Back to Checklists
- Identify what you consider the most important aspects of the ceremony and reception to help prioritize where it’s best to splurge on green alternatives and where it’s easiest to cut back on costs and impacts.
- Study your guest list. Big weddings can be environmentally friendly, but one of the easiest ways to reduce your impact is to limit the number of people you invite.
- Look at what you can cut from your budget. Many items such as bubbles, limousines, additional meal and dessert choices, elaborate centerpieces, favors, and other “extras” not only create unnecessary waste, but they require extra time, planning, money, and decision-making. This can add a great deal of stress to an already stressful time.
- Look for items that can be reused. Can you give the centerpieces away as gifts after the reception? Can you reuse candles or other decorations in your home? Would you consider potted plants instead of cut flowers? Can you find a dress or suit you’ll be able to wear again?
- Choose 100% recycled or tree-free papers for your save-the-date cards and invitations. Many companies offer them, the selection is excellent, and you can often save on expenses by printing and/or assembling them yourself. Most copy shops also carry 100% post-consumer recycled papers though you must sometimes ask in advance to make sure it is in stock.
- Consider heirloom, antique, or recycled metal rings. Several environmentally sensitive jewelry companies exist online; a good local jeweler should also be able to create a new ring from jewelry you already own.
- Consider having your ceremony and/or reception at a location that supports the environment, such as a local park or a nonprofit organization. This is typically the second-largest wedding expense and a chance to devote your rental fees toward a cause that you support.
- Alternately, consider having several smaller celebrations instead of one big party. By you and your partner traveling to a few places where your family and friends live, you save the greenhouse gas emissions generated by everyone driving and flying to you—and you get to celebrate for a week or two instead of just one day. This can save the expense of renting a hall if you can borrow a few back yards from friends instead.
- Choose a caterer and baker that are familiar with organic and local food options (see our separate checklist on what to ask prospective caterers). This is typically the largest wedding expense and a chance to shift money and expectations toward sustainable choices.
- Consider second-hand dresses and suits, for the couple as well as the attendants. This may pose logistical issues with more than one bridesmaid, but many men have black suits and white shirts in their closets that will match. Many vintage stores specialize in bridal gowns and everyone from eBay to free weekly papers has options. Look early and often for best results.
- Alternately, consider an organic cotton or hemp dress or suit, available through environmentally conscious online retailers. If nothing strikes your fancy, you can also purchase organic fabric and have these items custom made.
- Ask vendors at your farmers’ market which flowers will be in season at the time of your event date and if local growers can provide pesticide-free blooms in the quantity you need. If not, consider getting smaller quantities of several types of local flowers, perhaps even supplementing them with some from your garden or friends’ gardens.
- Consider supporting local breweries and vintners. Make dates with friends for brewery tours and wine tastings to sample the options in your area. (This is also a fun treat if you’ve just subjected a group of your closest friends to dress or tuxedo fittings.)
- Ask your photographer(s) to use digital cameras. Avoid leaving disposable cameras on guest tables at the reception (which are wasteful and rarely take worthwhile pictures) and request instead that a few key friends and family members bring digital cameras and share their best pictures with you after the honeymoon. You may be surprised by how many options you’ll have; this will allow you to make prints only of the ones you truly want.
- Find green hotels to accommodate your out-of-town guests by searching www.greenhotels.com and www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com. Better yet, ask local friends and family with spare bedrooms if they would be willing to share their home for a couple of days. It’s a way to forge or strengthen friendships while eliminating the need for all of those little soaps, shampoo bottles, extra heating/air conditioning, et cetera.
- Consider arranging carpools or preparing public transportation maps to help guests to the wedding site.
- Look for local vacation packages and/or sustainable travel options for the honeymoon. Avoid flying if possible, since it is one of the worst sources of greenhouse gas emissions. And don’t forget the carbon offsets!
Back to Checklists