Eco-friendly weddings grow increasingly popular by the day—environmental awareness is becoming a big part of life. But having an eco-friendly wedding doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice beauty or quality. In fact, not only will an eco wedding offer you some of the most beautiful ideas, but it’ll probably save you some money as well. So from saving the trees to conserving energy, here’s how to throw an eco-friendly wedding!
1. Save the Trees
Weddings can result in a lot of waste—particularly paper. Just think about it: do you need that many envelopes? Typical wedding invitations are usually housed in multiple envelopes—one for the actual invitation, one for the Save-the-Date card, and one for the RSVP. For even a handful of guests that amount of paper and ink can really add up! The process of making paper is hugely harmful to the environment with the machinery and additives involved (and the fact that deforestation seems to be worsening), so consider recycled paper and an eco-friendly ink such as soy ink. Stationery made from recycled materials is just as pretty as the newly-made stuff, and far more environmentally friendly. Alternatively, look into stationery made from renewable materials such as hemp.
On the other hand, you could simply send an e-invitation (therefore cutting out using paper and ink all together, plus all of the delivery costs). There are so many opportunities with emailed invitations; you could make the invitation move, and add some music or a voice over. Granted, not every one of your guests may have an email address.
With a little creativity you could replace some paper wedding stationery immediately—for alternative place cards, write guests’ names on pebbles or painted leaves, or spell out their names on plates in caramel or melted chocolate. Make your own confetti using a photocopy of your favourite poem, book, book passage, song lyrics, or even personal love letters, thereby adding an extra layer of special meaning. You could even use leaves, feathers, or dried/preserved real petals. (Petals are a really inventive option for an alternate aisle runner too!)
Go one step further with your eco wedding by encouraging tree and/or flower planting. An alternative union wedding ceremony idea is for the bride and groom to plant a tree together. And you could give seeds or bulbs (or even mini terrariums) as wedding favours, or give a donation to a charity in your guests’ names. The Woodland Trust for example offers a truly brilliant wedding service that allows couples to help protect and restore the UK’s woodlands by dedicating trees or patches of woodland as an alternative wedding gift or favour. Read more here for some green wedding ideas from the Woodland Trust.
2. Save the Flowers
Flowers are very pretty, coming in countless colours, shapes, and sizes, and symbolising all manner of things. From bouquets and boutonnières to flower crowns and table centrepieces, flowers are ingrained in wedding tradition. That means there’s huge demand. But flowers produced en masse, or when out of season, are often grown with the aid of chemicals and fertilisers and are covered in pesticides.
Ideally, you should shop locally for your wedding flowers. This way you can support local businesses and avoid shipping from abroad (and the shipping costs that come with it). And perhaps try to use in-season flowers to both cut costs and ensure your out-of-season flowers aren’t grown with chemical aids. You could even grow your own flowers if you’re particularly garden-savvy, or you could collect local flowers in spring and summer and preserve them for later in the year. But if you do decide to import your flowers because your heart’s set on a certain type, we advise you seek Fair Trade suppliers.
Of course, there are flower alternatives. Artificial wedding flowers like silk flowers are always growing in popularity, and they’re of such high quality these days that you can barely tell the difference between real and fake. They’ll last longer as well, becoming pretty wedding day keepsakes after the big day. Dried and preserved flowers are a good option too, and bouquets certainly don’t have to be made of flowers. A few alternative bouquet materials include brooches, buttons, paper, and fabric.
The journey to the wedding is a time of heart-hammering excitement and anticipation, and of course you’ll want to arrive in style. Many brides and grooms are in love with the idea of arriving in a magnificent limo, classic Bentley, vintage Rolls-Royce (or maybe a gold-plated Hummer?). But great big heavy cars emit a lot of CO2.
More eco-friendly wedding transportation alternatives aren’t limited to the horse and carriage (please ensure your driver and/or horse manager are of good quality, with no history of mistreating. And you could help ensure the horse’s safety by avoiding busy roads.) Other transport options include energy-efficient cars that run on biofuel, or arriving on a boat or barge if your ceremony is being held near water. You can travel in all manner of eco-friendly ways! See some great ideas in our article on Transport Ideas for Boho Weddings.
(There may also be some guest transportation you have to consider—you could encourage shared travel. For example, you could rent a bus or coach for mass travelling.)
Then, afterwards, you and your other half can ride merrily into the sunset on a motorbike and side-car, two-seater bicycle, or rickshaw. For your honeymoon, to stay eco-friendly you might consider staying local rather than travelling abroad. Or you could fly with an airline that you can pay to plant trees to balance out your carbon footprint? Stay in a cabin or go to a wildlife reservation for your time away together, and have fun while helping the environment.
4. Choose Your Location Wisely
Choose your wedding venue wisely! Different venues have different ways of doing things whether in regard to their recycling policy, their energy efficiency, or their biodegradable materials. But don’t damn your venue to the seventh ring of hell just because they don’t have a compost heap. The best thing to do is ask about their policies when you visit. And you can always push the boat out by having the greenest wedding there ever was in the pretty outdoors, completely free of electricity, or opt for a happy medium like a gorgeous marquee or tipi.
The back-to-nature wedding isn’t for everyone though (see our article on the Pros and Cons of Outdoor Weddings here!), so there are other ways to be environmentally friendly. To save yourself some cost, and the world from more pollution, it’s possible in many venues to hold your wedding ceremony and reception in the same place. Bonus: everything and everyone is already there. You don’t have to move things around or worry about people getting lost travelling from A to B. So take care choosing your venue; it could even be that half your work is done when it comes to decorating.
5. Fun Decorations
You may think that themes like woodland, rustic, or garden may be the best fits when going green, but any theme is possible if you’re creative enough—classic, vintage, or even glamour. However, if you’re unsure, it’s a great idea to hire a wedding coordinator/planner/stylist who knows what they’re doing.
Get off to a flying start with your wedding decorations by setting the scene with your venue! That way, whether you want a classic white and gold wedding or some Hollywood-style glitz and glam, you can have the look you want without breaking the bank or harming the environment.
Eco-friendly decorations can involve anything from using less paper to taking it easy on the fairy lights. Rustic or vintage weddings in particular are magnificently easy to accomplish with nature-friendly methods. Recycle old bottles and boxes, drawers and cans, and fill them with flowers as centrepieces instead of using newly-bought glass vases. (Or use recycled glass?) Scatter flower petals or leaves as an aisle runner. Hand-make your own banners and bunting. Incorporate wedding favours into your decorations by using them in the reception but allowing your guests to take them home.
Check out loads of eco-friendy decor ideas with our article on How to Make a Statement on a Budget.
Lighting, or lack of it, sets the mood of a celebration, whether that’s romantic, vibrant, fun, or tranquil. The wedding lighting you want will depend heavily on your theme, but bear in mind that you still want everybody to see their plates.
For an eco-friendly wedding you’ll want to be mindful of the energy you use, like electricity. One big way of doing this is to have a daytime, outdoor wedding where you’ll be cut off from electricity altogether (unless you take a generator of some kind with you). But more than that, you’ll have a lot of natural daylight and therefore won’t need too much other lighting. Even if you’re indoors, natural daylight can work wonders. If you find that it’s dull inside your venue however, use mirrors or other reflective surfaces to throw light around the room. Or opt for the popular energy-efficient bulbs where possible.
Come night time, fire is a common lighting choice. Candles and lanterns, apart from being very romantic wedding decorations, are beautiful and popular electrical-light alternatives. And there are so many candle options nowadays, from clean-burning candles and refillable candles to candles made from wax-alternatives like beeswax and soy wax, that they’re a better eco-friendly lighting option than ever.
Paper lanterns, sparklers and fireworks are also great options, but here things get trickier—fireworks and paper lanterns in particular are/can be very harmful to wildlife, and for a fire you may need to chop some wood if you don’t salvage it from naturally-fallen sticks, logs, or trees. It’s a bit counter-productive.
So be creative with your lighting. You won’t be demonised for using electrical lighting, so do some mix-and-match with electrical and non-electricals. For example, use less to get more—use battery-powered tea lights in tote bags for cute lighting decorations that look magnificent outdoors, hanging from trees. Place clear bowls or bottles of water on a flat, bright light to give a luminescent effect. Use wood alternatives like fire glass, which retains heat instead of burning and releases no toxic chemicals.
7. Entertainment and Technology
As already mentioned, a big step in having an eco-friendly wedding is being aware of your energy use. Wedding entertainment– and technology-wise, this can include hiring an acoustic band rather than a live band. But there are options like green power generators too. With these you can use a live band, disco, or lights as normal.
Heating is often provided through electricity, so if you cut yourself off from it (for an outdoor wedding for example) you’ll have to find other ways of warming you and your guests up. Some options include the before-mentioned fires as bonfires or firepits, and for a real outdoor experience you could even heat stones over those fires to be placed around your outdoor venue. Just make sure no one (like children) tries to pick them up.
8. Food and Drink
Eco-friendly wedding food and catering is easier than many people seem to think, and can revolve around using local, seasonal, and organic food (caterers do sometimes have these as options, so ask them). It’s even better if your food is Fair Trade and free range.
If you do as much of the catering as you can yourself, you can control what ingredients you use and where you get them. For example, you could make your own wedding cake and decorate it with natural, edible ingredients. (But there are cake makers who you can ask to make your cake organically.)
Other ways to be eco-friendly in your wedding catering include incorporating food into your wedding table as a centrepiece which can then be given to your guests as wedding favours.
Unfortunately, the fashion industry comes with a lot of waste, harmful chemicals, and abusive conditions to people, animals, and wildlife. So how do you negotiate this minefield when you’re aiming for an eco-friendly wedding? There are a few ways, not least of which is hiring the suits for the groom and groomsmen instead of buying them.
Firstly, if you’re buying a new wedding dress you should look for designers who use Fair Trade materials like hemp and cotton, or you could use a vintage wedding dress that one of your family has worn before you. Similarly, you could buy a dress that you can wear again or just rent your wedding dress.
For bridesmaid dresses, look around for people who are selling their own dresses, or look in charity shops and at car boot sales. One of the big wedding trends is using the same colour and fabric for all of the bridesmaid dresses but having each bridesmaid show off a different style (i.e. the style that they are the most comfortable in). So mix and match! You can even get creative with some DIY and make your own dresses.
Jewellery doesn’t have to be bought especially either. Recycled gold is popular nowadays and vintage jewellery looks magnificent. Plus you can, again, go for some DIY. But if you do intend to buy new jewellery, look out for Fair Trade gems.
10. Hair and Beauty
Similar to wedding fashion, wedding hair and beauty can be eco-friendly by looking at the source of the materials/ingredients. For wedding makeup, skincare, and haircare you should look for products that aren’t animal-tested and don’t contain harmful chemicals. Things like creams and perfumes should contain natural ingredients, for this is not only good for the environment but is better for you as well.
So, being eco-friendly really doesn’t impact on your wedding at all. With your creativity, you could do anything—eco-friendly doesn’t mean limited.
Browse more wedding ideas and inspiration in our article pages.