If you haven’t heard, it’s summer, and Meghan and Harry have officially kicked off wedding season. These events offer a great opportunity to practice sustainability, because the average wedding in the United States creates up to 400 pounds of waste and 63 tons of carbon dioxide emissions (in a single day!). Below, we’ve created a complete timeline for you to follow, from proposal to clean-up and everything in between.
The very first step in your wedding process is likely to be the purchase of two rings. Instead of buying these accessories brand-new, look for antique options online or in secondhand jewelry stores. If you like the stones but the style is outdated, jewelers can often redesign a vintage ring to reflect a more modern style. If you do decide to purchase new rings, be sure to do a bit of research to ensure that the jeweler practices sustainable sourcing.
Next, invitations must be sent. Choose a style that is printed on recycled materials, or forego paper altogether and try online invitations. Although this may seem slightly less personal than a traditional paper invitation, a variety of evite brands online now offer beautiful design options that will save you both time and resources.
With a bit of planning, your wedding registry can easily be made up of solely sustainable, recycled, natural, and organic items. To limit the amount of new items you receive, you can instead ask friends for donations toward your honeymoon or a charity organization of your choice.
Plan for your ceremony in advance by choosing a venue that follows sustainability policies, preferably in a natural or outdoors setting that requires little energy expenditure for utilities like lighting and air conditioning. A short guest list will necessitate a smaller space with fewer resources used by the end of the day, while nearby locations limit transportation-related emissions. If the venue is far away, consider offering a group transportation option for guests such as a shuttle to eliminate the need for many separate car trips.
There are three ways to ensure sustainable décor: rent as much as possible, go thrifting, and shop local. Renting seems like a logical choice for such a large-scale event, although if you have trouble finding specific decorations, thrift shops and local stores make a good second choice by allowing you to recycle lightly used goods or support the local and sustainable economy. Similarly, for the wedding party’s attire, you have the option to borrow, rent, shop vintage, or find a sustainable retailer. Borrowing a wedding dress from a family member – or reinventing the original fabric in a modern style – is a special way to honor another woman in your life. However, you can also look to the robust vintage and sustainable wedding apparel markets for yourself and those in the wedding party. Renting makes a great option, especially for men, because tuxedos are rarely worn and can be easily fitted to different body types.
Explore local and seasonal cuisine through a catering service from the surrounding area, and try to offer at least one vegetarian course to make the maximum sustainability impact on your menu. Reusable glassware or biodegradable dishes and cutlery will eliminate unnecessary waste from the celebration. To make cleanup a breeze, create a clear system for guests to toss food waste, recyclables, and trash in different receptacles.
Flower arrangements are one of the most wasteful aspects of a wedding, considering they are often thrown away after a single day. Potted plants or succulents do not need to be picked for the event and can be returned to your home afterwards or offered to guests as a party favor. If you do opt for more traditional flowers, donate the leftovers to organizations that can use them: for example, Petals with Purpose or Random Acts of Flowers will rearrange your florals into smaller arrangements for delivery to community members in need. If there is no flower donation service near your home, reach out to local women’s shelters, hospitals, or nursing homes that might appreciate the bouquets.
Although party favors are a fun way to thank your guests, items with no real function are often thrown away just days or weeks after the wedding. Take a thoughtful approach by offering something homemade and useful, like jars of local jam or potted herbs. If you don’t want to DIY favors, you can buy these kinds of goods locally, giving back to businesses in your community in the process.