Let’s be real: weddings are incredibly wasteful. I don’t mean a waste of time – but they create so much garbage and miscellaneous stuff that it’s hard to ignore. So what are steps you can take to reduce your overall footprint at your wedding? The key is typically to focus on “less”, but there’s a few other things you can do. Here are some ideas for hosting an eco-friendly wedding.
1. Okay, let’s be real: skip the favors and gimmicky gifts.
I know how fun it is to see your names and dates on everything you can possibly put it on – being excited for your wedding contributes to this! But how many favors are actually used? How many favors are people going to actually keep? While bottle openers and key chains and cups are cool, most people already have versions of these things they like; they don’t need more from you. Cut back on the production of these materials by skipping the material favors.
If you feel the strong pull to give “favors” consider these alternatives:
Make a donation to an organization you care about – a dollar amount per guest, or in the name of each guest (whichever is more reasonable for your guest count).
A sort of candy/food takeaway – but skip the plastic bags, and opt for paper or compostable ones.
Plantable party favors such as seed packets, seed papers, or small locally sourced plants
2. Consider your food – and the utensils used to eat it.
The dinner portion of your wedding is probably the second most important thing that day, let’s be real. But the amount of food that’s going to be thrown out is saddeningly large. When booking your caterer, ask if they offer a compost takeaway option. Some caterers will bring in compost bins to collect the thrown out food and take care of the composting for you. If your caterer, doesn’t offer it, ask the venue. If the venue doesn’t offer it, hire them yourself. There are outside services that will make sure all of the possible materials will be taken care properly – much better than sending bags and bags of otherwise usable materials to landfill.
What about tableware? The footprint of plastic plates and utensils can be absolutely outrageous. If you’re serving a dinner, consider renting plates and utensils (locally, Apres Party is fantastic!). These simply have to be rinsed and returned, and come at only a slightly higher cost than purchasing paper/plastic tableware.
If renting feels out of reach, opt for plates and flatware that’s compostable – there are SO many options for this, and so many of them are actually really beautiful too (wood plates? HELLO). Their earthy appearance will remind guests that you value having an eco-friendly wedding, and these can then be composted with whichever composting service you go through.
3. Use as many real botanicals as possible.
It’s true that when you use the right materials and styles, you can’t tell the different between real and fake flowers in your photographs – but a lot of fake florals, though usable many times, don’t see the amount of traffic they should. It’s hard to resell specific colors and flower types to somebody else hosting a wedding.
As much as possible, opt for real greens and flowers. These materials can be composted (remove all wires and tapes first!) and some bouquets can even contain succulents or other houseplants that you can keep afterwards (Like Anna’s bouquet here!).
Bonus tip: ask for which flowers will be in season, and which blooms can be sourced as locally as possible. Interview florists about what steps they can take to support your eco-friendly wedding – they may have ideas you would have never thought of.
4. Rent and thrift like a pro
The dress-wearers in your wedding party likely won’t have an opportunity to wear that dress again – it’s usually a one and done purchase. Consider renting dresses from companies like Rent the Runway or giving your folks a loose color palette or tone and allowing them to choose their own dresses – these options lend a lot more versatility to those who want to thrift their garments, or possibly purchase them from former wedding goers. It’ll also give them the freedom to choose a dress that fits their personality and body the way they hope – something that’ll only lend to more meaningful photographs.
Luckily, there are a lot of companies out there that will rent tuxedos, and usually with a certain number of rentals the spouse-to-be will have the ability to keep their suit. Look into local options for this to keep your dollars in your town.
5. Book a venue with eco-friendly wedding practices and conservation goals
Consider the company you’re giving your money to. Do you have a favorite nature preserve that has a rentable space? Do you have a shore/forest property that you could host your wedding? Is there a local farm-to-table venue that grows some of their own food? Adding in elements of the environment you care about will have meaning for you, and show your support of the passions you care about. Ask your venue what they do to help the environment and commit to sustainability when they host weddings. You’ll feel much better knowing your dollars are going to trustworthy and committed companies.
BONUS: Go earthy with your exit toss
Looking for gorgeous exit toss images, but wary of confetti? Consider eco-friendly wedding alternatives like lavender, rose petals, herbs, etc. You can also DIY your own exit toss with leaf confetti with your favorite leaves from trees near the property. Just remember to skip the plastic and package the toss item in a compostable kraft/paper bag (without a sticker!).
Have you tried any of these ideas? Share your experience below!
The Autumn Dog is committed to sustainability practices, including yearly donations to conservation nonprofits and utilizing compostable plastic-free packaging. We operate with the earth in mind.
Hey! I'm Makayla, a wedding photojournalist based in Duluth, MN and Saint Paul, MN.
I believe that stories are best told untouched, undirected, and with intentionality and meaning.
This blog is a space to share advice for couples about weddings, advice for photographers about witnessing events with intention, and steps to create decisions based on your values and what matters most to you.
Grab your favorite beverage, pull up a chair, and let's get to know each other.
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