How to Throw an Elevated, Eco-Friendly Wedding (2024)

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When planning a wedding, it’s only natural that you’d want all your closest friends and family to travel to your big event and enjoy a celebration full of delicious food, fun fashion, beautiful florals, and impressive décor. But add all those elements together and you’ll get two things: an unforgettable event and a major carbon footprint. There’s no denying that hosting any sort of party can accrue a certain amount of waste—but a wedding often takes things to the next level.

Thankfully, the wedding industry has made some concerted efforts to create solutions that can reduce your event’s carbon footprint while also maintaining the caliber of your event. “As a wedding planner and designer, it’s our social responsibility to implement sustainable practices whenever possible to ensure that our celebrations contribute positively to the well-being of the environment and the communities we engage with,” shares Tracy Taylor Ward, Owner and Creative Director of Tracy Taylor Ward Design. “There are a plethora of eco-conscious practices vendors and couples alike can implement at their events in efforts to ensure their celebrations are as sustainable as possible.”

While no one expects you to host a zero-waste wedding, you can put an emphasis on sustainability throughout your planning process. From cutting back on paper goods to sourcing locally, see a few easy ways to make your wedding an eco-friendly event.

Choose a Local Venue

For her minimalist wedding in California, bride Danielle Hausberg opted to arrange her ceremony in the round.

Photo: Olivia Pierce

Having hundreds of guests travel to your wedding by plane, train, and automobile does, of course, come with a sizeable environmental impact. While destination weddings have their draw, choosing a venue that’s local to the majority of your guests will help cut down on your carbon footprint. Even locations that are just a car ride away are way better for the environment than those that require boarding a flight.

Go Digital

Between save-the-dates, full suites with multiple inserts, and the fuel costs of shipping mail to hundreds of guests around the world, invitations can also increase your wedding’s carbon footprint. To lighten that impact, consider going digital. While e-vites may have felt less-than-elegant in the past, new options are not only elevated, but can help you with the wedding planning process. An industry go-to is Paperless Post, which offers an entire suite of wedding “paper goods” from wedding invitations to save the dates to shower invites to thank you notes with customizable options from designers like Monique Lhuillier and Oscar De La Renta. In addition to the sustainable design aspect, Paperless Post also offers premium event management features that can poll guests on dietary requirements or calculate attendance at every event. A favorite of planner Kelsey Connely of Downey Street Events is Bliss & Bone, which offers both invitations and wedding websites to inform guests of your event plans.

Rent Your Décor and Fashion

Purchasing new items—that likely will be thrown away in landfills—can be one of the biggest drivers of your wedding’s waste. Ward advises to “avoid any single-use items (i.e. paper co*cktail napkins) and hire a waste management company (or working with a venue who partners with one) to help compost and recycle following the event.” Of course, you will need some linens and other pieces of furniture to create that reception space you’ve always dreamed of. That’s where rentals come in: Companies like BBJ La Tavola Linens and Bright Event Rentals offer items that fit your celebration’s style, then reuse them for other clients at a later date.

Your wedding wardrobe also doesn’t have to always have a place in your closet. Consider using high-end rental services like peer-to-peer platform By Rotation, subscription-based Rent the Runway, or high-end showroom Janet Mandell to find designer pieces for showers and wedding weekend events that cut back on both costs and environmental impact.

Embrace Vintage

Bride Tish Weinstock wore a vintage John Galliano dress for her Halloween nuptials in England.

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Want to add some retro charm to your celebration? Shop vintage or gently used pieces to integrate throughout your event. “For my winter wedding, I concentrated on curating vintage items steeped in history—I wanted the narrative my husband and I were creating to contribute to the planet not take away from it,” shares luxury branding coach and recent bride Rachael Johanson. “I wore a 1950s tulle gown, sourced hundreds of antique brass candlesticks, vintage wine glasses, napkin rings, and even vases. The best part? I now get to continue to re-use these tabletop pieces on a regular basis for birthdays, dinners, and celebrations for years to come.”

For vintage decorations, take to the flea market or your favorite antique stores to curate goods. Be sure to follow Instagram accounts of popular rental companies for sample sales of older stock. Also, keep your eyes peeled on Facebook Marketplace, where recently married couples often sell décor items from their event.

Resale goes beyond decorations, too. Many brides and grooms will sell their gently used gowns or pre-wedding event attire on sites like Poshmark, The Real Real, and Depop. Founder Sarah Brennan Hughes tapped into this specific market with the launch of the bridal resale platform Rowely. “Weddings aren’t just about one day anymore, but rather an entire year of celebrations, each requiring a unique, fashion-forward, and usually white, look which can be wasteful,” she says. “Rowely was crafted with the vision of offering a sustainable shopping experience for brides, while allowing them to maintain their impeccable fashion taste as they curate their bridal wardrobe.” If a true vintage piece is more your jam, the planners at The Lynden Lane Co. suggest looking to Happy Isles and The Millennial Decorator for elevated picks.

Be Thoughtful With Florals

“The women at Studio Mondine worked really hard to gather all local blooms and shared our vision for a thoughtful-and-sustainable-as-possible wedding and I loved the result,” said bride Sophie Marx of the florals at her 2022 Mendocino cliffside wedding.

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While florals help transform the look of your event, eco-conscious couples should be considerate about the way they use blooms at their wedding. Cut flowers, which inevitably will die shortly after you say “I do,” have the highest impact on the environment. Having a wedding sans florals is the best way to have a sustainable affair, but if you don’t want to forgo flowers entirely, work with your floral designer to choose locally produced and in-season florals, which cut back on the transport expenses and carbon footprint. “Whether it be florals, food, or beverages, by sourcing as much as possible from local providers, such as flower farms, it will help reduce the environmental emissions caused by shipping items from afar,” notes Ward. At the end of your event, you can even donate any extra florals or arrangements so they can get a second life.

Wedding planners also emphasize that the way florists create their designs counts. “Traditional floral foam is made from non-biodegradable materials and oftentimes may contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment,” says Ward. “Instead, forgo the foam altogether or opt to use eco-friendly foam alternatives made with sustainable and recyclable materials, like chicken wire.”

Consider Your Jewelry

While wearing heirloom jewelry or resetting vintage stones is an excellent way to cut back on the impact of your wedding attire (and increase the sentimentality of your wardrobe), you can also purchase new pieces responsibly. Lab-grown diamonds can considerably cut back on the environmental impact (and cost) of diamond pieces you may don for the day. Many top designers work exclusively with lab-grown gems or have created specific collections featuring the diamonds. Jennifer Fisher, who is about to launch a lab-grown collection, shares, "For me, the appeal of wearing lab-grown diamonds lies in the reassurance that comes from knowing their clear origin and commitment to social consciousness."

Give Back

Photo: Olivia Pierce

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At the end of the day, there still will be a carbon footprint of your event. To help offset that impact, consider making a donation to local charities or environmental foundations. Registry sites like Zola offer the option to have your guests contribute a donation as their gift to you. (You can also help future marriers by donating or reselling your wardrobes and décor, too!)

How to Throw an Elevated, Eco-Friendly Wedding (2024)
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