written by Alexandra Sirocky, holistic entrepreneur and founder of nomaste
photo by WhatNot Shop Photography
The past few years, couples have been choosing more eco-friendly resources when planning their wedding, and I think it’s safe to say that this trend is here to stay for 2022 and beyond. Some people desire to make every aspect completely waste-free while others are interested in making even the smallest of changes to reduce the overall carbon footprint of their event. Whether you’re all-in on making your wedding sustainable or just dipping your toes in the water, it’s undeniable that green is in for weddings and more people are choosing this important way to plan their special day.
According to The Green Bride Guide, the average wedding in the U.S. produces 400 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of CO2 (carbon dioxide). For an estimated 2.5 million weddings per year, that’s roughly 1 billion pounds of trash produced annually or 2.7 million pounds each day, on average. Consider the other factors too, like the environmental impact of your attire, jewelry, and travel. It can end up being much more wasteful than we are immediately aware of. People clearly want to combat this issue and carve a new path forward for the future of the wedding industry but figuring out how can be tricky.
One of the easiest and most accessible ways to start on your journey to a sustainable wedding is to thrift it! Thrifting has become a great resource for people looking to incorporate more of those curated, second-hand elements into their decor. As a big thrifter myself, nothing compares to the excitement of being on the hunt for those one-of-a-kind pieces that really stand out. Goodwill, Arc, and the local thrift shop are perfect starting points to building better sustainability practices for your wedding.
So where do you begin when planning a zero-waste wedding? Here are 80 ideas to make your big day as environmentally-friendly as possible.
The Attire & Jewelry
- Rent a wedding dress instead of buying new. If buying new, shop with local designers to avoid expensive international fees and waste.
- Find your dress from sustainable designers like Reformation, Wear Your Love, or Grace Loves Lace.
- Better yet, upcycle your mother or grandmother’s wedding dress and make it your own.
- Buy a pre-owned dress from a local consignment shop.
- For the men, opt for a vegan suit that will last a lifetime. Check out Brave Gentleman or Hall Madden.
- Resell your dress after the wedding so it can go on and live another life with a happy bride.
- Encourage your wedding party to participate in the eco-theme and request they buy dresses and suits from sustainable brands.
- Nix the rings all together and get tattoos in commemoration of your union.
- Purchase antique or cruelty-free diamonds and use recycled metals to make your wedding rings. Check out Mejuri, Bario Neal, or Noémie.
- Wear a family heirloom instead of purchasing new jewelry or accessories.
- Source your alcohol from local wineries, breweries, and distilleries. Look for wineries that practice biodynamic and organic farming.
- Choose caterers that source their produce from local farms or CSA programs. Inquire about how they source their animal proteins as well.
- Replace single-use straws with reusable metal straws, or forgo them all together.
- Choose to only serve seasonal, organic, pesticide-free food.
- Ask your caterers what they do with their waste after the wedding.
- Serve a completely vegan wedding menu.
- Create signature cocktails served out of large carafes and include a beer keg for your guests.
- Opt for a plated meal instead of a buffet.
- Lean on your caterers for effective planning of hors d’oeuvres and late-night snacks to minimize excess waste.
- After the celebration, pack up boxes of leftovers and give these to local guests or donate to a local homeless shelter or animal rescue.
- Use upcycled natural elements like wood or dried leaves as place cards.
- Skip any disposable dishware — rent it instead!
- Choose fabrics like linen, flax, or hemp for your tablecloths.
- Thrift items for your centerpieces, dishware, glasses, and other decor like mirrors, tapers, and tables.
- Opt for candles instead of string lights. Upcycle glass bottles or mason jars to hold the candles and use hemp twine to hang them.
- Create centerpieces with marimo moss balls or kokedama.
- Thrift an old window to use for the menus, seating chat, and other signage
- After the wedding, resell your items on Facebook Marketplace to recoup some expenses. Otherwise, reuse decor items in your own home or upcycle them to have new life.
- Create a pause point to highlight the Engagement Journal by yours truly!
- Choose a venue that has built-in decor so you can decrease costs on flowers and other necessary decor that goes with the theme of your day.
- Decide on a venue that is LEED-certified or puts an emphasis on sustainable practices like recycling, composting, or donating leftovers from their events. Check out the Green Building Information Gateway!
- Keep your event local to minimize travel for you, your vendors, and your guests.
- Have the ceremony and reception at the same venue to reduce transportation needs.
- Have well-marked areas dedicated specifically to recycling and compost to ensure minimum waste.
- Pick a place that is solely in nature, like a national park, nature reserve, or the beach.
- Have your wedding in the summertime because the sunsets will be later in the evening and you will reduce your cost on lighting.
- Look for venues that are all-inclusive to decrease a need for additional vendors.
- Ask a relative or family friend to host your wedding instead of renting an entire venue. This is a great option for those who are having a micro wedding.
- Plant a tree locally and have a unity ceremony instead of a traditional wedding ceremony.
- Choose a venue that is powered by solar panels.
- Opt for dry instead of fresh florals. A beautifully dried bouquet will last you and your bridesmaids years to come.
- Look for a local florist who grows their own blooms. Down Home Flowers and Sweet June Floral Co. are two great examples of floral sustainability done right.
- Instead of fresh flowers as decor, consider having lush, leafy potted plants or cacti that can be planted or reused at home.
- Have wooden flower bouquet made for you instead of fresh florals. Check out Sola Wood Flowers for inspiration!
- DIY a paper bouquet for you and your bridesmaids made with old newspaper or books. Bonus points: Check your local thrift store for romance novels and use those pages to fill your bouquet up with tales of love through the ages.
- Have your flower girl use real, dried flower petals or herbs.
- Go for an entirely herbal bouquet. Explore mint varietals, chamomile, and lavender and then get creative with local herbs.
- Create centerpieces and pause points with air plants, orchids, and tropical palms that need little maintenance and can be taken home or gifted as party favors.
- When looking for your perfect florist, make sure they are committed to using ethically sourced, non-toxic, and reusable materials in all their creations.
- After the wedding, compost your floral arrangements so they can cycle back into the Earth as nutrients to feed future flowers.
- Make eco-friendly plant confetti for your wedding exit. Instead of handing out rice, glitter, or sparklers to your guests, offer handmade plant confetti from leaves! Also, try rose petals, herbs, lavender, or small flowers like chamomile and daisies.
- Scale down your guest list and limit the number of plus one’s.
- Follow up with any guests who haven’t RSVP’ed so you can get the most accurate count you possibly can to avoid waste.
- Arrange a shuttle service for your guests.
- Encourage car-pooling and ride-sharing services.
- Cover the cost of your guests’ ride share by creating an event code.
- Send out digital save the dates and invitations with a company like Paperless Post or GreenVelope instead of paper ones.
- If using printed invitations, opt for an invitation only by having guests RSVP and get additional information on your wedding website.
- Ask for your invitations to be made with seed paper that completely decomposes into wildflowers.
- Ask your stationer to print your invitations on 100% recycled paper or cotton paper.
- Learn calligraphy and make your own invitations, place cards, and thank you cards.
- Skip the printed wedding program and consider putting it on your wedding website.
- Print a small message like “Please Recycle” on the back of your invitations to encourage guests to participate in the sustainability action.
- Use real wood paper for your invitations. Check out Real Wood Paper for inspiration!
- Choose only sustainably made products for your wedding registry.
- Use a registry tool that allows you to register from a variety of stores, so you can hand-pick those that better align with your sustainability philosophy.
- Encourage guests to shop small and locally when purchasing gifts for you and your mate.
- Give to a charity instead of opting for a traditional wedding registry.
- Ask guests to give money to your honeymoon or experience fund.
- Register for gifts that you will actually use in your daily life instead of simply filling up a registry.
- Request that any gifts be wrapped or packaged in eco-friendly materials that can be recycled, composted, or reused.
- Better yet, request that guests omit the gift wrapping entirely!
- The Knot has a great program called The Knot Gifts Back where they donate 3% of gifts purchased from your registry to a charity of choice.
- Ask your guests to plan a volunteer day on your behalf instead of giving you gifts.
- Make an eco-friendly guest bag. This is great if your wedding isn’t held locally and many guests are traveling from far away. A little surprise with all the essential eco-goodies goes a long way.
- Offer an edible favor like fair-trade coffee, olive oil, or wine. If you can source it locally, even better. Bonus points if it’s packaged in environmentally friendly packaging.
- Give your guests seed bombs or wildflower packets that are completely biodegradable and give back to the Earth.
- Research a local purveyor of snacks and have them host an “after hours” snack bar for guests to enjoy on their way out.
- Hire a local henna artist to create temporary tattoos for your guests.
- Purchase items from local artisans as small favors.
The Food & Booze
photo by WhatNot Shop Photography
The Wedding Gifts
photo by WhatNot Shop Photography
NOMaste was founded in 2013 by Alexandra Sirocky, a holistic entrepreneur who embraces a simple approach to living a balanced lifestyle. As a yoga instructor, sound therapist, holistic health coach, retreat leader, artist, photographer, micro-blogger and freelance content curator, her true passion is educating her clients on the importance of SIMPLE self-care. Embracing her mission to “heal yourself, heal the planet,” Alexandra dedicates her work to inspiring a greater sense of global community in service to living in symbiosis.
Follow her on Instagram @nomyogi