Updated: Mar 25
Based on HuffPost's article "The Secret Waste That Weddings Leave Behind" the average wedding costs roughly $28,000, for what amounts to a six-hour event. (That averages to around $4,667 per hour.) During those six hours, a wedding produces roughly 400-600 lbs. of waste -- that's based on a guest list of roughly 100-120 people.
If you are reading this blog, it means you have decided to bring down those waste pounds from your wedding. You rock!
So let's get into it, with these tips below you can organize a super-sustainable wedding party. But remember, also just choosing one or two from the list is VERY GOOD. So don’t overwhelm yourself with too much pressure, it’s already stressful to just plan a wedding.
Before we start, please note that the pictures in my blog are something I found on Pinterest when I was writing this blog, and want to share them with you as an inspiration. When you click the photo, you will be guided to the site (either to the Pinterest post or the original website) where the picture is coming from. I do not use affiliate links, so these are 100% organic recommendations and inspirational photos for you to view. If you are interested to see more inspirational photos, please visit my Pinterest board: Eco-friendly Weddings.
Eco-Friendly Wedding Checklist
1. Sustainable Wedding Food Ideas
My first advice is to serve less. This is difficult because usually, people expect a full menu at the wedding. But, if you inform your guests ahead of time, they will not be surprised or disappointed.
How to control the portion sizes at your wedding without looking too cheap?
plated dinner. Yes, do it. You will upscale your wedding from 1 to 10, and save so many leftovers. (PROTIP: save electricity from cooking the food and offer raw vegan food!)
if you are doing a buffet: smaller portion sizes and inform this at the buffet table (for example "only take what you will eat to avoid food waste")
have everyone's food already portioned in a reusable lunch box (please make sure it's a reusable box because disposable boxes would create a lot of unnecessary trash! Even better if you can find second-hand baskets and boxes).
Make sure leftovers are not thrown away
Throwing food away is very unsustainable. This tip is my tip number one, so if you choose one tip from this list, let it be this one! Why is this so important? It's not only because you are throwing precious food away, which is just silly in the world we live in, but also because when food ends up in the landfills it will release harmful greenhouse gas called methane which is more harmful than carbon dioxide and is a direct threat to climate change and the ozone layer.
What to do with leftovers?
If this is accessible to you, I definitely recommend composting your leftovers. Check your local composting facilities. When planning the menu, make sure that you have food items on the menu that are composting-friendly. Also, remember to create clear signage where the composting goes and what is compostable. I always recommend creating personalized lists of the items that can be thrown in the composting bins, I will write about this in detail later in the blog.
Drop off your leftovers at a local homeless shelter or simply just ask your bridesmaids to have their own drop-off around the city, if they are comfortable doing it.
Take away -leftover buffet
At the end of the wedding, ask your guests to pack some of the food with them. Ask your servers to create a nice-looking buffet for food and drinks with reusable bags, baskets and boxes.
Invest in quality, not quantity
Instead of offering food that is cheap, highly processed, and/or over-produced, serve organic and local delights. Include lots of vegetables and vegan options in your menu (and here I don't mean those vegan substitutes but real fresh vegetables!). Believe me, the impact on the environment from food from your local farmer's market compared to the grocery store food is huge as night and day. Local food is also much more delicious and your guests might be inspired by these local vendors because of you. What a great way to support a local business at your wedding.
Hire a professional
Most importantly, hire a professional catering company who is specialized in eco-conscious weddings. This is so important! If you work with someone who doesn't, your wedding will probably be filled with green-washed items, or the "ugly truth" is hidden from you behind the kitchen doors.
2. Sustainable Wedding Bar
Forget the plastic bottles!
Have a filtered water system next to the bar with reusable water glasses. If you don't want to order extra water glasses, use name stickers (paper!) so everyone knows their own glass. Inform your guests with a little sign next to the water pitcher, so they are aware to save their water glass.
Consider hiring a professional bartender who can shake the fanciest cocktails in the city but also, narrows down your menu into 3-4 drinks and give you advice on how to use a few ingredients in multiple cocktails. Save money, make service fast and save yourself (and the earth) from cocktail leftovers.
Edible cocktail decorations
Leave all the extra trash in the store and decorate your drinks with edible decorations. Use our edible straws or rent reusable straws from your catering company! I can guarantee your guests will be more impressed holding an elegant drink with beautiful, chic flower decoration in a real cocktail glass.
If you want to go with disposable cups in the bar, I recommend our tree-free sugarcane cups that can be composted without industrial composting, you can find these cute flower cups on our Etsy shop.
Source quality booze
Another thing to consider is the ethicality of your drinks. Where is the wine coming from? Can you support a local winery? Try sourcing wines that are made with organic practices, and look into biodynamic, natural, and organic wines. The same comes when you choose your ingredients in the bar, all vodka is not the same, find the ones that support ethical practices.
Check this article for sustainable booze from Bon Appetit.
Read this blog to learn about sustainable wine makers and brands.
3. Eco-Friendly Wedding Tableware
Avoid using disposables and instead rent tableware.
I can guarantee almost every city has a local event rental company which you can rent your tableware from. They usually also rent linens for you and some of them will have decorations as well.
If you rather choose disposable, I recommend choosing our wooden cutleries, sugarcane cups, and bamboo napkins. You can find all the best eco-friendly disposable party supplies in our Etsy shop.
4. Sustainable Wedding Decoration
Choose a Venue with beautiful details
Sustainable weddings don't require over-the-top decorations, which is why I would recommend finding a venue that already has stunning elements and doesn't need extra decorations. Look at venues with a view, a garden, or venues that already come with stunning decorations.
Wedding Decoration with natural decor
If you are not planning on reusing the decoration or reselling it, instead of purchasing decorations that are made with plastics, metal, glass, and paper, try to use natural decorations like flowers and plants. Even better, when you combine these with second-hand items like thrifted glass vases and jars. Try to source the flowers and plants from nearby forests/farms. Why I don't recommend buying from the flower store? Check out my other blog Are Flowers Sustainable Decoration?
Combine decorations and favors
This is also a good way to save money because you don't have to buy favors and decor! Give away your decoration to your guests after the wedding.
Here are some ideas, you can mix and match, and everyone doesn't have to get the same favor:
Vegetables (Yes! Have little baskets on the table and little sign for guests "take me with you" etc)
Spices or tea (You can have it in little containers and guests can make their own spice/tea bags before they leave, call it "love blend").
Contact your local catering or event designing company and ask to rent decor. This is a great way for zero-waste decorations since you will return the decor after the wedding. You can nowadays even rent flowers to your wedding, check out more at Blooms.
Wedding confetti should not be anything else except Natural Flower Confetti but you can also think about Seed Paper Confetti, especially if your wedding is happening indoors.
Instead of buying new decorations for your wedding, get on Facebook Marketplace or shop in the local second-hand store for decor! Think about old lambs, jars, vases, artificial flowers, rugs, and frames.. Your imagination is the limit!! (PROTIP: any old item will look amazing painted in white or sprayed in gold/silver, give it a try!)
No time to plan second-hand decorations? We are happy to help you! We have created multiple second-hand decoration packages for our customers and are so happy to plan and coordinate second-hand decoration packages for you too anywhere in the USA. Connect with us for a quote.
5. Eco Wedding Favors
Support local and small businesses
Etsy is a great place to shop for local and small businesses! I have noticed also Amazon is nowadays giving a special tag for small business-owned products.
Give thrifted favors
I love going to thrift stores and many times I find items that would work great for favors. For example, coffee mugs or glasses and jars, put inside anything edible, or make candles out of them. If you don't have time, you can always ask your local candle maker for an offer with your own jars, I'm sure they would be excited to help you!
In a sustainable wedding, it is normal to not give favors and instead use the budget to donate to something good. Have signage at the favors table letting your guests know their favor is going to something good like helping a local homeless shelter, or animals, planting trees in Brazil, etc. Whatever is important to you. You could also choose 1-3 donation organizations and ask your guests to choose where they want to donate, they can write down the organization on a piece of paper and leave it in a glass jar for your bridesmaids to count after the wedding.
6. Sustainable Wedding Registry
What do you really need? This is a great chance to show your guests how serious you are about sustainability. Guide your guests with green, recycled, reused, and vintage purchases, maybe you inspire them into a sustainable lifestyle! If material is not your thing, you can consider asking for experiences instead of material. OR you could always ask your guests to donate to a good cause.
7. Eco-Wedding Transportation
Have you thought about the families who have to travel from far away? Is there a way to get them to your wedding without having them travel? The pandemic has taught us about the power of virtual parties and weddings. Flying your guests to your wedding is maybe not the best sustainable action, could they partake virtually? If most of your guests are in your hometown but your venue requires transportation, organize a fun wedding bus with pick-up and drop-off locations that are convenient for your guests. This will save your guests from parking issues and also lower your wedding's carbon footprint!
8. Invitations that are Good for the planet
There are so many options to substitute regular paper invitations! You could consider the following;
Seed paper invitations
Cotton Paper invitations
Recycled Paper invitations
9. Eco-friendly Wedding Dress
Rings can be a very personal purchase as well as the wedding dress and suit, so many times couples may prefer them new. But, if you want to be environmentally conscious I would recommend considering vintage dresses and suits, not only for your but also for the best men, and bridesmaids... oh what the heck, why not encourage the whole guest list to use what they already have? If you decide to go with a new dress, find a local wedding dressmaker with sustainable fabric.
Sustainable Wedding Dresses are rented, second-hand or borrowed:
For wedding dresses, you can always rent instead of buying your own. Check Rent The Runway for rentals!
This is a good moment to ask your best friends, sisters, other family members, or even your mom for an old dress that you could tailor and reuse
If you are not a traditional wedding dress person you can also check local second-hand stores for thrifted wedding outfits. It's unlikely you find a wedding dress in the thirft shop, but you will most likely find unique wedding outfits!!
10. Sustainable Wedding Rings
Did you know your wedding ring might not be ethically sourced and while producing rings, it may have caused great danger to the environment?
I found this Eco-Friendly Wedding Rings and Engagement Rings -Guide from Everything Wedding Rings very helpful when I was doing research on how to make eco-friendly choices with wedding rings. They say, "By far, the metals which have the highest environmental cost are gold, palladium, and platinum. One ounce of mined gold can produce over 20 tons of waste; palladium and platinum mines produce extremely large amounts of waste as well. Around the world, every country is dealing with hazardous wastes left over from these mines, including the United States. If you want an eco-friendly gold, platinum, or palladium ring, consider purchasing used wedding rings or recycled wedding rings."
11. Eco-Friendly Event Venue
It's hard to work with a venue that is not committed to environmental actions, therefore, to save your time (and nerves) we recommend venues that are already practicing environmental movements and support your idea of environmentally conscious wedding planning. When you are booking a venue, you should question the following:
Location: Save the planet from greenhouse gas emissions by booking a venue within walking distance of the church
Waste Management: Does the venue support waste management? If not, what does it require for you to bring your own, is someone going to pick up the trash after the wedding and make sure it goes to the right place?
Food: if the food comes from the venue, ask them questions like is the food is locally sourced, whether is it organic / sustainably grown, and what happens to the leftovers.
Energy: you also want to ask the venue how they are taking into consideration energy consumption. This can be something like solar-energy-powered venues, automated lighting systems, or reduced heating/cooling protocols (here in Florida lots of stores and restaurants run with way too cool AC, they would save so much energy by putting the AC a bit closer to the actual temperature).
Views: I think this is also a good point to consider when choosing your eco-friendly venue. Does the venue offer a view that will benefit you? If there already is a wow element in the venue, you will save time, money, and material from creating one.
Decoration and Furniture: Does the venue offer decorations, chairs, tables, a stage, etc. or do you have to transport everything to the venue?
12. Wedding Guestlist for Eco-Couples
Even though this is on my list the last, together with food waste this is one of the most important factors.
Be mindful of who you are inviting because a smaller guest list will automatically lower your chances of being wasteful.
Maybe instead of inviting everyone to the wedding, you have an intimate micro wedding with just the closest people in your family? This will save you time, and money, and is the eco-friendliest decision for an environmentally conscious wedding.
I hope you are now super inspired to plan your sustainable wedding and not overwhelmed at all. And if you are overwhelmed, remember to start by breaking it down into categories and breathing deeply. It takes a lot of planning, but you can do it. And if you need any advice or help, don't hesitate to contact us.