No matter the size of your wedding, things can start to get out of hand when it comes to single-use items or accumulated waste. If you’re interested in throwing a more sustainable wedding, here are a few ideas to keep in mind as you celebrate your big day.

wedding couple outside
Photo by Audrey Walsh

First, a few tips for sustainability and zero waste:

For anyone who hasn’t heard the term before, “zero waste” is the goal to avoid sending any trash to landfills. The aim is to reduce, reuse, rehome, and/or recycle items before it can ever reach a garbage dump. 

Things add up with weddings, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of a completely zero waste wedding, don’t stress! There are small actions you can take to make a bigger impact. For instance, if you can’t avoid single-use items like paper napkins or plastic cups, check that they are fully recyclable and/or compostable. Make sure you provide recycling and compost bins, too! 

Here are some helpful phrases to remember as you plan:

Keep it local, keep it reusable.

Borrow before you buy, rehome before you toss.

Now, here are 7 sustainable wedding ideas:

Recycled, Plantable, or Electronic Invitations

Between the engagement announcement, save the date, and wedding invitation, the waste can add up! As beautiful as your invitations may be, most people will just toss them after the event occurs. Instead of having a single-use invite, you can use e-vites. If electronic invitations aren’t your thing, look into paper invitations that are made from recycled materials, or ones that are made of seed paper and can be planted. 

Secondhand Wedding Dresses

The fashion industry has a huge environmental impact. Before you purchase a brand new dress or suit, consider buying one that has been gently worn. It’s also a good way to save money on a potentially pricey part of your wedding. If secondhand clothing is not your thing, consider renting your outfits or purchasing them from ethical, eco-friendly clothing brands.

Secondhand Bridal Party Outfits

Your bridal party also needs outfits. While men can wear suits over and over again, bridesmaid dresses often get worn once and stuffed in a closet. Instead, consider having your bridesmaids and groomsmen rent or buy secondhand outfits. There are also organizations that will take gently-used dresses and donate them to be worn again. 

Seasonal Flowers From Local Vendors

Wedding flowers are always so beautiful, but there is definitely an environmental impact. To make your floral choices more sustainable, look for flowers that bloom during the season your wedding will take place, and do your best to purchase from local vendors.

If you’re not attached to the idea of real flowers, you can also use alternatives like DIY paper flowers made from recycled paper, or something unique like lego flowers. And remember, you can often donate fresh flowers after you’re finished with them – check with your florist and/or local retirement homes!

wedding table setting
Photo by Mat Brown

Sustainable Venues

At first glance, you may be wondering how a whole venue could be sustainable. Well, keeping the venue local is a great start! You’ll limit the fossil fuels and emissions that come from plane travel or long drives. You can also ask about your potential venue’s recycling and composting policies.

If your venue doesn’t provide linens for events but works with vendors who will rent you tablecloths and napkins, ask if they use eco-friendly materials. If your venue has catering provided, ask about the kitchen’s sustainability practices. Find out where the ingredients are sourced from, what happens with unused meals, and if there are alternatives to paper napkins or plastic drink cups.

Sustainable Catering 

If you’re working with caterers who are not attached to your wedding venue, ask if they’ll accommodate your sustainability efforts with meals that are made from seasonal and local ingredients.

You can also ask if your caterers compost leftover or uneaten meals. Even if they don’t, you can see if they will work with you to route the excess food away from the landfill. If your catering company provides the service items, ask if the have reusable or compostable options so you can skip single-use plastic cups.

Sustainable Wedding Favors

Last but not least, if you’re sending your guests home with souvenirs, consider sustainable wedding favors! The goal is to give something that can’t be used once and tossed in the trash. Consider items that are reusable, recyclable, or edible. Some examples are local wildflower seeds, jams in glass jars, or mini bottles of champagne.

If you want to have a more sustainable wedding, just remember, you don’t have to do every single thing or have it “perfect.” Just do your best to incorporate more sustainable practices into the things that make your wedding the most “you.” And most of all, have fun with it! Our wedding planning tools are here to make things easy for you.