Your marriage can't make it to fifty years if the Earth doesn't. Any large-scale event like a wedding is going to have a bit of a carbon footprint, but you can make sure your wedding is as environmentally-friendly as humanly possible with these nifty tips and tricks from the classics like embracing reusable straws to sh*t you've never heard of like avoiding floral foam. Your special day might not necessarily ~help~ the environment, but that doesn't mean you have to hurt it.
Let's start with the basics. It's a no-brainer that in today's world, single-use plastics = Satan. That includes single-use plastics at your wedding. Think choosing cloth table linens (although, if you were considering plastic tablecloths, you might want to consider just eloping to save some face), nixing plastic bar cups, and if you want to avoid becoming a social pariah, avoid plastic straws at all costs — including those tiny stirrer straws they give out with your cocktails. If you absolutely need straws at your reception, like for some coconut refreshments, use those adorable paper straws that are so popular at sorority recruitment.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? You have to be a real *sshole to purposefully go out and buy your bride a blood diamond, but you can do a lot of good by putting more thought into your ring choices beyond princess or pear cut. Brides suggests using The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme to track your stones and double-checking with your jeweler that the ring is conflict-free. Honestly, ethically shopping for precious stones is way harder than it should be. Weirdly enough, using man-made stones is *definitely* better for the environment if you're unsure about your bling or, on the other end of the spectrum, giving your spouse a family heirloom or vintage rings is another way to make the "reuse" part of reduce, reuse, recycle 100% sexier.
Lucky for you, using a signature view for your ceremony location is totally in right now. When your decorations are, literally, a part of nature, it's a pretty big W for Mother Nature. If worrying about the weather isn't on the top of your wedding to-do list, you don't need an outdoor venue to keep your venue on the up and up. Hitched suggests choosing a vendor near the majority of your guests to reduce the event's travel carbon footprint or finding a venue with sustainable practices like recycling facilities and connections with local suppliers.
It's, like, super hard being popular. Some of us me only want a wedding for the excuse to throw the biggest party of our lives, emphasis on biggest, but Hitched makes a good case for reducing the number of guests at the party of the year. Smaller parties are just more exclusive, right? Fewer guests means less waste, fewer travelers coming from far off places, and fewer paper invites getting tossed in the (non-recycling) trash. On the bright side, it's also way cheaper for you to host a smaller event, meaning you can blow your savings on a crazy Bora Bora honeymoon.
We love presents, and we're going to go out on a limb here and assume you do, too. An eco-friendly registry is the gift that keeps on giving: while you're making the ~ultimate~ commitment, you can also commit to an environmentally-conscious lifestyle. Brides offers up stainless steel straws (yup, those pesky little straws again), silicone cupcake liners, and metal tea bags, but even just shopping from stores that donate their proceeds to eco-friendly causes or commit to green practices will make sure sustainability is the best gift you'll be getting this year.
It wouldn't be a wedding without flowers. Well, we mean, it ~would~ be a wedding, but it would be way less cute. Potted floral decorations can be reused or replanted so you're not dancing amongst dead corpses flowers from what was once a garden, but there are ways to use cut blooms that can still be more helpful than not. Did you know that most roses are actually grown in South America and flown to the U.S. just for wedding receptions? That can't be great for your carbon footprint. Decorate with in-season flowers from local vendors and compost their remains once the night is through — if peonies are good enough for Blair Waldorf, they're good enough for you.
Think about how much joy your wedding bouquets and centerpieces gave you on the best night of your life. Now, think about how you'll feel even better knowing you spread the love by donating them to local hospitals, senior centers, and homeless shelters once you're through with them. Brides also suggests giving extra flowers to your venue’s service staff, family, or guests, but there are plenty of ways to donate other decorations like signage, mirrors, or lanterns, too. If you can't use them as home decor, someone else might want to when they find them at Goodwill.
Succulents will never go out of style. Plant-able gifts like seedlings are two gifts in one once your guests get freshly grown tomatoes or basil in a couple of weeks, but if you're getting a little bored of these tips being plant-based (it's an article about the environment, what did you expect?), there are plenty of other ways to DIY your party favors. DIY Network, naturally, has the tea: mason jar-based gifts like sewing kits in a jar, cookie ingredients in a jar, or tea leaves in a jar are easy and cute, as are recyclable paper gifts, homemade bath products, and stylish terrariums.
To be honest, we had to Google what "biodegradable" actually meant. Apparently, it just means something that can naturally decompose. Ew! If you don't want your wedding to end up in a landfill along with your marriage, put some thought into choosing biodegradable confetti, compostable cups (if you ~insist~ on going with plastic bar cups for those cousins you can't trust with glassware), and even biodegradable furniture if you're buying or renting extra chairs (or trendy lounge spaces) for your big day. Hell, you can go crazy and get food from biodegradable packaging or give out biodegradable tampons and condoms in the bathroom. Are you sick of hearing the word "biodegradable" yet?
So many paper goods go into putting a wedding together. From the to-do list your planner has on her very official-looking clipboard to your classy ivory-and-lace save the dates and invitations. The real OG Martha Stewart lists save the dates, programs, invitations, menus, and thank-you cards as possible opportunities for recycled paper use, but its her creative options like rubber-stamped linen save the dates sewn onto recycled paper and having ~shorter~ invites by guiding people to your super informative wedding website that show she's still the queen of all things home and hearth.
A huge buzz phrase in the Wide World of Weddings right now is "local vendors." Buying local flowers and food reduces that pesky carbon footprint we're always hearing about, while Martha Stewart Weddings points out regional touches can also bring together a regional party theme. Just make sure your local vendors are also ~sustainable~ local vendors that conserve energy, reduce waste, and focus on farm-to-table practices (whether its for flowers, food, or something else you can find in a farm, like... hay?).
Consider this an excuse to get totally sh*tfaced. The more alcohol, the better off the Earth: This is what we can a Win-Win. You can thank DIY Network for this helpful tip, which notes how using lots of individual bottles leads to, well, using lots of bottle. Buying kegs (like you and your future spouse did when you were still drunk teens!) or truly giant bottles of liquor will keep your friends and family properly sauced with less ecologically damaging clutter. Just please don't take their suggestion of letting your friends bring their own moonshine — we're sustainable, not savages.
Cycling back to "biodegradable" and all of its buzzy wonders, compostable silverware (or, if you're feeling ~kooky~, compostable dinnerware like dishes) saves the planet with its plucky "lack of needing to be washed" and fresh, fabulous habit of disappearing into the ground after a couple of years. DIY Network notes that if your venue already has bins in place for composting and recycling, which you can dress up for the occasion, you can get one step ahead of the process by recycling your compostable dinnerware on-site.
Honestly, this little tip doesn't need to be restricted to just your wedding dress. Rework vintage dudes for your dress, your bridesmaids dresses, and your grooms-wear for some reusable fashion. You can save a few bucks by going pre-loved and splurge on a wedding and reception dress, but there are tons of high-end options like pre-owned designer dudes that are even more valuable than their shiny new counterparts. Hitched suggests Abigail’s Vintage Bridal, Open For Vintage, or StillWhite to start your search, but you can also go with the theme of this article and ~go local~ with dresses from a vintage store right at home.
If pre-loved clothes just aren't your style, that's totally cool! It's your day, and not everyone is down for dresses that have been around the block a few times. Just be sure that you don't over-correct and go the fast fashion route, doing harm instead of (relative) good. Look to eco-friendly designers like the uber-trendy Reformation or British designer Julie Dutton who make cute, modern dresses with sustainable fabrics, partner with eco charities, or make fancy five-year environmental plans. Reformation, an influencer favorite, even has an entire section of their online site dedicated to wedding looks for brides, party members, and guests alike.
There's not much we can do as individuals that will actually make a big difference for the environment, other than voting for politicians that will actually implement environmental protection legislation and provide checks and balances on big business. Still, giving up meat is one of the largest ways a single person can reduce their carbon footprint. By having all of your wedding guests give up meat at your ~fully vegetarian reception~ (or, better yet, fully vegan), that's like having everyone you actually care about dip their toes into a lifestyle that helps prevent wildlife extinction, reduce mass land and water use, and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.
Don't worry, we had no idea what floral foam was fifteen minutes ago either. This foam, commonly called Oasis in the florals and decor biz, is supposed to increase flower life and hold the blooms in place — it's also super popular in ASMR videos — but Hitched learned that it leaches chemicals into the air and water, while the dust it forms can hurt your skin and lungs. Aside from being literally bad for *you*, it's also essentially another single-use plastic that won't decompose after use, so make sure your supplier stays far, far away from Oasis unless you want us all to disappear in a "Champagne Supernova"... of garbage.
Hitched came up with a lot of eco-friendly transportation tips for you *and* your guests that are reasonable, cost-effective, and make a lot of sense, like encouraging a carpool or hiring a party bus for a ~massive~ carpool, like a decorated double-decker. What sounded a whole lot more fun, though, was taking a boat to your venue. Show up in true style by floating in on a yacht, sailboat, or dinghy to your beautiful and naturally decorated outdoor venue. Or, like, you could just stay near your venue and walk. Seems less fun, though.
Rent that boat! We're kidding, this one has very little to do with boats. Essentially, as Brides so astutely points out, single-use ~anything~ is an environmental L even if you compost it or donate it afterward. Renting your decor and equipment (think lights, sound, a DJ booth, what have you), including your fine china and stemware, can actually class up your wedding while reducing landfill waste. Think about how much better rented linens and dinnerware would look than paper napkins and plastic cups. You can have your cake and eat it smush it in your partner's face, too.
How does that old saying go? Waste not, want not? More like, waste not, so that you won't want to move to Mars once Earth becomes a desolate barren ghostland. Any big event will have leftovers, especially if you're partying buffet-style, but many states will allow you to donate your extra food to a local homeless shelter or food bank. You could even drop it off alongside leftover flowers and decorations. Imagine how much nicer the world would be if, after every huge wedding, a homeless shelter was given a little more beauty and food for those in need. Just make sure to sort out the details with your caterer ahead of time so everything can be packed up and ready to go before you're leaving for the honeymoon.