The average wedding produces 400-600 lbs. of garbage and 63 tons of CO2. Taken together, that’s like 8.3 million cars on the road for a year! Today’s brides have thousands of green options to pick from, so it is easy to find products and services to match your decor. The trick is to keep the environment in mind as you move through the wedding planning process and to look for simple substitutions where you can. Every choice makes a difference, so even if you only include a few green wedding details, rest assured that your choices add up.

vintage engagement shoot

Image: Gideon Photography

Here are some simple eco-friendly wedding ideas to get you started.

Invitations.  Did you know that the amount of paper used in one year to make wedding invitations could cover the island of Manhattan?  Traditional papermaking is an energy-intensive process that creates a large amount of wastewater and solid waste (and uses harsh chemicals such as bleach). Eco-friendly wedding invitations come in many forms. Recycled and post-consumer waste paper, tree-free paper, soy inks, and virtual correspondence options all offer beautiful and elegant ways to reduce resource consumption.

orange tree wedding invitation
Image: Orange Tree Wedding Invitations

Jewelry.  The average American couple spends over $7,000 on their engagement and wedding rings. This puts $16 billion a year into the jewelry market that could be infused into the green economy through the purchase of socially and environmentally responsible jewelry. You can find companies that use recycled stones and metals, as well as ethically sourced diamonds, gems and metals to create breathtaking and unique jewelry. Family heirlooms, vintage or antique pieces, or handmade items are also sustainable, and often less expensive options.

rustic ring pillow
Image: Rustic wedding details

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Flowers. Over 60% percent of florists in the U.S. use imported flowers that are sprayed with pesticides and fungicides when they are shipped, and again when they are received.  These chemicals can be harmful to worker health and contaminate waterways and drinking supplies. Using local, seasonal and organic flowers, which are never sprayed with toxic chemicals, decreases fuel consumption and is often a less costly than ordering exotic species. You can also work with your professional florist to design simple arrangements, or consider using faux flowers that you can reuse or resell.      

organic reception wedding flowers
Image: Eco-chic fall wedding tips 

Attire.  The aspects of your wedding attire that can be greened are two fold: eliminating the use of single-use bleached wedding and bridesmaid dresses and other clothing by choosing items made from sustainable materials, and incorporating items that have been previously used and/or can be used again. No matter your style or tastes, there are countless ways to make your wedding attire greener, from buying organic and vintage, to re-wearing a dress in the family, to donating items after the big day.

Gifts.  By registering with eco-friendly companies you can support sustainable businesses while educating your guests about eco-friendly products. There are even organizations you can register through that donate a portion of the sales from your gifts to a variety of causes.

­Favors.  Favors for all your guests can cost you a few hundred dollars. Making a small donation for each guest to a cause that is important to you is a thoughtful alternative to a tangible favor. If you are set on giving a small gift, there are tons of eco-friendly wedding favor ideas like small potted plants or soy candles that will highlight the values behind your wedding planning. DIY bath salts, syrups or soy candles are great and affordable options as well.

strawberry jam wedding favors

Image: Wedding Flower Alternatives

Transportation.  The EPA estimates that cars, trucks, and buses are the leading producers of air pollution, yet about 75% of couples travel to and from their wedding in a limousine. Holding your ceremony and reception at the same venue, or close by one another, is one way to limit travel for your guests. If possible, pick a centralized location so that most of your friends and family will not have to travel far. Carpooling, renting an alternative energy bus or trolley, or taking public transit if available will get your guests to and from your celebration while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.

Travel.  Many honeymoon hotspots, such as tropical reefs or national parks, are also ecologically sensitive areas. Ecotourism options, green hotels/accommodations, and carbon offsetting all help conserve resources and ensure the money that you are spending makes its way into the local economy. Sometimes a small destination wedding can actually have a smaller environmental footprint than a large lavish affair at home. To further lessen the impact of your honeymoon, explore local or volunteer vacation options.

bride and groom in a canoe

Photography. More and more photographers are going digital. Digital photography offers a paperless and chemical-free way to capture your event, especially when you can view online proofs before deciding which ones to print. Green photographers go steps further by using disposable batteries, non-toxic inks, 100% post-consumer waste paper, LED and CFL bulbs, and recycling what they can.

Décor.  No matter what your budget or theme, putting a little extra thought into both ceremony and reception décor will reduce throwaways and waste.  Something as simple as bringing ceremony flowers to use at the reception eliminates waste and expense. Using your location and the season for inspiration will provide you with a number of natural, cost-saving décor ideas.

Food and Beverage.  The average American meal travels 1,500 miles. No matter how you choose to design your menu, using in-season local and organic foods will decrease the carbon footprint of your meal while supporting the local economy. Organic caterers and green restaurants create menus bursting with these tasty foods, but any company you choose should be able to work with you to add seasonal and organic elements where possible. When available, providing wine, beer, and other beverages from the area adds some local eco-friendly flavor.

oscar-brunch.jpg

Image: Oscars party food

Venue. On average, a couple will spend 40% of their wedding budget on the reception. Because of this, choosing an eco-friendly wedding venue will have a huge impact on the environmental footprint of your wedding. Look for green hotels, farms, vineyards, and historic sites where the money you spend preserves open space and eco-friendly practices.

Beauty and Make-Up.  The body’s largest organ is the skin, acting as a protective barrier to the outside world. Still, most conventional cosmetics contain toxic chemicals that are absorbed through the skin and the average woman eats 4 lbs. of lipstick in her lifetime. Using all-natural beauty and hair products or seeking out a “green” salon for your wedding day will be much better for your health. Check the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database for a list of safe cosmetics.

natural wedding beauty
Image: Lakshal Perera

The Green Bride Guide’s blog has more pictures and ideas for your green wedding. You can also find hundreds of products from eco-friendly artisans in the green wedding shop.

If you would like help planning your green wedding, click here for a list of certified green wedding professionals. If you are a wedding professional yourself, click here to learn more about the Green Wedding Professional Certification Course.