White wooden panel wall with small plants hung up evenly spaced out. Photograph by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen.

How to Have an Eco-friendly Wedding

I think that most people would agree that taking care of our planet is important, because as far as we know, it’s all we’ve got. And although weddings are beautiful with all of their uniquely designed paper, flower arrangements, and delicious food, they can also be major sources of waste.

Think about all of the paper that gets used and favors that get thrown in the trash or left behind. Think about the flowers and decorations that get shipped and the large amounts of food (especially beef, which is not so environmentally-friendly to raise) that gets wasted.

If you’ve been pondering the idea of an eco-friendly wedding, but think it might cost you more or take up more planning time, think again! There are several ways you can incorporate “green” items into your wedding without breaking the bank or creating more work for yourself.

Here are some eco-friendly wedding ideas to get you started.

Ceremony set up of wooden chairs and ornate floral designs at Villa at Manzuelo Vineyards in Austin, Texas.  Photograph by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen.

Reusable and Biodegradable Stationery

Save-the-dates, bridal shower invitations, RSVPs, envelopes, menus, escort cards, thank you cards, programs… so much paper goes into creating a wedding, and the truth is, most of it ends up in the trash.

You can cut down on using traditional paper by sending digital invitations. There are plenty of e-card websites that offer beautiful templates, themes, and customizations, so you’re likely to find a design that fits your wedding style. If you’re worried about sending digital invites to older relatives and friends, you can still send them biodegradable invitations and those made from recycled paper.

Another way to cut down on paper waste is to print only one menu per table, a seating arrangement chart instead of escort cards, and chalkboard signs instead of paper signs.

Green Spaces and Natural Decor

You can use Mother Nature herself when choosing your venue space and decoration options. Places like ocean fronts, gardens, nature centers, farms, hillsides, and even zoos offer an abundance of natural decor and beautiful backdrops.

Small eagle statue and floral arrangement centerpieces at Prospect House in Dripping Springs, Texas.  Photograph by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen.

Other decor ideas include:

  • Baskets (definitely reusable) filled with seasonal, local fruits or vegetables
  • Natural elements like acorns, leaves, pinecones, or whatever is readily available in your area
  • Borrowed or used items (vases, linens)
  • Bare tables that don’t need tablecloths
  • Items you can use in your own home after the wedding

Related: The Pros and Cons of an Outdoor Sunset Ceremony

SOL Food and Beverages

One of the best ways to keep things green at your wedding is to put together a menu of SOL items: sustainable, organic, local.

Think seasonal and locally-grown food, local breweries, organic caterers, and check out farmer’s markets.

As far as dinnerware goes, you can certainly use reusable plates, but if all that washing up makes you shudder and you want to keep it simple and easy, consider using eco-friendly disposable dinnerware. Palm leaf and bamboo plates, for instance, do not need to be washed before composting and break down within 3-6 months. You can also use wooden, bamboo, or cornstarch cutlery.

Close up of floral arrangement for ceremony at Villa at Manzuelo Vineyards in Austin, Texas.  Photograph by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen.

Eco-friendly Flowers

To incorporate eco-friendly flowers into your wedding, look for arrangements by sustainable flower companies and blooms certified by Veriflora, which “guarantees that flowers and potted plants have been produced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner and with high quality standards.”

You can also recycle your flowers by contacting Rebloom, a company that will pick up your arrangements and reuse them.

If you don’t want to use fresh flowers in your bouquet, create or purchase a silk flower bouquet, one made from antique brooches (make it extra special by collecting from friends and family), or carry something entirely different, like a candle or meaningful book.

The flower girl can go green, as well by tossing leaves or lavender buds.

Earth-friendly Favors

Let’s face it – most wedding favors get left behind or tossed in the trash. What a waste! Instead of the usual suspects (koozies, monogrammed anything, plastic knick-knacks), think green gifts that delight your guests and Mother Nature: seed bombs that are good for bees, personalized mugs (people love personalization), metal straws, succulents and potted plants (can double as centerpieces), plantable seed paper, personalized brown paper bags filled with edibles, etc.

You can also give local consumables like coffee and tea, chocolate, jam, and baked goods.

Flower girl carrying a basket of flower petals with the bride and her parents in the background at Lake Buchanan in Texas.  Photograph by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen.

If you’re crafty and have the time, present your guests with a personal gift you’ve made, like a bespoke recipe card. If you have some favorite recipes, print them on colored cardstock and give to guests to take home and put in their recipe books or share with others.

If you’d rather forget about material favors altogether, make a donation on behalf of each guest. Choose a charity or cause you’re passionate about and put out a sign that lets guests know you’ve made a donation in lieu of giving out favors.

Planning an eco-friendly wedding doesn’t have to bust your budget or become more of a hassle than it’s worth. It just takes a bit of research and thinking outside the (plastic) box. Gather your local resources, keep it simple, and plan a wedding that both you and the Earth will love!

Want to hear some other eco-friendly ideas I’ve seen brides come up with? I’d love to share what I know! Hit the button and let’s talk!

Related: The Perfect Gifts for Your Wedding Guests

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