You don't need to compromise style or your budget to have a more sustainable wedding. All you need is a bit of creativity!
The most important thing to remember in planning a sustainable wedding is to use your resources wisely. Use things you already own or can borrow. Don’t waste money on things that you don’t want or need. Buying used items is also a great way to save money and be more eco-friendly with your wedding plans. Reusing and/or repurposing items requires less energy than producing new things and it saves old things from becoming waste. Another benefit of used items is that their value is often more stable, meaning you can usually resell them for closer to what you paid for them. In this article, I'll share even more details about these ideas, so keep reading for sustainable wedding tips!
Learn all the tips to save money on your wedding!
1. Use what you have
Look around the house for things that could be useful. Most people have a variety of candlesticks and votives, and mismatched candles. These items can look lovely on your reception tables. Mirrors and frames can be transformed into great signs using a chalk pen, which is easy to wipe off after the wedding. Trays, platters and cutting boards can be used to display food and sweets. If you don't want the oh-so-popular wood slice centerpiece base, consider mirrors, frames or trays for this as well. Baskets and crates can store programs, cards, and favors.
Vases can be used in the centerpieces, or also to hold wedding wands or sparklers. Christmas tree lights can be hung from the ceiling or behind a sheer fabric as a backdrop. Accessories from old Halloween costumes can be props for the photo booth. Also, don't forget to look in your garden! Lanterns from the patio or large potted plants could be used as decor. A wheelbarrow, planter or bucket can be filled with ice and use as a drink cooler. It's all about making the most of what you already have on-hand!
Sustainable Wedding Items to look for:
- Candlesticks, votives and lanterns for decorations
- Frames, mirrors and old windows for decor
- Curtains and drapes for accents around your space
- Doilies, pot holders and handkerchiefs for table decor
- Linen table cloths and napkins for table decor
- Cutlery, china and glasses for your reception
- Trays, platters and cutting boards to use to display food
- Bowls, glass jars and tin cans to use as decor
- Vases, jugs and bottles to use as decor
- Baskets, crates, buckets and planters for decor
- Blankets and rugs for decor
- Items to use as photo booth props
- Yard or board games
- Clothes, accessories and jewelry to wear
- Gift items for your wedding party
2. Borrow from friends and family
If you don't have enough of something yourself, ask friends and family if you can borrow theirs. Especially decorations and dinnerware can often be collected among friends, since most people have at least some of these items. This is also an opportunity to make the wedding more personal. Ask to borrow family members' wedding photos for a lovely display, or even borrow a wedding dress, jewelry or veil from someone close to you.
It's usually easier to lend something if you know exactly what is needed, so write a list of what you want before you start asking around. Don't forget to make a note of the things you've borrowed, take photos of every item so you can ensure you return each one to its rightful owner after your celebration.
3. Use recycled objects
Raid your recycling bin if you want to find the key to sustainable wedding decor. You're sure to find items you can upcycle into fabulous decorations! The most obvious recycled objects are probably glass jars, they are very popular as votives, vases, and drinking glasses. If you know someone with a small child, baby food jars can be perfect to store favors or use instead of paper cups for a snack bar. Larger jars can hold sweets for a candy bar or confetti.
Glass bottles of different kinds are very useful as vases, water carafes, or candle holders. Ask friends and family to save wine bottles for you or ask a local bar if you can get any empty liquor or liqueur bottles. A popular guest book alternative is writing numbers at a few bottles and asking guests to leave a message to put in the bottle with the number of years to wait before reading it.
Tin cans can also be used as vases, or you could make holes in them for votives. Pro tip: if you freeze water in the cans first, it's much easier to make holes with a hammer and nail.
4. Buy preloved and vintage
Imagine how many weddings there are each year, and how many other big parties and gatherings. Whatever you need for your wedding, chances are good that someone has used the same thing for a one-time event and doesn't need it anymore. Check Facebook Marketplace, thrift stores, flea markets, antique shops, and online markets for used goods.
Pre-loved and vintage wedding decor
You'll be surprised at how many items can easily be utilized as wedding decor. For instance, vintage doilies or pot holders can make lovely bunting. Even ugly trays can be transformed into beautiful signs with chalkboard paint. Wicker basket planters can easily be transformed into flower girl baskets. Old curtains can also make a lovely backdrop or be draped around a wedding arch.
Mismatched vintage china is perfect for a garden party style wedding and mismatched champagne flutes lend a feeling of vintage glamour to the getting ready bubbly with your bridesmaids. Further, mismatched items can add a more organic feel to your event. If you want something more unique, get a set of vintage toddy glasses and start the day with Irish coffee instead of champagne. Old oriental rugs make the most gorgeous bohemian aisle or dancefloor. A leather-bound photo album with blank pages can be used as a guestbook. Don't forget to also look in the kids' section for photo booth props and games to keep guests entertained.
Pre-owned wedding attire
Buying a used wedding dress is also a great way to save money. Most wedding dresses lose half their value after being worn just once and after cleaning, they’re usually as good as new. Don’t forget to look for petticoats, veils, jackets and jewelry as well. Bridesmaid’s dresses are too often left forgotten in the back of a closet, so just imagine the number of potential bargain dresses out there. Mismatched bridesmaid dresses can also look amazing, and it’s a way for each of your most important friends to choose something they like and feel comfortable in. Get ready in vintage men’s dress shirts or flannel shirts, the same fit as the popular boyfriend shirts but probably with a higher quality at a lower price.
Vintage items can also make unique and personal gifts for the wedding party, like scarves, jewelry, brooches, tie pins or cuff links. Instead of personalized coffee mugs, consider looking for unique vintage mugs that suit their tastes and interests. If you prefer glasses, look for beautiful vintage glasses suitable for their preferred drinks or novelty shot glasses. Maybe share your favorite book with them by getting each of them their own used copy. The best gifts are the ones given with the receiver in mind, so any used items could make a great eco-friendly gift as long as it’s something you think they would like.
Intention is key to planning a sustainable wedding
Planning a sustainable wedding doesn't have to be difficult. Above all, it's truly about being intentional and conscious with the choices you are making. Before you make purchases or decisions for your big day, consider the impact of that choice on the earth. Every little bit helps to reduce waste, so do what you can!
Editor's note: Due to the pandemic, some of the general wedding planning advice we share may not be applicable or possible due to restrictions on events. Please adhere to all current regulations and stay safe and healthy! Get more resources for planning a pandemic wedding here.