Tips for Planning a Sustainable Wedding

eco-friendly wedding planning

The eco-chic wedding has grown in popularity over the past few years and this is very exciting. Many couples are looking to protect the environment by choosing organic and recyclable options, as well as offsetting the impact guests’ travel will have on the earth.

Whereas weddings often mean “the more extravagant the better,” having a green wedding can make a statement to your guests about the importance of protecting the earth from wear and tear.

The easiest way to keep emissions and effects on the environment low is to have a small wedding – 20 guests instead of 200. Obviously, this isn’t always possible.

The goal is to have a beautiful wedding that is as least wasteful as it can be.

Many facilities are now catering to eco-chic weddings. However, be aware that a green wedding can cost up to 20 percent more than a traditional wedding. For instance, having an organic menu can raise costs by 10 percent.

However, if the environment is your main priority, there are plenty of great ways to plan a beautiful sustainable wedding and keep the environmental impact low.

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Wedding Invitations and Paper by Green Girl Press

Wedding Solution's favorite tips for a green wedding:

1. Invitations:

  • Use organic or soy ink on recycled paper
  • Choose paper not made from trees. Paper alternatives include bamboo, hemp, banana stalks, and even cotton.
  • Save paper by skipping the multi-envelope invitations and using a postcard for your Save the Date
  • Use online invitations or create a wedding website to give guests details of events such as the bachelor/bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinner, and bridal shower, hotels

2. Location:

  • Have your wedding and reception in the same place to avoid wasting energy and natural resources on transportation
  • Have the wedding outside, instead of in an energy-inefficient reception hall. If you have an outdoor wedding, you can utilize the natural beauty of the site to have fewer wasteful decorations
  • You can also locate an LEED-certified space to have an indoor wedding. LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” and means the space is sustainable and conserves water, energy, and electricity using solar power, insulation panels, and other state-of-the-art technology. Visit the U.S. Green Building Council’s website to search a list of LEED-certified locations by city or state

 Rochester wedding photographer Heather McKay's Photography

3. Flowers:

  • Use potted plants — then have your guests take them home as favors and reuse them. Or have them donated to a local hospice or elderly care center.
  • If you do want flowers, get organically grown flowers – meaning they are grown without pesticides or insecticides. Consider organic roses, which are a beautiful option and have an amazing – and real – fragrance. Non-organic roses are actually sprayed with perfume. Have your guests toss the organic rose petals as you walk down the aisle. (Be aware that organic flowers won’t last as long, however, so make sure your florist considers timing.)
  • Get flowers from a local nursery to avoid using up natural resources during shipping.
  • Find an Etsy seller that creates wedding bouquets out of silk, fabric and broaches.

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4. On the table:

  • Choose an organic menu, with seasonal or locally grown products (to avoid shipping costs). You will be hard-pressed to find an all-organic caterer, so simply instruct your caterer to shop at local farmer’s markets and choose fresh, season ingredients, such as heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs in the summer. Be aware that with a seasonal menu, you should find a caterer you really trust, because it’s not likely you’ll be able to taste the menu ahead of time.
  • Donate any extra food to a homeless shelter!
  • Choose organic wine or beer selections. Make sure they are registered with the USDA National Organic Program
  • Use recycled napkins and table linens
  • Use natural products for place cards – one couple used a pressed tree leaf with each guest’s name on it as a place marker. Or writing guests’ names on a smooth river with a paint pen is an eco-friendly option.
  • Choose beeswax or soy-based candles over those made with petroleum, a non-earth friendly product. Best of all, beeswax candles smell amazing, like honey!
  • For the serious eco-friendly couple, request biodegradable utensils and plates – made out of potatoes, cornstarch, or sugarcane. Then have them composted after the wedding.

5. Gown & tux:

  • Purchase a secondhand or vintage gown. Have it altered to look more modern and to fit your body perfectly.
  • Donate your gown after the ceremony
  • The groom can wear a hemp tux
  • Buy a dress – and have your bridesmaids buy dresses – that you will wear again or can have altered

6. Rings:

  • Buy a conflict-free diamond. The Blood Diamond controversy is very hot right now – this means diamonds mined in war-torn African countries that help fund rebel armies, and finance arms purchases and other illegal activities in those countries. Be sure to ask for certified conflict-free diamonds.
  • Opt for a vintage piece of wedding jewelry. Or you can have an old piece of jewelry melted down and made into a new ring.
  • A lot of eco-friendly couples are opting for wooden rings. They’re custom-made and inexpensive (a few hundred dollars). Touch Wood rings are gaining popularity. www

7. Gifts:

  • Create a registry where guests donate to a favorite charity instead of buying you gifts. Avoid something political that guests might take issue with. Stick to organizations that benefit international aid, nature, animals, disease prevention, or relief efforts. Their contributions will be tax-deductible, and you won’t end up with a bunch of crystal glassware that you use once a year.
  • Register for a home-delivery service that delivers organic food products. Ask for national park passes
  • Register with wedding vendors, like the Photographer, to put towards your heirloom wedding album

8. Honeymoon:

  • Instead of a lavish honeymoon, go on a volunteer trip! Build houses for Habitat for Humanity or help hurricane victims.
  • Take an eco-friendly or low-impact honeymoon. Stay in a green resort, go camping, visit a local B&B.

9. Travel and Carbon Credits:

  • Carbon dioxide emissions from guest travel are the single biggest environmental impact from your wedding. The energy needed for lighting, catering, DJs, etc. always plays a role. Use an online “wedding carbon footprint” calculator to determine the amount of greenhouse gases and carbon emissions that will be generated by guests flying and driving into town. Then, the couple can purchase “carbon credits” – which puts money toward U.S. carbon-reducing energy projects — to help offset the environmental damage of the wedding. One site designed specifically for wedding planning is You might also ask your guests to contribute to carbon credits, instead of buying a wedding gift.

By Alex A. Lluch, author of over three million books sold and President of,, and

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This guide contains plenty of helpful information such as:

  • An in-depth look at sustainable and ethical weddings – why they are important and how choosing a green wedding helps reduce the strain on the environment.
  • Eye-opening facts and figures about the carbon footprint and waste generated by weddings and the wedding industry as a whole (did you know that around 4,910 tones of unrecyclable plastics are used up by weddings annually?)
  • How to plan a sustainable wedding – including plenty of tips on finding green wedding planners and suppliers, eco-friendly wedding venues, organic and zero-waste food and catering, and other helpful resources.
  • Other useful green wedding resources, organizations, and zero-waste tips and advice to help make weddings more ethically-conscious and environmentally friendly.

3 thoughts on “Tips for Planning a Sustainable Wedding”

  1. These are all great suggestions! Just to add something to the part on rings, it’s important to know a few things if you’re going to buy conflict-free rings. First, most jewelers will say that they are selling “conflict-free” diamonds. However, if you want to be certain about it, make sure that your jeweler can trace the diamond back to the mine and provide a written guarantee that the diamond is conflict-free. Second, if you want an eco-friendly wedding ring, consider buying a ring made of recycled gold. Gold mining is an especially dirty process. About 20 tons of mine waste are generated to produce a single gold ring, and gold mining poisons waters supplies with toxic chemicals like cyanide and mercury. -GK,

  2. Thanks GK! That is helpful information. Thinking outside the box is generally the way to go… and asking questions. Same for Photographers and other vendors. I know a Photographer who thinks they are ‘green’ just because they drive a hybrid!

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