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10 Ways to Make Your Wedding Eco-Friendly

Even during our biggest celebrations, it's important to be mindful of the environment. Here are some great tips to make your wedding eco-friendly.

My wedding day was the greatest day of my life because of what it represented for my future, but the year of planning leading up to the big day was absolute hell. Wedding planning is a seemingly unavoidable nightmare, as you have to deal with logistical and creative decisions while mentally preparing yourself for potentially the biggest day of your life. While you can always hire a wedding planner, the final burden of decision-making will often still rest on you.

When I got married, one of our biggest concerns was doing what we could to have a green wedding. The average American wedding produces over 400 pounds of garbage, so we wanted to do what we could to reduce that number. From using a homemade wedding cake to providing recycling bins for your recyclable waste, here are my best tips to help make your wedding eco-friendly.

Do it yourself.

Smaller, DIY weddings are becoming increasingly popular with younger couples, particularly millennials. Our casual, no-frills wedding wasn’t exactly devoid of stress, but it gave us control over every aspect of the wedding, from the rehearsal to the ceremony to the reception (not to mention the honeymoon!). If you’re hoping to make your wedding eco-friendly, taking charge of planning your own wedding is a great first step.

Repurpose everyday items.

Photo by James Cousins on Unsplash

A rustic or industrial repurposed aesthetic is a wedding trend of 2018 that's particularly popular, and can be beneficial to both your budget and the environment. When I got married, we collected used wine and beer bottles for table centerpieces at our dinner reception. My partner and I aren't actually heavy wine drinkers, so we asked our friends to save theirs for us. We used the wine bottles as makeshift vases for flowers from a local florist, giving us beautiful, unique, recyclable centerpieces that cost close to nothing. This just goes to show that you shouldn't be afraid to ask your loved ones for help—putting together a wedding is a team effort, especially when you're working together to make your wedding eco-friendly.

Scout out thrift stores.

You don't need brand new and expensive decorations to make your wedding day special. In fact, purchasing used items from your local thrift store is a great way to make your wedding eco-friendly and uniquely beautiful. Visit your local Goodwill or Savers and stroll the aisles with an open mind: you never know what you might find! All it takes is a little creativity to turn thrifted materials into unforgettable wedding decorations.

Seek out local vendors.

Photo by Mohammad Saifullah on Unsplash

Regardless of the economical and ecological benefits, taking advantage of local vendors is an ingenious and surprisingly manageable way to up the charm factor for your big day. Whether it's getting your wedding flowers from a local farmer market or hosting your reception at your favorite restaurant, the resources in your town add a familiar and familial touch to your wedding day. As if that weren't enough reason to stick close to home, taking advantage of local vendors is also an excellent way to make your wedding eco-friendly. 

Take advantage of venues in your home town.

When I got married, our rehearsal dinner and reception were held at two of our favorite local restaurants. Besides allowing us to enjoy our festivities in some of our favorite places, it was also simply the easiest option. Hosting your ceremony and receptions at a local venue (instead of having a dreaded destination wedding) will make life easier for your guests, assuming you live in the same town as most of your guests, of course. Procuring your wedding cake, catering, etc. from local restaurants not only reduces your carbon footprint, it cuts down on transportation and shipping costs as well, making it a no-brainer if you want to make your wedding eco-friendly or if you're planning a wedding on a budget.

Take advantage of heirloom items.

We're all familiar with the old wedding adage "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue," defining what a bride should wear on her wedding day. Whether or not you adhere strictly to the tradition, it's an excellent excuse to repurpose vintage and heirloom items not just for your wedding-wear, but for your ceremony and reception decorations as well. Repurposing heirloom items is a perfect way to make your wedding eco-friendly.

For my wedding, we incorporated dozens of handmade heirloom doilies from our families as decorations. We could just as easily have purchased paper doilies or cheap dollar store doilies, but those likely would have been thrown away following the wedding. Reusing our ancestral doilies avoided this waste while also looking much, much nicer.

Repurpose vintage items.

Reusing items in general is a smart move to reduce your overall carbon footprint, but it's an especially useful way to make your wedding eco-friendly. Think about how many decorations and special items are involved in even a "low-key" wedding: it can lead to a potentially massive waste if these items are only used once. At the very least, if you reuse or repurpose vintage items you have on hand, you’re already taking a big step toward reducing the carbon footprint of your wedding.

Buy decorations you can reuse.

If you must purchase new items for decorations or other purposes in your wedding (which I admit can be unavoidable), at least try to find something that you can keep after the wedding. If you continue to use the decorations in your own home, it serves as a daily reminder of your big day, while also allowing you to be thrifty with your purchases. You may even be able to lend your decorations to a friend or family member for their own wedding down the line—just don't forget to pass on the techniques you used to make your wedding eco-friendly!

Take steps to minimize your garbage.

This is sort of a one-size-fits-all tip, as any advice on how to make your wedding eco-friendly essentially amounts to reducing waste. It may sound obvious, but the best way to reduce your waste is simply to minimize the amount of garbage you’re producing in the first place. This strategy falls in line with my advice to be thrifty and repurpose heirloom items, where you aren't relying on newly produced items for your decorations or disposable dinnerware for your reception. 

Recycle and compost.

Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

Sadly, it's not really possible to completely avoid disposable items, so the next best thing is minimizing the impact of the waste that your wedding produces. For example, your save the dates and invitations should absolutely be printed on recycled paper. Make sure your dishes and flatware, if not reusable, are at least recyclable. Some companies even produce compostable dishes! Of course, if you have recyclable or compostable waste at your reception, make sure you actually provide the appropriate receptacles! I can't tell you how frustrating it is in this day and age to find myself in any sort of venue that doesn't provide recycling bins. A simple blue bin next to the trash can is an easy but effective and essential step to make your wedding eco-friendly.

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