In this day and age, it’s critical we start taking actions to curb our impact on the planet’s climate. Weddings are large and expensive events, and in many cases a preparation for a future generation – but what kind of future will there be for our children?
People tend to approach the “greenification” of their weddings in various ways, from little elements like the use of recycled stationery, through to die-hard eco couples who use home grown vegetables, home brews and even solar power on the day.
So we’ve put together a comprehensive guide featuring advice from eco-conscious wedding suppliers for you to get your green fingers around.
How Far to Take the “Eco-ness”?
No step is too small. Even if you just want to save a little and use recycled wedding invites, that’s a positive step. We encourage you to take the following ideas piecemeal. Utilise as many or as few as you want and you are doing a favour for the future.
On the other hand, if you want an environmentally conscious wedding, don’t feel like you have to hire a farm, hold a hand fasting, and get your guests to all camp for the night. These are aesthetic choices that some brides and grooms make. They suit the look and feel of a “green” wedding, but don’t make a huge impact on your carbon footprint.
You can still hold your wedding in a hotel or country house as most couples do, and still have an eco-wedding.
Being Ethical and Organic
Being eco-friendly comes hand-in-hand with being ethical, too. Fairtrade and organic are both ways to help other people in the world and realign ourselves with the natural way of things.
Organic is definitely the watchword, and you can have organic meats, vegetables, grains and all foods, along with materials like organic dresses, linens etc. to really reduce your impact on the environment.
But why bother? Chemical pesticides undermine the natural balance of our environment, harming the soil, insects such as bees, infecting the water table, disrupting our food chain as a whole. Organic food bans the use of chemical pesticides, and requires high animal welfare standards for meats, and other animal products such as eggs and dairy.
Reducing the Number of Guests
Reducing the number of guests is a very difficult process for any reason. The sad truth is, inviting fewer guests to your wedding will make a large difference to the carbon footprint of the event.
Besides guests needing to separately hop into their cars and make their way to your venue, each person you invite needs paper invitations, a seat at a table which has linen (which needs to be sent off, dry cleaned or washed), energy for cooking and preparing three to four courses of food, including the washing of each plate and item of cutlery afterward… And this is just the start of it.
However, your day and your family and friends are important too, so strike a balance.
Time of Year
Summer is by far the best time to have your wedding. You save on heating, and you don’t need to switch lights on until late evening. Don’t have the air conditioning on, or think ahead and choose a venue that is naturally cool enough even in the summer (like thick walled country houses).
Eco Wedding Venues
There are certain venues which offer eco-elements, such as planting a tree for each wedding. Other venues are powered by solar, wind, or geothermal energy, and parts of the building might be created from sustainable materials.
The Longhouse in Bruton, Somerset, is one of the country’s most eco-friendly venues, with geo-thermic heating, rain water storage, on-site solar panels, and recycled building materials.
Tipis are often associated with “green” or eco-friendly weddings. Their construction offers more natural materials than modern PVC marquees, with a tipi having a waterproof cotton/polyester mix. Their poles are not made out of metal or plastic either, but instead a whole tree trunk! It’s a sustainable and renewable building material!
Location of your venue
Where will your guests be driving from? Choose a venue that is central to everyone.
Furthermore, reduce the carbon footprint of the wedding by holding everything at the same venue. Find a hotel which has a ceremony license and accommodation, and have all your guests stay on-site. This means no one has to travel in-between venues, and your guests don’t need to taxis to get home in the evening.
Now that you have your venue, you need to make sure all your suppliers are local. Suppliers such as bakers and florists may wish to meet you before your wedding to get an idea for what you want from them. If you don’t live too close to your chosen venue, consider asking to meet them online. On the other hand, combine a meeting with something else in the area so you aren’t wasting fuel.
Invitations and Stationery
Only use recycled card, paper or cotton for your invites. Take it a step further and use innovative ideas such as the fantastic biodegradable wild flower invites from Wildflower Favours. Seeds are integrated into the cotton invites themselves and all your guests need to do is place the invites on a flower bed or soil and water. Your invites return to the earth with a colourful display of natura, native flowers.
On the other hand, reduce the need for paper altogether and connect to your guests via email, a website, or give them a call.
Catering and Cakes
The food we eat – and the process of making it – contributes 19%–29% of all global greenhouse emissions. Being sensible about your catering is where you can save big on your wedding’s carbon footprint.
Find a caterer who will use local produce, especially ones who explicitly state they shop locally for their veg from local markets, source organic meats from butchers and seafood from sustainable fisheries.
Season is very important. We are used to having familiar products on our supermarket shelves all-year round. However, this means they have travelled thousands of miles or are grown in heated greenhouses. Work with your caterer to create a seasonal menu.
Your guests may not be vegetarian or vegan, but you should know that meat and other animal products take up a great deal of energy to get them from field to fork. Don’t rule out meats all together, but do consider featuring a larger proportion of vegetarian and vegan foods for your guests to munch on.
Many cake makers are quite responsible about their ingredients. Having an eco-wedding cake is more about finding bakers who use organic and free range eggs, organic flour, butter and fairtrade sugar and chocolate as their ingredients. There are many vegan options out there too, which will reduce your impact on the environment even further.
There are plenty of things to do to reduce the carbon footprint of what you wear.
Standard wedding dresses are made out of combinations of silk and polyester – with polyester being a much cheaper but more environmentally harmful option. Always buy handmade in the UK, rather than factory made in another country and then shipped over.
Buying second hand, or hiring your dress, drops the environmental impact dramatically. Also, find one you would wear after your wedding. You could buy a dress made out of organic dress or fairtrade silk, or even a dress made out of bamboo – a very sustainable material used by Julie Dutton, an expert dress maker based in Warwickshire for her eco-couture dresses.
Alternatively, you could buy a second hand or vintage dress, or even hire a dress!
Choose makeup and hair artists who use organic and natural products that are kinder to the earth and your skin! Find a beautician who openly advertises this fact.
Use ethically created rings, created in this country by hand, and even from recycled materials if possible.
With the spotlight being shone on unethical ‘blood diamonds’ – that is, diamonds used to finance warfare – more couples are sourcing their jewellery from ethical sources.
Decorations and Flowers
Use recycled items such as glass bottles for decorations and flower arrangements. Use soya wax candles instead of normal paraffin ones as they are derived from fossil fuels. Make the most of the venue’s appearance and find on-site decorations.
When sourcing a florist, find one who buys local and from natural English gardens. This way, you won’t be using flowers that have been imported from the continent or further afield.
95% of the UK’s flowers are imported. There are many reasons for this – it’s essentially much cheaper, and many flowers that come through the markets of Holland have travelled from as far as Colombia, Ecuador and India.
Our countryside is jam-packed with wild stunning wild flowers of all colours and variety. It seems silly that we often use flowers from abroad.
There are a number of ways to save the environment when getting around on your wedding day. If having your ceremony and reception in the same venue isn’t a practical option, then why not get around on a horse and carriage? As well as being popular for being old fashioned, all their power comes from (usually) two large horses and their drivers. This is one of the most eco ways of getting around.
Alternatively, try to find a green car for transport. If your ceremony and reception are at different venues, find a bus to transport all of your guests in the same vehicle to save fuel, the planet, and traffic!
Think of all the packaging and energy that goes into making various kitchen or new home items – not to mention gift wrapping etc. Get your guests to donate money to a charity or to a fund for your new home?
There are a number of confetti companies out there who grow and sell on their own confetti made from real flower petals, dried or fresh, which look stunning and natural. You could then give away the containers as favours, or…
There are plenty of environmentally-friendly favours and gifts for the guests that we’ve seen out there, such as wild seed packets. Trees of Tomorrow even offer UK grown tree saplings as favours – given in hessian bags – an amazing favour that means more trees on our earth!
Recycling and Minimising Waste
So the big day is drawing to a close. Unused food, empty champagne and beer bottles overflow the bins. What a waste! What can you do to reduce this aspect of your wedding?
Most importantly, try to judge how much food your guests will eat. Don’t organise a huge hog roast or evening buffet if you have a late wedding breakfast which ends at 7pm anyway.
Secondly, take the steps to recycle the waste containers such as glass, cardboard and plastics. Talk to your venue and insist that this be done for you (agree this as you lay down your deposit). Or, for DIY weddings, recycle everything yourself the next day! We’ve heard of couples crushing down Champagne bottles and reforming them in a kiln to make crockery.
Reduce, reuse, recycle – in that order.
In a Nutshell
Choose a venue in a location within equal distance to all your guests’ homes to reduce how far they drive. Select an eco-friendly venue, either one with sustainable energy sources or an all-inclusive venue which means you and your guests don’t have to travel between venues.
Or hold it in a tipi!
Source locally, both suppliers who source locally and those who are local. This is especially important with those who produce food such as caterers and cake makers.
Go recycled, second hand and organic where possible. And remember you can save a great deal of money by going green. You can save the planet whilst also saving your wallet!
If you find any of this at all interesting or useful, then please share, link to and make lots of noise about it – we want as many brides and grooms saving the planet as possible!