How to Plan a Sustainable Wedding
If you’re one of the many couples looking to plan your dream wedding but are worried about the environmental impact, you are not alone. A recent study showed that 87% of millennials believe that companies should address urgent social and environmental issues. This growing pressure means that more sustainable products and services are becoming available which is good news for us and the planet.
Weddings can be famously wasteful, so it’s not surprising that many couples are keen to reduce the environmental impact of their big day. If you’re envisaging a sustainable wedding being of poorer quality or more expensive — think again.
There are now so many beautiful and stylish ways you can make your wedding more eco-friendly. We asked seven sustainability and wedding professionals to share their best advice for reducing the footprint of your big day to make it even more special.
Why Reduce the Impact of Your Wedding?
If you’re reading this, you’re probably already thinking about the environmental impact of your wedding. Here are some of the most important reasons couples are choosing to host a more planet-conscious wedding.
Weddings can be Wasteful
The team at terrapass, who are committed to reducing climate change by helping individuals and businesses calculate, reduce, and neutralize their carbon footprint, points out an uncomfortable truth. “Today’s weddings face a growing problem; they have a big impact on the environment.”
“The average wedding generates over 56 tons of carbon emissions. That’s similar to the amount of CO2 produced from an entire year of energy consumption for 6 homes. Couples are increasingly sensitive to how the wedding of their dreams will impact the planet,” they say.
Paper Culture, makers of beautiful sustainable wedding stationery reveal that “an average wedding produces up to 400 lb of trash with all the food, flowers, favors, paper goods, according to the Green Bride Guide Book.” That’s a lot of waste for an event that only lasts a few hours. Fortunately, there are so many more resources and vendors that are offering sustainable options to help reduce this.
It’s a One-Time Event
Your wedding will hopefully be one of the best days of your life, but it’s wise to remember that it’s just a single day. “While it’s an important event, couples also want to make sure they’re not using that as an excuse to be wasteful,” says Happily Ever Borrowed, the luxury, e-boutique that rents bridal accessories. Try to keep your wedding day in perspective and make positive choices for yourselves and the planet.
Set An Example By Living Your Values
Image Credit: The Confetti Bar
The science is clear — the planet is in big trouble unless we make some serious changes. While your wedding might feel like a drop in the ocean, our collective efforts can make a difference.
“We want a special occasion like a wedding to be memorable for all the right reasons, and that may be harder to do if we know it comes at the cost of Mother Earth,” says The Confetti Bar, a lifestyle brand and boutique studio.
If you’re someone who is genuinely concerned about the future of our planet, then planning a more sustainable wedding will not only feel good for you, it will also set a positive example for your family and friends.
“The bottom line is, engaged couples want to make meaningful purchases from companies that help, not hurt, our climate crisis,” says the team at Paper Culture. It’s as simple as that.
Green is the new Black
Twenty years ago, being “green” or “eco-conscious” seemed like an alternative way of life. Today, it’s essential if we want to preserve the planet for future generations. Ecobnb, the platform for finding eco-friendly destinations and venues explains that “Green is not a trend, it’s a lifestyle that more and more people embrace in everyday life, and also on special days, like weddings.”
13 Ways to Make Your Wedding More Sustainable
From locally sourced food and flowers to preloved wedding dresses and accessories, there are so many ways you can reduce the footprint of your wedding. Here are a few to consider:
Have a Micro Wedding or Elopement
One of the side-effects of the global pandemic is that many couples are choosing to have smaller weddings. “I think the idea of an elopement is extremely romantic, plus it’s easier to make sustainable,” says The Confetti Bar.
Micro-weddings, which usually have up to 20-30 people, and elopements, which can be as small as the marrying couple, the officiant, and a witness, are seeing a huge surge in popularity. Aside from the cost and safety aspects, another benefit of a smaller wedding is of course the reduced environmental impact.
If you’ve planned a large wedding but have had a change of heart — don’t despair. It’s still possible to switch your big wedding to a micro wedding or elopement. Best of all, your guests should respect your decision given the current risks and restrictions of large gatherings.
Image Credit: Happily Ever Borrowed
Choose a Pre-loved Wedding Dress and Accessories
For most brides, the tradition of the wedding dress is such a romantic part of the whole experience, but unfortunately, the dress is a source of emissions.
“Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world,” says the team at Stillwhite.com, the online wedding dress marketplace. “Buying a sustainable, pre-loved wedding dress is one of the best ways a bride can host a more eco-friendly wedding. Stillwhite.com brides can research the resale value of their wedding dress on the sold pages and plan to recoup the costs of the dress by selling it on after they have worn it.”
Not all fabrics are created equal either. “Polyester, the most widely used manufactured fiber for wedding gowns, is made from petroleum,” says terrapass. “Instead, Brides can search for organic, environmentally responsible fabrics. And do the wedding party a favor by simply choosing a color scheme and letting them wear dresses or suits they already own.”
Wedding accessories also add to your budget and your environmental impact. “By borrowing your bridal accessories, we’re able to re-use and recycle wedding accessories like veils, headpieces, and jewelry, to get the amazing quality and style at a fraction of the price,” Happily Ever Borrowed.
Image Credit: Paper Culture
Use Digital or Eco-Friendly Wedding Stationery
From invitations to guest place cards and RSVPs, weddings can involve a lot of paper. By making some conscious choices, you can drastically reduce your environmental impact.
“While sending paper invitations may not seem green at first, it can be very green if you choose the right kind of paper,” says Paper Culture. “If you select invitations that use 100% post-consumer recycled paper, then no trees are harmed,” they explain.
Green tip: “100% recycled is not the same as 100% post-consumer recycled. A material can be 100% recycled but still require a new tree to be cut down by using excess materials from the newly axed tree. Post-consumer paper uses only material that has served its intended end use and would otherwise end up in a landfill or incinerator. Both are good, but 100% post-consumer is even better,” Paper Culture explains.
Another way to go green is with digital invitations. “Skip printing your invitations and use an online greeting to invite your family and friends,” says terrapass. Digital sites now design stunning and unique invites, saving you big bucks and eliminating waste,” they say.
Keep it Local
The dream of a wedding in a far-flung destination might seem exotic, but there are a couple of reasons to reconsider this right now. Firstly, will it be possible to make this happen during a global pandemic? And secondly, what is the carbon footprint?
“Guests traveling to and from the venue represent a whopping 73% of a wedding’s total carbon footprint, while overnight accommodations eat up 11%,” says terrapass. They suggest opting for a local wedding. “Your friends will thank you for a reduced cost, your community will appreciate the business, and Mother Nature will be grateful to you for not burning all that jet fuel.” We can all get on board with that!
Image Credit: Ecobnb
Choose an Eco-Friendly Venue
One big way you can make your wedding more sustainable is to choose an eco venue. Sites like Ecobnb list thousands of places like ecolodges, bio-resorts, eco-houses, glamping, treehouses, mountain chalets, and eco-friendly hotels.
“Holding your ceremony and reception in one space cuts down on decor, transportation, and even wedding stationery,” says Ecobnb. Terrapass adds that you can “pick a venue with a place to stay for guests so everyone can walk to the event.”
You can also let nature reduce your electricity costs. “Instead of lighting and air- conditioning a large venue, opt for the outdoors,” says terrapass. You don’t even need an ocean view — explore nearby parks, gazebos, and botanical gardens, and you’ll inevitably find the perfect spot.”
Opt for Ethical Wedding Rings & Jewelry
You’ve probably rehearsed the moment when you exchange vows and wedding rings in your mind many times over. It is such a special moment of any wedding and one you’ll remember for the rest of your lives. If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of mining, it’s important to choose your wedding jewelry carefully.
Choosing an ethical jeweler like Blue Nile means you can feel confident that your wedding bands have been sourced in an environmentally responsible way. As a signatory of Earthworks’ No Dirty Gold Golden Rules, we are committed to ensuring that our gold and metals come from suppliers that meet the highest human rights, social, and environmental criteria, and to increased gold sourcing from recycled and secondary sources.
Lab-grown diamonds are another way you can reduce the environmental impact of your wedding, without compromising on style. We have teamed up with Lightbox to create an exclusive collection of lab-grown diamond jewelry, including stunning earrings, bracelets and necklaces featuring near-colorless, baby blue and blush pink stones. Aside from the exquisite quality and environmental perks, lab-grown diamonds are also more affordable.
Lastly, vintage wedding rings or jewelry passed down in your family are another beautiful and sentimental way to keep your wedding sustainable.
Source Local or Reusable Flowers
Beautiful floral arrangements add a sense of romance to your wedding, but what are the environmental costs? “Anything that has to travel a long distance or needs to grow in a greenhouse during its off-peak months has an effect on the environment,” says terrapass.
They recommend simply using the natural surroundings if you host your wedding outdoors, or if you are having your wedding indoors, choose local and in-season flowers. “An easy way to ensure your blooms are green is to buy local, and make sure any cut flowers are organic and sustainably grown,” they say.
Paper Culture suggests using silk flowers. “They can be used long after the wedding, and if you do use fresh flowers, you can also donate them after your wedding to organizations that will repurpose and deliver to nursing homes, children’s hospitals, and veteran care facilities.”
Plan a Planet-Friendly Menu
No wedding celebration would be complete without food glorious food, but how can you ensure your menu doesn’t do unnecessary harm to the planet? “Couples could implement the 100-mile seasonal diet rule to make sure your food doesn’t create emissions through travel,” says terrapass. “In other words, try to refrain from going with the tropical fruit platter unless, of course, you’re in the tropics.” They also recommend farm-to-table catering and choosing local bakers for your cuisine and wedding cake. Ensuring they use local, organic ingredients.
Another way to make your wedding more sustainable is to have a vegetarian menu. “Meat is one of the top contributors to methane, one of the world’s most potent GHG gasses. By going vegetarian, you can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding and slow down climate change,” says terrapass.
Eliminating bottled water from your wedding will also do some good for the planet. “The bottle is made from plastic – a material with a high carbon footprint that is destined for a landfill, where it won’t degrade for years. In the U.S. we are blessed with safe tap water, so purchase a refillable container instead and fill it up as you go. Besides, a beautiful container is much fancier!” says terrapass.
Image Credit: Clem Onojeghuo
Use Eco-Friendly Decorations
You want your wedding venue to look incredible, but not all decorations are good for the environment. Ivory & Beau, Savannah’s one-stop bridal shop and wedding planning service have some great tips.
“Be conscious of water usage at your wedding,” they say. “For example, floating candles, while absolutely beautiful, use a lot of water.” Weddings can also use a lot of paper. “Rather than have individual paper goods like menus for each person, have big displays like giant menus, or instead of individual escort cards, have a giant seating chart.”
Think about the environmental cost of the decorations you want and whether there is an equally beautiful and more eco-friendly alternative, like biodegradable confetti from The Confetti Bar.
Last but not least, “consider donating decor after the wedding so that items can be reused for other weddings or rent items rather than buy new items,” says Ivory & Beau.
Rethink Your Party Favors
“Are your party favors just amusing trinkets destined for the dump?” asks terrapass. “Give out sustainable party favors that won’t end up in a landfill where they contribute to global warming,” they advise.
Paper Culture has some charming sustainable ideas for party favors. “Instead of traditional favors that might include a lot of plastic, focus on meaningful favors such as personalized seed packets, donations to your favorite charity, and food like jam and honey in sustainable jars from your local market.
Happily Ever Borrowed asks whether party favors are needed at all. “One of my favorite ways to get more eco-friendly is by eliminating wedding favors. You don’t need to gift your guests anything and it’s helpful in cutting costs too!”
Work with Sustainable Vendors
More wedding vendors are hearing the demands from their clients for sustainable ceremonies. “For those that still prefer to celebrate with a larger crowd of dear friends and family, choosing vendors who each have a commitment to sustainable practices is a great way to accomplish a great deal without having to do too much,” says The Confetti Bar. “For example, I love Christopher Michael The Salon’s commitment to being a certified sustainable salon, yet their looks and work are still gorgeous and dreamy.”
Make Beautiful Eco-Friendly Memories
Having a beautiful wedding album means you can look back on all the special moments from your big day, but at what cost? “With photographers handing over digital files now, it’s easier than ever to create a sustainable wedding album. We offer many different design options for your wedding photo books to feature your big day with 100% post-consumer recycled paper,” says Paper Culture.
Carbon Offset Your Nuptials
Even with the best intentions, there may still be an impact you can’t avoid. This is where carbon offsetting comes in, as terrapass explains. “Calculate the remaining carbon footprint of your wedding with the terrapass events carbon calculator and purchase carbon offsets to make your wedding carbon neutral. The money you spend supports a project that eliminates the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere.”
If you don’t have the time and information needed to footprint your wedding, terrapass also offers the Green Wedding Carbon Offsets product. Couples can offset the carbon footprint of their wedding simply based on the number of guests attending.
Myth: You Have to Sacrifice Style for Sustainability
You might be thinking that an eco-friendly wedding will be less stylish and more expensive, but is this really the case?
“One myth about sustainability we need to stop believing is that an eco-friendly choice is less quality and more expensive,” says Ecobnb. “On the contrary, a sustainable wedding can have more style and quality than a traditional one, and at the same time can be less expensive.”
Take, for example, buying a second-hand wedding dress, as Stillwhite.com explains. “Many of the dresses on our site may only have been worn for a few hours and dry cleaned. In many cases, they may not have been worn at all, and are being sold due to a change of mind by the original owner. These dresses are current, in style, and come in an endless variety of on-trend designs,” they say.
The team at Paper Culture agrees. “There is no reason you have to sacrifice design when looking for sustainable products, and more and more brands across the wedding industry are offering contemporary and sustainable designs from wedding gowns to favors,” they say.
Plan a Wedding that Doesn’t Cost the Earth
Weddings have historically been lavish affairs, characterized by excess and extravagance, but as we become more aware of the environmental crisis, combined with the pandemic and growing financial concerns, many couples are craving a simpler, more meaningful way to declare their love to one another.
Your wedding day will be remembered as one of the most momentous days of your entire life, and the good news is—you can do it while staying true to your values and protecting the planet. What could be better than that?