How to plan an eco-friendly wedding
If you’re getting married in the next couple of years, you probably have a million decisions to make. Band or DJ? Veil or no veil? How many people should you invite?Sustainability doesn’t often rank high on the priority list, but there are lots of ways brides and grooms can have a fantastic big day, while having a small impact on the planet.
“Being sustainably minded is not only good for the planet, but it can often save money and reduce decision fatigue or overwhelm,” says CEO and founder of socially-conscious caterer Social Pantry, Alex Head, who made her own wedding in October 2022 as eco-friendly as possible.
“It provides you with a workable and meaningful framework for narrowing down your choices,” she explains. “It helps you think about what really matters and what will add value.”
Here are some ways to make your event more sustainable…
Repurpose your wedding dress
While buying a beautiful second-hand dress is definitely an option (try bridalreloved.co.uk), no one will blame you for wanting something new. One option, though, is buying a style that you’d wear again – in a different colour.
“My mini-length couture wedding dress was designed by British bridal designer, Kate Edmondson, who incorporated exuberant puffed sleeves and an over-sized bow to match my playful and elegant style,” says Head. “Now the wedding is over, I’ll be dying the dress for an extravagant party outfit.
“Alternatively, The Natural Wedding Company stock eco-friendly bridalwear made from ethically sourced and sustainable fabrics by Medusa London, Luna Bride and Sister Organics.
Hire bridesmaids dresses
Head rented bridesmaid dresses through Hire Street, in a bid to reduce the number of new items entering circulation, but also found “beautiful, fashionable outfits at an affordable price”.
She says: “My bridesmaids were surprised at the range of dresses available to hire, in terms of brands, sizes and availability.
“It was a friction-free experience from choosing, trying, receiving, wearing and returning the dresses, and the overwhelming response was that everyone would do it again. They’ll consider hiring for not only weddings, but any occasion where they need a fresh outfit but want to avoid a new purchase.”
Opt for paper or dried flowers
Flowers are a key part of any wedding day, however, they often have a short shelf life, notes Head. “For my wedding, we worked with floral designers, Pom Pom Factory, who specialise in paper and dried flowers. Everything from my eye-popping bouquet and my husband George’s buttonhole to table-setting flowers were paper or dried flowers.
“My guests couldn’t quite believe they were paper, and the best part is that I can keep mine and my daughter Roxy’s mini bouquet forever. The rest of the paper flowers were repurposed for decoration in the Social Pantry cafes. It’s so nice to see the wedding live on this way.”
Serve a low-waste menu
Look for a low-waste or sustainable caterer. Find out what their plan would be for leftovers, and if they can repurpose any ingredients not used on the day.
Head says: “For dessert, we had salted honey tart with mascarpone ice cream, roasted plum and caramelised lemon rind, which meant that even the lemon rinds were put to good use, whilst the fruits could be juiced for cocktails. On that note, our cocktails were even made from brands who support our ethos – such as Discarded Spirits – for our zero-waste Negroni.”
To be even more sustainable – don’t serve beef, or go one step further and opt for an entirely vegetarian menu, making sure to choose as-local-as-possible ingredients.
Consider the impact of invitations
One way is to forgo traditional paper invites altogether and go digital with a wedding website, such as Bliss & Bone or Joy – where guests can find all the details and your registry, if you’re having one (though asking for monetary donations to you or a charity does avoid the purchase of more new things).
If you do want to send physical invites, there are environmentally-friendly ways to do so.
“Zero-waste doesn’t have to mean going without those material touches that mark an event as a special occasion – such as invites, name cards and thank-you cards,” says Head. “Consider opting for a low-impact eco-stationery service, or using environmentally-friendly materials, such as plantable wildflower seed paper.
“This not only sets the tone for a sustainable event and, depending on the time of sending, can give your guests something to grow in the lead-up to your big day, ensuring the upcoming event is at the front of their mind.”
Make the wedding favours something reusable
“At our wedding, we opted for an extra personal touch by working with Initially London to personalise napkins with the names of our guests,” says Head.
“This not only guided guests to their seat at the table, but also provided a meaningful wedding favour to take home.”
Other eco ideas include: seeds to plant at home, homemade preserves in reusable jars, or sponsor trees in the names of your guests.
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