When it comes to finding ways to have a more eco-friendly wedding, the options really are endless, so feel free to get creative! I’ve compiled this list of ideas to help you get started and inspire you to think about ways you can be more environmentally conscious while planning your big day. Keep in mind that everyone is at a different place when it comes to making more eco-friendly choices, so some of these ideas might not suit your needs. The fact that you’re here reading this post says a lot! So, even if your efforts feel small, don’t be afraid to start where you are — we’ve all got room for improvement!
1. Keep the guest list small
There are so many benefits to this! Keeping your guest list small reduces the amount of food, invitations, florals, etc that you need to purchase in the first place and this cuts down on potential waste right from the start! You can instead use the extra cash to create a better overall guest experience, plan a dream honeymoon, save up for your first home, or donate to your favorite charity. Keeping the guest list small also allows you to spend more time with the people you’ve invited. Win, win, win!
2. Start with your vendors
Discuss your concerns with vendors as you interview them. This is a great opportunity to see if they already have environmentally friendly options in place, or if they’re open to helping you keep the amount of waste down for your event. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that these things are already on the minds of vendors who may be on your wishlist.
3. Host all parts of your event in one space
Reducing the amount of travel between locations is one of the easiest ways to help the environment on your big day! As you shop for a venue look for a place that can host all parts of your day in one place. Less travel for both you and your guests means fewer vehicle emissions and more time for celebrating! Choosing a venue that’s conveniently located to where you and most of your guests live will reduce the amount of travel required as well. If you want to go the extra mile, you can even encourage your guests to carpool or provide a shuttle — the latter also doubles as a great way to ensure your guests make it home safely at the end of the night!
4. Rethink Favors
Party favors come with a lot of packaging and oftentimes get left behind once the event is over. Rather than a small trinket, giving your guests an amazing experience can be well worth it! If you’d really like to give out favors look for things that are useful, reusable, and don’t require much packaging. Some ideas I’ve seen: An unpackaged baked good (like a really fancy baguette) that can be consumed or taken home for later, handmade soap, customized reusable drink containers, tiny potted plants (these can also double as escort cards)!
5. Sustainable Attire
Shop for sustainable and ethically sourced clothing and accessories:
- Rothy’s (<—This is my personal referral link that gives us each $20 off). Depending on your budget, these sustainable and adorable shoes could even double as an epic bridesmaid gift!
- For bridesmaid dresses, look for something that can later be worn for another occasion, your bridesmaids will certainly appreciate it too!
- For your gown there are options too: consider renting, buying a used gown, or selling your gown after the fact. When I was researching for this article I came across this website that might be a good place to start your search for sustainable wedding gowns: https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/sustainable-and-eco-friendly-wedding-dresses
6. Reusable Drinkware and Tableware
Rather than providing single-use water bottles and cups during your event talk to your catering/bartenders about what reusable options they may offer. If you are considering party favors, you can kill two birds with one stone by having reusable water bottles made that guests can use at a filling station and take home afterward!
You could also opt for replacing any disposable tableware or plates with something more environmentally friendly – like these super cute options from Wood & Wonder
7. Rental/Repurposed Decor
Are there any decor items you already own that could be incorporated? Or if you’re thinking of purchasing some decor you may consider choosing items that can double as home decor later on. One of my couples a few years ago had a table made out of some wine barrels for their wedding. Afterward, it became a stunning patio table for their home that they will enjoy and use to entertain guests for years to come.
If you are thinking of purchasing something, it’s always a good idea to check local bride groups on Facebook to see if anyone is selling off their wedding pieces. It could save you money, and it ensures that a piece gets used more than once!
If there aren’t any pieces that you own or want to purchase, you have the option of choosing a venue that is already very decorative, or you can rent from one of the many amazing rental companies that SoCal has to offer. Either way, that decor will be used again and again rather than used once and wasted!
8. Give thought to your invitations:
Okay, so this one might be a hot button topic for some! Remember when I said everyone has room for improvement? This is the one that would personally be hard for me to nix if I was planning my wedding! I mean no disrespect to the incredible invitation creators out there — I definitely value what you guys do! The thing is though, this is an article with ideas for how to have an eco-friendly wedding, and it wouldn’t be right to not mention the amount of paper that a wedding typically creates! So here are some ideas for how to make this part a little more sustainable: You could look into recycled paper, electronic invitations — perhaps a designer would be willing to work with you to make this way nicer than an “e-vite” and you could still support a small business or invitations that can somehow be a reusable item (I’ll let you get creative on this one!).
9. Be Conscious About Food Waste
Farm to table catering and grazing tables with take-home options can help you avoid unnecessary waste. Alternatively opting for plated dinner service (rather than a buffet) will ensure that each guest is well-fed and food is distributed evenly without too much excess.
10. Smart Waste Management
While the goal is to reduce as much waste as possible, you may not be able to eliminate it entirely. Plan ahead so that any potential trash is organized into proper receptacles right at the event, and then taken to the appropriate disposal facilities afterward. Having an available receptacle for landfill, compost, and recyclables at your event might require some extra planning ahead of time, but it is certainly one way you can make your wedding more environmentally friendly!
11. Skip the confetti and Sparklers
Some couples these days don’t even plan a Grand Exit at all, but if it’s something you absolutely want as part of your day, consider using something like flower petals rather than non-organic materials. This in itself still might not be thebest eco-friendly thing to do, but it’s a step up from confetti nonetheless.
12. Be Flexible with Florals
Work with your florist to find in-season, locally sourced, florals! You could also donate your flowers after the wedding. Some couples have given their flowers to a local nursing facility, and others have found a way to let another event/wedding, that didn’t have the funds for nice florals, reuse the flowers the following day for another event. Lastly, if you’re looking to do something totally unique you could consider incorporating high-quality faux flowers or potted plants (that can be reused or repurposed) as an alternative to traditional wedding florals.
13. Be Discerning with your Photos
As a photographer, putting photographs into print form is REALLY important to me! There are things though that you can do to be less wasteful even if you do choose to print. You just need to think about the quality, and carefully plan ahead to avoid waste.
First, let your photographer have your prints and albums professionally made. My professional print lab makes archival quality prints, which means that the print’s quality (particularly in the inks used) is meant to last at least 100 years. The popular consumer photo labs often sacrifice this quality in order to give you a cheap print, canvas, or wedding album! If the product doesn’t stand the test of time, it will eventually need to be replaced and that means more materials used/wasted!
In addition, it’s important to plan well before you print anything so that you’re not printing more than you need, or printing the wrong sizes for your desired use! I offer all of my clients a design consultation where I actually show you what your images will look like (sizing too) in your own home, BEFORE anything gets printed, so you have the freedom to make adjustments before committing to any particular print!
As stated at the outset, there really are endless possibilities when it comes to making your wedding plans more environmentally friendly if you’re willing to think creatively! Not every option will be a good fit for every couple, but if you can incorporate even just one or two ideas from this list, that’s still a good thing! I hope this list of ideas helps to inspire you and I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on other eco-friendly wedding ideas in the comments!