How to Create a Sustainable Wedding

Wedding celebrations are so much fun to plan (and partake in), but they typically come with a lot of excess waste. Did you know that everything from paper goods and food to flowers and confetti tend to end up in the trash when all is said and done? It’s true! In fact, you might be surprised to learn that the average wedding produces 400 to 600 pounds of garbage. That means that in the United States alone, where there are approximately 2 million weddings each year, there are a whopping 800 to 1.2 million pounds of wedding waste on an annual basis. 

It doesn’t have to be this way!

As a luxury wedding planner, I’ve found that more and more couples are interested in having eco-friendly weddings than ever before! Making a few environmentally sound choices can help reduce your wedding’s carbon footprint on the environment as you begin your journey to the aisle. Planning a green wedding is a great way to hold a guilt-free event and help minimize damage to the earth.

If being green is important to you, take note of these 8 sustainable wedding choices you can make when it’s time to say “I do.”

photo of wedding reception surrounded by hilltops
Photo by Olivia Rae James Photography

1. Choose a Wedding Venue That Allows For Less Decor 

Whether you get married in the United States or have an international destination wedding, one of the most eco-friendly choices you can make is selecting a beautiful wedding venue. When looking for the perfect place to say “I do”, the beauty of nature is the only decor you really need! Consider looking for venues that offer lush landscaping or unique architecture facades. These features double as an incredible backdrop for your wedding and can take the place of wedding decor. Eliminating the use of ceremonial arches helps to reduce excess florals, ensuring a more eco-friendly wedding day!

Finding venues that allow for less decor can be easy if you know where to look and what you’re looking for. 

Venues like wineries surrounded by gorgeous vineyards and hillsides can make for a stunning backdrop. Garden venues filled with beautiful florals can be a great option for couples looking to have a green wedding, as they reduce the need for additional florals. Lakeside weddings can also provide a breathtaking backdrop, while not much can compare to the sun, sea, and sand when you opt for a tropical beach destination wedding! The options are limitless.

photo of blue and white wedding website design

2. Ditch Paper and Go Digital  

I’m the first to admit that I love wedding stationery. After all, it’s your guests’ first teaser of your special day. But the reality is that all of those inserts and envelopes can take a toll on the environment. 

To minimize waste and have a more sustainable wedding, the easiest thing to do is go digital. You can still have the beautiful design you’ve always dreamed of. Couples looking to do this could benefit from working with a stationer to digitize the design and send out a digital Save the Date for example. Setting up your RSVPs so that they can be submitted online is another great way to have a more environmentally-friendly, green wedding. You might also want to consider building a wedding website that includes all of the information about your special day. This allows your guests to get all of the info they need for bridal showers, wedding details, and more while helping to reduce further waste. 

I know the idea of digital invitations isn’t for everyone. That’s why I suggest you work with your wedding stationer to help you choose environmentally-friendly paper options instead. 

Today, there are so many choices of paper including recycled paper and soy-based ink. These are becoming increasingly popular eco-friendly wedding invitation options. Another fun idea is to consider using plantable wedding invitations. These invites have seeds embedded in the paper, so all your guests have to do is plant the invitation, add water, and watch them grow!

black and white photo of band performing at wedding reception
Photo by Sposto Photography

3. Choose Sustainable Wedding Flowers (And Repurpose Them Later) 

Wedding flowers can take up a big chunk of your wedding budget. Making some eco-friendly floral choices can be good for the environment — and your pocketbook will also benefit. 

One easy, green wedding choice you can make is “flipping” florals from one space to another — ideally, from your ceremony to your reception. If your cocktail hour is in a different location from your ceremony and reception, your florist can move your aisle flowers to the front of the band stage or reception entrance for example. This allows you to spend less on florals (and reallocate that into another area of your wedding) and create less waste.

Another eco-friendly wedding flower option is to hire a local florist. Locally sourced flowers reduce the need for transportation and, ultimately, carbon emissions. You might even consider asking your florist to source in-season florals that are native to the area you live in.

Not wanting to downsize on your florals, but don’t want them to end up in the trash after the festivities end? What you do with your flowers after your wedding ends is another factor to consider when planning a green wedding. You might consider purchasing potted plants rather than cut flowers, and sending them home with your guests (or venue workers, if you’re having a destination wedding). 

Instead of tossing your flowers away forever, consider preserving your bridal bouquet! Having your florals preserved as a paperweight, ring holder, or bridal block creates a special keepsake from your day that you can cherish forever. For couples who prefer something more simple, framing your wedding flowers may be right up your alley!

Another great way to repurpose your flowers is to donate them to a local women’s shelter, nursing home or cancer ward at a local hospital! This is a great way to bring joy to others and prevent additional waste after your wedding day is over!

photo of bridal party on white bus in Savannah
Photo by Aaron and Jillian Photography

4. Provide Transportation For Your Guests

One way to create a more sustainable wedding is to reduce your carbon footprint. Fuel emissions are known to take a huge toll on the environment and your wedding day is a great time to start reducing that! Wondering what you can do to make that happen? If you’re holding your wedding ceremony and venue at different locations, consider providing shuttles or rideshare options to decrease your wedding’s carbon footprint on the environment.

A sustainable wedding hack that I love is choosing  a venue where your guests can all stay onsite for the weekend! This way, you can have your rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, reception, and farewell brunch at the same venue to reduce the need for traveling between your events, which benefits the environment in the long run! 

5. Source Sustainable Jewelry 

Most brides love to sparkle on their wedding day! From the rings you’ll exchange when you tie the knot to any statement pieces you plan to wear on your special day, there are many ethical and eco-friendly wedding jewelry choices you can make.

Estate sales can be a great way to find beautiful, one-of-a-kind heirloom pieces. You might find the wedding jewelry of your dreams, and buying someone else’s treasures won’t cause further damage to the earth!

If you’d prefer to buy sustainable wedding jewelry from a brick and mortar jeweler, make sure they’re committed to conflict-free jewels. I recommend checking with the Responsible Jewelry Council or Kimberley Process Certification. These are two amazing organizations that are devoted to ensuring that diamonds are ethically sourced and conflict-free.

photo of romantic candlelit outdoor reception
Photo by Monika Frias Photography

6. Choose Smaller Portions to Reduce Food Waste 

Buffets are a popular option and often a hit among guests. But what happens to all of that leftover food? Oftentimes, food that is not consumed at the wedding ends up in the garbage. To reduce waste, I highly suggest plated dinners, as they are a more eco-friendly wedding meal option.  Not only will guests enjoy the meal of their choosing, but incorporating meal counts and portion sizes will minimize the amount of food that ends up in the trash.

Cake is another area where you may end up having a lot of leftovers. Realistically, couples can generally afford to cut down on the size of their cake by at least 20%. This will reduce how much cake ends up in the trash.  As an added bonus to this sustainable wedding tip, your pocketbook can have its cake and eat it, too! 

7. Go Green With Your Wedding Registry

If you’re a couple who has been living together for a while before getting married, you probably already have a lot of household items people typically register for. Skip any items you don’t absolutely need, and consider choosing green wedding registry gifts when possible, such as eco-friendly cookware, energy-efficient appliances, and sustainable bedding. 

If the idea of receiving gifts isn’t for you altogether, consider having your guests donate to a charity of your choice instead. You might even take this a step further and let your guests know that you’re donating to the charity on their behalf in lieu of providing material wedding favors.

photo of bride and groom walking down the aisle surrounded by guests with confetti flying in the air
Photo by Emilie White Photography

8. Buy or Donate a Gently Worn Wedding Dress

Purchasing a secondhand wedding dress isn’t for everyone. But the reality is that most wedding dresses are worn only one day in your life. 

If you love the idea of a vintage wedding dress (or a unique second reception dress or after party ‘fit), it’s possible to find unique and fashionable secondhand options – and often, you’ll score pre-worn designer dresses for a fraction of the cost of a new one! Boutiques like Happy Isles stock one-of-a-kind statement vintage occasion wear and designer vintage collectibles dating from the 1930s to the early 2000s. 

You can do your part to help other couples plan an eco-friendly wedding, too! Once the champagne has been popped and the final thank you note has been written (or emailed), why not consider donating your wedding dress? One lucky gal will get to walk down the aisle and experience the same sort of magical day you did!

The truth is, your wedding doesn’t have to leave a huge carbon footprint on the environment. Making a few small changes before your invitations even go out and after your wedding weekend has come to an end can help reduce your wedding’s impact on the environment. If you need help planning a sustainable wedding, we would love to assist you at HauteFêtes. Be sure to contact us so that we can help you begin your eco-friendly journey to the aisle!

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