For couples in love who also love the planet, there's good news: planning an eco-friendly wedding doesn't require any extra stress or complication—just some forethought. We have a few simple ideas to make your big day a green event. Here are some easy swaps you can make regarding invites, dresses, food, travel, and more.
Before the Wedding
It's unlikely that people (beyond your parents and BFF) will keep your save-the-date cards after the wedding, so if you send your note on an item such as a magnet, they will either need to creatively repurpose it or send it to a landfill. Instead, consider using recycled content paper for your save-the-date cards, your invitations, and even the programs on the day of the wedding. Keep in mind that any glitter, foil, and other embellishments are typically not recyclable—but a simple, sophisticated design will get the job done!
Bridal dresses are rarely worn more than once, and they can be really expensive! The greenest consumers reuse and reuse again, maximizing the resources, transportation costs, and labor spent producing any product—including fancy dresses. Consider renting your gowns, similar to how suits and tuxes are typically rented. You can check out both Rent the Runway and Nearly Newlywed for dress rentals. Or, visit consignment shops and online marketplaces for used dresses locally. Choose bridesmaid dresses that can actually be worn again or ask all the bridesmaids to wear something they already own but to color coordinate.
When you're registering for gifts for your wedding, consider them an investment. Choose items that you'll still want to have in your home ten years from now. And be sure to register for some reusable containers and cloth napkins to up your zero-waste game! If you already have a furnished home, ask guests to make donations to your favorite charity or crowdsource the cost of your honeymoon instead of asking for gifts that will go to waste.
The Big Event
Decor: Something Borrowed?
Consider how your decorations, centerpieces, and flowers will be used or disposed of when your big day is over. Like the dresses, there are wedding decor rental companies available nationwide. If that's not your style, consider whether you'll you be able to reuse your centerpieces in your new home, or maybe make them part of the gifts for your guests. Perhaps you can reuse flowers from the ceremony venue at the reception, or your family and friends can lend some interesting and themed items for decor, too.
Another green option is to use potted plants and flowers for your decor so that they can be replanted and shared after the day is over. Alternately, check out Rebloom and Repeat Roses, which reuse and redistribute flowers for hospitals and charities. You can also talk to your venue organizer about composting food and flowers at the end of the day. During this conversation, don't forget to ask about their recycling protocol.
Choosing local food that's grown and produced nearby not only cuts out the environmental costs of transportation, but it also can often be more flavorful and contain more nutrients, according to Michigan State University. Consider local breweries and winemakers for the alcohol, too. I bet you already have a favorite local bakery for the cookies and the big cake itself. If your venue lets you bring in food, ask around at your local farmer's market if any of them cater. Some farms may even host weddings themselves, providing food grown right on-site!
Your venue or caterer may also already have connections with local farmers, so be sure to ask when you're planning the menu. Remember to offer a vegetarian option, too, since animal products have a larger carbon footprint per calorie than vegetables, as the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Studies notes.
The Celebratory Send-Off
When newlyweds exit their reception, it's tradition to throw confetti at them or send off other items in celebration. There are eco-friendly confetti options out there, but birdseed and rice are also tried-and-true green options for the happy couple's exit. Hankies make a fancy wedding favor and can be waved all together to create a pretty send-off. Or, throwing flower petals and fresh herbs will look sophisticated and smell nice, too!
The Happy Honeymoon
After your eco-friendly wedding, there's the honeymoon to consider, and the environmental impact of traveling to your honeymoon spot. Check out the Vacation Traveler Carbon Guide from the Union of Concerned Scientists. It shows which mode of transportation is kinder to the Earth per distance and number of travelers. Taking a bus (a motor coach) is pretty much always the greenest option, and traveling by train usually comes in second place. Interestingly, if you're traveling more than 1,000 miles, an economy plane ticket is a better option.
Where you stay also has an environmental impact. Although it's not always easy to find, if you do some digging, you may learn that certain destinations have greener hotels than others. Search for hotels that are US Green Building LEED Certified, meaning that they were built or renovated to intentionally help its occupants be kinder to the Earth and used low-impact materials. Trip Advisor's GreenLeaders Program, Wayaj, and the Green Hotels Association are all great places to look for an eco-hotel. You may also find some great, green digs on Airbnb.
Looking for more ways to live more eco-friendly? Check out our other green living tips on the Thinking Sustainably board by @tomsofmaine on Pinterest!
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Why It's Good
By making your wedding a green event, you are showcasing your commitment not only to each other, but to the environment. Your efforts also provide a shining example of green living to your guests!