White-draped arch in front of the white fence at The 228 with chairs and benches set up for a wedding. The aisle is lined with potted plants.

Weddings (or any large party) generate lots of waste. The average wedding produces as much as 400 pounds of waste, notes “The Green Bride Guide.” One estimate by Carbonfund.org notes that a wedding with 100 guests, most of whom fly to the wedding, generates as much as a 15-ton carbon footprint. Take one or more of the following steps to plan an eco-friendly wedding and decrease the effects of your get-together on the environment.

Consider an Outdoor Wedding or Event

An outdoor event uses natural light. This minimizes electricity use. Choosing a location that’s naturally beautiful also limits the need for decorations you use once and toss. If you have an indoor event, hold it during the day. Pick a LEED-certified building for an even more eco-friendly wedding or event.

Stick With One Venue for a More Eco-Friendly Wedding

Hold your wedding and reception at the same venue to decrease guest travel, fuel use, and emissions. This is especially true if you choose a venue near most of the guests. If you need to use two venues, consider making it a more eco-friendly wedding by hiring a shuttle to decrease the fuel used to transport guests between the venues.

Limit Paper Products

People still prefer to send out paper wedding invitations. Go electronic for other types of events and for save-the-dates. Choose paper invitations that are plantable or made from recycled materials and plant-based inks. Limit enclosures and extra envelopes. Include a wedding website where guests can RSVP and find out any other details, such as information on nearby hotels and directions to the venue.

Rent dishes and linens instead of using disposable products. This adds a touch of class and limits waste. If you must go disposable, choose biodegradable products.

Instead of escort or place cards for seating, consider including this info either on the favor or the centerpiece to limit paper use.

Ask About Recycling and Composting

Ask the venue to put recycling bins near the trash cans to encourage the recycling of cans or bottles. Some venues may set up compost bins for biodegradable items to further decrease waste and make for a more eco-friendly wedding.

Choose Your Flowers Wisely

Opt for organic flowers grown without pesticides. Choose locally grown and in-season flowers. Use potted plants instead of cut flowers or skip the flowers. Use candles or books for table centerpieces and a brooch bouquet or fake flowers for the bridal bouquet. If you opt for cut flowers, donate the flowers for reuse instead of throwing them away after the event. There are several organizations that do this, including Repeat Roses, Petals With Purpose, Random Acts of Flowers, Rebloom, and Floranthropy.

Decorate With Eco-Friendly or Recycled Materials

Start with a beautiful location that doesn’t need extra decoration. Use recycled materials for decoration. Go for a few high-impact items rather than lots of little decorations. Use LED lighting if you need to add extra lights. Ask friends and family if they can lend you the items you need for decorating. Some companies also rent decorations, which is another alternative. Use bare tables instead of tablecloths, as washing these after the event requires energy.

Choose a Caterer That Uses Locally Grown, In Season, and/or Organic Ingredients

Locally grown organic foods travel a shorter distance and don’t use pesticides, making them more environmentally friendly. Freshly picked ingredients are also more nutritious and taste better than foods that have traveled long distances. In-season produce typically costs less than out-of-season produce. Locally grown may be more important than organic if you have to choose between the two. Avoid opting for any seafood that’s threatened or over-fished, such as Chilean sea bass. Vegetarian options have less of an impact on the environment, followed by locally grown chicken.

Make a Plan for Extra Food

Have any extra food donated or have takeout boxes guests can use to bring it home with them. Serving food buffet-style means that most of the uneaten food will be safe to donate or take home, unlike the food left on people’s plates.

Consider Alternatives to Buying New Outfits for the Bridal Party

For a wedding dress, consider using your mother’s dress, getting one from a consignment shop, or even renting one. Let the bridesmaids wear clothes they already own or rent dresses. If you really want something new, look for a company that uses sustainable fabrics to produce their clothing.

Minimize Waste From Favors

Some couples give charity donations instead of favors. Others just give something that people will use. Food-based favors, potted plants, seed packets, or bouquets made from wedding flowers make good options. Purchasing favors from companies that donate to charity with each purchase can also increase the impact you have.

Choose Registry Items That Are Eco-Friendly

Some people ask for donations to charity or partial funding for the honeymoon if they don’t really need anything traditionally included in a wedding registry. Otherwise, look for companies that make environmentally friendly versions of the items you need to add to your registry.

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