In the past decade, the world has become increasingly eco-conscious and planet-caring – cars have become electric, plastics are under the spotlight and solar panels have gone mainstream. But while the products we buy and the way we live have become less and less resource-sapping, weddings often go under the radar. Perhaps this is, at least in part, down to ideas of eco-weddings being all second-hand hemp and unseasoned tofu. Yet a green wedding needn’t be a toss-up between your dream wedding and the sake of the environment. Here I share my top tips for an eco-friendly wedding that won’t involve you doubling your budget or surrendering your vision.
The wedding stationary – Go digital, and save a tree or two
From save-the-date cards, onto your invites, table numbers, seating plan and thank you cards, you could end up sending a lot of paper to landfill if you don’t plan ahead.
While even the most eco-aware of couples will probably still send their invites by mail, everything else can be done digitally. Your save-the-date cards can be emailed, while your table numbers and seating plan could be created from natural materials, rather than plastic. And, of course, your invites could and should be printed on recycled paper using vegetable-based inks. There are even suppliers out there that create plantable products – with the paper infused with flowers, plants or herbs (a happy alternative to heading straight off to landfill!).
The venue and the big question – outdoors or in?
Choosing your venue is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make when planning your wedding – and it’s also one of the most important if you’re aiming for minimal emissions.
A wedding in the great outdoors, where the sun will provide natural lighting, is a beautifully green choice – think about a farm, vineyard, botanical garden, hilltop or refurbished barn. But alas, for all their au-naturel advantages, outdoor weddings aren’t for everyone. So if you’ve set your heart on a distinctly indoor affair, by sure to pick a hotel or venue that has a solid environment policy in place – do they recycle, use energy efficient appliances and biodegradable products?
Whether outdoors or in, be sure to hold your ceremony and reception in a single location – so you avoid a convoy of guest and vendor cars travelling from place to the next.
Lighting bonus tip…
When considering evening ambience, choose LED – which is low voltage. Where this doesn’t suit the setting, go for candles, but try to buy either soy or honeycomb candles, which emit cleaner fumes.
Your flowers: one word – organic
You’ve discovered and explored many floral arrangements – all beautiful and natural, right? Hmm. Wrong. In fact, mass produced flowers are very often sprayed to the hilt in chemicals to control insects, which can impact the soil and in the worst of instances, make those who process the flowers ill. My top tip? Opt for farm-to-table flower suppliers.
Then there’s your centrepieces – rather than choosing mounds upon mounds of cut flowers, go for local, in-season potted blooms, plants or topiaries – each of which will make for a stunning centrepiece, while being reusable after the wedding. Couple these up with organic-dyed materials such as flax, linen or burlap for extra eco-credentials.
The food – Pick your suppliers wisely
Food takes centre stage at any celebration, but going green needn’t mean serving up lentils and chickpeas. Buying directly from ethical, eco-responsible farms is becoming more and more common, and in-season, locally sourced fruit and veg can cut out thousands of air miles.
When speaking with caterers, ask about the suppliers they themselves use – including your cake creator – do they source their eggs and dairy products locally?
You could also consider going vegetarian, as well as making a plan for any leftovers, as a tenth of all wedding food usually ends up going straight to landfill (homeless shelters will likely welcome your buffet!).
The dress – Mom’s the word
Reuse and upcycle – those are the key concepts for a green wedding dress that gets a second chance at life. First, ask relatives – your mother, aunt or grandmother. If there’s no dress coming forward (or none that you’d actually like to wear) scour vintage shops and consignment boutiques, and check out second-hand designer dress websites.
If everything seems to come up short, consider renting a gown or buying brand new from a supplier that uses only sustainable fabrics (such as organic cotton, silk or hemp).
You should also emphasise that you don’t expect your guests and bridesmaids to shop for brand-new dresses – suggest an upcycle dress code, and pass your bridesmaids a list of eco-friendly retailers and dress collections (if you’re not purchasing the dresses yourself).
The wedding favours – Charities, cupcakes and seeds
Favours are no longer a depressing choice between sugared almonds and sugared almonds. Today, you could give a donation to an earth-friendly charity – such as Idofoundation.org, which allows you to tap in your guests’ postcodes to calculate the resulting emissions, and the donation needed to offset them. Another idea is to hand out tree kits – an inexpensive idea that will do the world a favour for years to come. Or, if you want to stick with something more traditional, think about opting for edible favours – such as irresistible cupcakes or Fair Trade chocolate.
Rethink your gift list
Chances are that some of the gifts you receive may not even see the light of day again (and they’ll most certainly be wrapped in metres and metres of paper!). In answer to this earth-unfriendly conundrum, more and more planet-conscious, good-hearted brides and grooms are simply swapping their gift lift for a simple request for a charitable donation.