How to Be an Environmentally Conscious Bride
By Lorna Urwin

15 September 2016

As consumers, we are constantly making decisions that affect the world we live in. By supporting businesses or products that align with our values (whether those be eco friendly, organic, cruelty free, or fair trade) we are ‘voting with our wallets’ and sending a message about what matters in the things we buy.

Image by Once Like A Spark Photography 

It’s no secret that the wedding industry is a big business. There’s often a considerable amount of money spent, resources consumed and waste produced. For the environmentally conscious consumer (or even someone who doesn’t subscribe to that label), your wedding is an opportunity to make these big decisions count. If every engaged couple made just one green change in their wedding, the positive impact on the industry (and the world) would be staggering. So remember the classic green mantra: ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ and think about whether the following green tips and ideas could work for you!

1/ A green philosophy

Image by Anna Zajac Photography

There are as many green weddings as there are engaged couples, but they all begin with your own particular environmental concerns or priorities. It may come down to simple choices - simplicity over extravagance, local over imported, organic over chemical, recycled over new. It may be a commitment to minimise waste and carbon emissions. It may be about where your money goes – towards worthy causes and businesses – or where it doesn’t go – towards damaging or corrupt enterprises. Perhaps it encompasses all of the above! 

Try to keep your philosophy in mind at every step of the wedding planning process and share your preferences with any suppliers you use. This will enable them to best support you with any green alternatives or solutions they can offer. 

2/ Location

Image by Siaosi Photography

If possible, hold your wedding local to the majority of guests. This reduces fuel emissions from most of those travelling on the day. Holding the ceremony and reception in the same venue further reduces pollution. If two venues cannot be avoided, however, consider supplying transport for your guests to travel together (perhaps in a beautiful vintage bus or an earth-friendly hybrid vehicle). You could also encourage guests to carpool or take public transport to the wedding.

When choosing your specific venue, explore options that allow you to contribute towards something valuable, whether that’s community events and projects or the local economy - perhaps a non-profit art gallery, ecological centre or a vineyard on a local farm. Aesthetics should play an important role, too. If you find a location with a look you already love, you’ll save time, resources and effort when adding décor on the day!

3/ Dresses

Images by Annabelle Antas

A dress is one of the most exciting things you will invest in for your wedding. It’s important to find one that fits your values as well as your figure. Educate yourself about where dresses were made (and in what conditions) and about the materials used. Traditional silk can be morally questionable given the production process, while polyester is made from petrochemicals and the sustainability credentials behind its production are highly variable. Consider eco-friendly and natural alternatives like peace silk, bamboo or organic cotton.

Avoid these issues altogether by opting for vintage, heirloom or second-hand dresses. From bohemian 70s style to classic 30s glamour, there’s much to be said for unearthing styles from decades gone by and reimagining them for your wedding today (especially when, with the help of a seamstress, you can tailor the dress to your own taste and size). With second hand, you stand to save a considerable amount of money for a dress that will only have been worn once. 

Whether you choose second hand or new, selling or donating your dress after the wedding is a lovely way to continue your positive impact by allowing it to be reused by someone else.

4/ Less, or recyclable, paper

Images by Larissa Cleveland Photography and Anna Peters Photography

You’d be amazed by how much paper is involved in a wedding - from save-the-dates and invitations to place cards, programs, menus and signage. This is especially worrying given the environmental impact of deforestation, the loss of biodiversity, the pollution, and the abundance of non-recyclable, even toxic, waste created by the paper industry.

If you aren’t afraid to forego tradition, going electronic for your invitations is the perfect start to a paperless wedding. You needn’t sacrifice the style of a paper design – an electronic version can easily retain much of the visual quality of a physical invitation. It’ll just be saved as a high-res image instead. The advantages are numerous – you’ll save money on printing and postage, plus guests’ RSVPs can be returned to you instantly, whether via an email reply or an online form on your wedding website.

If you’re set on paper invitations, there are plenty of ways to make them more eco friendly. Think green and choose recycled paper (the most eco-sensitive option is post-consumer recycled) or look for paper with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. Or think green-fingered and choose recyclable ‘seeded’ paper – paper embedded with seeds that will produce flowers or herbs when planted. Using vegetable-based inks is another simple but valuable change to mitigate environmental impact. 

5/ Décor 

Images by Belathée Photography and The Great Romance Photo

When it comes to floral decorations, avoid contributing to pollution (from pesticide use) and emissions (from imports) by choosing local, seasonal blooms and asking if your florist can provide organic flowers. For centrepieces, use potted flowers, herbs or topiaries rather than cut flowers – these can go on to continued use and are lovely items to give away after the celebration, either to guests or to local hospitals. If you prefer, small pots also make sweet wedding favours that double up as placecards when set on the table.

For other pieces, explore rental or borrowing options before buying anything new. Things like china, glasses and napkins can often be hired from your venue or from a local supplier. For a delightfully thrifty look, try recycling versatile glassware like jam jars, mason jars or bottles for use as candle or decoration holders, or even drinking glasses.