Hey guys! I've planning to make a huge compilation of our tips and ideas to make your wedding or elopementeco-friendly for a while, and I'm finally finished! We've shot many, many weddings and as members of the industry, something that's always bothered us is how a culture of waste is just rampant at weddings. There's a lot of really great articles around the web already about how many pounds of waste and tons of CO2 your average wedding produces (spoiler: it's a number that will probably keep you up at night), but keeping things green & saving the planet are not really emphasized in the wedding industry. As a result, it's not an aspect of weddings that most couples think of.
And we get it! There are already so many variables to consider, like budget and guest list and everyone's preferences, that it's easy to let the environment take the backseat. It's tempting to think that since it's only a one-time celebration, the small choices don't really matter, but in the big picture, if everyone decides to make some small changes for the planet in the course of their wedding planning, we'll all be keeping tons of garbage from entering landfills every year.
I do want to say that if you're looking at your budget and freaking out about making your wedding good for the environment on top of everything else you have to worry about: Take a breath. Don't stress, it really isn't tough to throw a wedding celebration that doesn't trash the earth. Often times, the environmentally conscious choices are also budget-friendly ones. Win-win, yeah?
So! Because we love the planet and weddings, we wanted to compile all the best tips for an eco-friendly wedding celebration that we've stolen from other smart folks on the web, some amazing past couples, and our own observations from years of shooting weddings!
We love florals, seriously. I always say that good florals will make or break the design of a wedding and they are worth their weight in gold. However, many of the flowers used for floristry in the United States are flown in from other parts of the world, mass produced using lots of pesticides, and trucked out in refrigerated trucks to florists, all to be used for a single day or a few hours before being thrown in the trash. Furthermore, many arrangements are made using floral foam, which is made of non-biodegradable, carcinogenic styrofoam. YIKES. Ok. So what can you do about that?
- Hire a florist who uses locally grown, organic flowers, and doesn't use foam in their arrangements.
- Go for dried florals, which are more sustainable and have a much longer shelf life than cut flowers, which have to be refrigerated and use much more water. Plus, you can save them as keepsakes, and those muted color palettes are just so bitchin.
- Pick your own bouquet from your own garden or a loved one's garden (with permission, obviously), or do a u-pick style bouquet from a local flower farmer.
- Use organic silk ribbon for floral arrangements, like bouquets. Not only are they gorgeous artisan crafts that support small local makers, they're much more eco-friendly than those synthetic nylon ribbons you buy at big-box craft stores.
- Incorporate whole, reusable plants like succulents, ferns, or planters that you can take home with you or gift to guests & loved ones after your wedding. If one of your friends has a green thumb and basically has a little in-home jungle of gorgeous greenery, ask them if you can borrow some of their houseplants to use as decor for the day!
-I'll talk about wedding dresses til I'm blue in the face (as evidenced by not one, but TWO separate blog posts about wedding dresses). I am always shouting it from the rooftops to everyone I meet that the best way to buy a gorgeous wedding dress is to buy one used!!
For one: the cost of wedding dresses is insanely inflated for the first buyer, and by buying a used dress, you can get an amazing designer dress at almost half the cost and save thousands of dollars. Buying a used, previously loved, resold, or sample wedding dress is also way easier on the planet. Seriously, please consider it, there are so many amazing previously owned gowns out there. You can find them at local area boutiques, like Brides for a Cause, Blue Sky Bridal, or online worldwide at NearlyNewlywed, Stillwhite, Oncewed, PreownedWeddingDresses, Tradesy, Poshmark, and a ton of other sites.
If you really, really want a brand new wedding dress, you can purchase a wedding gown made out of eco friendly materials. Smaller, boutique designers will gladly work with you on making your dress out of eco-friendly materials, or you can purchase a gown made from repurposed vintage materials, like the gorgeous dresses from Reclamation Design Co.
For bridesmaids, Thredup has a small but usually awesome collection of more formal dresses, and Poshmark and Tradesy usually have tons and tons of used bridesmaids dresses for sale. For brand new but sustainable choices, Fame & Partners has an amazing online bridal party boutique that has mindboggling amounts of customization available. Reformation also has some very stylish gowns for weddings and bridesmaids, but not as many custom options. You can also rent your bridesmaids dresses via Rent the Runway or other rental sites, or just have your bridesmaids wear a cute dress they've already got hanging in their closet.
For gents: obviously the most eco friendly way to get your dudes dressed up nice is to rent a tux, but if you'd prefer to source something more custom and personal (and well-fitting), vintage stores and thrifting are some awesome ways to get great menswear that can be tailored to your particular size.
Okay. This is probably the biggest section, because there are too many good ideas on how to get amazing, thrifty, planet-friendly wedding decor.
-The obvious first choice is to rent your linens & decor! You don't need 25 table linens, because nobody needs 25 table linens unless you're a wedding decor rental house. Rental companies have a lot of great options, will usually take care of ironing and collecting the linens, and just generally make the whole thing less of a headache. For renting decor, there are tons of amazing vintage rental companies that have tons of amazing, adorable decor that they'll happily help you curate & style.
-If neither of those are doing it for you, you can always purchase your decor used, a la goodwill or vintage stores. If you have some great home decor that you love, bring your cute shit from home! Grab that adorable indie rug in your living room, or borrow furnishings from a friend who has a great sense of style (and thank them with a nice dinner or a good bottle of wine for the favor).
-Minimize individual items in your decor. So, for example, instead of printing out individual menus for each place setting, have one big menu sign, one big ceremony itinerary as opposed to individual programs, one big seating chart as opposed to individual name place settings, a big buffet of deserts instead of individually wrapped goodies, and so on. It's kind of a big, scaleable design concept, but it cuts down on a lot of extra items (and cost!).
If you are purchasing or using your own decor that you've purchased, try to avoid the following:
Glitter (it's really just tiny, tiny flakes of shiny plastic that are almost impossible to clean up, and massively contribute to microplastics polluting the waterways and ocean.)
Spray Paint (that shit is horrible for your lungs, the ozone, and literally everything else. Plus, as someone who spray-painted a ton of stuff for her own wedding, it is never as pretty or as easy as it sounds, ok?)
Excess plastic packaging, or items made entirely of plastic (like glowsticks, plastic plants, tiny packages of bubbles, individually plastic wrapped cookies, you get the idea)
And our last tip for eco-friendly wedding decor: Pick a beautiful venue that you already love and doesn't a ton of extra decorations. Easier said than done, but so worth the simplicity and peace of mind.
-USE. REAL. PLATES. SILVERWARE. AND. GLASSES. This is the biggest item on my list for making your wedding eco-friendly. Seriously, if you skim read the rest, just read this. The amount of plastic cups, forks, knives, and plates that just go in the trash at the end of every wedding is sickening. Every time we see it, we're just immediately depressed. It happens all the time at tons of weddings because plastic dinnerware is so much cheaper. But seriously, the environmental impact is NUTS. So please, please, please, splurge and rent real cutlery & plates and all your wedding vendors will cry from relief.
-If you just don't have the budget or the capacity to go with traditional dinnerware, you can purchase made-from-bamboo or compostable disposables.
-Have guests reuse their glass or mug all day! Tell people to bring their reuseable water bottles, and don't buy cases of plastic water bottles or single use plastic cups. If you are bringing individual beverages for folks, opt for cans or glass bottles instead of plastic.
Paperless Post has astonishingly beautiful digital invitations (seriously, so pretty I swear) that will save you a bunch of money on postage, and will save a lot of trees too. Plus, no more worries about tracking down all your guests home addresses.
Still want your old school snail mail invitations? Then there's Paper Culture, which plants a tree for every invite they sell and uses all recycled paper in their products.
-Go for vegetarian for the day! This doesn't mean you only have salad for your guests, but it's easy to cut down on your environmental impact by limiting the amount of meat you serve. A lot of options won't even strike your guests as vegetarian so much as plain delicious (like fried mushrooms, garlic bread, cheesy potatoes, pasta, rice and beans... I could go on and on about food, ok?)
-Talk to your caterers about sustainability, organic food, local ingredients, what they do with food waste, recycling, and what their policies are!! Don't be afraid to ask them questions about more than just their menus and pricing.
-if airfare or other travel is unavoidable for you or many of your guests, you can purchase carbon credits that help mitigate the effects of your wedding travel. A wedding carbon credit package is available to purchase on Carbonfund. We personally love the Eden Project, since if you give to them directly, less money goes to the middle-man (the carbon credit distributor) and more money goes to actually planting trees, but obviously, always do your own research. 😉
-opt for environmental donations on your wedding registry (you can do this on Zola!) to encourage your guests to gift carbon-offsetting charity instead or in addition to conventional wedding gifts.
-go for smaller guest list. In addition to saving some money by keeping your day more intimate and only having those closest join you on your special day, you'll cut down on a lot of costs and a lot of extra stress. It's probably the easiest, yet hardest item on this list!
PHEW. That was a lot, but hopefully it gave you guys some amazing ideas and places to start. If you have any ideas or suggestions on how to throw a planet friendly celebration, please let me know in the comments or shoot us a message! As always, if you need any help implementing or brainstorm more ideas, you can always shoot us an email, and we can talk it out together. Below is a graphic that you can save on Pinterest to make sure this article is always handy. Happy planning, my friends!!
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