Have you ever been to a wedding and been amazed at all of the details? The venue, dress, food, entertainment, favors, balloons, confetti, transport, music, and decorations – the list is endless. The average American wedding now costs around $28,000. Whether you’re working to a budget or blowing the bank when you’re planning a wedding you’re bombarded from all corners with ideas, inspiration, and ‘must-have’ products.
Unfortunately, this means that the wedding industry not exactly good for our planet. Every year in the United States, approximately 2.5 million weddings take place. Those weddings produce an average of 62 tons of carbon dioxide and 400-600lbs of garbage. The desire to produce the ‘perfect’ wedding can drive some brides and grooms to excess.
For people who believe in living a green and sustainable life, the thought of contributing so much waste to the planet can be dismaying. But not to worry! There are a few tips and tricks you can employ to help make your wedding a bit gentler on our beautiful green orb. It’s easier than you think, too.
7 ways to make your wedding day green
1. Use recycled paper for your invitations or send them digitally
The invitations are the first glimpse that your guests get into your wedding day so you want them to be perfect. If you’re serious about going green on your wedding day then there’s no better place to start than with your invites.
For printed invitations, use recycled paper for the cardstock and envelopes. Rather than having commercially printed invitations, consider making them yourself.
If some of your guests live locally to you, why not hand-deliver the invitations rather than posting them? Not only is this a green method of delivery (assuming you use carbon-free methods of transport such as walking or cycling) but you’ll get to see the look of delight on their face when they get presented with the invitations.
As we move towards a world where everyone is connected online, digital invitations are gaining popularity. Now, we’re not suggesting you invite everyone on Facebook (although if you want to do that, it’s super simple) but a well-designed, pretty email sent to everyone individually can feel just as special as receiving a letter in the mail. If you know a graphic designer, perhaps you could barter their services as their wedding gift to you?
2. Get married locally & use carbon-free methods of transport
Rather than forcing your guests to travel hundreds of kilometers to some far-out location, take a look at your local area for your green wedding venue. Go out on an “expedition” day with your partner to find out all the hidden gems that you may not have known about previously. You might be surprised at the places that you find!
When you travel to your wedding, consider using carbon-free or low emission methods of transport. A horse and cart offer a traditional approach; if you fancy something a bit quirkier than perhaps a tandem bike or rickshaw.
A great way to reduce your wedding’s carbon footprint is to have your wedding ceremony and reception at the same location. If that’s not possible (for example if you are getting married in a church) then try to find a reception venue within walking distance.
3. Grow your own flowers or use a local organic florist
Whether you are already a green-fingered gardening expert or this is your first venture into the world of horticulture, growing your own flowers can help to reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding as you forgo expensive flowers from overseas. Harsh fertilizers are often used on commercially grown flowers and imported flowers can be coated in chemicals to preserve them for longer.
If growing your own flowers isn’t an option, find a local florist who specializes in organically grown flowers. This may work out more expensive than growing your own, but at least you can rest safe in the knowledge that on the day your flowers will be in bloom and beautiful.
4. Skip the wedding favors
Wedding favors represent one of the largest sources of waste at a wedding. It is traditional that all guests are given a small gift to take away with them, but often these are not fully appreciated and thrown in the trash after a couple of days or weeks.
Instead of purchasing favors, perhaps donate some money to a local charity of your choice and place a small card on each table explaining what you have done. You could even add in some information about the other green wedding tricks you have accomplished.
If you really feel the need to present your guests with favors, consider sustainable options like something edible in biodegradable wrappings or small plants or seedlings that your guest can continue to grow at home. That way you are spreading your green ethos even after your wedding day has passed.
5. Plan your wedding breakfast carefully
Whether you are organizing the food yourselves or using a caterer, try to ensure that food is locally sourced. Not only does this cut out the air miles of imported food but it also allows you to take advantage of the fresh, seasonal produce that’s available and support your local farmers at the same time. Make your meal even greener by selecting organic elements and choosing locally produced beer, wine, and other beverages.
Wait until you have a rough idea of the number of guests before ordering the food. According to a report by UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI), around $1trillion of food gets wasted every year. If you order for 100 guests and only 70 arrive then that’s a pretty large number of meals to throw in the garbage. Ordering accurate amounts of meals not only helps you reduce your waste but it will also save lots of money from your wedding budget!
6. Keep away from ‘one-use’ disposable items
As the saying goes, “you only get married once”. All too often couples take that phrase to heart and invest in cheap, easily accessible ‘throwaway’ items for their wedding. After all, it’s much easier to chuck out a bunch of plastic cutlery than to wash up knives and forks.
However, all that convenience really does come at a price to the planet, so for a greener wedding try to find alternatives. As we just mentioned, using metal cutlery and dishware is a great way to start. If you’re having a small wedding, try looking around the local thrift stores to find some pretty china dishes or plates to serve food on.
Instead of confetti, try biodegradable rose petals from organically grown flowers.
Use linen tablecloths and napkins rather than paper or plastic. Not only is this more sustainable but it leads to a much classier looking table setting.
Instead of decorating a venue with rubber balloons, try paper garlands that are biodegradable and generate far less harmful waste.
There are many small changes you can make to ensure a greener wedding. Some of them may be so minor that your guest won’t even notice, but you can be secretly proud that you are doing your bit for the planet.
7. Have a “staycation” honeymoon
Rather than traveling overseas for your honeymoon, consider staying somewhere closer to home. You could camp somewhere – or go a bit fancier and try ‘glamping’!
If you feel the call of exotic locations, despite the carbon footprint of all those air miles, consider staying in an eco-friendly resort. Whether your idea of the perfect getaway is a rainforest, a tropical paradise, or a safari, there are many different destinations to choose from.
Some couples prefer to ditch the idea of a relaxing honeymoon entirely and instead spend their time volunteering, either overseas or in their local community.
You should do whatever makes you and your partner happy – after all, your wedding is the start of the rest of your lives together. But, if you choose to have a green wedding, you’re helping that life, and the lives of those around you, have a more sustainable, waste-free world in which to live. And that’s definitely something worth celebrating.