Your wedding will most definitely be three things: wonderful, memorable, special.
After nearly ten years in the wedding industry and having had the absolute pleasure of being a part of hundreds of very special days, I can guarantee it. They have all been amazing and unique.
Your wedding will also probably be: a little bit indulgent, a wonder of planning and coordination and yes, I’m going to dare to say it, a bit wasteful.
Don’t lynch me. Ours was too.
When Andy and I got married back in 2014, we were only a little way down the path on our journey to be more eco-conscious. The run-up to our big day was peppered with sayings like ‘it’s just one day’ and ‘you only get married once’ or ‘we’re pretty green most of the time’.
Most of the time we didn’t really factor sustainability into the day; it came as a bundle with budget and aesthetics. Now obviously, we’re not the only people ever to have had a wedding. With over 240,000 weddings in the UK every year, that’s a lot of people muttering the same things as they plan their own nuptials and ultimately, a lot of waste.
But there’s hope. In this new age of eco-awareness and making better decisions for the planet, it’s never been easier to have a more eco-friendly wedding. There’s no reason why you can’t apply the same green ethos to your wedding as you do in your day to day life and to trot out the old cliche, those small swaps really do make a big difference. Here’s an example. If every couple opted for completely recyclable or compostable place cards, it would save a whopping 19 million items heading to landfill every year. Yowsers.
But where do you start? Isn’t organising a wedding hard enough without trying to save the planet too?
Here are our top easy tips for planning your eco-friendly wedding that will make a big difference to your day.
1. Ask the Right Questions
You don’t have to only choose dedicated eco-friendly weddings suppliers, asking questions of ALL your suppliers can make a massive difference. What do they do with any waste created? Do they carbon offset any travel required? Can they make use of any repurposed materials or local suppliers for any items needed? All good things to know.
Obviously, it’d be best to ask these sorts of questions before you book but do still ask those you’ve already confirmed. Most suppliers, ourselves included, work just as hard (if not harder) for couples who have booked as for couples who are thinking about booking. All the amazing suppliers we work with are busy perfectionists and sometimes we get so caught up in what we do we don’t think to make changes until our customers ask us. So ask! Not only will you be helping make your own wedding more sustainable you’ll be nudging your suppliers to make positive changes for all their other couples too. Winner.
And if your suppliers have sustainable ways of working or are willing to make greener choices for you, then shout about it! Recommendations, social media shoutouts, and reviews that mention how they’ve helped make your wedding more eco-friendly not only help your suppliers to do more for the planet, they’re super inspiring for others too. You’d be amazed how many people make a change, big or small because someone they know has done the same.
2. Start at the Bottom
This is obviously a great way to stay on budget too. From an eco point of view, the fact that Andy and I were on the tiniest of budgets for our wedding was it’s saving grace - we simply didn’t have the funds to buy everything new. Ideas for this will obviously depend on what you or your families have. Andy and I spruced up shoes we already had, made our decor from fabric we had stored up, borrowed hay bales for the seating and turned various items my lovely hoarding Dad had lying around into garden games.
I might have made my own dress, but I also bought new silk to do so. Whilst I’m not going to part with my dress, my chances of every fitting in it again are slim to none and it’s now in a box in the loft. That beautiful dazzling white taffeta only got one day in the sun. Looking back, it might have been better to use reclaimed fabric or perhaps have it altered and dyed so I could wear it for other occasions.
Going to town on the ‘something old’ and ‘something borrowed’ can not only be great fun and stylish, but it can also make things feel, well, more special. How lovely would it feel to wear your grandma’s necklace? Or to have your Mum’s dress refashioned into your own dress? Perhaps you could shop vintage for your bridesmaid’s gifts or borrow that amazing accessory you’ve always coveted? Oh, the possibilities!
3. Think about afterwards
Yeah, yeah, I know, someone somewhere is bound to try and remind you that getting married isn’t about the wedding. We don’t mean that. And really, who would we be to comment. What we’re talking about is the stuff you spend money on for your wedding. What happens to that after it’s had its moment on your special day?
Thinking about afterwards can be a big help in reducing the waste created by a wedding. Will the item in question be kept, sold, donated, repurposed, recycled, composted or will it end up in the bin? Here’s some food for thought:
If you’re the organised type, add notes in your planner or add a column to your spreadsheet that outlines what will happen to things post-wedding. This’ll help you make smarter, more eco-friendly choices when wedding shopping. It’ll also provide a handy plan of action when you’re back off honeymoon and facing sorting out all your wedding items as well as changing your name on several hundred pieces of paperwork!
Get tough on the items you buy.
Do you really need that item personalised? Adding names or monikers to things limits their use for you (or anyone else) after the event. Will you really be wearing that ‘bride’ dressing gown or ‘just married’ flip flops in 10 years time? Thought not.
Will it be kept by your guests?
Really? Really, really?
We all like to think that our guests will treasure the invites/place card/favour forever and ever but let’s face it, this rarely happens. And if it’s not going to be kept then thinking about the who and how in regards to its disposable is a must.
Our place card/puzzles were recycled but our favours were a definite eco-fail and looking back we should have gone with something else. The little card on the front had glitter which we all ought to be avoiding (unless it’s biodegradable) and inside were plastic wrapped sweets and a plastic fortune fish. 200 extra pieces of plastic in landfill for 5 minutes of fun. Ouch. Needless to say I now have some regrets...
Who’s cleaning up?
Chances are, it’s your venue. And just because they’ll be the ones doing the actual throwing away, doesn’t really mean it’s not your waste. Have a chat with your venue about what will happen to everything afterwards. Ask if they’re able to ensure that certain things separated and then composted or recycled.
Can anything do double duty?
The more uses you can get out of any item, the better and having as many multipurpose items as possible can make a big difference if you’re wanting an eco-friendly wedding. For example, could you use the same flowers for the ceremony at the reception? Could your photo booth pictures also be your favours? Could your place cards and table be combined? Could a charity make use of your marquee and flowers for their own event afterwards? There are so many great ideas out there you won’t be stuck for inspiration.
So, over to you. What are your best ideas for saving the planet whilst planning your wedding?