15 Ways to Have a More Sustainable Wedding

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Elegant wedding photography dining table setting featuring a vintage floral plate, crystal glass, silver cutlery, and a decorative table runner, with soft lighting highlighting the warm ambiance.

In an age where eco-friendly options are (finally) becoming the norm, it makes sense that modern brides are being mindful of the ecological footprint their celebrations leave behind. While making sustainable wedding switches might seem like a big task, it might not be as complex as you think. Here are fifteen easy ways you can bring your wedding towards carbon neutral.

1. Buy eco-friendly or vintage jewelry.

Including, if you want, your wedding rings. Vintage or secondhand jewelry is a sustainable choice because it eliminates production costs and resources. Purchasing from used jewelry vendors is also a chance to shop small and local to support your community. When you buy fine, vintage jewelry that uses precious metals or stones, it helps reduce mining and energy usage. Not to mention the personal touch and sense of history that used jewelry can bring.

2. Nix single-use plastic and paper tableware.

While paper and plastic are the convenient choice, consider renting ceramic or glass tableware for your reception. A British study done in 2018 revealed that wedding receptions with 100 guests produce over 40lbs of single-use plastic waste. With 2.5 million weddings occurring in the United States each year, that adds up to 50,000 tons – or 3,876 school buses – of plastic waste annually. Laid flat, it would stretch over 1 million square feet — enough to fill the Chrysler Building nearly to the top.

Other unique alternatives for plastic tableware include disposable bamboo or disposable palm leaf plates and cutlery. Discuss these plastic-less options with your catering team.

3. Compost flowers and food waste.

For a more sustainable wedding, think about how you will handle excess food and flowers. Flowers and food waste are a great natural mulch to mix into garden soil. Talk with your florist and catering team to see about hauling the unused food and flowers to a local farm or community garden to compost. Be sure to provide compost cans and instructions to your guests about how to dispose of their uneaten food.

4. Choose catering companies that are committed to sustainable practices.

Speak with your caterer about where they source their food and what could be offered with an in-season, local menu. Focusing on in-season produce cuts down on transportation, which saves both emissions and money. You may also want to ask if they will be using biodegradable, non-toxic products for cleaning and bagging at your sustainable wedding.

5. Use rented, reusable, or secondhand decor.

Your favorite sustainable decor may be hiding in plain sight at a thrift store, flea market, or estate sale. Consider repurposing a vintage desk or chest for a guest book table, or hunting down secondhand glassware to hold your centerpiece florals.

Think about using a rental company for your more specialty pieces like arbors, chairs, bars, tables, and signage.

Potted plants and florals are also a seamless eco-friendly swap for cut flowers — plus you can share them with guests or take them home afterward!

6. Go with post-consumer paper goods.

Paperless is, of course, always the best option for invitations, but if you love paper as much as I do, there are still a sustainable options for you! Several printing companies now offer a variety of eco-friendly papers including post-consumer recycled paper and seed paper.

Choose paper that is biodegradable or compostable, and make sure the ink is also eco-friendly so it can be recycled as well!

7. Register responsibly.

Creating a sustainable wedding registry is another opportunity to go green. If you want to go the minimalist route, you can ask guests to purchase electronic gift cards to your favorite stores or have them buy airline vouchers or experience-based gifts to cash in for your honeymoon. Donations to charities are also a top favorite among couples.

If you do need some items for your shared home, stick to things that are essential and that will make living a sustainable life easier such as an espresso machine to prevent you from using fast food paper cups. Less toxic swaps for your current cookware are also a great option.

8. Keep travel eco-friendly.

To cut down on emissions, seek out venues that offer ceremony and reception sites on the same property. For weddings with several out-of-town guests, think about offering a shuttle service from a chosen hotel. A Greyhound bus can replace 8 to 15 cars, depending on group sizes. Plus, if you offer shuttle service back to the hotel, you don’t have to worry about rideshare vehicles crowding your venue’s parking lot at the end of the night.

9. Stay in season.

Just like produce, flowers also have a season. Opting for florals that are growing locally during your wedding’s time of year is a simple way to lower emissions and save money. Your florist will be able to guide you through seasonal bouquet options.

10. Support an ethical or slow-fashion designer.

More and more designers are buying into ethical and slow fashion. Instead of going for visits to “big box” wedding dress stores, seek out local or nearby designers using recycled or repurposed materials to create custom fit-to-you gowns.

Alternatively, check off your Something Old by borrowing a wedding dress from a loved one or thrifting a vintage one. Bridesmaids can also hop on this thrift train and buy used or custom.

11. Make the sustainable makeup switch.

You may already be pursuing clean makeup routines in your daily life — go you! If you choose to hire a make up professional, ask them if they offer cruelty-free or zero waste makeup for you and your wedding party to wear on your wedding day.

12. Plate guest meals.

While plated dinners may be more expensive, buffet-style meals produce much more food waste. Couples are more likely to over-purchase buffet food while plated meals come pre-portioned. You can offer your guests a choice of protein if you’d like by attaching a menu selection checkbox to your RSVP.

13. Show traditional confetti to the door.

For now, sparklers remain the most commonly used exit items in Nashville. Most sparklers use an iron rod and are not biodegradable. Often, these handheld fireworks end up in the ocean or in landfills. Furthermore, the metal is coated in oxidizers, fuel, and a binding agent, which make the metal a poor candidate for recycling. Some fireworks companies make bamboo sparklers which are much better for the environment.

Confetti poppers are also popular, but they are a pain to clean and often end up becoming litter. For those reasons, many venues will not allow traditional confetti on their property. If you have your heart set on confetti, fear not! You can use biodegradable confetti or confetti made from dried flowers or petals to achieve a similar look.

14. Offer a trash can alternative.

Before your wedding, discuss composting and recycling with your venue team and your caterer. Provide recycling and compost bins for guests to dispose of food, paper, and plastic waste. It can be helpful to indicate what’s what with signs that explain what each can is for and how it makes your wedding more eco-friendly.

15. Go for real candlelight

Nothing beats the vibe of real candlelight, but often, venues will choose to use battery-powered candles instead. Batteries that are not recycled sit in landfills where chemicals from the casing leak into the soil and water supply. Lithium batteries can also cause chemical fires in landfills that are difficult to put out. If your venue insists on using batteries for safety purposes, ask if they can recycle the batteries when they are no longer in use.


Creating a sustainable wedding doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive. Often a success in sustainability is simply making others aware of the ways their choice to recycle or reuse makes the world a better place. I hope these tips and ideas inspire you to make your wedding day the green wedding celebration of your dreams.

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