Wedding planning can seem like a to-do list of tasks that never ends. And while you may be ready to fight anyone who tries to add another item to that list, we’ve got one more you may not have considered. “Reduce the environmental impact of your wedding.” It may not seem like a necessary step, but weddings result in an excessive amount of waste, whether we mean for our big day to or not.
A 2017 Chicago Tribune article cited that “the average wedding produces 400 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of carbon dioxide, according to The Green Bride Guide by Kate Harrison.” Multiply that times the almost 2.5 million weddings happening annually and that is an unacceptable amount of trash being produced.
We’ve selected 20 sustainable practices you can incorporate into your celebration (and even all the festivities leading up to your wedding) to help have a green wedding. We understand that not all of these ideas are ones you may even want to consider, but know that even a few small changes can have a major impact on the environment.
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1. Send invites on seed paper
You read that right. Paper made from seeds. But the best part is, your guests can plant the entire invitation and grow wildflowers or herbs (whichever you choose) when they receive the invite. A gorgeous invitation that doubles as a favor, even for guests who RSVP no? Sounds like a win-win!
2. Print invitation suites and more on recycled paper
Save the dates, RSVP cards, invitations, thank you cards, menus, the papers associated with celebrating your wedding can really stack up. Order your designs on recycled paper and encourage guests to recycle theirs once they no longer need them. Invitation superstar Minted offers Premium 100% Recycled Paper as an option you can select for all your printing needs.
3. Skip paper invitations altogether and send e-vites
Email invites are on the rise, especially if you’re looking to have a green wedding, and you can design them to your liking the same as you would print invitations. As an added bonus, there’s no fear of them getting lost in the mail.
4. Replace printouts with signage
While we’re on the topic of avoiding paper, consider using signs that can replace printed materials. Write your wedding day schedule for guests on a wooden pallet. Rent or borrow chalkboards where you can print guests’ names and table numbers instead of creating individual cards for each guest. List the dinner menu on a sign at the entrance to the reception or display one on the center of each table instead of a printout on each place setting that will immediately be thrown away.
5. Buy a pre-owned wedding dress
The fashion industry is notorious for waste. In fact, “the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions,” as cited in Business Insider. Find the pre-loved dress of your dreams on sites like Nearly Newlywed that offer like-new wedding dresses from designers like Hayley Paige, Watters, Vera Wang and so many more, all at a deeply discounted rate.
6. Accessorize with Happily Ever Borrowed
Instead of purchasing a veil or other accessories that will sit in your closet post-wedding, never to be worn again, share the love with other brides and save on cost by renting headpieces, hair accessories, jackets, jewelry and more from Happily Ever Borrowed.
7. Rent suits and tuxedos
Unless you foresee frequent use of a suit or tuxedo in the near future, renting over purchasing is not just the best financial decision, it’s also the best environmental one for you and your groomsmen.
8. Don’t buy bridesmaids dresses that won’t be worn again
Let’s face it, there’s a reason people joke about racking up bridesmaids dresses, they’re a one time wear that tend to be donated or just thrown away. “The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second,” shares Business Insider. If you know your friends won’t wear the dresses again (and let’s face it, they won’t) consider renting. Rent the Runway offers bridesmaids dresses for all wedding styles whether you want formal gowns or backyard sundresses.
9. Enlist the help of a sustainable wedding planner
Hiring a professional can alleviate so much stress. Choose someone who has previously planned a green wedding and has experience with reducing wedding waste. We also recommend reading the eco-friendly Mindfully Wed E-Guide from Less Stuff More Meaning which is filled with wedding sustainability suggestions.
10. Toss birdseed in place of confetti
If you’d like to do a traditional toss as you exit your wedding ceremony, be sure to do your research on what’s safe for the environment. Confetti will litter the ground because picking up every piece after will be impossible and traditional rice tosses are extremely harmful for birds to ingest. Instead, have guests toss birdseed for the same visual effect, with a much better environmental result.
11. Offer transportation/carpooling
If you have several guests staying in a centralized area such as a hotel room block, provide shuttle bussing to and from your venue. Not only will it hopefully cut down on people arriving to your ceremony late or drunk driving after the night’s over, but it will reduce carbon emissions compared to everyone traveling in individual cars. Plus, guests will thank you for saving them rideshare prices.
12. Conserve water by avoiding tablecloths
Tablecloths won’t need to get washed if they aren’t used. If you are renting tables for your venue, choose wooden tables or another style that will look aesthetically pleasing without being covered.
13. Talk with your venue about their carbon footprint
As you tour potential venues, inquire about what practices they have in place to reduce their environmental impact. How much do they recycle? Do they have solar panels? In what ways do they conserve water, reduce waste or compost?
14. Offer tapped beer instead of bottles
If your venue only offers bottled beer, talk with them about their recycling plan and how they dispose of glass bottles. If you are able to create your own alcohol order, choose kegs over bottles.
15. Avoid plastic straws
Request that your bar does not provide plastic straws (but make sure they have some on hand for guests who may require them). The decision of no straws versus paper straws is up to you. Metal straws may seem like a great favor idea, but after a night of drinking the straws will be wet and sticky leaving guests wondering how to transport them home.
16. Rent, rent and rent some more
We can’t stress this enough. Renting over buying, especially for items you have no use for after the wedding will reduce waste. Not only will you avoid being stuck at the end of the night with decor items you’ll never use again, you’ll be keeping items out of landfills. So many items are rentable these days that decorating will be a breeze with the help of a little research. Struggling to find something rentable? Shop thrift stores or secondhand sites online.
17. Compostable plates
Single-use plates may not sound like they would be environmentally friendly (and we get that they won’t match every decor) but the use of bamboo plates and utensils is surging in the events industry. And when they look this good, how can you pass up this green wedding opportunity?
18. Offer vegetarian and vegan menu options
This isn’t to say you must completely eliminate meat at your wedding, though vegan weddings are rising in popularity. The meat industry is exponentially growing, which results in more natural resources being used. Include plant-based menu options, you may be surprised how many people would choose a vegetarian dish over a meat dish for your wedding.
19. Give favors that will actually be used or can be recycled
You can’t guarantee that everyone will use your favors, no matter how good they are, but you can limit the chance of favors being left behind. We hate to break it to you, but favors that have your face, names or wedding dates printed on them are often never used again after that weekend so skip the customization for your green wedding. Matches, lighters or any moderately sized items such as alcohol bottles or beach towels either won’t make it through security or fit in the suitcases of guests traveling via plane. And trust us when we say everyone has enough can koozies. Instead, offer food items from local markets or something else that will be consumable that night or the next morning before guests head home.
20. Just skip the favors
It may be hard to accept, but it’s often best to avoid all chance of waste and skip the favors altogether. Environmental impact or not, it’s disheartening to see something you spent time and money picking out get left behind because someone didn’t want it. If favors are really important to you, use your favor budget to make a donation to a charity of your choice and write it on a sign or announce it at the reception for guests to learn more about the recipient.
Are you having a green wedding? We want to hear what sustainable practices you are incorporating! Comment below with your tips and tricks.