by Brianne Markin, Beaver Creek Reserve
Did you know that in the United Sates the wedding industry is estimated at $72 billion (1)? With approximately 2.5 million weddings held each year, negative impacts to the environment can add up quickly. However with a little planning and a little (more) attention to detail, you can still have your dream wedding while being eco-friendly and creating less waste.
We broke down the do’s and don’ts into categories to help you, regardless of what stage in the planning process you are.
Know Your Numbers
Before you start any planning, create have a budget. Decide how much you and your fiancé can afford to spend, and ask if family members may be contributing as well. Keep a running budget of estimated and actual expenses. Also, estimate the number of people you want to invite as this impacts the cost of the wedding significantly at the reception. Eco-friendly products may cost more, while other options may save you money. Either way, you don’t want to go broke trying to have the “perfect” wedding day, so a budget is key.
Get the Word Out
Tell your family, friends, wedding party and guests about your plans for a “green” wedding.
Look for save the date and invitation options that are sustainable: ones that have a high-recycled content, or are from producers with sustainable certifications like SFI or FSC. Some papers are embedded with wildflowers or other seeds to plant. Just check the UW Extension Horticulture website to make sure the flowers you are purchasing are native.
A wedding website is a great way to reduce the amount of materials you need to send with your invitations. Maps, hotels, agendas and registries can all be distributed through a free website. You could even start a new trend: #greenwedding #notrashdashtothealter #greenbridebrigade.
Reuse items when you can. Men rent suits, so why not consider having your bridesmaids or other wedding party members rent their dresses? Also look for brides selling decorations on Facebook marketplace or Craiglist. (I recently purchased gently used tablecloths and napkins from a bride for only $75!)
Don’t use single use plastics! Make a statement and outlaw plastic water bottles and plastic straws. Set up a cute water station with reusable or biodegradable cups. Go without straws or look for paper ones in sure-to-match-your-theme colors at local craft supply stores.
Make sure that your reception facility has clearly marked recycling bins. In most areas plastics marked 1-5 & 7 are recyclable. Don’t use Styrofoam; instead bring reusable containers for taking home wedding cake and any other leftovers (if allowed by your catering facility).
Opt for reusable cloth napkins and tablecloths over disposable ones.
Locally made goods tend to be better for the environment because they typically require less energy to create and distribute. Plus, buying local helps your friends, neighbors and the local economy grow.
Less is More, More or Less
By now, most people should know the “Three R’s.” Pay close attention to the first one: Reduce. While weddings seem to be getting more and more extravagant, they are also creating more waste.
Do less. Keep your decorations simple and natural. Don’t buy crepe paper and balloons, neither of which can be reused or recycled. Instead of giving away wedding favors, consider having a donation made in honor of your guests. While little tins of candy, personalized lip balm and candles are cute, they also create a lot of waste. We would like to think that our guests will keep these mementos forever, but that is rarely the case. I am fairly certain no one but my mom saved her combination bookmark/name card. If you really want to go the favor route, look for products with recyclable containers, items that are reusable, items with a high-recycled content, or locally made goods.
Don’t Let it Go
Don’t have butterfly, balloon or bird releases. Butterflies raised for sale to the wedding market can carry diseases that can be spread to local populations. Balloons eventually come back to the ground. In addition to being litter, they can cause harm to birds, fish and other wildlife who ingest them. As for releasing doves or pigeons, often these birds have been caged and domesticated and, if they were to get loose, have no survival skills.
Don’t make yourself too crazy trying to make your wedding day perfect. Take the time to appreciate your hard work and planning at some point during the day. Remember that the most important impact your wedding should have is creating happy memories for you and your guests!