Did you know that the average wedding emits 14.5 tons of CO₂ into the atmosphere? I didn’t either until researching for this article. Besides that, the amount of waste that a big event, like a wedding, creates is insane. I’m not trying to burst your wedding bubble at all! But if you, like me, saw all the #10yearchallenge photos of suffering polar bears, growing landfills and dirty oceans and were wondering how you could help – here is your answer. Make a big statement to friends, family and anyone seeing your wedding photos by having an eco-conscious wedding. If wedding vendors realise that more brides want to have a greener wedding – they will have incentive to provide a more environmentally friendly service to all brides in future.
So, my fellow eco warrior, what changes can you make to your wedding while still realising your dream wedding? Even making only one or two changes will make a difference – doing something is better than doing nothing. Here are a few budget-friendly, beautiful ideas….
Reduce, re-use, recycle:
You know the line well. Reduce, re-use, recycle. In that order. This means that your first step in having an eco-conscious wedding is to reduce on everything as much as you can. Invite only close friends and family, use minimalist décor, have just enough food for everyone and no more… If you can’t reduce then make sure the items you use can be re-used instead of becoming waste, as much as possible. If both are not an option then opt for recyclable and biodegradable waste as far as possible. Here are a few practical examples and tips…
As mentioned earlier – minimalism is the way to go. But there are other ways to be environmentally aware and still have beautiful décor:
- Try to re-use décor – have someone move the décor from the ceremony to cocktail area and reception – this way you’ll need less of everything;
- Use potted plants that can be re-planted instead of cutting the stems;
- Ask for in-season, indigenous and locally grown flowers instead of imported flowers;
- If your mind is set on an out-of-season flower – ask for VeriFlora certified flowers – this means that they are not grown using unnecessary chemicals or under harsh working environments;
- Decorate using re-usable or biodegradable products or items that can be used again by a next bride. We have a fun blog-post on beautiful use of vegetables and fruits (or other unique elements) as wedding decor here;
- Or even better – re-purpose items that would have been thrown out otherwise, like used cans, drink bottles etc;
- Use candles instead of light bulbs – romantic and eco-friendly;
- Ask for biodegradable confetti, like dried flowers or herbs and put them in one large container instead of making confetti holders from paper;
- Use silk or paper flowers for your bouquet and display in your home afterwards;
- A great way to re-purpose flowers used could be to take them to an old-age home the day after – this would brighten their day!
- Another great idea is to use rocks or leaves (or any other natural element) instead of paper for place-cards – you can even use rocks as a seating plan – each guest would have to find their rock and the table number would be displayed on it. There are so many creative ideas online to have environmentally friendly décor;
Food, drinks & wedding cake:
- Use food that are in-season and locally grown – Local means less fridge time, less packaging used, fresher – and less transport costs;
- Ask for organic & free-range products as far as possible in the cake and your meal. These foods are not produced using harsh chemicals and limited fossil fuel in transport is used;
- Consider how food is served – avoid packaging food into portions using paper cups etc, rather serve on plates or platters with as little inedible add-ons as possible;
- Try to finalise your numbers for the wedding with your caterer as close to the wedding date as possible to ensure accurate numbers– this prevents unnecessary use of too much food;
- If someone let’s you know they won’t be attending the wedding anymore – after the RSVP date – let the caterer know anyway (even if it is the day before the wedding). Even if you lose the money – the caterer can still re-purpose that food instead of making way too much and it going to waste;
- Donate the leftover food to a homeless shelter, or any needy cause that would use it wisely;
- Cake: ask for organic and fair-trade ingredients and go smaller – there is always SO MUCH cake left over. Or perhaps serve the cake as a starter to prevent this and skip on canapes/starters. If you have your heart set on a majestic wedding cake, consider take-home boxes for your guests. Many brides are opting for alternatives like donuts that can easily be taken home;
- Drinks: Opt for large containers from which guests can pour into glasses – instead of providing bottles and canned drinks. If your guests love beer – why not provide a keg? This is also cheaper a lot of the time.
Venue, Wedding date & Transport:
- Choose a venue that is dedicated to sustainability by asking them what they do to be more environmentally friendly – or support a venue already dedicated to conservation, like a national park;
- Have an outdoor wedding which reduces the need for heating, lighting and cooling, or choose a venue with a ceremony building that is well-lit by natural light and allows a breeze with plenty of fresh air from outside. Bonus points for a brunch/earlier wedding which reduces the need for lighting altogether. Another option is to have the ceremony around a bonfire – read our review on Kuthaba Bush lodge for an example.
- Have your ceremony and reception in the same location or close together – which prevents transport (this is also just more practical and gives you more time to spend with guests);
- Offer public or group transport for guests to and from their accommodation and between locations;
- Have your wedding during a time of year that is not extremely hot or cold – this way you don’t need to provide heating or cooling. Or – choose a venue that is not too hot/cold or is best suited for the temperatures – making it less necessary to provide heating/cooling;
- Opt for fire, like a fireplace or bonfire instead of electric heaters or if not possible opt for gas over electric;
- Try buying a used/vintage wedding dress – not only does this save the environment – but it also saves money – win-win;
- If you are set on a new dress – ask for materials with fewer chemicals used in its production – like cotton, silk or hemp;
- Consider re-selling or recycling your dress after the wedding;
- Choose bridesmaids dresses that they will wear again – they will love you for it!
Favors and gifts:
- Buy local products, local is always better around the board as it cuts travel costs;
- Choose to give wedding favors that guests will find use for and not throw away, or perhaps edible wedding favors like coffee beans, jam, cookies or a handy bottle opener;
- Wrap the favors in re-usable or bio-degradable packaging;
- A great eco-friendly statement would be to let guests know that, in lieu of wedding favors you donated some money to a charitable cause. You can even involve guests by having them vote which cause they would like you to donate to. You can also simply reduce by not having wedding favors – so many brides have done this – and trust me, people don’t even notice;
- When it comes to gifts – ask for cash instead of gifts – preventing the use of wrapping paper that you will just throw away.
- Opt for silver over gold if possible – the mining of silver has less of an impact on the environment;
- Why not use heirloom rings or go vintage?;
- If buying a new ring – ask for rings that are certified ecologically & socially responsible – and only buy rings with precious stones that are certified.
Stationary & signage:
- Avoid using paper as much as possible. Use electronic invites and save-the dates;
- If you do use paper for programs, place cards etc – ask for recycled paper, or at least chloride/chlorine free paper;
- For printing/calligraphy ask for ink with a vegetable or soy base;
- For signs use re-usable items like a blackboard & chalk or perspex with erasable ink that are not permanent and can be used for something else, or by a next bride.
- If you are not responsible for cleanup, ask the venue/cleaners to divide waste into plastic, paper & cardboard and glass. If you are cleaning up yourselves try to recycle as best you can.
If you have made it thus far – you truly are serious about conserving the environment, and nature thanks you, lovely bride! Even just one or two small changes to your planning can make a world of difference. I do hope you have a magical day – and please do share any other creative eco-friendly ideas with us – firstname.lastname@example.org.