It’s a sad reality that the majority of weddings can create a substantial amount of unnecessary waste. As a wedding photographer, I’ve seen firsthand the number of items thrown away- despite being in reusable condition. The average wedding produces hundreds of pounds of waste and generates 63 tons of carbon dioxide emissions! Luckily, Hawaii is notorious for being very intentional with its resources and sustainability. This has taught me to become much more aware of small actions individuals in the wedding industry can take to improve their ecological footprint when wedding planning. One of the simplest ways you can cut back on extra wedding waste is to elope- however, I understand that sometimes that is only the case for some couples. For those who may desire a wedding along the more traditional side but want to be eco-cautious, this blog post is for you! Here I’m sharing my 5 best tips for a zero-waste wedding.
Tip #1. Shop sustainable brands
The wedding dress: The wedding dress of your dreams doesn’t have to be harmful to the environment! Searching for the perfect, sustainable dress may seem intimidating; however, I’m here to let you in on a little secret. Companies such as Reformation, Wear your Love, and Leanne Marshall has made it easy for brides on the hunt to find a dress crafted with sustainable actions. Alongside that, there are other options, such as thrifting your gown or maybe wearing the dress a beloved family member wore! The options are endless when finding a dress for a zero-waste wedding; you just have to think outside the box!
The suit: Renting the groom’s suit or tux is one of the easiest and most common ways to avoid spending unnecessary money on something they may wear only a handful of times. If you prefer to purchase a suit to keep, there are a variety of sustainable brands to choose from- Opera Campi, Brave Gentlemen, Marks and Spencer, to name a few.
The rings: A ring doesn’t have to hurt the environment to be fancy! A great idea would be to go to a used jeweler and find your dream vintage ring! Another option would be to look for a ring made with recycled metals or crafted with responsibly sourced materials. If a ring seems impractical to your lifestyle, getting one tattooed is a unique and authentic way to honor your commitments.
Tip #2. Opt for recycled or paperless invitations.
Eco-friendly invites- If you want to stick to the traditional route, using recycled paper for invitations is an excellent approach to a zero-waste wedding. There are vast numbers of companies that produce paper products through recycled materials. Botanical Paper Works, Paper Culture, and Etsy provide eco-friendly and reusable invitations.
E-invitations- The other alternative I recommend is using electronic invites. Not only are they an utterly green substitute, but they also make managing a guest list extremely easy and organized!
Tip #3. Be intentional with your decorations.
Rent your decor- We are so lucky that we live in a world where items can be rented out. Instead of buying brand-new wedding decorations (which can get wasteful and expensive), find a company that rents out wedding decor! This way, you don’t have to go through the hassle of buying everything new and then wondering what to do with it once the wedding is over; you can just rent it out for the time needed and return it afterward. Rental companies often offer furniture, decorations, and more!
Thrift your decor- I can’t reiterate this enough! Thrifting will become your best friend if you want a zero-waste wedding. The saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” speaks volumes. This alternative allows you to reuse the items purchased. It’s no secret that going to a second-hand store is much more budget-friendly. Use this as a date idea with your fiance and go on a fun thrifting date!
Avoid unnecessary decorations- Do yourself and your budget a favor and avoid buying items that you could go without. Aim to keep decorations simple and minimal. When purchasing smaller items, try to shop local; often, the owners are much more mindful of where they source their materials, leaving a better mark on mother nature. I recommend looking at your home decor because you would be surprised at how many items you already own that can be used.
Tip #4. Table etiquette- zero waste style.
Shop local- Support local caterers, farmers, and more by choosing vendors who source their ingredients, produce, and other products in an ethical way. Not only will you be getting whole foods, but it is much more likely to be fresh and free of added preservatives. Opt for a menu with dishes that require less preparation and are close to their pure form!
Choose wisely with cutlery- A huge waste component lies in the type of cutlery you use! Try using reusable silverware, plates, and cups or biodegradable utensils—a small but mighty contributor to a zero-waste wedding.
Minimize cake size- If there’s one thing I’ve noticed, it’s that there are usually tons of wedding cake leftovers thrown out. To avoid this mistake, opt for a single or two-tier cake instead of that four-tier style that will hardly get eaten. This conscious choice will reduce the risk of delicious food being thrown away.
Ditch the plastic water bottles- Although they may be convenient, the waste they create is atrocious. I understand that staying hydrated on your big day is vital (especially in Hawaii), so I propose having a drink/water station. Provide recycled water cups for guests and encourage them to bring reusable water bottles that they can fill up.
Leftovers are still good too!- Let’s ditch the stigma that food is only good when fresh. Its not uncommon that large amounts of food usually go uneaten and are left in the garbage afterward. To avoid this issue, inform your caterers that you want to keep any leftover goods. This then allows you to keep them for yourself, give some to your loved ones, or even donate them to a local food bank. All are very reasonable options for a zero-waste wedding.
Recycling matters- Encourage your guests to recycle by providing waste, compostable, and recycling containers. It may seem a bit nit-picky, but then you are doing your part in ensuring items are going to their correct destination!
Tip #5. Rethink your registry
Ask for gift cards or E gifts- I once saw a couple put their Venmo on their wedding announcements- it was genuis! The amount of physical gifts a couple receives and uses is pretty slim. Informing your guests of alternative gift options such as gift cards or money not only aids in a zero-waste wedding but it relieves the stress of those trying to find the “perfect” present.
Experiences over things- Another great idea is to ask for experiences instead of physical, tangible things. Maybe that’s a one-night stay in a fancy hotel or a reservation at that restaurant you’ve been dying to go to, or even a couples photoshoot by your favorite photographer! Not only does opting out of physical gifts save the environment, but it can also build room for you and your spouse to create lasting memories to look back on in years to come.
Get creative with party favors- When brainstorming party favors, put yourself in your guest’s shoes. What’s an item that you would genuinely want and use? One of the best party favors you can give out is jarred food! Things such as salsa, honey, jam, etc., are items that are way more likely to be consumed. This also creates more opportunities to support local farmers and food vendors.
Be the difference!
Although these small options may seem insignificant- they genuinely do make a significant impact on our environment. By choosing to have a zero-waste wedding, you are actively being considerate and selfless to our planet- what a great feeling! I hope this blog post inspires you to make a difference in not only your wedding planning but how you choose to live your day-to-day lives. A green planet is a better planet- choose to be sustainable!