When it comes to weddings, many couples want to go above and beyond to ensure their big day is perfect. But sometimes, that can come at a cost – both financially and environmentally.
If you want a more sustainable wedding, don’t worry – you don’t have to compromise style or quality! You can make plenty of easy swaps to ensure your wedding is as eco-friendly as possible. Check out these ten easy swaps for a more sustainable wedding.
PS. Sustainability isn't always equally accessible across marginalized communities. This is meant to be a list of a variety of ideas; take or leave what doesn't serve you!
10 Easy Swaps for a More Sustainable Wedding
1. Choose an eco-friendly wedding venue
One of the most essential choices when crafting your sustainable wedding day is selecting an eco-friendly wedding venue. But what does that actually mean? Sustainable wedding venues use sustainable practices to minimize their impact on the environment.
This can include using local, sustainable sourcing for food and decorations, recycled materials, and energy-efficient lighting. Sustainable wedding venues are often located in beautiful natural settings, which helps to reduce the carbon footprint of the event.
For some bonus points, try looking for a venue close to public transportation so your guests don't have to travel as far to reach the venue.
2. Use recycled paper for stationery. Or, go paperless!
One easy way to make your wedding more sustainable is to use recycled paper for your stationery. You can find recycled paper at most office supply stores, and it’s a great way to reduce your impact without sacrificing style.
Many online printers (and even some Etsy shops!) utilize recycled paper in their stationery, so you'll still have tons of options that will match your wedding's aesthetic.
Another sustainable option is to go paperless with your wedding invitations and other communications. Choosing to send electronic invitations or setting up a wedding website is becoming normalized for good reason.
And this way, there's less chance that anyone loses their invite! (Including the postal service.) Going paperless makes it easier for your guests to remember to RSVP, as well.
3. Serve locally-sourced food and drinks
What could be more sustainable than serving locally-sourced food and drinks at your wedding? Not only will you be supporting farmers and businesses in your community, but you'll also be reducing the environmental impact of your wedding.
Talk to your caterer about using seasonal ingredients to create a truly unique and delicious menu. Or start your search for a caterer knowing that you want to work with one that uses local ingredients exclusively.
When it comes to drinks, consider serving locally-brewed beer or wine. You can even take things further by using reusable or compostable dishware. Making a few simple changes can make your wedding more sustainable and memorable.
4. Use natural & local decorations instead of imported plastic or silk flowers
When it comes to decorations, using natural & local materials will almost always be more sustainable than using imported plastic or silk flowers. Imported silk or plastic flowers are only more sustainable when compared to imported fresh flowers - and that's only if the silk/plastic flowers are reused multiple times. So, your best bet for flowers is to use locally grown buds and greens.
If you're looking for more ideas, try using potted plants or trees as centerpieces, decorating with branches or leaves, or using fresh flowers from a local florist. You can also get creative with other things like using fruit or vegetables, seashells, or even candles.
Using local decorations makes your wedding more sustainable since you're skipping out on all the shipping emissions generated by imported goods. You're also supporting local businesses, keeping that money within the local economy.
5. Rent or borrow items rather than buying them new
One of the most significant sustainability issues when it comes to weddings is all the stuff that gets accumulated and is often only used once. To help reduce waste, try renting or borrowing items rather than buying them new.
There are tons of wedding rental companies out there that specialize in everything from furniture to dishware to decorations. And if you have friends or family members willing to lend a helping hand, that's even better! Just be sure to return any items you borrow in the same condition you received them.
6. Choose biodegradable or sustainable wedding favors
Traditional wedding favors can end up in the trash, but biodegradable wedding favors will decompose and provide nutrients for plants. There are many sustainable and creative options for biodegradable wedding favors, so you can easily find something that fits your style and budget.
Some popular sustainable wedding favor ideas:
- Seeded paper, which can be used to plant flowers or herbs
- Potted plants
- Donations to a favorite charity in place of favors
- Handmade soaps
- Sustainable tea or coffee blends
7. Have a donation box in lieu of traditional wedding gifts
On your wedding day, you'll likely be surrounded by family and friends who want to show their support for your new marriage. While gifts are a traditional way to show this support, they can also create a lot of waste. If you're looking for a sustainable way to celebrate your nuptials, consider setting up a donation box instead of traditional wedding gifts. This way, you can direct your guests' generosity towards a cause that's important to you, whether it's supporting a local food bank, or plant-based research. And hey - maybe you'd still like to accept a few gifts from friends and family via a wedding registry! No harm, no foul, it's all your decision. I just want to make sure you know that other options are available if they're a good fit for your situation.
8. Recycle or compost leftover food and waste materials
It's important to have a system in place for recycling or composting leftover food and waste materials from your wedding. This helps reduce the environmental impact of your big day, and it can be easy to do with the help of your caterer or venue. Most venues and caterers have recycling and composting services, so ask about their policies before booking. And make sure to communicate your preferences to your guests - let them know that you're trying to have a sustainable wedding and ask them to help by responsibly recycling and composting.
9. Less can be more when it comes to wedding decor
That sentence unintentionally rhymed, and I'm not mad about it. Anyway, when it comes to wedding decor, less can definitely be more. Sustainable wedding ideas are becoming increasingly popular as couples look for ways to reduce their environmental impact. Here are a few sustainable wedding decor ideas for you! They might involve using something you already have or hitting up your local thrift store or Habitat for Humanity ReStore to find materials to recycle into your wedding decor pieces.
- Choose natural fabrics like cotton or hemp for tablecloths and napkins
- Use candles or solar instead of electric lights
- Hang a thrifted chandelier instead of installing new lighting
- Select an outdoor venue to avoid using extra energy on decorations and lighting
- Search for "upcycled wedding decor ideas" on Pinterest or Google to find literally thousands of ideas.
10. Choose an eco-friendly wedding dress, tux, or outfit
Your wedding outfit is one of the most visible decisions you'll make when planning your wedding. So why not choose an eco-friendly piece? Many beautiful and sustainable options are available, from organic cotton dresses to tuxes made with sustainable fabrics like bamboo or Tencel. By the way, if you're still unsure what your ideal wedding day outfit would look like, search for some non-traditional wedding day outfit ideas to start brainstorming. Then launch your search for an eco-friendly version of that outfit from there! Other options are choosing a vintage outfit, a thrifted one, or having one custom-made using sustainable materials. No matter your style, you'll make a statement with an eco-friendly wedding day fit.
Bonus tip: Choose a photographer who is committed to sustainability
Something to think about when "photographer shopping" for your wedding (especially if it's being held outdoors!) is whether that photographer mentions their awareness of environmental issues related to outdoor events and photography.
Hiring a photographer who is committed to doing their part to protect the environment, public lands, and waterways means that they will be an advocate for sustainability.
A skilled photographer who is part of the Leave No Trace program (like me!) or has a page on their site detailing their commitment to sustainability will be able to capture plenty of beautiful shots of your wedding day without resorting to damaging practices, like going off-trail or leaving behind trash.
Your wedding day is just one day, but by making a few simple sustainable wedding ideas, you can ensure it’s more eco-friendly than the average event.
What are your favorite sustainable wedding tips? Share your experience in the comments below, please! I'm sure that other couples would love to learn from your own tips and ideas.
Share this story