Sustainable Wedding Guide: How to Plan an Eco-Friendly Wedding

At first glance, weddings may not seem like the type of event that would make a negative ecological impact. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case — weddings can and do create a carbon footprint. This can be a result of choices in decorations, wedding attire, and even how the cake is made. 

Luckily, there are still ways to have the wedding of your dreams while being conscious of your impact on the environment. 

Sustainable Wedding Supplies

One of the most impactful ways to reduce the carbon footprint associated with your wedding is to be mindful of where your supplies are being purchased from and how they’re sourced. It often isn’t hard to find eco-friendly alternatives to traditional decoration ideas.

Wedding Stationery

Paper stationery is one of the bigger contributing factors to a wedding’s carbon footprint. Rather than going with traditional paper invites, couples could consider using digital invites, a wedding website, or other online alternatives.

If you decide that virtual stationery isn’t for you, you can still reduce your carbon footprint by skipping out on save-the-dates and other invitation additives (size cards and registry information). You may also select invites that are made of recycled paper.

Wedding Cakes

Shopping for cakes that are organic, locally made, and/or made with fair trade ingredients is ideal. Even incorporating in-season fruits helps make a positive difference.

Other benefits of buying foods that are organic and locally sourced are:

  • It’s oftentimes free of preservatives and pesticides
  • Organic foods are often fresher
  • Consumption of a seasonally well-balanced diet

Eco-Friendly Flowers

Buying from local shops and sticking to varieties that are in season are two ways to be eco-friendly when shopping for flowers. Listed below are the seasons and the flowers that are best to buy during that time:

  • Spring:
    • Amaryllis
    • Azaleas
    • Cherry blossoms
    • Daffodils
    • Dahlias
    • Daisies
    • Forsythias
    • Irises
    • Lilacs
    • Lilies
    • Orchids
    • Pansies
    • Peonies
    • Poppies
    • Pussy willows
    • Roses
    • Sweet peas
    • Tulips
    • Violets
    • Zinnias
  • Summer:
    • Asters
    • Azaleas
    • Chrysanthemums
    • Cosmos
    • Daisies
    • Delphiniums
    • Freesias
    • Hydrangeas
    • Irises
    • Gardenias
    • Gingers
    • Gladiolas
    • Lilacs
    • Lilies
    • Peonies
    • Snapdragons
    • Sunflowers
    • Zinnias
  • Fall:
    • Alstroemeria
    • Anthurium
    • Bouvardia
    • Carnations
    • Chrysanthemums
    • Cockscombs
    • Daisies
    • Goldenrod
    • Liatris
    • Lilies
    • Marigolds
    • Queen Anne’s lace
    • Roses
  • Winter:
    • Amaryllis
    • Carnations
    • Chrysanthemums
    • Poinsettias
    • Roses
    • Star of Bethlehems

If you’re willing to forgo flowers entirely, potted herbs, greenery, or dried flowers make for excellent alternatives. However, if you do plan on using flowers, you can donate the arrangements to a hospital or retirement home once your wedding is over.

Virtual Photo Album

Virtual photo albums are a great way to remember your special day. Having a single, online place for your wedding photos ensures they stay safe (won’t get ruined from spills or turn yellow over time like some printed photos), and that you’re able to share it with everyone. Other advantages of an online photo album include:

  • Little to no cost to upload and maintain
  • Access your photos at any time, anywhere
  • Allows you to order and reorder prints at any time

Sustainable Wedding Decor

Of course, every couple will have their own preferences when it comes to how they want to decorate their wedding. However, there are basic elements that most weddings will have such as decorative flowers, table decor, and more. There are ways to implement green practices and still decorate in your own style.

Sustainable Wedding Flowers

Not everyone will choose to decorate with floral arrangements for their wedding. Those who do may want to take the following decorating tips into consideration. For instance, using fake flowers and/or greenery is a great alternative to purchasing real ones. The faux flowers can be saved and reused for future events. 

Green Table Decor

Decorating the guest tables for the reception is a great way to tie in the theme of your wedding with your decor style. Couples often use centerpieces, placemats, and chair covers to spruce up the reception area. 

It can be difficult finding ways to stick to the theme of your wedding while still being conscious of your carbon footprint. Gathering branches, sticks, pinecones, leaves, and wood from a local park or forest is a great way to decorate for woodland or rustic themes. DIY wooden signs, thrifted picture frames, searching online marketplaces and resale shops, and reaching out to friends and family members for decorations are other ways to keep up with eco-friendly standards without hurting your wallet. 

Miscellaneous Wedding Decor

Other wedding decoration items to consider when planning an eco-friendly wedding include:

  • Aisle decorations
  • Archway/altar
  • Cake toppers
  • Card and gift station decorations
  • Decor for the food and beverage tables
  • Drinkware, flatware, and silverware
  • Guest book
  • Lighting
  • Linens
  • Signs

Wedding Party Gifts

Many couples choose to get their wedding party and immediate family members gifts for the wedding. Listed below are sustainable gift ideas your wedding party is sure to love:

  • Bridesmaids:
    • Conflict-free jewelry
    • Journals with recycled paper
    • Customizable market totes
    • Soy candles
    • Bottle of wine, champagne, or their favorite beverage
    • Reusable straws and a mug
    • Ethically sourced robe
  • Groomsmen:
    • Cufflinks and tie clips
    • Bamboo flask
    • Toiletry bag
    • Sustainably sourced wallet
    • Personalized beverage mugs
    • Bottle opener
    • Cigar cutter
    • Eco-friendly razor and shaving kit
  • Family Members:
    • Personalized jewelry or keychains
    • A handkerchief with a personalized message
    • Framed photo

Wedding Guest Favors

Wedding favors can be used to show appreciation for taking the time to share your special day. However, not all couples will choose to purchase wedding favors for their guests. Those who do may want to take the following suggestions into consideration.

Charity Wedding Favors

In lieu of wedding favors, couples may consider donating to a charity of their choice on behalf of their guests. Charities to consider donating to include animal shelters, healthcare charities, schools, children’s homes, and food banks. 

Taking the money that would’ve been allotted toward wedding favors and instead putting it toward a charity is a win-win situation. Not only does the charity receive a donation, but you get the satisfaction of knowing you did something thoughtful. 

Seed Wedding Favors

Giving your guests seeds, herb garden kits, and/or succulents as gifts isn’t just eco-friendly — it’s also a way to help them remember your special day for a long time. Adding plant tags or pots can give a personal touch to an already memorable gift. 

Ideas for plant tags include:

  • “Watch our love grow.”
  • “Let love grow.”
  • “It’s party thyme.”
  • “Thistle be the best day ever. Thank you for joining us.”
  • “Our guests are unbeLEAFable.”

Miscellaneous Wedding Favors

Finding DIY wedding favors that are affordable and take little time to make can provide you with a project to help relieve some stress in between wedding planning. If DIY projects aren’t your thing, then choosing one of the other eco-friendly favors listed below may be more your style:

  • Blankets
  • Edible gifts (honey, jam, etc.)
  • Package-free products like soap or bath bombs

Eco-Friendly Confetti Toss

The history of the traditional confetti toss at weddings using rice is to “bestow prosperity and fertility” on the new couple. However, traditional items used for the confetti toss like rice and plastic confetti pieces aren’t always the most eco-friendly. If you want to implement this tradition at your wedding, choosing to use bubbles, dried flowers, or leaves is a better alternative to traditional confetti.  

Eco-Friendly and Ethically Sourced Wedding Attire

Finding sustainably sourced and ethically produced wedding attire can be tricky, especially if your shop options are limited. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. An ethically sourced wedding dress can be one that is vintage, second-hand, donated, recycled, or even homemade. 

If you’re able, try finding a company that ensures fair conditions for their garment workers, as well as one that sources their fabrics from suppliers who have the same standards. 

Those who wish to wear a tuxedo can rent one from a local tuxedo shop, borrow from a friend, or buy second-hand. Whatever it is you choose to wear, do your research and ask yourself where the dress/tuxedo is from, how it was made, what fabric was used to make it, and whether or not the store you purchased it from has ethical standards. 

Sustainable Wedding Jewelry

Sustainable jewelry is produced in a way that is ethical and made of materials that are sustainably sourced; for example, jewelry that has conflict-free stones, fair-mined metals, and/or vintage pieces. All Shane Co. jewelry is ethically sourced and built to last — we are always transparent about sourcing practices and what materials make up our pieces. 

When shopping for a wedding or engagement ring, be sure to find ones that are eco-friendly. You can even design your own engagement ring at Shane Co. to ensure that what you are getting meets your standards. 

Planning for a Sustainable Wedding

There is more to wedding planning than finding the right decor and attire. Listed below are eco-friendly tips and tricks to be mindful of when discussing the behind-the-scenes of wedding planning. 

Eco-Friendly Wedding Guest List

When generating the guest list, it can be beneficial to make it as small as possible for a more intimate wedding. Smaller, more intimate weddings are beneficial because:

  • It saves you money
  • You have access to more venues
  • You can spend more quality time with your guests
  • It’s easier to plan for fewer people

If you do have a large guest list, you can consider having a virtual wedding. This gives you the feel of an intimate wedding without being forced to leave people out. Virtual weddings also limit travel time for friends and family that aren’t local — which saves them the hassle of making travel arrangements, and cuts down on travel pollution. 

Eco-Friendly Wedding Locations

When discussing eco-friendly wedding locations, it’s important to keep in mind not only the venue itself but what it will take to get there. If the guests have to travel a long way, this will contribute to carbon emissions and pollution. 

When venue-shopping for an eco-friendly location, proximity is just one factor to be aware of. You should also ask questions like:

  • “What kinds of cleaning products do you use?” 
  • “Are you involved in any green or charity initiatives?” 
  • “Do you offer recycling or composting bins on-site or recommend a local green trash service?” 
  • “Do you offer rentals?” 
  • “What seasons would lower the wedding’s carbon footprint?” 
  • “Are there any local vendors or organizations you recommend connecting with?” 
  • “Are renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and generators, available?” 
  • “Do you utilize sustainable operations or methods?” 
  • “Do you work with a local conservation organization (conservation easement, mentoring programs, etc.)?” 

Destination Wedding Tips

Even though traveling for destination weddings isn’t the most eco-friendly decision, there are other ways to make up for it. For example:

  • Choose an eco-tourism destination
  • Research all of your options and ask the questions listed above about the venue
  • Plan ahead for eco-friendly transportation options
  • Find a wedding planner who uses ethical planning standards
  • Be sure to use sustainable decorations

Eco-Friendly Wedding Menus

Whether your venue is providing the wedding meal or you’re hiring a separate team, you should be able to find a catering company with a sustainable ethos, and that sources organic, local, fair trade, and ethically produced ingredients where possible. A vegan or vegetarian menu would also reduce the environmental impact of the wedding meal, but if that’s too drastic for you, aim for a menu that’s at least 50% vegetarian. 

Sourcing your alcohol from local wineries, distilleries, and breweries is another great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Questions to ask your caterers are:

  • “How do you dispose of food waste?”
  • “Where do you source your ingredients?”
  • “What is your plastic policy?”

Eco-Friendly Registry

Creating the wedding registry is one of the more exciting parts of wedding planning. This is the time for you to assess what household items you could benefit from receiving. This is also the time to continue with your sustainable living practices and ask for eco-friendly gifts as an alternative to certain traditional options. 

When creating this registry, it’s important that you and your partner discuss your wants and needs beforehand. That way you can gain a better understanding of what to ask for. Tips to keep in mind when creating an eco-friendly registry are:

  • Add reusable items (containers, washcloths, etc.)
  • Have guests donate to a honeymoon fund
  • Encourage guests to donate to a charity of your choice rather than purchasing gifts
  • Support eco-friendly brands
  • Request that your guests skip out on the packaging

Planning an Eco-Friendly Honeymoon

Couples who are willing to stay close to home for their honeymoon will make more of a positive ecological impact than those who travel far. However, this doesn’t mean that those who do choose to travel longer distances can’t be eco-friendly. 

Tips for planning an eco-friendly honeymoon are similar to planning an eco-friendly destination wedding. For example, when searching for a honeymoon destination you may want to select non-traditional alternatives such as:

  • Camping
  • Choose activities with a low-carbon footprint (kayaking, canoeing, cycling, etc.)
  • Staying in an eco-friendly hotel/resort

Regardless of the theme of your wedding, how many people you invite, or what you choose to wear, you can still enjoy your day while being mindful of your ecological impact. 

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