For nearly every bride, one of the abiding themes of her marriage is that it is a one-off, a never to be repeated event so how does that fit with making sustainable and environmentally wedding choices for the big day itself?
Being eco-friendly or green doesn’t have to be a clash with a sumptuous wedding day or make it look like you have done things on the cheap. More and more brides are opting for eco-friendly options when they have the choice. On a small or large scale, virtually every decision the bride makes has an eco-friendly option.
The obvious ones are avoiding a honeymoon destination that involves flying and buying a recycled or vintage wedding dress but beyond that, how can any bride make sure her wedding choices are planet orientated? Sustainability has been embraced by the celebrity market big style so there is plenty to read about online if you are looking for inspiration. Here are some suggestions and you might be surprised at how budget-friendly some of these are
Quiz your venue before you pay a deposit on how eco-friendly and sustainable their commercial practises are. Find out where the ingredients for their food comes from, ask whether they use single use disposable plastic products for storage and service and look closely at their carbon footprint. Ask them what cleaning products they use and how they dispose of food waste. If a wedding venue is on the ball, it will have picked up on this growing trend of sustainable choices and already be telling you exactly what their environmental credentials are.
Don’t pick a venue that is miles away from where the majority of your guests are located – does that rule out a wedding on the beach in some remote and exotic paradise? Well probably unless you can combine it with a honeymoon or a work trip then that might not be so bad. In the UK, pick venues that are accessible by public transport – a big plus for a town or city wedding. If you do opt for that remote Lakeland venue with drama-filled views and romantic landscapes, then try and persuade people to car share – this is where a wedding website can come in really useful as it makes it so easy for guests to co-ordinate and plan their travel together.
Buy pre-loved, retro or vintage with a huge range of second hand wedding dresses from Bride2bride.co.uk, Stillwhite, and others available online or in antique fairs, charity shops and markets. Hire a dress, after all, the groomsmen usually hire their wedding attire. Going new? Choose a designer who uses sustainably sourced fabrics or who crafts original and one-off gowns from odd and ends sourced from upcycled dresses and cast offs, the perfect combination of an original design with fabric and decoration from sustainable sources. And wherever your dress originates from, recycle it when you have finished.
If you must have fresh flowers for the bouquet and buttonholes, then buy local and choose flowers which are in season and can be sourced nearby. A lot of blooms are imported so try and find a florist who stocks seasonal flowers. Silk flowers are another option, they are incredibly realistic and even the sharpest-eyed wedding guest will be hard pressed to distinguish them from the real thing. For the ceremony and reception, potted plants and shrubs make a great green choice. Fresh flowers can be donated or upcycled to a hospital or hospice after the event.
If you are using a catering company then find one with a sustainable ethos who use local, organic or Fairtrade products wherever possible. Aim for no more than ten food miles for all your ingredients and that includes beverages – the UK is bursting with vineyards and breweries offering wine, beer, cider and non-alcoholic drinks for your menu and rural weddings can take full advantage of local farm shops and delis selling meat, fruit, vegetables, eggs and sweet treats made nearby. Slanting the menu with a more vegetarian bias will automatically make it more environmentally friendly.
If you are marrying in a country setting, then make a feature of the local produce and anything the area is particularly famous for – most parts of the UK have unique sweets and savouries and they make a lovely touch on the wedding menu. If you are getting wed on the coast, then you will have no problem creating a distinctly fishy flavour to your banquet.
Go completely green and issue e-invites, easy to do, there are literally hundreds of online templates which you can customise and send from your own email address or why not set up a wedding website? A wedding website can cut down on admin and invitations are almost always one of the key features. If you must go traditional (or you want a mix of old and new) then use invitations which are made from recycled card or paper and which are also recyclable for your guests. If you are having place cards and menus on the table and an order of service for the ceremony then keep the wedding stationery all on recycled and recyclable paper with eco-friendly inks.
You can’t get more environmentally friendly than a horse and carriage. If you are getting married at the seaside then why not arrive by boat? For rural weddings in tricky locations, why not hire a London bus or vintage coach so all your guests are transported in one vehicle? It can be a great way to get from the church to the reception or pick a reception nearby and just walk there.
Eco-friendly confetti is all the rage, there are providers of actual dried flower petals and brides can pick from a mix of blooms including rose petals or wildflower mixes – choose by colour, flower type or fragrance. Traditionally, rice is thrown at weddings, but this can make the ground slippery as well as providing a choking hazard to birds. There are literally hundreds of online suppliers of sustainable and biodegradable confetti which is absent any metallic strips and made from sustainable paper or card. You can also make your own confetti using recycled paper and a heart shaped hole punch – children will love doing this. Always check the confetti rule at your venue before you buy as some venues have a ban on any confetti even if it is sustainable and biodegradable.
The sky is the limit when it comes to wedding favours, literally anything goes so it is really easy to take an idea and adapt it so it has sustainable credentials. Why not make a real statement and choose Beebombs, a mix of wildflower seeds designated as perfect for pollinators by the Royal Horticultural Society? Your guests will love the chance to plant some pretty flowers in their garden to remind them of your happy day and the bees will love it even more. Homemade or handmade favours are all the rage, not only is this something truly personal for guests to keep but you can design and make almost anything to tie in with your wedding theme and keep it 100% sustainable.
If the decoration is being provided by the venue, then hopefully, they are using their own stock of items which have been used before and will be used again. If you are decorating the venue yourself then this is your chance to really go to town.
Hire items, there are loads of companies who can hire literally anything to make your big day unique and memorable. Borrow things from friends and family. Use material or recycled paper rather than plastic. It is perfectly possible to deck an entire hall with sustainable decorations and accessories and without compromising on style or a quality look.
Making sustainable choices for your wedding day is easier than you think and often as not, it can end up not only saving you money but also making certain elements just a bit more personal and unique. Even if your big choices can’t be altered, small sustainable choices collectively can have a great impact.
Beg, borrow and hire, and why not follow that old spirit of thrift and make do – lavish, opulent and over the top weddings are so last century! Sustainable choices can often involve wedding guests in making a contribution, you might have a friend or family member who can sew pretty bunting or make the wedding cake tiers, it’s a great way to involve the wedding party in collectively creating your big day so they feel involved and you benefit from the personal touch.
A sustainable wedding can end up being about so much more than just the planet and once you start the process, most brides discover that it ends up becoming quite addictive. There is no such thing as a perfectly ethical wedding