Eco-Friendly Green Weddings

A Green wedding is both environmentally friendly and socially conscious, and it definitely does not have to sacrifice style to be so. In fact, adding green elements to your wedding can be a easy way of adding unique features that will make your wedding stand out from the crowd.

As well as ensuring that you do not start your married life by unwittingly contributing to global warming or environmental damage, making socially conscious choices can save you money – and provide a defensible justification for not breaking the bank.

Keep it Local

Wherever possible use local resources for your wedding. This saves on transportation, thereby reducing emissions, and supports your local economy.

Go Digital

  • Digital photographs are not only easier to share, they’re much more environmentally friendly – no chemicals, film, or wasted paper since you only get prints of exactly the pictures you want.
  • While the etiquette books and the printing industry very strongly suggest that emailed invitations are social anathema you might like to consider using email, digital invitations (you can create and send free invitations at evite or a wedding  website for some or all of your wedding-related communications in order to minimize transportation emissions and paper use, and to limit use of chemicals (between inks, toners and solvents a lot of chemicals are involved in printing. These include:
  • Save the date communications (sent to alert people to save the date of your wedding, perhaps make travel plans, and that an invitation will follow – or providing the URL for your wedding website where they can check in at regular intervals for updates)
  • The actual invitation
  • Wedding related information such as mud-maps of how to get to the ceremony and/or reception site, accommodation information for those traveling from interstate or overseas and so
  • RSVPs – request that invited guests email you.

Use recycled paper or paper made form an alternative fibre such as hemp or bamboo and environmentally friendly inks

  • If you choose to have invitations, ceremony order of service booklets, menus, placecards etc,  thoughtful design can reduce the environmental impact of your invitations:
  • Use recycled paper. There are many beautiful recycled or alternative papers, and every  tonne of recycled paper saves:
    •  31,780 litres of water;
    •  4,100 kilowatt/hours of electricity;
    • 75 per cent of chlorinated bleach;
    • 27 kilograms of air pollutants;
    • 13 trees;
    • 4 cubic metres of landfill; and
    • 2.5 barrels of oil. [1]
  •  In commercial printing processes ink, toner and solvents needed to clean ink presses, together with the electricity required to run the machines and the disposing of left-over ink make printing not very environmentally friendly. Minimise the environmental impact of your printing needs by:
    • Choosing to handwrite or handstamp invitations
    • Using your own laster or inkjet desktop printer (while toner from laser and digital printers is petroleum based, no industrial waste is created as with liquid ink printing, no cleaning solvents are required after each job, and no printing plates are made for each original)
    • Utilising a firm that does digital printing
    • Asking your offset, thermography, letterpress or engraving printing firm to use soy or vegetable-based inks
  • Consolidate inserts – instead of having multiple inserts for different types of information combine the essential information into one card, perhaps print up a website card that directs your guests to your personal, paper-free wedding website
  • Substitute raffia for polyester ribbon
  • Reduce the numbers
  • Eliminate unnecessary pages from orders of service booklets (I can give you a template that will reduce it to one double-sided A4 sheet, folded, which includes space to explain your environmental choices and any rituals together with the order of service)
  • Provide one program per couple
  • Have only one or two menus per table
Even if you have gone digital for your invitations there are likely to be some guests and relatives who do not have access to email. For these the most eco-friendly alternative is invitations and other communications handwritten or printed in environmentally-friendly inks on recycled paper.

Think Eco-friendly transportation

Minimise transportation related carbon emission production by:
  • Having your ceremony and reception in the same place, or close to one another, preferably within walking distance
  • Choosing a location that is easy to access by public transport and provide your guests with information about that option
  • Providing a chartered bus with central pickup points
  • Organising car-pooling

Eco-friendly flowers

While wedding flowers are symbolic of the natural world, they are rarely eco-friendly. The realities of globalization is that your flowers can be sourced from all over the world, and in many areas, especially Asia and South America, the growing practices can be decidedly environmentally unfriendly. And then there is the transportation impact. Also, using cut flowers results in a lot of floral waste. To minimise the impact of your floral decisions
  • Choose an outside ceremony site that is complete in itself (garden, park etc)
  • Use only seasonal flowers and plants
  • Choose organically grown blooms from local sources.
  • Choose silk flowers (real silk, made from a renewable resource)
  • Decorate the ceremony site and reception with potted plants and/or small trees that can later be transplanted in your garden. Alternatively, you can rent the plants from one of those plant rental firms that normally service office buildings.
  • Herbs are largely overlooked for weddings, yet they have a long association, so their ancient floral symbolism can add richness to the day, ensuring that the bride’s bouquet and the groom’s boutonniere become a silent, yet public pledge to each other and assembled family and friends of love, loyalty and steadfastness. In ancient Greece brides carried bouquets of marjoram (symbol of joy and happiness) and wore crowns of myrtle (the ancient emblem of Aphrodite, goddess of love, called Venus in ancient Rome, and therefore symbolic of love, marriage, passion), rosemary (remembrance, fidelity) and flowering hawthorne. Bridal attendants wore garlands of wild hyacinths and parsley (symbol of festivity). Myrtle has long been included in European bouquets. During the Tudor period in England branches of rosemary were carried in front of the bride and given to guests. In a wedding sermon given in 1607, the Rev. Roger Hacket advised a couple to “Let this rosemary, this flower of men, be a sign of your wisdom, love & loyalty. To be carried not only in your hands but in your heads and heart.” By the early 17th century tall potted bay trees had joined the rosemary and myrtle at wedding celebrations. And ivy, symbol of fidelity, marriage and friendship, has continued to be a reasonably popular inclusion in formal bouquets – but there is no reason why pots of ivy, or ivy topiaries (easy to grow if you have some lead time) can’t be used as centerpieces.
  • Consider a flower-free bouquet – a lovely fan, for example.
  • Alternatively consider green bouquets and coordinating boutonnieres – using symbolic herbs, gum leaves and so on, perhaps with a few locally grown flowers. The current fashion for hand-tied bouquets with exposed stems lends itself to a wider variety of flowers and plants than the more formal wired bouquets – and is easy to make at home. If of Scottish ancestry, the purple Scotch thistle (regarded to be a weed in Australia and often found growing wild) mixed with branches of young gum leaves, can look wonderful.
  • If you are going to have a flower-girl scatter rose-petals in front of the bride as she walks down the aisle, consider mixing them with rosemary and/or thyme (symbol of strength). This will reduce the number of rose-petals required and as the bride walks down the aisle she will crush the herbs and release a wonderful fragrance, something that, despite all the flowers, weddings tend to lack.
  • Non-flower centerpieces such as floating candles in a dish with ivy cuttings are elegant, romantic and distinctive.

Recycle your décor

  • Decorate the ceremony site with items you can reuse at the reception (make sure to delegate the transferring of such items, and also alert the reception site that this is happening).
  • Make sure that arrangements are made to transfer plants, flowers etc at the end of the ceremony either back to your place to be planted (if you’re going away you might need to delegate care until you return) or on to the final recipients.
  • If you’re having your reception in a commercial space or venue, investigate the possibility of sharing the costs of floral decorations with a couple having their reception there either earlier or later in the same day.

Light and decorate with candles

Candlelight is both romantic and energy-efficient (but, of course, is not suitable for use outside unless you contain the candles in something to protect them from the wind). Soy candles are made from a renewable resource and are cleaner and longer burning that candles made from petroleum-based waxes. Soy candle wax spills are also easy to clean – just use soap and water.

Plant a tree, and thereafter track how old it is by your anniversary

  • A tree-planting (obviously only relevant if your ceremony is taking place on private property) can be incorporated in your wedding ceremony.
  • Adopt the Bermudan custom of topping your wedding cake with a small sapling – and plant it in your garden afterwards.
  • For favours, give guests a tube-stock tree to plant in their own gardens with a handwritten note attached explaining species and why you chose it.

Choose attire mindfully

With globalisation of the fashion industry, a large proportion of wedding gowns are manufactured in factories in China using petroleum based synthetic fabrics. Consider:
  • Having the bridal dress and bridesmaids dresses made locally
  • Renting, borrowing or buying second hand
  • Foregoing the matched sets and giving attendants a colour and style guideline and letting them find something that works for them or that they already have that works for you.
  • For the males of the party renting is a well-established custom, but other options include simpler attire (for example a black business suit or khaki or gray pants with a navy blazer) that they can wear again and again. In the Queensland summer, the men will thank you for choosing a simple pants and shirt ensemble!

Think local and what’s in season for both food and drink.

Choosing local and seasonal food and drink minimises transportation and storage environmental impacts.Granite Belt wines travel far less than those from down south, for example. And out-of-season foods are likely to be imported from the northern hemisphere.

[1] Source: Australian Conservation Foundation The little paper book on how to make a big difference environmentally with paper.