Shortly after we got engaged my husband and I decided we wanted our wedding to reflect our values. It was tempting to let our wedding be an exception to the way we try to live—after all, it’s a one-time event. That, though, is ultimately why we worked hard to have a green wedding.
Making sustainable choices for our wedding was challenging at times, especially as we hosted a very low-cost celebration. However, it turned out that the green wedding choices we made often ended up being cheap-wedding choices. And not only was our wedding cheap and green—it was also beautiful. We weren’t perfect, of course, but we did what we could to host a really fun celebration that we could feel good about.
Mr. M. and I have now been married almost five years! While our wedding was just a celebration marking the start of our marriage, and I am glad that I can look back at it with a clear conscience.
11 gorgeous ideas for a green wedding
These are some of the (very budget) things we did to make our green wedding a success. This post contains affiliate links, which help support GWR at no cost to you. Thank you!
Grow your own flowers
Unless you’re getting married in January, growing your flowers is an easy way to keep costs down. Besides, isn’t a fresh local bouquet just more awesome than one imported from Columbia?
Now, there is a certain art to putting bouquets together. So, if you’re not familiar with flowers—or have a friend who is—you’re probably better outsourcing this job. There is a vendor at our farmers market who crafts the most lovely bouquets out of her own blooms for a fraction of a normal price. But even your neighbourhood florist should be able to tell you what is in season and where it comes from. You can also consider a timeless bouquet made from old broaches, paper, dried flowers, or fabric.
Choose ethical wedding rings
There aren’t many aspects of a wedding that are more symbolic than the rings. I had let Mr. M. know that an ethically sourced ring was essential to me. In our case, my wedding band was secondhand and my engagement ring was custom designed using an old family stone. I love them.
We were lucky to have a local jeweler who does wonderful work very reasonably. If you’re not keen on vintage rings you can look into Canadian stones, or something altogether unique. Etsy is a great place to start. I love this twig wedding ring set. Etsy let’s you contact the creators directly to ask any questions. The sellers I’ve listed here give ethical information right in their profiles. Wooden rings are another fantastic option, especially for the man’s band.
Rent, beg, borrow, or source secondhand
This is my top suggestion for ways to save money and stay eco-friendly as you plan your wedding. The best thing we did for our green wedding was to borrow tableware from our local thrift shop. They saved us over 200 table settings for a reasonable donation. If you’re using a caterer they’ll provide real tableware. Linens, napkins, chair covers, etc. can be rented.
I found lots of items for our green wedding on a local BST Facebook group. I was also lucky to get a beautiful aisle runner secondhand. You can check Kijiji or Craigslist, especially if you’re in a bigger centre. Wedding items are only needed for single use, so you can often find them used for a fraction of the price. Bonus points if you can find a dress you love secondhand!
Serve local food, or find a caterer who does
Food is a central piece of any wedding reception. Mr. M. and I couldn’t afford a caterer, but fortunately we knew lots of wonderful women who helped us put together a feast. My mother accomplished the fantastic feat of growing almost all the vegetables we needed. My sister baked our cake using homegrown butter and eggs.
Of course, not everyone has the help and space to grow their own green wedding fare. However, you can ask local producers for pricing on large orders. You might be surprised to find that it is comparable. If you are getting catering put some thought into hiring a business that can source locally. The most deliciously memorable wedding food I’ve had (and I’ve been to many weddings) was catered by a bistro that served local vegetarian/vegan food.
Be intentional with decor
We hosted a DIY outdoor reception. Our centerpieces were tealights inside mason jars wrapped in secondhand lace. While mason jars aren’t unique the are reusable and cheap. I also had local cherries on every table, which were gorgeous, free, and delicious. Throughout the trees I used secondhand paper lanterns and fairy lights.
As our wedding was outdoors there wasn’t really much embellishment needed. When you are choosing decor look for local products, up-cycled pieces, and used items.
Choose sustainable favours
Of all the wedding favours you’ve ever received, which ones do you remember? It is the functional favours that everyone can use that come to my mind. One new couple sent us home with little paper bags of handcrafted soap (like these). I also still have a cute little succulent on my window sill from a wedding last year.
At our wedding we gave out wild crafted and organic tea from a local company. It was cost effective, and was certainly low impact. Treat favours as an opportunity to send guests home with a reminder of your green wedding. You can also check Etsy’s DIY Wedding Guide for other ideas on favours, invites, and decor.
Make use of what you already own
A wedding is a fun opportunity to go out and get a new stuff. I get it. However, the cost of all the extras adds up. My bridesmaids all wore “natural-colour” sandals that were their own. I used jewelry and makeup that was already mine. After all, you’ll need something old and something borrowed anyway.
Take this suggestion even farther. Our ring bearer had the rings on a carabiner clip from Mr. M.’s climbing rack. We signed our papers at my school desk that was stored in the basement. We put flowers in jars that were already in my collection.
Get unique with your gift requests
Our family attended a wedding last summer where the bride and groom gave their guests the option of making a donation to a specific organization in lieu of a gift. It was a compelling decision on their part, and one that made a definite impression. I have never known another couple to take such a significant and meaningful step with their wedding gifts.
The other suggestion I have (which we did) is to use a registry site that allows you to upload from any source. We used myregistry.com. These types of sites allow you to build a registry from retailers of your choice, so you can choose local sellers (if they’re online), ethical products, handcrafted items, etc. They also allow guests to mark an item as purchased, regardless of where they found it.
Don’t use disposables, or choose compostable items
When choosing items for your green wedding it’s best to focus on reducing and reusing. However, should you need to use a single-use product you should look for something compostable. If you don’t do your own composting (it’s super easy) then most urban areas have green-bin pickup. We did paper napkins because cloth just wasn’t feasible for us. I’ve been to weddings that used “wooden” cutlery.
Do e-invites and thank yous, or use sustainable materials
I totally understand wanting to send out physical invites. I do, and I did. However, do a little research before you put everything in the mail. Make some calls to local design/print shops to see what sort of green options they offer. If you’re particularly creative and motivated you could make your designs yourself. You can even order beautiful recycled-paper invitations from Etsy. (Seriously, if you’re getting married make an Etsy account).
Save-the-date is a good place to consider sending e-notices. It will also save money on postage. And don’t forget thank yous! Just apply the same standards to these that you did for your invitations.
Have a local, joyous, and green wedding
Of course, having your guests travel less will result in a more green wedding. However, if you have long dreamed of a destination wedding then just use it as an opportunity to pare down your guest list to your very nearest and dearest.
Wherever you hold your wedding, try to host as local and significant a party as possible. There are a million little details you get to plan. Have fun with it! And don’t let your values get lost in the crazy. As long as you have a good time, and make some great memories, your green wedding will be an outrageous success. Even if you don’t, you’ll end up married. So that is success on it’s own!
Now, just a lifetime to look forward to.
May thanks to Quinn Hystad Photography. Quinn took beautiful photos of our own wedding, including the ones that are featured in this post.