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How to Throw an Eco-Friendly Wedding

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*Most pictures in this post are from my own wedding, shot by Francis Todd Photography

You’ve spent months (maybe years) planning for the big day…and now it looks like you’ll be waiting a little bit longer. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis hundreds of happy couples are finding their wedding dates need to be pushed back, revamped, or cancelled altogether. But look on the positive side: that just gives you more time to explore some awesome eco friendly wedding ideas.

Plan a Wedding Without the Waste

Time in quarantine has made lots of us think about how hard we’ve been on the Earth and gives us an opportunity to start changing our ways for the better. While you want the most important day of your life to be unforgettable, it shouldn’t leave a mark on the planet. 

Let’s face it, weddings are a waste. Environmentally speaking that is. Like all big events they can leave behind mounds of litter in their wake. Stationary, disposable dishes and decorations all make their way to the garbage bin. Plates full of unwanted food get tossed. Once-beautiful flowers that have lost their luster two days later end up in the trash. 

Don’t let all that waste drag down your big day. A green wedding is a way to reduce your carbon footprint when you slip into those perfect heels. Here are three simple sustainable wedding planning tips to get you started:

 

  1. Go local. From the vendors to the dinner menu, using local products and services will reduce the carbon output of delivery and travel.
  2. Think biodegradable. From wedding attire to servingware, you have access to dozens of innovative biodegradable options these days that won’t leave your wedding day cluttering up the landfill.
  3. Donate or resell. There are bunches of brides-to-be out there who are more than happy to purchase second hand wedding accoutrements, including clothing, dining ware, and decorations. Consider selling your items online or donating them to a local thrift store.

 

Sustainable Wedding Ideas Galore

From the save-the-dates to the dinner plates, here is a breakdown of some fabulous green wedding ideas:

The Venue

Make Mother Nature the guest of honor at your wedding by hosting an outdoor event. You’ll benefit from natural light and a breathtaking no-fuss setting. Wouldn’t it be lovely to say “I Do” on a beach, at a national forest, or in a botanical garden? Do you have a friend with a big backyard that you could transform into a wedding paradise? This may also save you thousands in venue costs. 

Or if you’d like to keep it traditional with an indoor reception, look for eco wedding venues that focus on green practices. The Green Building Information Gateway is a great resource for finding eco friendly locations near you.

Consider holding your ceremony and reception in the same place (or at least close by) to cut down on travel. 

The Invitation Suite

Twenty years later and I still remember Chris and I painstakingly making each wedding invitation by hand. We chose paper with flowers inbedded into it, cut and printed them all ourselves. These days so much is done online that you could do the invites and responses virtually and save all the trees. But, if you’re like me you prefer a traditional physical invitation suite to the email invitation, here are some sustainable ways to keep it classic:

 

  • Meet a happy compromise by sending out your invitation snail mail and referring guests to a wedding website for all other information.
  • Use wedding stationery that is made on 100% recycled paper like that found at Paper Culture or The Windmill Paper Boutique
  • Use seed paper for things like invitations, menus, and programs. It’s completely biodegradable and can be planted in the garden after use. Find plantable paper on sites like Botanical PaperWorks.

The Registry

In the 21st century, even your wedding registry can go green! Whatever site you use to create your registry, fill it up with eco- friendly items. You can find tons of unique, Earth friendly merchandise in our Ocean Junkies Eco Boutique. Shopping sustainable home goods might just spark some earth conscious initiative in your friends and family!

A big trend in wedding gift giving these days, which is exciting for the bride and groom and easy for guests is the honeymoon fund. Online companies like Traveler’s Joy, Zola.com, and Honeyfund provide money in lei of gifts to fund that dream honeymoon. Isn’t life all about experiences over material things?

Alternatively, consider setting up a charity registry, asking that guests make a donation to your eco-friendly charity of choice in lieu of traditional gifts.

The Dress

Do you like all things vintage and upcycled? Consider opting for a secondhand or vintage dress instead of buying a brand new one. The Knot offers a great list of websites where you can buy a preowned dress.

If you want something new instead of something borrowed, try to purchase a brand that focuses on sustainable fashion like Reformation, Celia Grace, or H&M. These designers use sustainable fabrics and production practices.

Rental is also an option. Save money (and the Earth) by renting garments for your bridal party. Or consider letting them wear items they already own or choosing their own dress to ensure that they’ll get more than one use out of it.

Favors

It’s hard to find useful wedding favors that guests aren’t going to just throw away. To save money and show a little creative initiative, I made 180 handmade all-natural soaps by hand! Each soap was in the shape of a heart and had sea lavendar flowers that I had picked and from the shores of the Pacific Ocean and then dried out in the sun. Eco-friendly and inexpensve.

Each of our tables was named after a famous poet so we created scrolls with poems from that poet which we tied in raffia and garnished with sea lavendar.

Reduce waste and impress everyone on your wedding guest list with natural eco friendly favors. Here are a few fun ideas:

 

  • Edible favors are a proven crowd pleaser. Not only will these be more appreciated by your guests than knick knacks, they also leave zero waste behind, especially when you use biodegradable packaging. 
  • Potted plants can serve double duty as meaningful wedding favors and table decor. Rather than throw-away bouquets, these favors can last for years to come. Think about succulents, herbs, and houseplants that are easy to care for. 
  • Seed packets and herb kits are favors that give back to the environment when guests plant them in their gardens. Find customizable seed packets on Etsy.
  • Make a donation to a charity in your guest’s name. We’re big supporters of the Surfrider Foundation, but there are dozens out there that would greatly benefit from your wedding day generosity.

Flowers

Flowers are a huge part of any wedding. Unfortunately, in the craziness of the day, I forgot to bring my beautiful bouquet of Calla Lilys down the aisle with me. Don’t let your flowers be a huge waste on your big day. Here are some tips when it comes to eco-friendly bouquets and decor:

 

  • Look for florists that use sustainable practices. Ask about organic, local, and seasonal  options. At the very least, look for USA-grown flowers. These will have less distance to travel and are less likely to have chemical preservatives involved.
  • Make sure your florist does not use floral foam. It’s not biodegradable and can contain harmful chemicals.
  • Use potted plants for table decor rather than floral arrangements. Doubling as favors, these can be taken home and planted.
  • Donate arrangements to places like nursing homes and hospitals. There are companies that provide this service or transport flowers to compost sites.
  • Rent faux flowers instead of the real deal. These can be used over and over again for a zero waste option.

The Reception Dinner

A big portion of your wedding planning goes into the reception dinner; after all that’s where the party really starts, right? To make sure that the only mark your reception leaves is happy memories try some of these tips:

 

  • Rent dinnerware, vases, and decorations instead of buying disposable ware. It will make your wedding look more elegant and drastically cut down on waste.
  • If you want to choose your own dinnerware, look for items that are compostable or biodegradable. You can find lots of cute eco-friendly wedding tableware at sites like Eco Party Time and eFavormart. If you are using non-biodegradable goods, instruct your cleanup team to recycle as much as possible.
  • Find locally-sourced food, vendors, and caterers. This will cut down on transportation impact, help local businesses, and guarantee fresher, preservative-free foods.
  • Consider serving a vegetarian meal at the reception. Aside from saving the animals, these are more environmentally friendly to produce. Whatever the menu, choose plated dinners rather than a buffet to avoid uneaten food going straight to the trash.
  • Donate uneaten food to homeless shelters or food banks. If this isn’t possible, compost whatever you can. As with flowers, there are services that can take care of this task for you. 

Going green in little ways can have a big impact on the environment, but it doesn’t have to change your wedding event. You’ll be pleased to find that you can still have all of those quintessential wedding essentials in a more earth friendly (and might we say more chic?) way. 

Thank you for taking this much needed trip down memory lane with me. As my husband and I come upon 20 years of marriage I can say that it hasn’t all been easy, as life naturally brings us challenges, but I if I could I would do it all over again. 

Have you thrown or are planning an eco friendly wedding? Let us know some of your ideas by leaving a comment!

1 Comment

  1. Sally Traub

    Such great ideas! It was a beautiful wedding with all of the homespun touches. I still have the soap, 20 years later.

    Reply

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As the mother of four children, including a set of triplets, it is important to me that my family all honor the earth, giving back and preserving the health of our oceans by making small changes in everyday life. Since beginning Ocean Junkies, my entire family has a new conscious awareness of using plastic straws and utensils in restaurants and how it’s related to the trash we see on the beach. It is my hope that through Ocean Junkies and other wonderful activist websites, we can raise awareness about plastic pollution and increase sustainable living by re-using what we have already created and creating from biodegradable and compostable materials.

Megan

Founder, Ocean Junkies

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