20 Tips for a Low-Waste Wedding

If you want to lower the carbon footprint of your big day, you’ll love these tips for a low-waste wedding.

Each one gets you as close to (if not absolutely at) a zero-waste event as possible.

Bonus: they’ll help you save money so you can spend it on fun stuff, like a really romantic honeymoon!

Let’s check them out!

Tips for Hosting a Low-Waste Wedding

Did you know that the average wedding produces about 400 pounds of garbage?

With 2.3 million weddings taking place every year in the US, that adds up to an astounding 1 BILLION pounds of trash every single year.

The fact that you’re here looking for tips on hosting a low-waste wedding means you already know that something has to change.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do that significantly lower the carbon footprint of your wedding without sacrificing your dream.

Most of them won’t cost anything extra. In fact, the majority actually save you money. Let’s get started and see what they are.

If you want to lower the carbon footprint of your big day, you'll love these tips for a low-waste wedding.

1. Choose rings with a conscience

From your engagement rings to your wedding bands, a low-waste wedding begins with what you put in your hands (rhyme totally unintentional).

The most sustainable wedding rings choice of all, of course, are used rings. Now, that’s not as bad as it sounds, don’t worry!

Start by asking your close family members (parents & grandparents) if they have something special and meaningful that they’d love to pass down.

If that doesn’t work, consider vintage rings with personality. If nothing but brand-new will do, then start looking into ethical jewelers.

2. Ditch the destination

Unless by some miracle every single person you know and love lives in the same town, no matter where you wed, someone will have to travel.

However, when you choose a destination wedding, EVERYONE has to travel. That alone significantly raises the carbon footprint of your wedding.

3. Go the e-vite route for most invitations

I hate to break it to you, but, aside from your parents, all of your guests will save that wedding invite right up until the big day. After that, it goes in the trash.

Save the trees as well as your time and money by sending digital invitations. Some are just as beautiful as the real deal. Check our top picks on the best sustainable wedding invitations.

4. Use seed paper for the guests that need paper invites

If you really feel like your parents would treasure a paper invite or your great Aunt Sally wouldn’t be able to figure out an evite, then go ahead and send out a few real ones.

Just make sure you use eco-friendly paper for the printing.. Seed paper is my top choice, since it’s meant to be planted. Recycled paper is the next best thing, though.

25 Seed Embedded Recycled Lotka Printer Paper
  • Embedded with wildflower seeds
  • 8.5" x 11" light weight paper stock ~ 20lb
  • Will sprout under proper conditions

5. Trim your guestlist

Logically speaking, the fewer guests you have, the lower your wedding’s carbon footprint will be.

Consider having a smaller, more intimate affair, especially if you simply can’t give up your dream of a destination wedding.

You can even pare it down to just the essential guests (your parents and wedding party, for example), then live-stream it for everyone else.

6. Let nature do the decorating

Choose a beautiful outdoor wedding location and let nature handle all the decor.

Some ideas include a garden, beach, park, or even your back yard! Each one offers something truly unique in the decor department.

7. Go with local vendors

From bouquets to cakes to caterers, go with local vendors as much as possible.

Not only is this a great way to have a low-waste wedding, but you’ll be supporting your local economy, too.

Bonus- when you go local, if something goes wrong you can get it fixed right away.

8. Create a greener registry

Think beyond just having a low-waste wedding and plan for a “greener” future with your true love by carefully choosing what goes on your registry.

A few examples include:

  • Items made with sustainable materials (like bamboo towels).
  • Appliances with the Energy Star seal.
  • Fair trade home decor items (NOVICA is a great source)

Need a more specific example? I personally love these Artisan Crafted Recycled Glass Wine Goblets!

NOVICA Artisan Crafted Recycled Glass Clear Blue Rim Hand Blown Wine Goblets Glasses, 10 Oz. 'Acapulco' (Set Of 6)
  • Size: 7.25" H x 3.5" Diam.
  • Authentic: an original NOVICA fair trade product in association with National Geographic.
  • Certified: comes with an official NOVICA Story Card certifying quality & authenticity.

9. Skip gifts entirely and ask for cash

It may sound uncouth to ask your guests to give you money instead of gifts, but it’s definitely greener (and not just in the punny sense).

If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, ask your best man or maid of honor to relay the message.

10. Serve organic or in-season foods (or both!)

As you plan your wedding menu, try to stick with organic foods as much as possible.

Yes, they’re more expensive, but the eco-friendly payoff is well worth the extra cost.

If you really can’t afford the price hike (it’s so unfair that eating healthier costs more than the alternative), then at least go with in-season items.

That goes for everything from the veggies in your salad course to the fruits in your cake!

11. Make your open bar more eco-friendly

Eco-friendly booze? You betcha! There are a couple of ways to make your open bar a bit “greener.”

Again, start by going local. Buy beer from small breweries and wine from local wineries.

For the liquor, either buy organic booze itself (ChowHound has a list to get you started) or use organic, in-season mixers.

For example, have the bartender fresh-squeeze juice from real fruit rather than just using frozen concentrate OJ.

12. Set a simple yet classy table

Don’t let your tables ruin all that hard work you just put into choosing a low-waste wedding menu!

Just say “no” to linen tablecloths, paper seating cards, disposable centerpieces and other wasteful items.

Instead, choose tables that look great bare (rustic wood, for example). Limit linens to just the napkins (FYI, linen is better than cotton).

For place cards, use natural items. Some examples:

  • Leaves for a rustic fall wedding
  • Seashells for a beach wedding
  • Beautiful stones for a garden wedding (paint them with earth-friendly paint or just leave them bare)

13. Give out low-waste wedding favors

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Look, I don’t mean to sound harsh, but the vast majority of wedding favors end up in the trash as soon as your guests get home.

I’m sorry, but I don’t really need a teaspoon with your name and wedding date on it. Nor do I need more coasters, shot glasses, or wine goblets.

I absolutely LOVED my brother and sister-in-law’s zero-waste wedding favors, though.

Rather than handing out boxes and bags filled with random stuff to every guest, they set up a big basket of beautiful local handmade soaps.

Guests took what they wanted. If you didn’t want one, no worries. I took like 20 of them (I waited until everyone was gone and asked first!).

If you don’t have a local soapmaker, try these from Amazon Handmade.

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14. …or give one great meaningful favor

low-waste wedding favors

For close friends and family who actually would like something to remember your big day, choose great sustainable wedding gift ideas.

My sister-in-law gave all of us bridesmaids really neat pottery mugs made by a local artisan. Something like this (not quite, but similar).

Clay in Motion Handwarmer Mug - Right Hand (Mystic Waters)
  • Right Handed Mystic Water Handwarmer Mug
  • Clay In Motion
  • 5" tall

15. Rent, don’t buy

From chairs for seating to wedding arches to tuxes and even sustainable wedding dresses, if you can rent, don’t buy!

Pretty straight-forward, right? I don’t think it needs further explanation.

16. Let your wedding party dress themselves

Rather than stick all your bridesmaid in the same dress that they’ll never, ever wear again, let them choose their own outfits.

Give them a few guidelines, of course (unless you want a totally eclectic look) For example, choose a specific color but let them pick the style.

My sister-in-law let all of us bridesmaids choose any gray or silver dress we wanted, then she put us all in the same shoes.

The effect was lovely and no one ended up with an ugly or uncomfortable dress that they’d shove in the back of their closet for all eternity.

17. Set up recycling bins

Setting up recycling containers sounds like a no-brainer, but I’ve been to quite a few weddings that only had trash cans.

Everything from food to paper to plastic to soda cans went into the same waste heap.

18. Repurpose and reuse

Before you buy a single thing, ask yourself “can I reuse or repurpose this in some way?” If the answer is no, re-evaluate whether you seriously need it.

This article has some really clever ideas on reusing your wedding decor, while this one helps you repurpose your flowers.

19. Go on a green honeymoon

So, you’ve managed to plan the perfect low-waste wedding, and not there’s only one thing left to do- honeymoon!

Don’t let all that hard work go down the drain now. Choose an eco-conscious getaway!

Start by looking close to home for your dream honeymoon. If nothing appeals to you, head to one of these eco-friendly destinations.

20. Consider eloping!

Still feel like your wedding’s carbon footprint is too high even after following all those tips? Elope!

Seriously, there’s no better way to have a low-waste wedding than to have no wedding at all.

Plus, it’s incredibly romantic and a lot less stressful, so your big day really will be all about YOU.

If you want to lower the carbon footprint of your big day, you'll love these tips for a low-waste wedding.

Do you have any other great tips for a low-waste wedding? Share below!

Last update on 2024-02-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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