9 Simple Steps to an Eco-Friendly Wedding
Updated: Jun 25, 2020
Monday was Earth Day and all week, it's had me asking, "what can we be doing to make weddings more green?" Every industry, I think, has a responsibility to find ways to cut down on its carbon footprint, and while I don't think weddings are the biggest offender, there are sure a few areas where we can improve.
I've compiled this list of nine simple ways to make your wedding more environmentally friendly. I really tried to focus on things that won't break your budget, won't call attention to themselves, and are really easy to implement. Also, I've broken down the list into three categories: reduce, reuse, and recycle. We've all heard those three r words, but did you know that they're meant to be followed in that order? Always find ways to reduce before you reuse and only recycle as a last resort!
1. Go outside or find a venue with built in decor.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to have an outdoor wedding. Go to a park or garden or barn or even your back yard! You won't need as many lights or any HVAC, so you'll be cutting down dramatically on energy consumption. The existing surroundings will serve as a beautiful backdrop even without a lot of extra decor (just look at how those trees fill the space in the photo above from Ellie + Anthony's wedding). Not to mention, the natural light will make for incredible photos and video!
If you simply must be indoors, try to find a venue that is gorgeous on its own without a lot of extra decor or sprucing. The fewer things you use for decoration, the cleaner your eco-footprint will be.
2. Carefully consider your floral arrangements.
Florals play such a huge role in modern wedding decor. Yet each cut plant you have at your wedding is one that could have been helping sustain the planet. When choosing flowers for your wedding, consider using potted plants instead of cut flowers. You can then take these home with you after the wedding or send them home with guests to plant in their own gardens. Or better yet, use silk or paper flowers (WJM Paper Floral Designs makes gorgeous arrangements) wherever you can. This will save you money too.
If you simply must use cut flowers, choose a florist who uses locally sourced plants and only use flowers that are in season during the month of your wedding (like Ediflorial in Minneapolis). If your flowers didn't have to travel far or stay in a refrigerator for several months, you'll not only help to save the planet, but you'll save money too.
3. Donate to a charity.
Many couples these days are looking at registry options and saying, "We just don't need that much stuff." So they're opting for cash donations to fund their honeymoon or start their new life together. That's already a huge step in reducing waste, but you can take it step further by setting up a registry that donates directly to a charity. And if you really want to make an impact, ensure that at least one of those charities is committed to sustaining the planet through its mission and programs.
Whether or not you choose to donate to a charity through your registry, you can also opt to donate to a charity in lieu of traditional favors for your guests. Your guests aren't going to cause a fuss knowing that $5 went to a good cause instead of to some trinket they'll lose or throw away next week. If you really want your guests to have something to leave the party with, consider opting for edible favors, something they'll eat that night or the morning after and won't leave to rot in their hotel room.
4. Eliminate food waste.
Weddings are known for throwing away a lot of food. And buffet style weddings (which I always promote as the best option to my clients) are unfortunately the biggest culprit.
A few ways to reduce food waste include asking your caterer to box up leftovers at the end of the night and making it available to your guests instead of throwing it away. Depending on the type of food and specific regulations, you could also consider donating it to a local organization that helps to feed the hungry. Second Harvest is Woodland Events' favorite option in the Twin Cities.
You can also consider a plated meal for your guests. Your caterer will have a better idea of exactly how much food is needed and will not cook too much excess.
Whatever dining style you go with, be sure your caterer is using in-season, locally sourced ingredients for all of your menu items. Just like with flowers, this greatly reduces your carbon footprint (and ensures your food is fresh).
5. Buy alcohol in bulk.
Each bottle of beer and wine you pour creates more waste. When choosing beers, consider purchasing kegs instead of individual cans or bottles. For wine, try to stick with larger 1.5L magnum bottles instead of standard 750mL bottles.
Better yet, if you or a friend know how to brew your own beer, absolutely do! This will reduce your carbon footprint and create a unique experience for your guests.
Whatever alcohol your pour, be sure you're using glass drinking vessels or compostable materials. Using plastic cups will sort of undo the good you did by reducing waste here.
6. Donate or sell decor.
You may not ever need that "choose a seat, not a side" sign again, but someone else does! Donate or sell your decor to the next wedding instead of throwing it away. There are great facebook marketplace groups designed exactly for this. In the Twin Cities, they include Wedding Items & Services, Minnesota Weddings Connect, and many more. Of course, there's also Craigslist, Nextdoor, the regular Facebook Marketplace, or a good old-fashioned yard sale.
Of course, you can also opt to be on the receiving end of these decor donations and resales before your wedding instead of purchasing new decor materials or making decorations from scratch. And there's no problem with using decorations you already own (like that cabinet full of mason jars your mother has).
Reuse everything! Don't throw anything away!!
7. Make your wedding items pull double duty.
Wherever you can, try to find ways to reuse your decor and other wedding items. The plants along the aisle in your ceremony can become the centerpieces at your reception. Tiny potted plants around each table can become guest favors. I'm working on a Harry Potter themed wedding right now and the bride has this awesome idea to reuse her escort cards as guest favors (they're flying keys with the guest's name, but they're also bottle openers).
This concept also works with attire. Be honest with yourself and ask whether your bridesmaids will wear the dress you choose for them again (or let them choose for themselves so you know they will). Have the groom purchase a more casual suit he can then regularly wear to work instead of a tuxedo he'll only wear once every decade. And be sure to search for a designer that uses sustainable fabrics, like CircleRock, a company new to the Twin Cities which designs custom menswear with fabrics exclusively from the environmentally responsible Vitale Barberis Canonico in Italy.
8. Use eco-friendly invitations.
When designing your invitations, be sure to find environmentally conscious printers and use recycled paper or alternative upcycled materials (like wood or fabric).
9. Recycle or compost everything else!
For any of those pesky areas where you're unable to reduce or reuse, try to find a way to recycle or compost the remainder of your wedding waste and throw away as little as possible. Which leads me to an important final point: be sure your venue has a recycling bin on site. You'd be surprised by how many don't.
Remember that every step you take to make your wedding a little more eco-friendly is something that will help sustain our planet a little bit longer. Don't feel bad if you can't take every suggestion on this list! This is your big day! Celebrate it the way you want and find ways to save the earth along the way.
If you want to brainstorm even more ways to make weddings more green, drop a comment below! I'd love to hear about all of your ideas!! And if you'd like to work with Woodland Events to plan your environmentally friendly wedding, set up a free consultation with us at https://calendly.com/woodlandtodd/consult.