The Ultimate Guide to a Sustainable Wedding

The Ultimate Guide to a Sustainable Wedding

by McKenna Myers

Rings: When shopping for rings, there are both human rights and environmental concerns to be considered. There are both human rights and environmental concerns to be considered. The harvesting of diamonds has a history of fueling conflict, and the mining of precious metals is often damaging to the environment. Beyond this, miners are frequently denied fair wages and adequate health and safety provisions. Verify that your jeweler is committed to using conflict-free stones. For socially conscious couples, an ethically sourced engagement ring is a must and, thankfully, there is a range of stunning and affordable options. Another great option is purchasing a vintage ring or proposing with a family heirloom.

Hotel Accommodations: Look for hotels that prioritize sustainability in their accommodations. Sustainable hotels are usually designed to respect the environment and the area where they're located. On many occasions, they implement their facilities with efficient lighting systems, low-pressure water installations, and try to generate their own energy.

Bridal Party: Encourage your bridal party to wear clothes already in their closet, or allow them to pick a dress within a certain color palette rather than style to encourage continued use after the ceremony.

Venue: The first step to picking a venue is deciding on a location, and when it comes to sustainability, reducing mileage reigns supreme. That means the first step is to choose a location that minimizes the distance your guests will have to travel. Once you’ve chosen your location, it’s time to pick the venue. Holding both your ceremony and reception at the same venue can reduce the distance guests travel, reducing emissions from cars. If you have your heart set on holding your ceremony and reception at two different locations, consider offering a shuttle to transport people between locations or coordinating carpools amongst guests. Choose venues that are easily accessible by public and alternative transportation. You can even go the extra mile and include public transportation routes on your wedding website. Selecting an outdoor venue and utilizing natural lighting can reduce electricity usage. One option to consider is getting married in a national park or nature preserve, which not only offers beautiful settings but also allows you to support conservation efforts. However, if you do decide to go this route, make sure to have a plan for waste disposal so that you don’t leave any trash behind. If you’re opting for an indoor wedding, look for LEED-certified buildings and venues with a commitment to sustainability. Another consideration is choosing a venue with built-in decor such as a winery or flower garden, which will reduce the amount of single-use decor you have to purchase down the line. When it comes time to tour venues, it’s important to inquire about potential vendors’ sustainability practices and policies such as: how they dispose of food waste, where they source their ingredients from, and if they use single-use plastics or reusable glassware. After you’ve decided on a venue you can then work with them on waste disposal goals by clearly labeling compost, recycling, and trash for easy disposal.

Stationary: If you’re comfortable sending your wedding invitations electronically, going digital is the best way to save trees. But, if you’re attached to the idea of having a forever keepsake, make sure to use recycled paper or consider using seed paper, which your guests can plant. You could also opt for an interim option and lessen paper usage by sending a formal wedding invitation on paper stationery and including the URL to your wedding website, where you can direct all other wedding correspondence electronically such as RSVPs.

Floral Arrangements: The most sustainable option is to opt for living plants that guests can take home as party favors or that can be replanted in your home after the ceremony. But realistically, it can be a struggle to remind attendees to take their centerpiece home and can be a pain for out-of-state guests to lug a potted plant with them onto a plane. Instead, work with your florist to select seasonal, locally grown, and organic floral arrangements, and arrange for flowers to be donated to nursing homes or hospices after the ceremony.

Decor: When it comes to decor, reuse is where it’s at. Consider purchasing items from thrift stores or upcycling items you already own. It’s also important to pick items you can see yourself using long after your big day is over. Purchase decor pieces that you want to incorporate into your home after the ceremony, or at the very least choose decor that can be donated rather than sent to a landfill after the big day. This also means avoiding all the single-use decor traps like balloons, and ensuring that your glitter and confetti are biodegradable. 

Catering: When building your menu, try to offer vegetarian options and choose dishes built around in season, locally grown, organic, and fair trade ingredients. Source your beer and wine from local breweries and vineyards, and opt for kegs paired with reusable glasses rather than bottled or canned beer to cut down on waste. Encourage guests to take leftovers home or arrange for extra food to be donated to local food banks or homeless shelters. 

Exit: Rather than tossing rice or confetti, which can harm local wildlife, opt for biodegradable options like lavender, flower petals, hole punched leaves, dried flowers, native seeds, or biodegradable confetti.

Favors: Be intentional when choosing favors and purchase only items you believe your guests will actually use and enjoy. Edible options like fair trade coffee or chocolate can be a great choice that your guests are guaranteed to appreciate. Sourcing favors from local vendors is also a great way to not only do something good for the environment and support local businesses but also helps give your parting gift a personalized feel to commemorate your special day.

Registry: When registering, do your research and try to stick to sustainable products you’ll enjoy using for a long time. Another easy rule of thumb is to register for items from sustainable companies that are B-Corps or 1% for the Planet certified. If you’re looking to go the immaterial route, an alternative option is to have guests contribute to a honeymoon fund. Or, ask guests to make a donation to a non-profit organization of your choice. 

Honeymoon: If you’re stuck picking between two locations, consider which one is closer, and will result in a lower carbon footprint. Look for locally owned hotels that prioritize sustainability in their accommodations.

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