Love, Honor and Cherish — Tips for a Greener Wedding

by Kate Ashford May 25, 2018

Fresh flowers trucked in from exotic locales. Throw-away favors. More food than a small army could consume in a week. RSVP cards, save-the-dates and menus, oh my!

With these wedding planning details (and more) included on every “must-have” checklist, today’s weddings are not only expensive — more than $35,000, on average, according to the latest numbers from The Knot — but also often embrace a lavishness that isn’t exactly eco-friendly. According to The Green Bride Guide, by Kate Harrison, the typical wedding produces at least 400 pounds of garbage.

Thankfully, the nuptial tide is turning, and more couples are choosing to say “I Do” to cutting down on wasteful wedding receptions, too. “We do believe there’s been an increase in care and consideration for this sort of event production,” says Stephanie Sica, founder of New York-based event company Orchard and Broome. “There’s been a huge shift toward sustainability, creating less waste and making more conscious decisions.”

There are a variety of ways to make your big day more environmentally (and wedding-budget) friendly. Catherine Agopcan, 34, and her husband opted out of favors and used one venue for the ceremony, cocktail hour and reception to minimize travel and parking, among other things. “By keeping it simple, we did not incur any debt or generate a lot of excess waste,” says Agopcan, who lives in Woodbridge, NJ, and got married in 2012.

Downsize


Do you really need to invite your college roommate’s roommate? “The size of the wedding is probably the biggest consideration,” says Corina Beczner, founder and lead planner at San Francisco-based Vibrant Events. “The more people you have, the larger the impact you’re going to make.” Eliminate an unnecessary tier of guests from your list, and you’ll shrink your overall eco-footprint.

Skip the cut bouquet


“I opted for a paper flower bouquet and a paper corsage for my husband on Etsy,” Agopcan says. “It was inexpensive, did not require out-of-season flowers to be delivered and handled, and my bouquet now sits on my desk as décor and a lovely reminder of our wedding.”

 

Save paper


Tiffany Hayden, 30, opted completely out of paper save-the-dates, RSVP cards, programs, escort cards and menus, saving at least $700, she estimates. RSVPs and save-the-dates were sent digitally. For escort cards, Hayden used tile samples from the interior design firm where she works. “They would otherwise have been thrown away,” says Hayden, who lives in Los Angeles and also runs a wedding business at detailedweddingsla.com. “But they are being given a new life as a personalized coaster.”

Have guests help out


Consider asking guests to donate to an eco-friendly cause of your choice or to contribute to your eco-tour honeymoon. You can also encourage attendees to carpool or buy carbon offsets to balance out the carbon footprint of a cross-country flight. “That’s going to be new for guests,” Beczner says. “So, this ask should go up on the website for the bride and groom with some explanation and some suggestions for offsetting carbon emissions.”

Think about your dress


Wedding dresses are still widely considered one-time-use items, but it isn’t entirely clear why: After all, you can purchase a secondhand gown — or sell yours after — at sites such as NearlyNewlyWed.com or StillWhite.com. Or buck tradition and purchase an elegant dress that you really could wear again. Violette de Ayala, 45, who lives in Biscayne, FL, rented her wedding dress for $50 from a boutique store in West Palm Beach for her wedding a few years ago. “I had heard of so many women spending so much money on wedding dresses that would eventually live in a preserved box,” de Ayala shares. “The return on investment for the expense of a dress only worn for a few hours didn’t make sense. It was a great way to not only be more sustainable in my purchase, but a wealth-conscious decision as well.”

 

Be strategic about your wedding venue


Choose the right spot for your vows, and you won’t need to spend money or materials on excess décor —  think vineyard, beach, garden or anywhere that comes with its own natural decorations. Or follow the example of Meghann Percy: “I’m thinking of a home wedding,” the 29-year-old says, “so we can use the funds to up our backyard game and enjoy the décor long after the party is over.” 

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I had heard of so many women spending so much money on wedding dresses that would eventually live in a preserved box...
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Source décor purposefully


Spring wedding? Decorate tables with potted hydrangeas that guests can take home and plant. Fall wedding? Buy local pumpkins that can be reused as jack-o’-lanterns. Collaborate with local farms versus having out-of-season foliage flown in from elsewhere. “If you’re in Florida or California, you’ve got citrus groves,” says Kristen Castillo, a writer and editor, and the author of Weddings on a Dime: How to Plan Your Big Day Without Breaking the Bank. “Maybe there’s something there you could incorporate. Definitely think locally. And whatever you do, ask yourself, ‘What’s the reusable potential?’”

Pass your supplies on


“I bought a centerpiece kit on Amazon which consisted of three vases of varying sizes,” Agopcan says. “I also spent time painting used Pellegrino bottles and large branches in silver that we used as centerpieces. After the wedding, we re-sold the entire thing — branches and all — to someone on Craigslist so it could be reused.”

Have a plan for excess food


Food tends to be one of the largest parts of the wedding budget — and it’s easy to go overboard. What happens to those giant platters of prime rib after the fact? Or the cake? “There’s always the option to have guests take home desserts,” says Sica. “I worked with a couple that had an extensive offering of desserts, from bakery cookies to apple cider donuts. There were cute recycled paper baggies with ties for guests to take home whatever they liked.”

You can also send leftovers home with the guests, like Laura Fogel, 45, did following her 2008 wedding. Her caterer packed everything up in to-go containers. “The next morning, I went to my parents’ house, and my mom was like: ‘We have some salmon, we’ve got eggplant, what do you want?’” says Fogel of the day-after-wedding brunch.
 

In the end, part of the reason to plan an eco-conscious wedding is so you can enjoy the festivities guilt-free. So, revel in that natural décor. Take pictures of all your friends and family who have traveled to be with you. Enjoy the food. You’ll not only be celebrating your vows, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing you shared with friends and family just how easy (and chic) it is to be green.

 

 

Kate Ashford has a wedding dress in her attic if anyone wants it. Her work has appeared in Money, Parents and Forbes.com.

 

 

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