one in your area for larger items that you won’t want to keep after the wedding day.
My favorite eco-friendly wedding favors are plants that doubled as centerpieces or decor. Established plants are more likely to be planted and used by guests than seed packets. Provide them in peat pots so the entire thing can be planted with zero waste. Bonus points if these plants are herbs that your guests can use for cooking at home later and could even find useful indoors if they live in apartments with no outside space for plants.
For the Send Off
Avoid using traditional confetti made from inorganic materials for your send off. Provide your guests with confetti made of recycled paper or lavender buds instead.
Bite Size Tips
- Leftover cut flowers, organic materials, and food from the reception are great for your compost pile (don’t save meat or dairy, these are not compostable).
- While e-invitations can be tacky, substitute printed “save-the-dates” with a personal phone call or e-mail… Your friends and family will want to congratulate anyway!
- If anyone tries to give you a hard time about being eco-friendly substitutions let them know you were going for a rustic and/or vintage style! (Or tell them they are lucky you didn’t make them use their hands as toilet paper, no one should give you a hard time on your wedding day!)
More Relevant Links
- Top 10 Eco-Friendly Wedding Blogs
- Recycle Your Wedding from Ruffled Blog – this is a great place to acquire used wedding items or to sell your own
- Dream Green Wedding Blog
Eco-Friendly Wedding Books
- Green Wedding: Planning Your Eco-Friendly Celebration
- Eco-Chic Weddings: Simple Tips to Plan an Earth-Friendly, Socially Responsible, Affordable Green Wedding
If you have any additional environmentally friendly wedding tips, please share them below!