Eco Friendly Wedding
In this day and age, it’s critical that we start making decisions and taking actions to curb our impact on the planet’s climate. Weddings are naturally 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 images, advice and opinions from real eco-conscious wedding suppliers for you to get your green fingers around.
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!
How Far to Take the ‘Eco-ness’?
The last thing we want to do is put off couples who want to make their wedding more environmentally friendly. Even if you just want to save a little and use recycled wedding invites, that’s a real positive step. No one should judge you for making just one element of your wedding – just because you have ‘greenified’ one element of your wedding, doesn’t mean you are a hypocrite for leaving the rest as it is!
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.
We see the phrase ‘eco-chic’ bandied around the internet a lot – this is being eco for fashion or for fashion’s sake. Now we’re not totally disapproving of this, and we more than welcome any bride to read this article if they are just looking for visual inspiration for an eco-feel, but this article is mostly about having a true eco-wedding and actually saving the environment!
It’s not all about the looks …
And on the ‘flip side’ of the coin, if you are wanting an environmentally conscious wedding, don’t feel like you have to have a hand fasting, hold your big day on a farm and get your guests to all camp for the night – these examples are purely aesthetic choices that some brides and grooms have made, which suit the look and feel of a ‘green’ wedding, but actually 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, organic – 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.
Why bother with organic? Because 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
The big question…
Reducing the number of guests is a very difficult process for any reason.
The sad truth is, inviting less 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 has allocated paper invites, a seat at a table which has linen (which needs to be sent off, dry cleaned or washed), the energy that goes into cooking and preparing 3-4 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/friends are important too. So strike a balance.
Time of Year
By all accounts, summer is the best time to have your wedding, thanks to the fact that lights won’t need to be switched on until late evening, and you will also save on heating. 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, parts of the building created out of sustainable materials, and those that are powered by solar, wind, geothermal energy and much more.
The Longhouse, found down in Bruton in Somerset, is one of the country’s most eco-friendly venues, with Geo-thermic heating, rain water storage and on-site solar panels, recycled materials used to create the building!
Other excellent green venues include FForest in Wales, which features glamping and eco pods, Green Directions in Sheffield, which holds weddings fueled by solar and wind power, Elmore Court in Gloucestershire, with a function room called the Gillyflower built from Rammed Earth and timber sourced from the grounds. The two eco-venues featuring in the images in this article are:
Beechenhill Farm, Derbyshire
Mount Pleasant Eco Park, Cornwall
Making a Venue More Green
If choosing a super-environmentally venue doesn’t turn out to be an option for you, then why not find a venue that is willing to work hard to recycle any packaging materials they have used in the making of your day, and pack-up and seal any leftover food you and your guests have not consumed.
Agree this with them as early as securing the deposit.
Reduce the carbon footprint of the wedding by having your wedding in a hotel or venue which has a ceremony license and accommodation, and have all your guests stay on-site. This means no one has to travel in-between ceremony and reception venues, and your guests don’t all need to pile into taxis to get home in the evening.
An example of such a venue includes Orchardleigh House in Somerset.
Location of your venue
Where will your guests will be driving from? Choose a venue that is central to everyone – think of the impact of 40 cars having to drive across the country just because you fancy tying the knot in a location far away from home!
Marquees – Tipis
Tipis are often associated with ‘green’ or eco-friendly weddings, but what makes a tipi so environmentally friendly?
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, they are a whole tree trunk – a sustainable and renewable building material!
Another place where you can save the planet! According to Annual Reviews, 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 organic produce, and even ones who explicitly say they will shop local for their veg from local markets, source organic meats from butchers and seafood from sustainable fisheries.
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.
Season is very important. We are so used to having familiar products on our supermarket shelves all-year round, but this means the products have travelled thousands of miles or grown in heated greenhouses. Work with your caterer to create a seasonal menu.
Tip – serve cool water straight from the tap with sliced lemon (no ice to reduce carbon further). Bottled water has travelled a great distance and uses much more carbon-intense processes.
Think of all the packaging and energy that goes into making various kitchen or new home items – not to mention gift wrapping etc. Why not get your guests to donate money to a charity or to a fund for your new home?
There are plenty of environmentally-friendly favours and gifts for the guests that we’ve seen out there, such as wild seed packets – but we were amazed by what this Gloucestershire based company were coming up with!
Trees of Tomorrow offer UK grown tree saplings as favours – given in hessian bags – an amazing favour that means more trees on our earth!
Business owner Margaret had this to say about ‘green’ weddings:
“An Eco- Friendly wedding says so much about your hopes and dreams for your future life together on this planet. As we know, planting trees helps to reduce our carbon footprint now and for the future. So a tree seedling favour is a gift not only for your guests but for future generations too.
For the happy couple there is a poignant symbol of growth and longevity contained in the language of trees; the unfurling leaves and multiplying branches reaching skyward, representing continuing life and inspiration. ‘All the Trees of Tomorrow are in the seeds of today’ is an inspiring thought for newly – weds!”
Your Wedding Photographer
There’s a minimal amount that a photographer can do to reduce their carbon footprint, but the first choice is in your hands: choose a local photographer so they don’t have to travel very far.
Photographers can save the environment by using recycled business cards, going electronic with their admin, and using handmade photo albums made with recycled materials.
Some will offset miles with Woodlands Trust- http://www.reportagewedding.co.uk/
A Honeymoon Close To Home
Want to be truly eco-friendly with the whole wedding process? Don’t fly away to a distant isle; have your honeymoon somewhere in the UK – how about the stunning shores of Cornwall, Devon or Dorset? There are plenty of honeymoon locations in Britain which are beautiful, just cross your fingers for the weather!
Eco Wedding 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. These invites actually feature wild flower seeds integrated into the cotton invites themselves. All your guests need to do is place the invites on a flower bed or soil and water – your invites are returned to the earth with a colourful display of natural native flowers.
A few eco-friendly words from Teresa from Wildflower Favours:
“Eco-friendly weddings are important because they provide so much opportunity for recycling and using products that literally do not cost the Earth…so much money and the planet’s resources can be saved by making your own things, buying a second-hand dress…and giving something back to nature…with regard to our seed packets I hope that once guests grow their wildflower seeds they will love them and the wildlife the flowers attract, and that will make them keen to grow more wildflowers in their gardens – which all helps our endangered butterflies and bees!”
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.
There are plenty of things to do to reduce the carbon footprint of what you wear.
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.
Standard wedding dresses are made out of combinations of silk or 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.
Alternatively, you could buy a 2nd hand or vintage dress, or even hire a dress!
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. Either talk to your venue and insist that this be done for you (agree this early on, even as you lay down your deposit!), or for more DIY weddings, recycle everything yourself the next day! We’ve heard of some couples crushing down champagne bottles, melting and reforming them in a kiln to make crockery.
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 and more couples are sourcing their jewellery from ethical sources.
‘Hairy Growler’ are a company based over in Cambridge who produce rings and other jewellery for weddings from 100% recycled materials such as cutlery and coins.
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, chocolate etc as their ingredients. There are many gluten free and vegan options out there too, which will reduce your impact on the environment even further.
You should choose a florist 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.
The Flowers and Plants Association state that 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.
With our countryside being jam-packed with wild stunning wild flowers of all colours and variety, it seems silly that we often use flowers from abroad.
The Walled Garden at Mells near Frome grows their own range of English flowers and works in conjunction with a local florist – very eco!
Besides flowers and favours, you can save the environment with your decorations. Use recycled items such as glass bottles etc. (in which you can put flowers), when using candles, make sure to only use soya wax (normal paraffin ones are derived from fossil fuels).
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. We managed to get in touch with two such companies below and asked them their opinions on going green with weddings:
Bespoke Confetti – Based down in Devon, had this to say about eco-weddings and the use of biodegradable confetti in them-
“Having an eco-friendly wedding is a way of being conscious of the footprint of any gathering, large or small, has on the environment, and a realisation that you will still be able to have the wedding of your dreams. The use of real petal as a natural wedding confetti, grown from flowers here in the UK, is a great choice, no pesticides, air dried, no dyes and no air miles. A wide range of bright natural colours, a truly credible eco-confetti that will blow away with the breeze.”
Shropshire Petals, also a renowned biodegradable confetti specialist based up in Shropshire, had this to say:
“For many years, wedding confetti came in the form of coloured paper shapes. If it wasn’t quickly cleared up, it would lie on the ground, harming the environment and animals. Natural Petal Confetti is totally different. It is 100% bio-degradable and eco-friendly, just like blossom falling from a tree. It is important to include eco-friendly details on your wedding day to not only do your bit for the carbon footprint, you can also add unique, natural details to show off your own style and personality.”
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 – powered by (usually) two large horses and their drivers, this is one of the most eco ways of getting around. Take a peek at Reins of Elegance in Lincolnshire and Blagdon Horse and Carriage near Bristol.
Pedicabs – powered by human feet alone, these are unusual and very green ways to get around. Take a peek at Pedal Power Transport in Bristol.
Electric Car – although these may have quite a high carbon footprint after manufacture, they are more green than normal cars.
Guest coach transport –rather than having your guests all drive in convoy to the reception venue from the ceremony, hire a nice coach for them all!
In a Nutshell
Alas, we come to the end of this eco-inspired article, it’s now time to look back and reflect on everything we have learned.
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 with your suppliers (so they don’t have to travel far), and choose suppliers who source locally themselves. 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. And remember – you can save the planet whilst also saving your wallet!
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