Your wedding is one of the most special days of your life, but it can also be one of the most wasteful: paper items thrown away, excess food thrown away, and leftover flowers thrown in the trash. We're not saying skip the party or those gorgeous details, but be aware of these eco-friendly wedding ideas, which feature small changes that can make a big impact.
Planning a green wedding doesn't necessarily have to be more difficult than planning a less green adventure. These days, sustainable wedding ideas are plentiful, with greener options when it comes to catering, invitations, and more. You can even go green before your eco-friendly wedding begins by choosing a responsible engagement ring.
Ready to learn how to have a sustainable wedding? To help you plan your green wedding, we've rounded up 18 eco-friendly wedding ideas. Try one (or all) of these little changes to do something good for the environment on your wedding day. (You will earn some significant karma points with Mother Nature!)
Ring shop responsibly
You don't have to wait until your big day to start practicing these eco-friendly wedding ideas. When choosing your engagement ring and wedding bands, trace the origins of your diamond or gemstones. You don't want to unknowingly wear a blood diamond as a symbol of your undying love. (We've all seen the Leonardo DiCaprio movie.) The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme is a great resource for tracking your stones, but it is important to ask your jeweler if they are committed to conflict-free embellishments.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, lab-created stones have less of an impact on the environment, explains Erica Jill Razze, owner of environmentally conscious wedding planning company Capiche Events. "Moissanite is a rare, natural mineral that is grown in the lab, so there is no mining involved in the creation process," she says. "It is not harmful to the land, and it is not involved in any conflict trade." He recommends checking out brands like Charles and Colvard that focus on socially responsible jewelry.
Propose with used jewelry
You can also change your approach to finding a ring if you go vintage. Instead of looking for your nearest jeweler, consider reusing or recycling a ring. Propose a family heirloom, as Prince Harry did with Meghan Markle's engagement ring, or shop at a second-hand jewelry store for one-of-a-kind pieces. You can even melt gold and refine it, yes that's real and sustainable, or put an existing diamond on a new band.
Choose eco-friendly invitations
As wedding vendors become increasingly environmentally conscious, it's easier than ever to find invitation sets printed on recycled paper or to use alternative materials like recycled fabrics, leather, and wood. Look for companies that take care of the environment while choosing stationery. For example, Paper Culture plants a tree for every order it receives. For the greenest stationery, print invitations, programs and menus on seed paper. Seed paper is a biodegradable material that sprouts into flowers when planted in an earthen pot.
Botanical PaperWorks has a full line of custom plantable paper products, so you are sure to find the perfect location for both your wedding and garden.
Create an ecological registry
Committed to an environmentally conscious lifestyle? Sign up for articles that support your mission and keep sustainability in mind. Your guests can have fun while browsing your registry, and they can even be inspired by your promise. You'll get all the super cute stainless steel straws, silicone cupcake liners, and metal tea bags you could ever want. Also, shop at stores that support environmental initiatives, like 1% For the Planet, B-Corp, or your own foundations like REI’s Force of Nature.
Opt for a charity registry
If material gifts aren't your thing, consider a charity registry as part of your big day. This allows you and your guests to donate to causes close to your heart, especially foundations with a focus on the environment or animal welfare.
Choose an ecological place
The easiest way to celebrate a green wedding and reduce the carbon footprint of your celebration? Choose a ceremony and reception site that takes sustainability seriously. A great resource to begin your search for your place: the Green Building Information Gateway. You can look for hotels and event spaces with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications and Energy Star ratings. With so many beautiful venues going green, you won't have to sacrifice style to be sustainable.
You can also opt for an outdoor space. This is a great way to be one with nature on your wedding day - a lush forest, rolling hills, or a picturesque vineyard are stunning places to say “I do”. Booking a wedding in a national park helps provide funds for its conservation, and many beach fees include profits for cleanup efforts. You will save on energy use by reducing the amount of lighting you will need, thank you sun. Even better? All the natural light will make for beautiful photos!
Look for built-in decor
Why bring decorations if they already exist in your place? When booking your ceremony and reception sites, look for spaces that offer details to suit your wedding style. This will save you cash and land resources; talk about win-win. The wineries offer picturesque landscapes, the botanical gardens give you instant floral decor, and the greenhouses feel lush and green without adding cut flowers.
Be mindful of flower arrangements
Botanical centerpieces are the most popular and there is no doubt that flowers look beautiful. But freshly cut plants are not the best for the environment. Fortunately, there are some great eco-friendly wedding alternatives out there, and you don't necessarily have to give up flowers entirely. Consider potted flowers, such as spray orchids or roses, or plants, including herbs and even trees, that can be reused at home, on a patio, or transplanted into the garden after the event. If you go with cut flowers, choose seasonal flowers that are grown locally.
Razze recommends searching for sustainable florists online. Many work with small local farms or grow flowers themselves, reducing the need to transport flowers long distances. (For example, many roses are grown in South America and flown to the US for weddings only. Talk about how they affect the environment!) Some florists will even compost your greens after the wedding, so be sure to ask about the options to make the proper arrangements.
Donate, do not throw away decoration waste
Forget throwing away all the leftover decorations. There are many ways to reuse, recycle or donate products after green weddings. The flowers are large. Research organizations that will collect your arrangements and donate them to local hospitals, senior centers, and homeless shelters. You can also gift extras to your local service staff, family or guests so they don't go to waste.
For decorations like mirrors, signage, and lanterns, there are options too. Consider using items that you already have or pieces that you want to incorporate into your home after the wedding. If something really doesn't fit, drop it off at a local thrift store. Donations are tax deductible, and you'll sleep well knowing someone less fortunate can give you a second life.
Opt for sustainable meals
Food can be a hotly debated topic in the eco-friendly wedding conversation. Look for catering services that focus on local, sustainable and seasonal cuisine. Ask about the farmers they work with and how they get protein, including seafood or beef. The more local, the less carbon footprint of long-distance shipping. If appropriate, consider serving a fully vegetarian meal for less of an impact on the earth without sacrificing taste - plant-based meals consume fewer resources to produce and won't harm animals in the process.
The same goes for wine. Look for natural, organic and biodynamic bottlings to support environmentally conscious producers who focus on being environmentally friendly in the vineyard and winery. Also remember that single serving packaging creates more waste, so consider pouring it into larger glass bottles like magnums that you can easily recycle.
Reduce food waste
Any big affair will have leftovers and buffet dinners are big offenders. What about all the extra chicken on the serving plate? It is thrown away after serving. Opt for dinner plates to avoid overeating, and if you're going to a buffet, talk to your food provider about saving on leftovers. If regulations allow, you can donate additional food to a local food bank or homeless shelter, but you'll want all the details ahead of time to make sure everything is properly packed and ready to go.
Rent, don't buy
“Anything for one-time use is not good for the environment, so take a look at websites geared towards furnishing and equipment rentals,” says Razze. Forget plastic cups in favor of rented cups, which also look more elegant, and forgo paper plates. It will automatically enhance the look of your entire wedding and reduce waste to landfill. The same goes for bedding. Instead of paper napkins, rent linen napkins, tablecloths, and runners. Some venues even provide linens as part of the event space charge. And if you're looking for straws in mixed drinks, choose paper over plastic, which breaks down more easily and won't harm marine life.
Go Glass in welcome bags
Welcome bags show hospitality, but often include single-use plastic water bottles and individually wrapped snack bags. An alternative to a green wedding is to give your guests glass water bottles or even a reusable bottle of Swell or BKR that they can fill at the hotel's water station. For snacks, fill glass jars with homemade granola, candy, and nuts that reduce waste. Toss everything in a cloth bag instead of a paper bag that guests can take home after the wedding weekend.
Give edible gifts
Tasty gifts are one of the most popular and for good reason. Traveling guests will always appreciate a midnight snack and often prefer something sweet to a frame with their wedding date. Get snacks from local vendors or the farmers market to support the regional economy. Another option? More and more couples are choosing to reject gifts entirely and give to charity on behalf of their guests. Announce the good deed on your menu cards or with a single elegant sign next to the escort card station.
Don't litter your tee shot
It may seem like a small thing, but throwing rice or pieces of paper around your church lawn is not the greenest way for guests to celebrate their union. There are alternatives that are just as pretty (or dare we say prettier?) And don't wreak havoc on the local ecosystem. As an alternative to paper confetti, go for a plant-based approach. Lavender, rose petals, fresh herbs, and a micro-flower blend are biodegradable and provide the added benefit of dazzling colors for your outlet launch.
Make them available to your guests in recyclable kraft paper bags or large containers where guests can grab a handful on the go.
Jetset on an eco-friendly honeymoon
Yes, eco-friendly wedding ideas can continue after "I agree!" We're not necessarily advocating for compost baths in the middle of the jungle, but there are terrific honeymoon ideas that focus on sustainability.
While you are booking, check out sites like Kind Traveler, who donate a portion of the proceeds on your behalf to causes like Global Green, Project Aware or WildAid. In this way, you are not only embracing sustainable travel practices; You are also actively contributing to charities that seek to mitigate the effect of humans on Earth.
Volunteer your time
On your honeymoon, consider supporting local environmental initiatives, such as visiting an animal sanctuary, participating in beach clean-up, or dining at restaurants that source their seafood sustainably. Hike in national parks and snorkel in marine parks, where your entry fees go towards keeping the area and wildlife in good condition.