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11 Easy Swaps for a Sustainable Wedding
Events & Weddings

11 Easy Swaps for a Sustainable Wedding

Planning a wedding is hard work, but throwing a sustainable wedding is infinitely more rewarding than continuing classic, harmful traditions


8 min read

May 04, 2021

Planning a wedding is hard work, and the process can become even more complicated when keeping the environmental impact in mind. Decorations can create piles of trash that end up in a landfill for dozens of years, while conventional diamond rings can have negative social and environmental impacts—but your wedding doesn’t have to follow in these footsteps.

Throwing a sustainable wedding is infinitely more rewarding than simply continuing the classic, harmful traditions. So if you want to have an eco-friendly wedding that is a better reflection of who you are as a couple, be conscious of the major items that are detrimental to the environment: invitations, favors, rings, floral arrangements, and the exit toss following the ceremony. You can also follow these 11 tips to achieve the sustainable wedding of your dreams.

Whether you're planning a big or small celebration, a sustainable wedding is the way to go.

What goes into an eco-friendly wedding?

Your wedding is meant to be one of the greatest days in your life, and it will still be that way when you take the sustainable route. Tossed paper goods, leftover food, and wilting flowers dumped in the garbage—it’s no secret that weddings generate a huge amount of waste. While we’re not encouraging you to skip out on gorgeous details, consider incorporating these sustainable wedding planning ideas to help you celebrate with a clearer conscience.

Here’s everything you need to know about planning an environmentally friendly wedding.

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Sustainable wedding ideas

Ethical, sustainable wedding rings are essential for any socially conscious couple.

Buy Ethical Rings

While buying a ring can seem like an innocent task, the fact is that many diamonds are not traced back to their origins and may, in fact, be blood diamonds. We owe the popularity of diamond engagement rings to a marketing campaign from 1947 with the slogan “A Diamond is Forever.”

That’s right, De Beers is to thank for our diamond obsession which has led to the exploitation of third world countries, but that legacy does not need to live on. There are plenty of alternatives to diamondsーincluding lab created gems, simple bands made of recycled metals, and dozens of other gemstones mined in more sustainable ways. But, if a diamond is in order, there are responsible companies, like Brilliant Earth, who take the time and effort to trace every one of their stones to ensure that the symbol of your eternal love does not come at a high social cost.

Eco-friendly wedding invitations are often made from recycled materials and embedded with wildflower seeds.

Send Invitations That Give Back

Choosing a design that fits your theme and pleases both parties can be rough, and making a sustainable choice can feel like an impossible task. Luckily, it is not.

Take Millbrae’s Paper Culture, for instance, which plants a tree for every order it receives and saves you tons of time (especially if your calligraphy skills are not up to snuff) by addressing the envelopes for you. The NorCal company can also supply you with menus, name plates, and thank-you cards—all of which are made of 100-percent post-consumer waste and wood alternatives—to round out your paper needs.

Similarly, San Diego’s ForeverFiances offers an entire line of wedding supplies—including wedding invitations, RSVPs, save the dates, and thank-you cards—created with 100-percent recycled paper using carbon neutral energy, printed with natural plant-based ink, and embedded with wildflower seeds. So when guests no longer have a need for these paper products, they can plant them in the ground and literally watch love bloom.

For a classy and eco-friendly setting, opt for glass and silver tableware. Compostable options are also available to reduce your carbon footprint.

Avoid single-use plastics and papers

Many people opt for single-use dishware and cutlery because it’s affordable. Even though this solution cuts back on expenses, by the end of the day these items all end up in the landfill, resulting in waste. Opting for glass and silver tableware is more sustainable and looks much classier laid out. If your wedding venue doesn’t provide the utensils, rent out all these items and return them once the celebration is over.

If you’re keener on the idea of having single-use tableware, use compostable options to cut down your carbon footprint. Even if you can’t swap everything for a sustainable alternative, a simple step like cutting plastic straws is a big step forward. 

Sustainable wedding planning

Instead of giving guests rice or regular paper confetti, fill sustainable paper cones with leaves, dried herbs, or flower petals for the exit toss.

Have a Sustainable Exit Toss

Since marriage represented an expansion and an increase in both wealth and family size, the tradition of throwing rice at weddings began as a symbol of wishing the couple prosperity and growth. While we now understand the harm that rice can cause to birds, the sentiment lives on and wedding guests now toss everything from confetti to bird seed.  

While these options sound great in theory, confetti can enter waterways and pollute the environment—plus it requires significant resources to make—and, honestly, who wants to be pelted with bird seed? If you are looking for something a bit gentler but still sustainable, consider dried flowers like lavender or fresh herbs, leaves, or rose petals. If time permits, consider growing these things yourself; plant rose bushes with blooms that match the hues of your wedding colors; incorporate mint, which represents wisdom and virtue; or choose rosemary for loyalty and fidelity. Biodegradable glitter and seed-paper confetti are also creative alternatives, though these may be harder to find and often cost quite a bit more.

Hosting your wedding ceremony and reception in one spot is easier for you, your guests, and for the earth.

Host the Wedding and Reception in One Location

The tradition of hosting the wedding in one place and the reception in another necessitates extra planning, transportation, and energy. Holding both at the same incredible California venue is not only less work for you, but also is easier on the guests, your wallet, and the environment. You can reduce the amount of decorations needed, too, as you will only be filling one space rather than two.

(Extra points if the location is also where everyone will be staying the night, as guests will not need transportation after the wedding.)

The best way to plan a sustainable wedding is by hiring caterers who share your eco-friendly vision with zero-waste practices.

Choose caterers with sustainable practices

It’s important to find caterers that share your vision of a sustainable wedding. Food, packaging, presentation, and utensils—a big part of effective sustainable wedding planning relies on the caterer.

Eco Caters is a company that maintains a standard of excellence in sustainable practices. The company helps you plan a personalized and memorable menu without harming the environment. Pink Salt Cuisine is another great plant-based catering company—sustainable zero-waste events are their specialty. The company works with food recovery agencies to make sure all unserved meals go to community members in need.

Eco-friendly wedding decorations

Feel the earthy vibes at your wedding and enjoy elegant au naturel table settings.

Incorporate Living Centerpieces

Not only are floral centerpieces pricey, but they can also use up tons of resources if they are purchased from a traditional florist. Between the water needed to grow the flowers and the emissions created to ship them across the country, the footprint adds up.

Choosing living centerpieces, however, ensures the plants will live on for much longer and have a reduced impact. Additionally, these plants can be rented rather than purchased—saving you some money—or be donated to elderly living facilities, schools, and other institutions that would undoubtedly love the contribution. They can even be given to guests at the end of the night as wedding favors; writing “help love grow” in calligraphy on the pots instantly makes them look like high-class favors, without adding extra cost and impact to the equation. 

Ensure your wedding favors are memorable (and delicious) by gifting local olive oil infused with herbs, flavored salts, or seasonal jams.

Give Intentional Wedding Favors

There is nothing sadder than seeing disappointment on the bride’s face at the end of the reception. Unfortunately, wedding favors are often left behind, creating this exact situation. Taking the extra time to think about what your guests would actually use (and want) can help to avoid this and leave a better impression at the end of the celebration.

If you opt for living centerpieces as wedding favors, then your work is done. But if you are looking for something else that still represents your sustainable wedding, consider choosing locally made goods like small bottles of California olive oil, flavored salts, honey, pancake mix, homemade jam, or another edible gift that your guests are sure to enjoy. Alternatively, consider a local “survival kit” with everything your guests will need to fully enjoy the rest of their stay. For instance: If you’re having a Lake Tahoe wedding, it could include essentials like bug spray and a towel, and if you’re tying the knot in San Diego, it could include mineral sunscreen and flip-flops. 

When it comes to planning an extravagant wedding, sometimes less is more. Save money and the environment.

Look for venues with built-in decor

Many enviable California wedding destinations already boast extravagance, so why add more? While searching for the perfect wedding venue, keep an eye out for destinations that already fit your wedding style. This will not only make your celebration significantly less wasteful, but also less expensive—a true win-win situation. 

Want a whimsical, verdant wedding? Check out beautiful greenhouses in California. Looking to bring your floral fairytale dreams to life? Botanical gardens offer the perfect backdrops. This eco-friendly wedding idea only requires bringing a few pieces of sustainable wedding decor.  The rest will fall into place in an effortlessly chic manner.

Sustainable bridal gowns, suits, and formal wear

Fast fashion is out and eco-friendly is in. Keep up with the wedding dress trends and choose a gown that reflects your sustainable vision.

Shop from sustainable bridal designers

The 2021 wedding dress trend report is here and sustainability is totally in. The fashion industry is embracing eco-conscious practices with each passing day—sustainable bridal wear is no exception. Nowadays, you can find local designers that share your ideals of an eco-friendly marriage with plenty of options within that realm.

Wear Your Love is a NorCal sustainable bridal brand with consciously made dresses that don’t compromise style or comfort. Alternatively, buy your dream wedding dress from Christy Dawn; this sustainable bridal brand makes bohemian-inspired gowns from deadstock and vintage garments. Another L.A.-based favorite is Reformation. Besides effortlessly chic gowns, you’ll find stunning bridesmaid dresses in a range of styles.

Wear a Vintage or Rented Dress

Opt for a vintage wedding gown and say yes to the dress in a totally understated way. Whether you choose to repeat tradition or shop for a classic vintage dress, you’ll be cutting down on bridalwear waste in a big way. 

One awesome alternative to buying a pricey new gown is renting it. Rent the Runway has a wide selection of bridalwear from dresses to suits, fit for every budget. With coveted designers, a range of styles, and accessories to go along with it all, finding a sustainable wedding gown has never been easier. All you have to do is go online, find your perfect dress, and order. After you’re done walking down the aisle, drop off the dress at one of the San Francisco, Los Angeles, or California Nordstrom locations.

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