Sustainability is more than a trend; it is a lifestyle that many eco-conscious people have been instilling in their day-to-day lives. So what does sustainability have to do with weddings? Well, a whole lot. Having an eco-friendly wedding can not only save you money but leave the planet a little better than when you started planning. This post will discover 10-ways to plan an eco-friendly wedding through tips, experience, and photos from our sustainable-styled photoshoot.
Choosing a venue can be an overwhelming moment for brides and grooms. Venue tours, budget planning, and location distance can add stress to the first significant wedding choice. When focusing on a sustainable wedding, look for venues that make an effort to use eco-friendly incitatives. One way to investigate their incitatives is to look for venues' that rely on their location for ambiance. Having a gorgeous setting will decrease the need for decorations that will end up in the trash. The venue used for Cascadia's Eco-Friendly shoot was Ravenswood Farm in Ravensdale, WA. The venue features a farm, gorgeous woody areas, a view of the lake, and a serene ceremony area (see above slideshow).
Should there be a sense of uncertainty if a venue is sustainable, look for a LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification and/or Energy Star ratings? This certification and rating assure consumers that the product or building has been recognized as energy-efficient and used sustainable building practices when built. Many of these venues use alternative power sources, such as solar panels, recycled/reclaimed materials, low-flow automatic faucets, and even bottle filling stations. If the venue does not offer in-house lighting, look for a company that can provide sustainable lighting. Bellevue Event Lighting, who worked on the special effects and lighting of the shoot, decreases electronic waste by reusing and recycling all of their gear.
Much like the venue search, finding vendors who take it upon themselves to help the planet or are willing to work with the bride and groom can add an eco-friendly touch. Perhaps instead of buying items or services from distant vendors, choose one who is in the area. Picking a vendor nearby reduces carbon emissions from travel and shipping. Equivalently, choose vendors who use local products. One of the florists, Sweet Briar Flowers, at our styled shoot presented flowers from her own garden! These flowers are local, ethically grown, and harvested and are beyond beautiful. The other florist, Shady Vines Floral Company, makes it their mission to buy local and seasonal flowers when creating their arrangements.
Another eco-friendly measure is to ask the caterer or another food vendor what amount of food is necessary. Though the more food ordered is good for business and helps avoid hungry guests, the excess food can quickly become wasteful. Florida Peach Sweets created the vegan cake seen in the above slideshow. Florida Peach Sweets made the cake with sustainability (and decadent taste) in mind by repurposing flowers and fruit to decorate the cake. Even the wood round it sits on was returned to the company for use at another event.
If you are looking to reduce food waste, opt for a lighter and more cocktail-inspired meal. A charcuterie board is not only classy but much of what is not eaten will be easy to pack up and take home. Milk & Honey Charcuterie (watch their spotlight on King 5 here) presented a beautiful arrangement of fruits, crackers, cheese, meats, and olives for the shoot. Milk & Honey Charcuterie even partners with many local businesses. We paired the gorgeous board on a custom-made fabric (Thistle and Twill). The fabrics provided were hand-dyed, natural dyed, and/or hand-painted.
Regardless of what vendors are working the wedding, never be afraid to ask about their sustainable practices. Many vendors are willing to make changes to help fit the desired vision for the big day. Take, for example, the ice cream cart, Aha Party Co, used during our shoot. Rather than use cardboard containers or plastic spoons, the vendor was willing to use the supplied rented bowls and spoons. We also used many rentable items from vendors, such as the tassels (SMASH baby SMASH) hanging from the ceiling and signage (AR Workshop Maple Valley).
Finally, look for vendors that work with or provide services that donate wedding decor to those in need or charitable second-hand shops. Here at Cascadia, we are always willing to take floral decor that is not wanted and provide them to soldier cemeteries.
One of the most exciting moments during wedding planning arrives when the invitations are leaving. Sending invitations to family, friends, and loved ones indubitably makes the occasion feel like it is just around the corner. While sending out invites is expected, especially for those who want a keepsake of this momentous moment, it is not the most sustainable way to send a wedding date out.
Gone are the days of classic paper invites that are either stored in a scrapbook or thrown away. Now there are plantable options! During our styled shoot, we opted for plantable invites (Becker and Co). These invites can be held onto until no longer needed and then planted. This biodegradable paper features an embedding of seeds. When planted, the invite will begin to compost, and the seeds will bloom. There are many different options for the type of flower, herb, or plant that the seeds will produce. The invite makes for a stunning and unique presentation but also doubles as a gift to the guest.
If plantable invites are not intriguing, or there is a desire to cut down further on the carbon emission used when sending these invites to distant guests, consider using online invites. Not only are they sustainable, but they are hassle-free, less expensive, and make RSVPing for guests a breeze. Some sites offer full-sized web pages to use as an invite, while others allow the bride and groom to e-mail them- including an envelope that the guest can electronically open. To use a custom design, check out Becker and Co, who create custom handwritten designs.
4. Table Design
Once the venue and vendors are picked out, and the invites sent, it is time to design the tablescapes. Whether planning for big centerpieces or more subtle arrangements, there are ways to bring sustainability into it.
When it comes to the plate settings, consider renting items. By renting plates, glasses, utensils, and other table settings, you can spend equally the price or are just slightly higher than paper products. We used rented items from CORT to create two tablescapes and our head table.
Another option would be visiting a local thrift store. Scoring 100 identical place settings may not be realistic, but for a more eclectic type vibe, this could be a fun way to remain eco-friendly. Third Layer Living created a vintage and plant-based tablescape using items found during "junk hunts" and homegrown succulents. This tablescape displays the ambiance that thrift and vintage tableware can create.
If wanting to go with a quick throwaway option for place settings, consider using compostable or recyclable products. Many of these products are made with compostable materials and are tree-safe. Tree safe means the production of these plates and utensils did not require cutting down a tree. Products that are Tree safe use palm leaves and bamboo. Find these place settings easily on Amazon and from party retailers.
5. Attire and Rings
Eco-friendly choices during wedding planning do not have to stop at the planning level. When shopping for a wedding dress and groomsmen attire, look at the options for sustainability. One option is to rent the wedding dress and suit. Renting a wedding dress prevents the years of closet space that a wedding dress inevitably takes after the big day is over.
Another option is to buy from a used wedding dress boutique. In our eco-friendly shoot, we chose to showcase Brides for a Cause. Founded in Oregon in 2012, this company collects and resells wedding dresses. The boutique uses its funds to donate to women-focused charities. Since 2012, they have given away over $1,000,000 to charity. Not only will a bride be helping out the unsustainable practices that many companies use to create new dresses, but the proceeds of their purchase will go towards donations.
Now rings may seem like an odd choice for an eco-friendly wedding. This purchase can be as sustainable as the other ideas on this blog. When the search for the perfect ring begins, track the diamond and gemstones’ origins. There are also lab-created stones, which have less impact on the environment. Many jewelers are now carrying lab-created stones to become more sustainable. One such jeweler is Balacia. Balacia offers lab-made, stone, and high-quality diamonds.
A financially saving and eco-friendly idea is to use a family heirloom or second-hand ring. Not only does using a great grandmother’s ring bring a feeling of nostalgia to the ring exchange, but the style is easily changed. If the heirloom is outdated, many places will melt down the gold and restyle it to the customer’s liking. The same goes for second-hand purchases. Either choice will save money and be a reminder of the sustainable choices made.
Similar to the reusing of a ring, think about reusing accessories. It may not be noticeable initially, but all the accessories were purchased second hand or were the brides already owned jewelry and shoes. If you do not have anything to reuse or borrow it from, look to buy sustainable and ethical accessories. Pay attention to conflict-free stones, fair mined metals, and fairtrade or sustainable manufacturing.
We opted for a flower crown over a veil, in addition to reusing what our model already had. The previously mentioned Sweet Briar Flowers created the flower crown. Sweet Briar Flowers expertly placed the homegrown flowers to create a romantic and attention-grabbing accessory.
7. Hair and Makeup
Hair and Makeup may seem like an odd choice to make sustainable, but changing what and where an item is bought for the wedding day makeup look or making sure that the stylist uses those items can help make this planet a little better. Whether the plan is to purchase products or hire a stylist, check that the brands are cruelty-free, zero-waste, or locally produced products. Cruelty-free ensures that no animals were harmed or used for testing when making the product. This applies to both hair and makeup items. Many brands have recently added the white rabbit symbol, which indicates their dedication to animal-free testing. Using products that carry zero-waste (such as recycled bottles or recyclable containers) or our purchased locally- reducing carbon emission of shipping- will bring an eco-friendly touch to the big day.
Certified PMU artist and Lash Tech, BMH Artistry Seattle provided exquisite bridal hair and makeup on our model for the styled shoot.
Favors add a fun and memorable touch to any wedding or event. For a sustainable option, look into herb kits, package free homemade soaps, fairtrade coffee beans, and seed packets. Cascadia teamed up with Our Hive Family for the styled shoot favors. Their favors included a little box that held delicious chocolate oat bites. When the guest is done with the snack, they can then place the seed packet attached to the box and plant them following the instructions conveniently located on the container's backside. Our Hive Family works with local farms and businesses to provide quality ingredients and sustainable practices.
Floral centerpieces also make for a great favor. Gifting the centerpieces and other floral decorations eliminates the need to throw them away immediately after the ceremony and reception. The Plantscapes setting from Third Layer Living could be easily gifted to guests, especially since the containers the plants sit in are thrifted and not rented (make sure not to use eco-friendly floral foam). Third Layer Living also provided an innovative and unique surprise under their book-chargers. The hollow book provided each guest with a seed packet to take home.
If favors are not part of the plan, provide guests with a list of charities to donate to.
Photos by @mirandajadephotos
9. Charity Fund
It is common to have a container placed in the reception venue that guests can donate towards a honeymoon or new home. While having a portion of a honeymoon paid for is tantalizing, this opportunity provides a chance to give back to the community. In our shoot, we styled an example of this idea. The money put into the box provides donations to a local charity of the bride and groom's choosing. Becker & Co hand wrote the lettering on this charity fund box.
A bride or groom can push this idea a step further by using the money pinned to the bride and groom from the 'money dance' to a charity.
Photos by @ravenswoodfarm
10. Encourage Recycling and Reuse
Though this idea may not be revolutionizing, it is important for an eco-friendly wedding. Make sure that your wedding is encouraging eco-friendly actions from guests. Make sure that there are recycling cans throughout the ceremony and reception space to encourage recycling and reuse.
Worried about how it may look? No problem!
Most venues have creative ways of hiding unsightly trash and recycling cans. The venue we chose, Ravenswood, for the photoshoot has a wood frame built around their receptacles. The wood covering even has wheels so that the trash receptacles may be moved.
Not sure what to do with all the decor at the end of the wedding? For items that a couple purchased, why not sell them? With Sellebrate you can buy or sell used items from events. It is an app that provides a sustainable & creative way to find items in your area. The company's mission is to transform event planning by sharing resources by using technology and social commerce. "Sellebrate is committed to helping others create the event of their dreams while reducing economic and environmental costs" (Sellebrate). Cascadia is excited to now be working alongside Sellebrate to help make the special event industry more eco-friendly.
What are some tips that you have for sustainable weddings and events? We would love to hear!