From choosing a green venue to donating leftover food and flowers, there are a number of small changes you can make that will have a big impact on the planet.

By Claire Sullivan
January 22, 2020
Ryan Liebe

You're eco-minded every day, so why not carry those values to your wedding? After all, planning your dream wedding and living a green lifestyle aren't mutually exclusive ideas. Here's how to plan an eco-friendly ceremony and reception without sacrificing on quality or style.

Related: Reformation Founder Yael Aflalo Shares Her Top Tips for Making Your Wedding a Little More Eco-Friendly

Pick a Verdant Venue

An outdoor site, like a manicured garden, doesn't need loads of flowers to feel special, says Nicki Fleischner, founder of Plan with Purpose. LEED-certified locales in your area may come with plant walls, use solar power, and compost on-site.

Invite Wisely

We’re not suggesting digital invitations for your big day (though they're A-OK for showers and bachelorette parties)—and paper ones do make lovely keepsakes. Just seek out green stationers with earth-friendly goods: Paper Culture uses recycled materials like bamboo, and Words with Heart prints with vegetable inks. Also, simply reduce the number of sheets in your suite by including a link to a wedding website for details like directions and lodging, and even RSVPs, says Sarah Tivel, founder of Gather Events. At your reception, frame a few menus for each table rather than printing one for every guest, and have friends and family toss biodegradable confetti (or birdseed or dried flowers).

Gift Your Flowers

Instead of throwing away blooms at the end of the weekend, Fleischner suggests reaching out to an international nonprofit like Repeat Roses, which picks up arrangements and delivers them to residents in local hospitals, hospices, and homeless shelters. Or compost them. Plants are a nice alternative, too, says Liza Lubell, florist and founder of Garbage Goddess. A few ideas: Fill out your venue with potted trees, or give mini versions of hardy plants like ferns or hoyas as favors.

Cater Consciously

Plated dinners are less wasteful, but if you're serving buffet-style, ask that smaller trays be set out throughout the night, so untouched extras are donation-ready. Also consult with your caterer in advance about packing up leftovers for that purpose, says Fleischner. National non-profits like Food Rescue US match you with volunteers who will take the surplus to local shelters and community kitchens.

Rent and Return

Many venues loan table settings and linens for a fee. But your wedding party can rent outfits, too (rather than archiving—okay, abandoning—them in a closet). We like the Black Tux for groomsmen, and Rent the Runway for bridesmaids; the site's eight-day option allows ample time to send dresses back.

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