The question's been popped, the answer is "yes," and now it's time to plan the wedding day. And no matter what happens, your wedding day will be special and memorable—but as we've come to learn, it could end up being way more wasteful than it needs to be. And while wedding trends come and go, climate positivity and sustainability are here to stay. Consider a climate-friendly wedding with eco-centric tactics to curb those CO2 emissions and wedding waste.
"I feel there's a huge step away from the 'traditional' wedding practices," says wedding planner Xin Huang at Le Petit Prive. "Creating a meaningful and timeless event is something that will be here to stay for a long time." This meaningfulness also includes the planet—by keeping it as free of waste as possible (much of which will take hundreds of years to decompose!). "The wedding industry can be unsustainable if you're not careful about the vendors and details you align your brand and client base with," Huang adds. Attention to detail, a savvy event coordinator, and sourcing locally is at the core of hosting a sustainable wedding. With a proper event coordinator, the planet is worth the effort.
Here, a lineup of the most wasteful trends and traditions—and tips to make them more sustainable.
"Many little items get printed and quickly discarded—and some of them can be easily communicated without all the paper waste and extra expense," says international wedding organizer Vanessa Ohayon at Vanessa Events. Using an e-vite, email, QR code wedding website, and other digital options to communicate details can help curb excess paper waste. It's common for couples to want to stick to physical invitations for the actual wedding, but for any surrounding events, consider going digital. You could also look into rice paper. Huang recommends using water-soluble rice paper for all stationary needs without missing the physical charm.
The Party Favors
Guests often don't even take wedding favors home from the party, and they end up in the bin. You can either skip wedding favors altogether or choose very specific, meaningful items they'll truly want as a keepsake from the wedding (a candle, a mini potted plant, local coffee grounds). "Your guests will much prefer a personalized thank-you video from your honeymoon than a keychain or bag printed with your names and date. As a rule of thumb avoid putting your picture or full wedding date on a tote bag or other give-aways," Ohayon suggests, as they typically don't get used.
The Dance Floor Paraphernalia
Confetti, balloons, and glow sticks are great for a fun, fleeting moment, but they're not ideal for the planet. Generally made of plastic, they'll never truly decompose and mount on planetary waste. Opt for edible paraphernalia, flowers, and other sustainable options.
The Exotic Flowers
Locality is key. Exotic and out-of-season flowers mount on the extra CO2 emitted during their transportation. "One of the initial conversations in the first design meeting is to establish what's available in the season when the wedding is occurring," says Ohayon. It's important to stay in-season with floral arrangements as they can truly add onto the waste (and cost). Work with your florist and/or planner to ensure you're picking in-season florals from close by.
"Foraging is a great sustainable practice," adds Huang. "Many of our florists will forage a large percent of their greens and filled flowers." You can even consider using dried flowers, which happens to be trending right now.
The Wedding Size
"The biggest bonus we learned from a global pandemic was how to celebrate safely and with only the necessary pieces of the puzzle," Huang says. "One way would be to really streamline the guest list so it will be a more meaningful group." Giant weddings emit extra CO2, with many guests flying in from afar—not to mention the extra food, decor, transportation, accommodations, and more. The larger your wedding is, the more waste produced. It's not always possible (or preferred), but a straightforward way to reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding is to keep the guest list intimate.
"Sometimes there's no way to reduce the wedding size, so making the wedding a destination wedding will eliminate a large tier of wedding guests," adds Huang. Just remember, when opting for a destination wedding, keep it small and locally sourced.
The Food and Drink
"There's a fine balance between making sure guests don't feel hungry, and having excessive amounts of food," Huang says. This lies in the hands of a skilled and experienced wedding coordinator. Two big offenders that contribute to significant amounts of waste are dessert buffets and champagne toasts, as they're often left behind. Instead, serve individual dessert assortment plates, and keep champagne toast servings small (this also helps to keep bubbles cold and fresh for every serving—and can save serious money). Work with your venue, caterer, or planner to see if you can donate the remaining food to a bank, or to compost certain items, to offset waste.
The Excessive Decor
Do you really need 50 mini bird cages or 1000 candles to light the space? The truth is that wedding decor is often excessive—and a lot of it ends up in the trash (even worse if these items are made from plastic or other difficult-to-discard materials). Instead, look to more sustainable decor pieces: potted plants, solar-powered twinkly lights, and organic candles. Upcycled, vintage decor is also a great way to spruce up the space while giving items another life.