Weddings are one of the most exciting and joyful occasions of the year! But… Did you know that your dream day could also be having a devastating effect on the environment? Wedding waste statistics are a little shocking…
Although the exact numbers vary, some of the latest ones indicate that just one wedding can leave behind up to 20kg of plastic waste, ⅓ of a metric tonne of solid waste, and emit 14.5 tonnes of CO2. Plus, 99% of wedding flowers land up in the bin, as does roughly 10% of wedding food… And over 5,000 wedding cakes are thrown away every year!
Planning a wedding? We know it’s going to be one of the amazing days of your life. But why not do your best to make it as sustainable as possible? It won’t take anything away from your big day, but it could make a difference to the planet, and who knows… Maybe you’ll inspire friends and family to do the same.
1. Choose a Sustainable Venue
The first step to putting together a sustainable wedding is to choose a sustainable venue! Once that box is ticked, your wedding is already on the way to being more earth-friendly than most.
There are plenty of sustainable wedding venues in the UK (and other countries, if you’re having a destination wedding). Each one offers something different in terms of sustainability: solar energy, recyclable confetti or serviettes, and locally grown food are just a few things they may offer.
You’ll need to shop around a little to find one that catches your eye and meets your sustainability criteria. Here are a few in the UK we love!
● Pentillie Castle , West Country: Solar & biomass energy, locally-sourced food.
● The Kingscote Barn, Gloucestershire: Organic, locally-sourced foods, Eco-Pod accommodation.
● Stockton House, Shropshire: Powered by an eco-friendly wood chip burner, uses recycled materials wherever possible, composts excess food, and has a tree planting programme.
● Folly Farm Centre, Somerset: Owned by Avon Wildlife Trust; all profits go towards protecting wildlife and the natural environment.
● Borthwick Castle, Lothian & Borders: A Scottish castle, recipient of a Green Tourism UK award for their eco-friendly initiatives.
2. Invitations and Stationery
If you’re sending out physical invitations, opt for recycled paper. Some of it can be quite beautiful, so don’t think your invites are going to look weird! Alternatively, you can choose paper made of a more natural fibre, like hemp.
Another lovely idea is to use plantable seed paper. Yes, this is a thing… It’s eco-friendly material with thousands of seeds embedded within it. It’s like an invitation and party favour in one! Your friends and family get notified about your wedding, and grow beautiful flowers or herbs once it’s planted. A wonderful reminder of your special day!
Or, you can go digital. Keep in mind that digital invites aren’t completely carbon-neutral, but they’re as sustainable as you’ll get. Simply purchase a design you like online… Or, if you’re the creative type, design your own in Canva!
Whatever you opt for, it’s not just about invites. Think about things like wedding menus, seating plans, wedding programs, place cards, favour tags, the guest book, and thank you notes.
Like wedding venues, you can find sustainable wedding catering services. They’re focused on sourcing local, fresh-grown foods, supporting farmers in the surrounding areas, and using sustainably sourced foods.
You don’t need to opt for vegan or vegetarian menus, as long as the food is being sourced locally. Think local for drinks as well—you may need to do some research on this, but if you’re going with a catering company that has a sustainable focus, they should be on top of this.
You can also choose an eco-friendly wedding cake maker, who will ensure that ingredients are local and the packaging is environmentally-friendly. Keep in mind that thousands of wedding cakes get thrown out every year, so have a backup plan for yours!
Alternatively, skip the traditional cake and go for something unique like a cheese stack cake! This solves the issue of guests feeling like they’ve doubled up on sweet dessert, and cheese can also be stored for longer before going off.
Don’t forget that your attire can be eco-friendly too! Everything including the wedding dress, the bridesmaids’ dresses, and the groom’s suit or tux can be made from sustainable material. Alternatively, you can reuse a dress or suit that’s been in the family for generations.
Almost all wedding flowers go to waste. Why not opt for potted plants instead of cut flowers, that someone can take home and plant? That means your decor lives on, rather than landing up in the bin at the end of the big day.
Alternatively, use decor provided by the wedding venue, which will be used many times over. Make an effort to avoid decor that’s going to be thrown away afterwards—opt for recyclable if possible.
Another good idea is to avoid printing out signage if possible. Instead of printed signage, choose things like chalkboards or writable glass. Or, if you really want to go modern, send out digital versions of everything from the seating plan to the menu!
Think about how you can make your wedding favours eco-friendly. Small potted plants or succulents are an excellent and practical idea, or consider giving an eco-friendly gift like bamboo cutlery, a reusable metal straw, or something similar.
If you or your significant other is into cooking or baking, think about giving something that you’ve made. Homemade preserves, spices, cookies, or crunchies will always be appreciated! Or, opt for something non-edible, like homemade eco-friendly soap.
Another lovely idea is to make a small donation to a charity in each guest’s name. Nobody will be going home with anything, but it’s a great idea that’s also super sustainable. You could also plant a tree in each guest’s name, or one for each table.
Rather than dustbins at your wedding, you could set out recycling bins. That way, if someone buys a drink, they can dispose of the bottle in a glass recycling bin, for example. In conjunction with choosing sustainable decor, this will help you to have as close to a zero-waste wedding as possible!
All that remains afterwards is to make sure there’s nothing in the wrong bins, and take them off to a recycling plant who’ll be pleased to have them.
Food and flowers are the two biggest wastes at weddings! Plan ahead so you don’t end up wasting anything.
There are plenty of places who would appreciate a food donation. Spend some time considering nearby places who might need it—an old-age home, orphanage, organisation, or church. You may need to spend some time repacking and transporting the food after the wedding, but this is an amazing way of blessing other people as well as reducing waste.
Arrange to have the flowers repurposed afterwards as well—getting them delivered to people in hospital is an excellent way to help spread more joy.
You can also donate decor if it’s not recyclable and you aren’t going to use it again. You might want to consider donating to the SPCA (who often have yard sales to raise funds), or similar organisations to those mentioned above.