Approximately 2.3 million couples marry in the United States each year, averaging out to about 6,000 weddings every day. Even if only half of those couples hold a wedding and a reception, that’s still a colossal amount of resources used for weddings each day.

Planning a “green” wedding is a great way to invest in your future by making choices that are better for the planet and, ideally, your wallet.

Eco-Friendly Wedding Invitations

recycled invitation card with lace ribbonIt’s easy to overlook the amount of paper involved in a wedding, but it’s a lot. At a minimum, weddings usually involve “save the date” cards, invitations, and programs.

Even if your wedding only uses paper for those things, that’s still hundreds of pieces of paper that will eventually end up in the trash.

  • Opt for recycled paper or another eco-friendly option, like bamboo.
  • Also consider electronic “save the date” announcements, which will cut down on paper and costs.

Wedding Venues

Make the venue work for you. The more naturally beautiful the venue, the less decorating you’ll have to do, and the less materials you’ll have to purchase.

Many nature preserves, zoos, and museums are available for private events, so consider a venue where the deposit will go to a good cause.

Don’t forget about wedding day logistics:

  • Choose a venue that can accommodate both the ceremony and the reception so guests don’t have to travel between the two.
  • If possible, pick a venue located close to a majority of your attendees.
  • Provide a shuttle, especially if you’ve got out of town guests.

These choices will cut down on fuel waste and make things easier for your guests.

Thinking About Using Your Own Backyard?

If you’ve got the outdoor space, don’t exclude your backyard as an option. At-home weddings provide the ultimate personalized, intimate experience.

Set the stage for your event:

  • Hire a landscaping company to add mulch, pine straw, or flowers to your beds.
  • If you’re planning a summer wedding, don’t forget about mosquitos. Mosquito control companies can spray your yard in preparation, and many offer naturally sourced solutions.
  • Build an arbor. It’ll create a focal point for your wedding and is a beautiful addition to your backyard.  

Upcycle Your Wedding Decorations

Visit flea markets and thrift stores. Upcycle things you find, and repurpose them for your wedding.

For example, use old crates and pallets for signage. All it takes is a little paint and some stencils. If you’ve got empty wine bottles or jars sitting around, turn them into vases.

Wedding Flowers or Floral Arrangements

It’s hard to imagine a wedding without flowers. They’re typically essential to the ceremony and serve as decoration throughout both the ceremony and reception.

  • If your heart is set on cut flowers and specific arrangements, buy locally and sustainably grown organic flowers.
  • For those with more flexible tastes, potted plants and flowers are good environmentally friendly options and can double as favors.
  • Dual-purpose your bridesmaid flowers as centerpieces at the reception. After the ceremony, have the bridesmaids place their bouquets in a table centerpiece.
  • Alternatively, scrap the flowers all together, and use paper or burlap flowers.

Go Digital: Wedding Photography

wedding photographer takes photos of bride and groomWhen making your wedding checklist, be sure to include an eco-friendly photographer. Choose a photographer who offers completely digital pictures. Digital photography provides quality photos, is easier to share, and uses fewer materials and less energy.

Food and Alcohol

As you search for wedding vendors, think about their location and the types of foods they offer.

  • Use local vendors. Find a caterer and bakery in your area.
  • Try to design a menu featuring seasonal or regional favorites.
  • You can’t go wrong with organic, pesticide-free offerings.
  • If you’re not renting reusable dinnerware, use recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable options.
  • Make it easy for your guests to recycle, and provide easy-to-use recycling bins.
  • Look for local breweries and vineyards.
  • Coordinate with a food bank or shelter, and donate your leftovers.

The Dress: Wear Something Borrowed

Seek out environmentally friendly designers, or find a used gown. If your mom’s dress isn’t your style, find a seamstress to make it your own, or find a store that sells used wedding dresses.

If you end up buying a brand-new wedding dress because you’re unable to find a used dress that works for you, donate your dress to charity.

Choose the Right Rings

Finding the perfect ring is one of the most important aspects of wedding planning because it’s what you’ll be wearing every day once the party ends.

Diamonds are part of a controversial industry that mines materials and destroys lives and environments in the process. Find an eco-friendly jeweler that uses sustainably sourced materials.

Depending on your tastes, you might also be interested in one of the many unique antique rings available.

Wedding Favors

wedding favorsYou’ve probably attended enough weddings to know that most guests expect a little something on their way out, but don’t feel pressured to purchase pounds of mints.

Get creative with your wedding favors:

  • Forgo the post-reception favors, and make a charitable donation instead. Let your guests choose from a few charities that support what you’re passionate about.
  • If you do give out favors, use recycled paper bags or boxes.
  • Give your guests seeds so they can grow herbs or vegetable plants.
  • Use decorations that double as favors.

Honeymoon: Practice Ecotourism 

Few people think about a “green” honeymoon, but there are more environmentally friendly destinations to choose from. Many tourist industries wreak havoc on the local environment.

  • Think about travel and the use of airplane and car fuels.
  • Choose a location where tourism is not exploiting the local people or environment.
  • Don’t forget about those excursions—avoid anything that harms animals or the local environment.

Planning a “Green” Wedding

You don’t have to sacrifice your values to have a beautiful wedding. Planning a green wedding may take a little extra effort and research on your part, but the result will be a truly unique wedding experience that embodies you and is kind to the environment.