How to Have a Zero-Waste Wedding

A bride and groom wearing vintage clothes and boots and standing in a field.

With all the pomp and circumstance involved in throwing a wedding, it’s not entirely surprising to learn that nuptials often produce a lot of waste. In fact, it’s been said that the average wedding produces 400 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of carbon dioxide. Factor in the thousands of weddings that happen per year, and that’s a lot of waste. If you’re eco-conscious and interested in reducing your carbon footprint, you might be considering how to have a zero-waste wedding. Here are some ideas to to keep your celebration as sustainable as possible.

Skip the Destination Wedding: Choose a Local Venue

A bride and groom inside a tropical greenhouse.

Being eco-conscious means saying “no” to a destination wedding. Flying hundreds of people to a destination half-way around the world will immediately rack up tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Instead, choose a wedding venue that’s local, or one that doesn’t require much travel for you and your guests. It’s also a good idea to select a venue that regularly uses composting and recycling, as well as those that use things like sustainable materials, low-energy lighting, energy-efficient windows—and one that requires minimal decor.

Send Recycled or Paperless Wedding Invitations

While old-fashioned wedding invitations sent via the postal service are timeless, they also create a lot of waste. In an age when many have access to social media and can host their own websites, it’s easy to send out paperless, beautiful wedding e-vites to your guests. If you would still like to send out paper wedding invitations, choose those that are printed on natural or recycled paper.

Wear Vintage or Secondhand Wedding Fashion

A bride wearing a long-sleeved wedding dress and holding a small bouquet of ilght pink roses.

Searching for the perfect wedding gown and suit is never an easy feat. You can make it more environmentally-friendly by selecting gently worn wedding fashion through a family or friend, or a vintage or secondhand boutique. Additionally, there are a number of fashion brands that produce eco-conscious clothing that are ethically produced with little carbon emissions.

Wear Vintage or Responsibly Sourced Gemstones and Metals

Mining for gold, diamonds, and gemstones often causes pollution and contributes to the destruction of landscapes, including soil erosion and deforestation. Opt for vintage and antique jewelry, or select responsibly sourced diamonds and gold for your wedding jewelry.

Use Preserved or Local Flowers (And Donate Them After the Celebration)

A bride holding a bouquet of sunfowers.

Weddings are nothing without beautiful flowers, however, despite their beauty most florals end up in the trash shortly after the celebration. Reduce waste by choosing dried florals that have already been previously used. Another good way to reduce waste when it comes to wedding flowers is selecting a local florist who works with locally sourced flowers. Additionally, you might want to work with the floral designer to find out how you can donate your flowers post-wedding to a local hospital, retirement home, or funeral home. (Or, you may want to consider renting silk flowers!)

Decorate with Secondhand or Vintage Pieces (Or What You Already Have)

When it comes to decorating your wedding, look for pieces and details that you might have at your disposal already, or those that belong to your friends and family. You can also consider vintage or antique pieces that are already in the production cycle. For lighting, choose LED lighting or candles that don’t require any additional energy.

Serve Locally-Sourced Food with Compostable or Recyclable Serveware

A bride and groom holding a small wedding cake.

Besides decor, the food and catering of your wedding makes for the most waste. Think about the amount of food, drinks, plates, napkins, and utensils that end up in the trash after a party and you’ll see why. To help eliminate waste from this essential part of your wedding reception, work with your caterer to ensure you’re using reusable or compostable plates, utensils, and glassware.

When it comes to the meal, locally sourced food will reduce your carbon footprint as well as help local farmers. It might also be a good idea to look for where you might be able to donate any leftover food. Another tip: make your wedding cake small. The wedding cake is typically the most wasted food at a wedding, so keep it minimal. The guests won’t mind!

When it comes to having a zero-waste wedding, think minimal while you’re making conscious decisions. By keeping things simple and sustainable, throwing a zero-waste wedding will be easy as your (small) wedding cake.

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