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How to Have a Green Wedding

Gabriella Rello

Your wedding is one of the most special days of your life, but it can also be one of the most wasteful—tossed paper goods, excess food thrown away, and leftover flowers dumped in the garbage. We're not saying to skip the party or those gorgeous details, but consider these eco wedding ideas, featuring small changes that can make a major impact.

Planning an eco friendly wedding doesn't necessarily have to be a harder than planning a less environmentally friendly affair. These days, sustainable wedding ideas are plentiful, with more eco-friendly wedding decorations on the market and greener options when it comes to catering, invitations, and more. You can even go green before your eco-friendly wedding even begins by choosing a responsibly sourced engagement ring. See? There are countless ways to go green with these eco wedding ideas.

Ready to learn how to have a sustainable wedding? To help you plan your green wedding, we've rounded up 18 eco wedding ideas. Try one (or all) of these small changes to do some good for the environment on your wedding day. (You’ll win some major karma points with Mother Nature!)

Ring Shop Responsibly

You don't have to wait until your big day to begin practicing these eco-friendly wedding ideas. When picking out your engagement ring and wedding bands, track the origins of your diamond or gemstones. You don't want to unknowingly use a blood diamond as the symbol of your eternal love. (We’ve all seen the Leonardo DiCaprio flick.) The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme is a great resource for tracking your stones, but it’s important to ask your jeweler if they're committed to conflict-free baubles.

Though it may seem counter-intuitive, lab-created stones have less impact on environment, explains Erica Jill Razze, owner of environmentally conscious wedding planning company Capiche Events. “Moissanite, a rare, naturally occurring mineral is lab-grown, so there is no mining involved in the creation process,” she says. “It is not harmful to the earth, and it is not involved in any conflict trade.” She recommends checking out brands like Charles and Colvard that focus on socially responsible jewelry.

Propose with Estate Jewelry

Green Engagement Ring with Flower Halo on Woman's Finger Against Her Chest

Ludovica & Valerio

You can also switch up your approach to finding a ring by going vintage. Instead of hitting up your nearest jeweler, consider reusing or recycling a ring. Propose with a family heirloom, like Prince Harry did with Meghan Markle's engagement ring, or shop at an estate jewelry store for one-of-a-kind pieces. You can even melt down gold and refine it—yes, that's a real thing, and it's sustainable—or set an existing diamond into a new band.

Choose Eco-Friendly Invitations

As wedding vendors become increasingly environmentally conscious, it's easier than ever to find invitation suites that are printed on recycled paper or use alternative materials like upcycled fabrics, leather, and wood. Look for companies that give back to the environment while shopping for a stationer. For example, Paper Culture plants a tree for every order they receive. For the most earth-friendly stationery, print invitations, programs, and menus on seed paper. Seed paper is a biodegradable material that sprouts into flowers when planted in a pot of soil. Botanical PaperWorks has a whole line of custom goods on plantable paper so you’re bound to find the perfect fit for both your wedding and your garden.

Create an Eco-Friendly Registry

Committed to an environmentally conscious lifestyle? Register for items that will support your mission and keep sustainability top of mind. Your guests can get in on the fun as they browse your registry, and they may even by inspired by your pledge. You'll get all the super-cute stainless steel straws, silicone cupcake liners, and metal tea bags you could ever want. Plus, shop from stores that support environmental initiatives, such as 1% For the Planet, B-Corp, or their own foundations like REI’s Force of Nature.

Opt for a Charity Registry

Wedding Favor Charity Donation

Andrew Graham Todes Photography

If material gifts aren’t your thing, consider a charity registry as part of your big day. This allows you and your guests to donate to causes close to your heart, especially foundations with a focus on the environment or animal welfare.

Pick an Eco-Friendly Venue

The easiest way to have an environmentally friendly wedding and shrink your celebration's carbon footprint? Choose a ceremony and reception site that takes sustainability seriously. One great resource to start your venue hunt: the Green Building Information Gateway. You can search for hotels and event spaces with LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certifications and Energy Star ratings. With so many beautiful venues going green, you won't have to sacrifice on style in order to be sustainable.

Go Alfresco

rustic california wedding, ceremony

Photo by Heirlume Photography

You can also opt for an outdoor space. This is a great way to be one with nature on your wedding day: a lush forest, rolling hills, or a picturesque vineyard are all stunning spots to say “I do.” Booking a wedding at a national park helps provide funding for its conservation, and many beach fees include proceeds for cleanup efforts. You'll save on your energy usage by cutting down on the amount of lighting you'll need—thank you, sunshine. Even better? All the natural light will result in beautiful photographs!

Look for Built-In Decor

This Garden Wedding Came Together in Just 52 Days, Bride and groom kissing in garden

Photo by Ke-Li Photography

Why bring in decorations if they already exist at your venue? While booking your ceremony and reception sites, look for spaces that offer details that fit your wedding style. This will save you cash and the earth resources—talk about a win-win. Wineries offer scenic backdrops, botanical gardens give you instant floral decor, and greenhouses feel lush and verdant without adding cut blooms.

Be Conscious of Floral Arrangements

Botanical centerpieces are the most popular and there is no doubt that flowers look beautiful. But freshly cut plants aren’t the best for the environment. Luckily, there are fantastic eco wedding alternatives—and you don’t necessarily have to forego the blooms entirely. Consider potted flowers, such as orchids or spray roses, or plants, including herbs and even trees, that can be reused at home, on a patio, or transplanted to the garden after the event. If you are going with cut flowers, choose seasonal blooms that are grown locally. Razze recommends searching for sustainable florists online. Many work with small local farms or grow flowers themselves, reducing the need to transport blooms long distances. (For example, many roses are grown in South America and flown to the U.S. just for weddings. Talk about affecting the environment!) Some florists will even compost your greens after the wedding, so be sure to ask about the options to make appropriate arrangements.

Donate—Don’t Trash—Decor

Forget tossing all the leftover decor. There are plenty of ways to reuse, recycle, or donate goods after environmentally friendly weddings. Flowers are a big one. Research organizations that will pick up your arrangements and donate them to local hospitals, senior centers, and homeless shelters. You can also gift extras to your venue’s service staff, family, or guests so they don’t go to waste.

For decorations, such as mirrors, signage, and lanterns, there are options too. Consider using items you already own or pieces you’d want to incorporate into your home after the wedding. If something really isn’t a fit, drop it off at a local thrift store, such as Goodwill or HousingWorks. Donations are tax-deductible, which will come in handy next April 15th, and you’ll sleep well knowing that someone less fortunate can give it a second life.

Opt for Sustainable Meals

chilled paddock wedding in the Byron Bay hinterland

Photo by Milina Opsenica Photography

Food can be a hotly debated topic in the eco-friendly wedding conversation. Look for caterers who focus on local, sustainable, and seasonal cuisine. Ask about the farmers that they work with as well as how they source proteins, including seafood and beef. The more local, the less carbon-footprint from long distance shipping. If it’s fitting, consider serving a fully vegetarian meal for lower impact on the earth without sacrificing taste—plant-based meals consume less resources to produce and you won’t be harming animals in the process.

The same goes for wine. Look for natural, organic, and biodynamic bottlings to support environmentally conscious producers who focus on being earth friendly in the vineyard and the winery. Remember, too, that single-serve packaging creates more waste, so consider pouring from bigger, glass bottles like magnums that you can easily recycle.

Reduce Food Waste

Any large affair will have leftovers and buffet dinners are a huge offender. What happens to all the extra chicken in the chafing dish? It’s tossed in the trash post-service. Opt for plated dinners to avoid excess food, and if you do go for a buffet, speak to your caterer about saving leftovers. If regulations permit, you can donate extra food to a local food bank or homeless shelter, but you’ll want all the details ahead of time to ensure it’s all properly packed and ready to go.

Rent, Don’t Buy

“Single-use anything is not good for the environment so check out websites geared toward renting decor and equipment,” Razze says. Forget plastic glasses in favor of rented stemware—it looks more elegant, too—and forgo paper plates for rented China. It will automatically upgrade your whole wedding look and reduce landfill waste. The same goes for linens. Instead of paper napkins, rent linen napkins, tablecloths, and runners. Some venues even provide linens as part of the event space charge. And if you’re going for straws in mixed drinks, pick paper over plastic, which decompose more easily and won’t harm sealife.

Go Glass in the Welcome Bags

Chic Coastal Wedding in Maryland, Maryland Inspired Welcome Bag

Photo by Kate Headley; Planning by Pineapple Productions

Welcome bags show hospitality but they often include one-time-use plastic water bottles and individually wrapped bags of snacks. A green wedding idea alternative is to gift your guests glass water bottles or even a reusable bottle from Swell or BKR that they can fill up at the hotel water station. For nibbles, fill glass jars with homemade granola, candy, and nuts that reduce waste. Toss everything into a fabric tote rather than a paper bag that guests can take home after the wedding weekend.

Give Edible Favors

Tasty gifts are one of the most popular favors and for good reason. Traveling guests will always appreciate a midnight snack and often prefer something sweet over a frame with your wedding date. Source snacks from local purveyors or the farmer’s market to support the regional economy. Another option? More and more couples opt to nix gifts entirely and give to charity in their guests' names. Announce the good deed on your menu cards or with a single elegant sign by the escort-card station.

Don't Litter With Your Exit Toss

French-Inspired Details 24.jpg

Photo by Jose Villa

It may seem like a small thing, but throwing rice or bits of paper around the lawn of your church isn't the most environmentally conscious way for guests to celebrate your union. There are alternatives that are just as pretty (or dare we say prettier?) and don't wreak havoc on the local ecosystem. As an alternative to paper confetti, go with a plant-based approach. Lavender, rose petals, fresh herbs, and a mix of micro flowers are biodegradable and give the added benefit of stunning colors for the exit toss. Make them available to your guests in kraft-paper bags that can be recycled or large vessels where guests can grab a handful on the go.

See more: How to Create an Eco-Friendly Wedding Registry

Jetset on an Environmentally-Friendly Honeymoon

Yes, the eco wedding ideas can continue post-"I dos!" We’re not necessarily advocating compost toilets in the middle of the jungle, but there are fabulous honeymoon ideas that focus on sustainability. Case in point: Six Senses Resorts are known for establishing the benchmark for sustainability in the hospitality industry. Not only are their resorts top-notch accommodations in popular honeymoon destinations like Thailand, Maldives, and France, but they partake in everything from reusing water and conserving energy to partnering with local conservation efforts.

While booking, look at sites like Kind Traveler, which donate a portion of proceeds on your behalf to causes like Global Green, Project Aware, or WildAid. This way, you're not only embracing sustainable travel practices; you're also actively contributing to charities that seek to mitigate humans' effect on the Earth.

Volunteer Your Time

On your honeymoon, consider supporting local environmental initiatives, such as visiting an animal sanctuary, participating in a beach cleanup, or dining at restaurants that source their seafood sustainably. Take hikes in national parks and dive in marine parks, where your entrance fees go toward keeping the area and wildlife in good condition.