10 tips for a more sustainable wedding
We know that a wedding is personal. Two people celebrating one of the biggest days of their lives with their loved ones is such a special occasion, and we think that it’s totally ok to splurge a little - even if that creates a bigger footprint than getting married at city hall with no reception afterwards. For the ones of you who are conscious of the CO2 emissions of your wedding, we have put together a little list on how to make your big day a bit greener.
We’ve read plenty of articles on how to replace plastic cups with glassware and how one should use recycled paper for stationery. And while those are both amicable choices, other parts of your wedding can make a much bigger difference than these details. There’s a lot of misconceptions out there in terms of which part generates the most emissions in an event like this. Let’s break them down for the average wedding.
The typical local wedding will generate most of its total footprint from venue, electricity and water, from food & drinks and from logistics. Other materials, stationery, decor and flowers weigh in far less as each of the first three categories. However, all of this can change with your individual choices. If you celebrate with only 50 guests and bring in 25k€ of flowers (grown overseas) in raw materials, obviously your footprint from florals will be a lot higher than the average couple’s. If you throw a lavish wedding on a remote Fiji island with 100 guests, your overall footprint, but especially your logistics & transport footprint is going be far bigger than the average.
This is a sample list on how to reduce your weddings direct and indirect emissions. If you have any other great ideas on how to cut your wedding's carbon emissions, let us know!
1. Your location
This is an easy one. The more remote your wedding location and the further away it’s located from your guests, the bigger the environmental impact of transport and logistics will be. If you have your heart set on that destination wedding in Tuscany, you can still contain your footprint by strictly limiting the guest list.
2. Your venue
There’s a few aspects to check in terms of your venue. Is it in a easily accessible location? If you’re having your reception on a remote cliff that will require you to bring in tents and other structures through complicated logistics, and at the same time is hard to reach for all of your guests, this will obviously weigh in heavily in terms of your logistics and transport footprint. Choosing a venue in an accessible location is thus a great way to make your wedding that much more sustainable.
If you have the choice between several such venues, pay attention to their practices and ask questions. Where is their electricity coming from? Is the place insulated well or will you need lots of extra heating sources for the evening? Does your wedding fit into the venue snugly or will there be a lot of empty space (that takes a lot of energy to heat up)? Does the venue recycle its waste?
3. Your guest amount
This point is key. The smaller amount of guests you invite, the smaller your overall footprint will be. If you want to make a difference only in one aspect, this is a great one. Limiting your guest list, is going to cut down on resources all around. On the other hand, if you know you want to celebrate with 250 guests, you can make sustainable choices in terms of location, logistics and food.
4. Transport & Logistics
According to Stanford Magazine, over 75% of the average non-destination wedding footprint is generated by direct transportation and logistics. That’s massive, right? Knowing this, go back to points 1-3 and consider once again how much the decisions on your location and guest amount weigh into your wedding’s overall carbon footprint. If you want to streamline your guest transports even more, think mass transport instead of individual. If your venue can’t be reached with local public transport, arrange for buses to take all your guests to your wedding location together. Ask all of your suppliers to optimise their logistics too. Choose local vendors whenever possible.
5. Food & drink
We all know that some foods have a much larger footprint than others. So, if you multiply that one meal you are choosing by 150 guests, it’s no surprise that you can make a major difference by choosing a menu with a lower environmental impact. That doesn’t mean that you have to go all vegan or even vegetarian. Just know that pork, chicken or fish will add way less to your footprint than beef or lamb. Check out this little resource when making a decision on your wedding menu.
Choosing a menu made from fresh, organic, in-season local ingredients will be a great way for you to make a difference. Also make sure your catering has a well-functioning recycling and composting system in place. Donate or wrap up leftovers for guests.
Consider a used wedding dress or a custom made one from recycled and/or vintage fabrics. Re-sell your dress after your big day. Consider letting your bridal party wear something they already own or have them pick something they will definitely wear after your wedding. Also consider not giving your guests a too unique dress code for your big day - that way not everyone will have to go out and buy a new outfit they may only wear once.
Seasonal is your key word. If you love peonies, set your wedding date when it’s peak peony season. Local is great if you live in an area where it’s easy to grow flowers. In the north of Europe, local often means that flowers take a large amount of added energy to grow. Importing them from the Netherlands is often easier on your overall carbon footprint, even if the added transport taken into account. Ask your florist for low emission floral designs. Make sure they don’t use floral foam.
Forage responsibly and replace flowers grown with high energy input with some that grow in the wild. Make sure to never cut the roots, inform yourself on which flowers are protected in your country or area. If you cut from shrubs or bushes, make sure the plant is mature enough and never cut more than 1/10 from one plant.
Compost or donate all of your flowers after your wedding.
8. Decor & materials
Think zero-waste and you’re great. Rent as much as possible, borrow, buy used (and re-sell after your wedding). Opt for wood, glass, ceramics instead of plastic or aluminium. Toss bird seeds instead of confetti. Forget about balloons and one-way paper decor. Consider using soy candles instead of regular stearin ones. Print your wedding stationery on recycled card stock and consider sending your invitations or save the dates via paperless post.
9. Your wedding registry
The possibilities are endless. Wish for zero waste or environmentally friendly gifts. Dinners, a cleaning service for your home, donations to charity, a set of bikes for the two of you or anything else that you really need and that will help make your every day life after the wedding more sustainable. You can also ask your guests to contribute to funding of environmental projects of your choice to offset their share of your wedding footprint.
10. Offset your wedding footprint
Instead of asking your guests to offset, you can do this by yourselves. It’s not a perfect solution to the climate change issue, but we know that a wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event. You can read more about carbon footprint offsetting here.