We have spoken before about the changes we have made to our business to help us be more Green. This has always been well received by our couples. Together, we are helping to change the wedding industry for the better. Changing expectations and changing what “normal” means when it comes to the delivery of products and services.
Weddings are often seen as opulent events, and therefore the notion of “stuff” is somewhat ingrained in our expectations. The more stuff, the better. Quantity favoured over quality. Most of us can agree however, that for such an important occasion, quality if definitely more important. This realisation has been key in our transition to becoming a more environmentally friendly business.
It’s OK because weddings are a “one off”
In the wedding world, extravagance and waste is usually justified by saying that weddings are a “one off” event. If you can’t indulge or cast aside waste worry on your wedding day, when can you? It’s a time to be selfish and indulgent, a time to celebrate you. It’s “OK” to be a little wasteful because it’s a one off. The same justification is used for increased expenditure.
When you stop to consider however that millions of weddings take place each year, with almost 240,000 taking place in the UK alone in 2015, that’s a lot of “one off” waste. Especially when you consider weddings happen each and every year.
So what steps can you take to ensure that your wedding is as environmentally friendly as possible? You may not be planning an all out ECO wedding, but we can all do our bit. Small changes at every wedding equates to one big change.
Little changes make a big difference to the environment
If every wedding (not guest, the wedding as a whole) used just 10 less paper napkins for example, that would be 2.4 million less napkins used at the end of the year. How many trees would that save? How much water waste and pollution would that prevent? Just 10 napkins per wedding.
And that is just a drop in the ocean of what could be achieved if we all made a conscious effort to be more environmentally friendly.
Being more environmentally friendly isn’t about going without
Being environmentally friendly doesn’t necessarily mean going without, or cutting back though. It can mean making simple swaps or more eco friendly choices. I am by no means an expert in this area, far from it. I still have a long, long way to go in both my personal and professional life before I could ever say I live a waste free life, but I am trying and I care. And I believe wholeheartedly that most of us care and most of us want to do more. We just aren’t always sure how. It can be so overwhelming. Presented as all or nothing. It’s a lot to take in.
So below, i’m going to give some of the small changes that you can make on your wedding day, to help you have a more environmentally friendly wedding. If you like this post and feel that others may find it useful, please feel free to share it.
What small changes or swaps can you make for a more eco wedding?
Confetti is a wedding favourite. Traditional, pretty and joyful. If you’re marrying at one of the few wedding venues that do still allow confetti with no restrictions, then there are some things you can do to ensure that this part of the day is as kind as can be.
Firstly, ban the plastic stuff. Ask guests to refrain from bringing it and instead ask them to bring real petals (fresh or dried) Better yet provide your own and place it all in one big basket so guests can take a handful each- eliminating the need for individual, single use packaging or boxes. Autumn weddings look great with colourful leaves, so you can use these too! This tends to make for a much better confetti photograph anyway. With cones guests usually either jab them towards you, or fling them like they’re ringing a bell- which doesn’t help the confetti to fly too well. Nice big handfuls look great!
Alternatively, biodegradable paper confetti is now readily available too, but natural is usually best.
What if you fancy something else altogether? Our advice is to opt for something that wont be single use or something that at the very least can be repurposed and used again. Sadly, when a venue doesn’t allow confetti, most people’s “go to” then becomes bubbles. As a result, something we see time and time again at weddings are those little clear plastic tubes of bubbles with the little white hearts on top. By 4pm they’re being swept in to plastic sacks, more single use waste destined for landfill.
If you’d like to utilise bubbles in place of confetti, lots of kids have bubble machines. Why not borrow one from a loved one or pick one up from a charity shop instead? Ribbon wands are also colourful and look great. These can be kept as mementos, or sold on for someone else to enjoy.
Loads of stuff designed for weddings is unfortunately destined for single use. It doesn’t have to be that way. I found myself quite quite swept up in it all when planning our wedding almost 10 years ago. I’d pick up or buy things on impulse and the result is that years later, we still have things that were “for the wedding” boxed and unused in the garage. Don’t be like I was!
Before purchasing anything, ask yourself “do we need it?” “Will it enhance our day?” “Are there other, equivalent choices we could make that would have the same impact whilst being kinder to the environment?”
Napkins and Paper towels
When it comes to things like napkins, re-useable cloth napkins are a friendlier choice whilst actually looking and feeling more luxurious anyway. Win win!
Minor things like restocking the paper hand towels in the bathroom every so often rather than having hundreds laid out can also massively cut down on waste. It sounds silly, but when people see there are lots, they don’t think twice about using more than they may need. It’s not a conscious effort to waste, it just happens. If fewer are laid out they tend to be used more sparingly. Remember, just 10 less used per wedding, not per guest will save around 2.4 million paper hand towels a year at weddings alone.
Another option could be to provide cotton hand towels, especially if it’s a smaller or family wedding. We understand that for hygiene reasons, large groups may not wish to share cloth towels. Hand sanitiser may also be something you wish to utilise.
Cups and such
If you’re hosting a wedding that has a largely DIY element, you may need to provide your own cups, plates and/or cutlery. Your caterers or mobile bar may take care of this for you, so it’s worth discussing with them what environmentally friendly or sustainable options they offer.
Instead of disposable plastic cups, you can actually borrow an array of glasses from places like Waitrose FREE of charge.
We were worried about using too many cups at our wedding, so something we did was provide each guest with their own glass. We collected Kilner jars and personalised them with each guests name. This way, guests could easily find their own glass and it could be re-used throughout the day. This doubled up as a keepsake and our family still have these almost 7 years later.
When it comes to things like cutlery, we often work with food trucks at weddings who provide eco friendly options such as wooden knives and forks. One of our wonderful couples even ended up cutting their wedding cake with a wooden knife!
Straws are a hot topic since shocking images and footage emerged on social media showing a sea turtle with a straw stuck in it’s nose. No one wants to be the reason an animal is in pain.
If your guests are able to go without ditch plastic straws and opt for a more eco friendly alternative. There are so many choices now! Pretty paper straws, bamboo, metal. My favourite are re-useable metal straws. They are not the cheapest but these can be doubled up as favours if you want to give one to each guest to keep and reuse.
We use these ones at home and keep some in the car too. They are great and come in a canvas bag- no plastic!
If you don’t have guests with additional needs you could also consider forgoing straws all together. The vast majority of us do not need straws. We don’t need them for pints or for glasses or wine, so why do we need them for an orange juice? It’s bonkers!
Same goes for things like single use plastic drinks stirrers. If you absolutely need them, there are non plastic alternatives.
It’s important to stay hydrated at a wedding, as they are such long days. Especially during summer months. We all know this, but it can sometimes mean plastic bottles used are in abundance. You may wish to consider providing water and/or juices for your guests in a drinks dispenser instead of in single use containers. If you need to use individual serving containers, try to opt drinks packaged in recyclable materials.
Animal agriculture contributes massively to the destruction of our planet. We all know we need to eat less meat, consume less dairy and so on, but where do we start? Food is a difficult topic to discuss because it can often come across like we’re being preached at. There are loads of ways you can reduce meat and animal products at your wedding without feeling like you’re having to making an overwhelming, massive and noticeable change.
Opting for more meat and dairy free choices at your wedding or foods that are “accidentally vegan” is just one way that you can make a big impact though. If you do still want to serve meat or dairy at your wedding, you could always swap out a single course or just your canapés.
Your starter is probably the easiest option here. Soups are an easy vegetarian or vegan switch. Dishes like Bruschetta, Mushroom pate, Vegetable spring rolls, Gyoza, Marinated tofu, Salads, Filo parcels, Caramelised onion tarts, Stuffed peppers, Corn fritters and so on are really, really tasty meat (and/or dairy) free dishes that are full of flavour and can easily be veganised too if you have any vegan, or dairy allergy guests.
Canapés are also super easy to keep meat free and tasty.
DIY wedding catering
If you’re DIYing any aspect of your catering, serving food which can be eaten by everyone also simplifies your job. Plenty of every day snack foods are accidentally vegan so can be enjoyed by everyone (you may still need to account for things like allergies.) If you’re having something like a sweet table, dessert table or snack station, oreos, party rings, jammie dodgers, several varieties of pringles and kettle chips, skittles, fruit pastells, starbursts, and millions, for example are all accidentally vegan so most people will be able to eat them. There are a plethora of incredible vegan/dairy free cakes and cupcakes on the market too by the likes of Oggs, Bosh! and Wicked. Supermarkets like Asda and Morrisons also sell Vegan cupcakes and a range of vegan party food platters. Ready made sandwiches, sausage rolls, pizzas and buffet food options that are meat free are everywhere. If you’re DIYing your own buffet or BBQ, you are spoilt for choice with what’s available meat free now.
If you have many guests travelling to your wedding who are perhaps staying locally it may be practical to arrange a bus or coach for your guests. This wont be necessary or sensible for every wedding, but for some it could eliminate the need for multiple taxis or cars all going back and forth to the same hotel.
Recycling and upcycling
When it comes to things like details and decor, it’s really easy to be eco-friendly. The rustic look is still very popular, so recycled and upcycled things will fit right in!
Wooden pallets are very versatile and can be used for a number of things. We have seen them used as table plans, orders or the day, as photo boards. Even to display donuts and sweet treats! We used pallets at our own wedding, along with wooden pegs to display family photographs.
Other miscellaneous ideas: Rent your wedding dress, suit or buy second hand. You can hire or buy garments for a fraction of the purchase price. This means you can get higher quality and higher end goods, for less than the cost of something “New”.
Wear shoes you already have: For brides who opt for full length dresses, it’s pretty unusual for your shoes to be visible. Re-wear a pair you already own. This is budget friendly, environmentally friendly and your feet will thank you for it when you’re not breaking in new shoes on the day.
Ask groomsmen to wear their own suits: Many men own a suit by the time they reach adulthood. Unless you have plans to make sure everyone is matching exactly, ask them to wear their own suit. You can always provide ties if you’d like people to match somewhat. Lots of our couples have done this and it’s a great way to allow everyone to keep their individuality.
Ditch wedding favours and other non essentials: In 11 years as wedding photographers, we’ve seen hundreds of wedding favours binned. They get left at the table, forgotten or just aren’t wanted. If you must have favours, opt for things that are edible or have multi-purposes. Things that have your names and wedding date on them may seem sweet, but realistically these are the things that are most commonly binned or kept in the back of a drawer. Why not provide guests with packets of bee friendly seeds for example? Not only will it help the bees, but they’re cost effective, slip easily into a pocket or bag and will provide your guests with a wonderful reminder of your day when the flowers bloom. You may also wish to make a charitable donation in lieu of wedding favours.
Offset the carbon emission generated by your day: There are lots of websites and charities now that will help you offset your carbon emissions by planting trees or equivalent. This is something we do as a business, but would be great for a wedding too. Check out websites like: https://www.carbonfootprint.com/ or https://www.climatecare.org/calculator/carbon-offsetting/ for more information.
Choose environmentally conscious wedding suppliers
Another way that you could also look to be more environmentally friendly is by carefully choosing your wedding service providers. Opting for more green businesses can help to minimise your overall wedding footprint. You need to take lots of other things into consideration of course, such as their credibility, experience, ability to understand your vision etc, but you can always ask the question. Can we switch that plastic packaging for paper? Is it possible to complete our booking online rather than having to print all this paperwork? Remember, little changes all add up and doing something is better than doing nothing. As always, shopping locally and supporting local business where you can is also great.
Once again, my advice would be “ask the question”. If wedding suppliers see that their couples are increasingly environmentally conscious, they will make changes. This is especially true of wedding venues, who set a president for much of the wedding industry. Ask your wedding venue what things they can do to ensure your wedding is as kind to the environment as possible. Will they use recycled, or compostable sacks for rubbish? Will they have recycling bins available for bottles? Could they restock paper towels with each toilet inspection rather than stocking fully at the beginning of the day? What meat free or vegan options can they offer?
If I can leave you with one final thought, it is this. It’s better to something than to do nothing. If you can implement any small change it is a step in the right direction.
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