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Organizing a zero-waste wedding that is more eco-friendly and more sustainable, should not be more complicated. In fact, it can be cheaper and less of a headache if you decide to consider a minimalistic theme. We say ‘I do’ to sustainability & prioritize eco-friendly choices for your big day!
Move on from the excess that comes with weddings and get creative instead. Thinking about the planet on your big day doesn’t have to mean not having a great time and celebrating important moments. It just means thinking about how your actions could be tweaked in order to have as little of an impact as possible. In this step-by-step guide, we share all the tips, ideas, and principles you need to know to organize a zero-waste wedding.
Good News! Madeleine Wisecup, founder and host of The Wise Consumer and Maxime Ducker, co-founder of Ourgoodbrands have recorded a new episode “Mad & Max try to save the world” in which we talk about Zero Waste Weddings. A quote we loved of Madeleine “Being sustainable is a by-product of cheap” Enjoy this fun conversation with first-hand tips, handy ideas and ethical brands.
Zero Waste Wedding: What are the principles
- Rent whenever possible
- Upcycle & DIY for original ideas
- Reuse & repurpose as a gift
- Recycle & compost
- Re-sell second hand or donate
- Say no single-use (especially plastic)
- Choose a minimalist theme, vintage is a trend
- Support sustainable brands
- Reduce guest list
The venue is going to set the foundations of your weddings, and working with a venue that has the capacity to facilitate your zero waste wedding will make your life much easier. Keep sustainability in mind choosing a venue: see if they are able to work with you, accommodate your theme and all those extras that we will also explain in this low-waste wedding guide.
- A venue that will allow you to create & bring your own eco-friendly extras, including DIY and zero-waste solutions for your wedding
- Help you to ensure composting & recycling services, and if not available, that could help you to facilitate that with an external source.
- If the venue of your choice is on a farm, a house or in the open bush, why not getting married under a tree just to keep it minimal & skip the arch.
- If possible, look if the venue has large-sized tables available, as it reduces the number of per-table decors required, such as linen, table number signs, and floral centerpieces. If extra linens are needed for your table, you can opt for inexpensive table runners or tablecloths but with good quality that you can still reuse if you have other events or gatherings.
- Does the venue consider using eco-friendly cleaning alternatives? If your wedding is not in a hotel or a restaurant, and you choose an intimate space, surely you can bring your own DIY cleaning products or eco-friendlier brands.
- The option to bring your zero waste bathroom products, such as hand wash soaps and other eco sanitary items, which could include sustainable toilet paper.
- Most of the venues will require power, so look for LEED-certified venues, or use renewable energy sources or any other valuable effort to reduce the low carbon footprint.
Ethical Jewellery & Wedding Rings
A diamond is meant to represent the ultimate symbol of love. Yet the mining of diamonds has devastating effects on our environment. Not only is mining harmful to our land and oceans, but the industry has also been tarnished by human rights issues and unfair labor practices. “A diamond is forever” so let love be your legacy – not your carbon footprint!
Some tips are to look for conflict-free gems, ethically made, handmade, or even upcycled…
The point is, there are plenty of options, so definitely you should put some research on some jewelry brands and wedding rings. Here some good examples:
- Lab-grown diamonds – Gemifique
- Ethically-sourced & made jewelry FTJco
- Ethical artisan jewelry Melissa Joy Manning; Bario Neal; Foe & Dear
- Eco-friendly vintage rings Trumpet & Horn
- Should we include another good brand on this list? Share on the comments below!
Ethically-made Wedding Dress, Gown & Suit
Attire and etiquette is a big thing at weddings. Everyone is dressed to impress, but we believe style is not against a more eco-friendly and a more ethical fashion. And we have incredibly good news because there are plenty of choices. Here some of our recommendations:
- Simple: rent and don’t buy. Truth is that we put a lot of value in a wedding dress because it is almost the most special element for the bride (and we understand that!). We think it’s worth mentioning the fact that you only wear your wedding dress ONCE. And there are options for men too so we managed to find some specific renting options for suit and tux: The Black Tux; Generation Tux.
- If you end up buying the dress of your dreams and you are happy to not keep it, then consider selling it afterward (with a positive, you get some money back!). Donating is also another option.
- Buy vintage or second-hand dresses, with the ultimate benefit that your spendings will drastically reduce!
- Find a local designer that is entirely composed of recycled materials, up-cycled or sustainable fabrics.
- Find your favorite ethically-made wedding dress brand, here some recommendations for ethical bridal collections and preloved dresses: Dressarte, Reformation, Nearly Newly Wed, Indie Bride London, Wear Your Love XO, Saldana Vintage, Leanne Marshall
- Encourage your friends and relatives to consider any of the above, or even better, to wear something they already own.
- Should we include another good brand on this list? Share on the comments below!
Makeup & Beauty
Okay, this one is pretty easy! For makeup just look for vegan, cruelty-free beauty brands. And the good news, is that there is a lot of options for natural, organic & ethically made! Even better, consider those brands that also use more sustainable packaging, from plastic-free options, reusables and if plastic, then recyclable.
At The Detox Market & Credo Beauty marketplaces, you can find plenty of more sustainable options. Like zero waste make-up brands: Kjaer Weis or Elate. We also love Coconut Matter’s natural lipsticks, which work perfectly for lips & blush!
In this Beauty Gift-set Guide, you will find natural and organic beauty brands that you should keep in your loop!
And if you want to go much deeper, our favorite zero waste hair & body care is the brand Plaine Products. In this guide for organic hair care brands find some good recommendations of ethically sourced alternatives. And if you want to take it one step further you can even foster your DIY make-up.
Paperless & Eco-friendly Invitations
Weddings require tons of paper, BUT in this section is where we can get truly creative!
DIY, upcycling and truly unique ideas to make out of your wedding a masterpiece.
Sending out invitations and all the table cards, and menus required on the big day is something that you just cannot skip (it’s called “organizing” a wedding!) and if you have hundreds of guests this sure adds up quickly. Consider recycled or sustainably sourced paper, recyclable materials and non-toxic inks.
No excuse, because there are many eco-friendly ways to make it truly special. FUN, so let’s dig into these:
- Wedding invitations (and possibly the rehearsal dinner invitations). Try paperless, recycled, or sustainable paper/ink invitations. If you still want to use paper and send them out, here’s an idea: before you make them, create an opt-in RSVP digitally.
- Programs & Menus: redecorate recycled boards with your personal wedding concept. Hang a few around with beverage & menu choices, the wedding program. Top tip: include cute messages for your guests.
- Table Cards: thrive with Etsy’s artisans’ marketplace with plenty of small brands and independent designers that will offer you a large range of materials and customization. The other option is to DIY (pssst Pinterest is the best way to find your ideas).
Always keep the idea in mind of second hand, renting, or at the least, to reduce, reuse and recycle. If you want to make it truly special think of options that you can keep or gift afterward.
A must-have for every wedding: decoration. It will set the mood of your theme and be present in the memorable photos of this special day!
- Look for a space that already has decor or needs minimal rentals.
- Rent your decoration including jars, vases, linen and other decorative elements. Some small local companies may even customize it for you!
- Choose wedding decor items you can repurpose for your home.
- Skip the rice (and the food waste at all)!
- Use dried flower petals in place of confetti. Or DIY confetti with leaves!
- Cut out the balloons and floating lanterns: both can be incredibly harmful to the environment. Balloons are not biodegradable and some poor animals could potentially swallow them. And as much as I love floating lanterns, they can also pose a fire hazard to your guests, hurt animals, or cause forest fires.
- Use fresh herbs as eco-friendly wedding centerpieces, to keep or gift, and also allow your beloved guests to sprinkle on their food.
- Choose ethical or beeswax candles brands, as it is a natural and long-lasting choice (without all the toxic chemicals that are released into the air when we burn them). We love the brand M&J London, it’s a spark of holistic aromas!
Reusable Utensils & Glassware
Your wedding theme, the venue & decoration will guide your choice of utensils and glassware. Better if you own it already, or find ways to upcycle, DIY, keep it or gift it!
Here are some ways to make it more sustainable:
- The number one option should be to choose cloth napkins, real plates, and silverware (remember renting options!).
- Avoid throw-away or single-use cutlery. If that’s the option that works best for you, then buy bamboo cutlery, banana leaf plates… and make sure to compost them accordingly.
- The glassware for drinks, avoid single-use. A cool idea is to upcycle jars and write names on each guest glass (get them to take it home!). Ultimately, this will avoid a waste of drinks!
Flowers is another category that could fit in decoration, yet there are so many ways to approach it that it deserves its own chapter:
- Reduce flowers to the minimum
- Gift plants to your wedding party, close friends and family
- Or fill your home with the flowers after the one-day event.
- Decorate with potted plants – especially succulents, as you can grow them at home yourself *pssst! Perfect gift!
- Say no to exotic or out of season flowers that need to be shipped halfway across the country.
- Choose instead your native flowers, and save some money!
- You won’t believe this, but yes: rent your flowers at Bloomrent.
Put some high-dose of love into these gifts, and here is where there are infinite of options, it’s time to get really excited:
- There are great DIY options which you can personalize, for him, for here, small, cute, or with a purpose, there are no cookie cutters here so grab your tablet and spend some time on Pinterest to find your inspiration!
- Help the bees by gifting bee-friendly potted herbs and flowers.
- Sponsor trees in the names of your guests.
- A kit of reusable straws so they can use it for their drinks!
- A pro tip is to leave out your wedding date and names as your guests are more likely to re-use something they can show off in their home.
Food & Cake
There are many ways to approach the food menu for your big day, but being mindful of food waste is a non-negotiable if you truly want to succeed with your zero waste wedding. Here some ideas and recommendations:
- Get in touch with a catering organization and mention the fact you wish to completely avoid food waste for this event. If they are like “nnnaaahh…” then skip and call the next one. Working with a catering company that respects your sustainable values is key here!
- Plan a locally-grown menu, and work with caterers who support local farmers and choose seasonal foods.
- Serve a delicious vegan spread, as plant-based meals can reduce your carbon footprint dramatically (they are 50% less water-intensive, healthy, and kinder to animals).
- Consider offering a buffet-style banquet, so that people can choose the flavors of preference as well as the amount of food they can actually eat. The bonus is that by doing this you will keep your guests happy!
- Let’s be honest, it is so complicated to cater for everyone’s taste and level of hunger without having leftovers – because there will be. The best way to address this is by encouraging guests to fill up the up-cycled glass jars to take away some of the delicious food to have a ready-to-go lunch the next day (or week!)
- Get in touch with a local organization that rescues food that would otherwise be thrown out. One of our favorites based in Australia is OzHarvest.
- Buy a smaller-sized cake from a locally handmade by a small business – as you will be supporting the local economy, and probably have a much tastier and special cake as well!
Drinky-drinky, is well to be ensured at any wedding, and something most guests is looking forward to! If you thought that there’s not much to do in this area, you will be surprised with these tips:
- Look for locally sourced alcohol, such as a local brewery, winery or distillery to support the local community.
- What about a drinktruck? There are plenty of hiring options, just a little tip to ensure ethically sourced brands and ensure proper disposal of single-use waste.
- If you can avoid individual cans or bottles, and choose kegs instead, that will have a dramatic decrease in waste. If that’s not an option, make sure you recycle each of the packagings, and even better if you can benefit from a resource scheme form.
- Lookup for ethical beverage brands, as you will be surprised how many were actually born with a mission. Some of our favorites are Sparkke, Elephant Gin, Fair Drinks, Fatty’s Organic Gin, Brewgooder, Toast Brewery, Karma Cola.
- And of course, coffee or tea for the table talk! There are many options of fair trade & sustainably sourced coffee brands some of our favorites are Coromandel Coast, WYLDE Coffee, Oliver and Edie or the tea brand Wild Tea Qi.
Disposal & Compost
We already touched base on the venue, food and beverage chapters on the importance of disposal (this is why it’s called a zero-waste wedding!). Let’s go through the options:
- Make sure that your venue is on board with the recycling and composting requirements (best is to have this signed in your contract!)
- Set up a food and waste recycling station at your venue the day before.
- Clearly label each recycling station, with something like: “Food Waste”, “Dry compostables” (such as paper plates, napkins, toothpicks) and “Recycling” (cans, bottles, cardboard, glass, tin)
- If you can, donate compostables to local garden groups
- Ensure your wedding event provides ashtrays for the cigarettes, as most likely some people will have the habit to smoke.
Travel & Transport
Many forget about this point, but nowadays most of the weddings involve guests flying from different parts of the world. Even though it will be best to keep out town guests to a minimum, we know you will just want to have your favorite people at your wedding no matter what! So here are some recommendations for your zero-waste wedding:
- Choose a venue that is close by to avoid you and your guests traveling as much as possible.
- If people have to travel, most of the time it also requires accommodation. Coordinate an eco-friendly accommodation and preferably if everyone stays at the same hotel, as that will ultimately involve not driving around with empty vehicles.
- Even better if you can coordinate a shuttle bus to the venue that can eventually pick up your guests if they end up staying at different destinations (also better for your guests as most will prefer to have a few drinks).
We truly hope this zero waste wedding guide was helpful. Save it on your favourites to go back ever
If you have more tips you’d like to share with us make sure to leave a comment below!