Weddings are awesome, and they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes – from OTT glamour with hundreds of guests, to more intimate and rustic affairs. For those of you that hadn’t heard via social media, I’m getting married this year! And alongside our quest to make ‘the big day’ as cost-effective and personal as possible, we’re also keen to keep it green.
The term ‘green wedding’ might not be as familiar as the term ‘white wedding’, but I’m sure you get the gist. On a day that often involves excess, throwaway goods, fast fashion, and a lot of people travelling in all sorts of ways to get to there, it’s easy to spot areas where weddings are often not very eco-friendly. The good news is that a lot of the tactics for making your wedding greener are also awesome money-savers. Here are a few top tips for how to have a green wedding on a budget.
Dual ceremony/reception sites
Whether you’re planning to get stuck into nature at an outdoor ceremony or to keep it more traditional at a grand building of some kind, finding a venue that can host both your ceremony and your reception is an easy way to save on stress, money and carbon emissions.
Aside from the fact you don’t have to sort out the logistics of getting everyone from one place to another, which is a headache in itself, picking a dual-purpose venue means you don’t have all of your guests driving between one place and the next, cutting out an en-masse trip.
If you do find that the venue(s) of your dreams can only do one part of your day or the other, Zola recommend hiring a shuttle bus to gather up guests and move them from place to place, so that fewer vehicles are needed.
Generally speaking, any wedding guestlist will include people from a range of locations – far-flung family members, friends in other cities, and so on. While there will inevitably be some amount of journeying involved to get everyone there, another venue detail that can help keep things as green as possible is simply to opt for somewhere that’s local to the largest number of attendees possible.
Chances are, that’s going to be somewhere that’s local to you. But if you’ve relocated recently and know that the majority of your friends and family are grouped elsewhere, consider venues that are in the vicinity of the masses.
Not all venues are equal, and it’s worth double-checking the attention paid to eco-friendly antics when you’re viewing potential wedding destinations. If it’s a full-service venue, are they big on renewable energy, recycling, organic produce and so on? DIY venues are often inherently greener simply because so much is left to you to organise, so you aren’t instantly committed to a day that includes a lot of throwaway items. But that’s not to say there aren’t more traditional options that still tick the right boxes.
We’ve opted for a DIY glamping site for our wedding, because as well as staying in place for the ceremony and reception, guests can also camp out after the day is done. No fuss, no paying for taxis or filling up the petrol tank, and we’re in full control of exactly how eco-friendly and sustainable all of the decor, food, drinks and so on are. Which brings us to the next section of this article…
Pinterest wedding inspiration is overflowing with retro peacock chairs, Persian rugs and scatter cushions right now. But do your bank account and the planet a favour and avoid buying these things new if you’re doing some sustainable decorating yourself.
There are tonnes of companies now where you can hire wedding decor for a day or a weekend, and while I’d argue that some price themselves so highly you might as well buy the stuff yourself, there are generally plenty around who’ll loan you furniture and decorations for smaller, reasonable sums.
If you can’t find the right details at any nearby rental places, check out charity shops and thrift shops for second-hand goods rather than buying new, and even Facebook marketplace. Once you’re done with the bits and pieces, you can then sell them on to recoup some of your spend and to ensure that existing items get re-used again and again, helping others to cut down on buying new, too.
Sprinkling little pieces of sparkly plastic all over the tables, and throwing it as confetti, are so out of date. If, like me, you can’t afford to splash out on decorating with fresh cut real flowers (because my dear lawd wedding floristry is expensive) that doesn’t mean you can’t still use real plants in your decor. You just need to start researching dried options, instead of fresh ones.
From aisle ends to table dressings, buttonholes to dramatic ceremonial arches, it can be cheap and easy to use all-natural decor that you know can be composted (or sold on!) after the big day is over. Try Etsy for dried flower bouquets and buttonholes!
We know a couple who foraged fresh ivy from lampposts and exterior walls to decorate pillars and tables at their wedding, and we’ve already started to gather particularly pretty grasses and wildflowers from roadsides that can be dried and strewn around our venue in a few months’ time. I’ve even got a Maid of Honour who has been hole-punching heart shapes out of leaves from the woods near her house to use as confetti!
LEDs and candlelight
In this day and age we often take it for granted that lighting is done with energy-saving bulbs, but it’s good to check. At a traditional venue this will be out of your hands, so confirm before booking, but if you’re DIY-ing it then you get full control of just how ‘green’ your lighting is.
Energy-saving LEDs and other bulbs are the ones to look for, and you can get things like strings of fairy lights and even festoon lights second hand on eBay and Gumtree to cut costs. If you’re wary of committing to doing too much of the manual work yourselves, lighting is another job a hire company can help with.
Zola, who I nabbed the earlier decor image from, also suggest using candlelight for your reception lighting as a great way to set the mood and avoid electricity altogether. We’ll be going for a combination of low-energy outdoor fairy lights and sizeable firepits at ours, to keep things illuminated after dark.
I’ve really got one main point to make here, and that is this.
If you’re reading a post about how to have a green / eco-friendly wedding, then I’ll go ahead and assume you’re already considering either shopping with a super-sustainable, ethical designer, or just buying your outfits second-hand. Which is excellent.
For brides, StillWhite.com is a brilliant place to go dress-hunting, alongside eBay and Facebook marketplace. I went to a number of proper bridal shops, tried on all the fancy dresses that cost thousands of pounds, and then set about scouring the internet for either my top pick or something very similar, but in good, second-hand condition. Specialist charity shops are also well worth a look here, with some set up as dedicated second-hand bridal boutiques.
Thanks to eBay, I got the dress I fell in love with for just 1/4 of what you would buy it for in a bridal shop, all because the bride I bought it from had changed her mind and decided to go with something else. It still has the tags on it, because it never even got worn down the aisle. I’ve avoided buying new, which gives me a big smug tick on my sustainability checklist, and I’ve saved a bundle of money doing it.
For grooms there are a lot of rental options out there, but you can have just as much fun exploring second-hand stores and online auctions to find your outfits too.
Food and drink
Seasonal, local, plant-based
These are the three things to keep in mind when you’re planning a more eco-friendly menu for your green wedding. Can you source local produce from local suppliers, by picking dishes made with ingredients that will be in-season at the time of your wedding, and how much of your menu is plant-based?
The Vegetarian Society have a good seasonal produce list for the UK, which can give you a feel for what’s simple and sustainable for dishing up on the day. While it might be tempting to go full exotic, with ingredients that will have been transported from other countries, speak to your caterer or whoever is doing the cooking about great, green options.
I won’t give you all the lecture on plant-based eating, other than to say that it’s noted here because the WHO, the UN and all kinds of scientific and academic studies have shown that a plant-based diet is inherently better for the planet than one that involves things like meat and dairy. The carbon footprint of meats and cheeses is huge, even in comparison to vegan goods you might not think are ideal – such as imported items and plastic-wrapped things.
We’ve gotten super lucky and found a street food caterer for our wedding who serves not only 100% plant-based produce, but also offers her menu fully palm oil-free, with food served in compostable tableware.
A top tip – use AddToEvent rather than painstakingly contacting tonnes of people for quotes yourself. You just post what sort of thing you want, how many people for, where, and when, and suppliers will pitch you with their menus and prices. It’s so easy it feels like cheating.
Biodegradable straws and cutlery
If you’re organising the bar and buffet yourself, figuring out the details of drinking straws and cutlery is a very dull bit of wedding admin to do – how many biodegradable paper straws is each person going to use? Who’s going to do the washing up at the end of the night if the cutlery isn’t disposable?
For cute, eco-friendly keepsakes that also come in handy at the wedding itself, personalised bamboo straws or bamboo cutlery sets like the ones above from The Other Straw might be your ideal solution. They kindly gifted me some of their products to take a closer look at, and I’m so impressed with the gorgeous quality! If you opt for straws you could order in bulk and get your names and wedding date added, or something else ‘you’ that will remind people of the day whenever they use their gift in future.
Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, it absorbs carbon dioxide, is generally grown organically, and it’ll biodegrade if/when you eventually throw it away – unlike reusable plastic items. Opting to offer personalised straws as a keepsake is an easy to tick off two jobs at once, leaving you with a small gift for your guests and no need to try and stockpile other types of straws that will be thrown away throughout the event.
Other tips to keep in mind
A few final thoughts and pieces of inspiration for your own eco-friendly wedding day.
- You could offer edible wedding favours in reusable packaging, or give gifts like wildflower seeds or tiny potted plants
- Shop for cruelty-free makeup with organic/vegan credentials where possible, or look for a makeup artist who can offer these things
- For a BYOB bar, hunt down organic wines, beers and ciders
- Have a staycation honeymoon rather than jetting off abroad after the big day
Do you have any advice to add on how to have a greener wedding day? Let me know in the comments below!