18 Ways to Plan an Eco-Friendly Wedding

Biodegradable Serveware
Bryan Gardner

Protecting the environment is increasingly important, but luckily, it's also increasingly easy. With new technologies and innovations in science, eco-friendly finds are now more accessible than ever. If you and your soon-to-be-spouse plan to host an earth-loving celebration, you'll be pleased to know that there are plenty of ways to do so. Biodegradable materials and reusable décor can help your wedding be waste-free, while natural and sustainable foods, venues, and flowers can keep things even more ecologically responsible. From reducing electricity and fuel to re-purposing and giving back, we've got tips for every aspect of your big day, because there's no reason your dream wedding can't be a green wedding, too. Here, a few favorite ideas for executing an environmentally- and socially-conscious event.

Disposable and biodegradable serveware, vessels, and utensils can be a great way to stay organic. We love BioandChic.com products for their all-natural compositions, which make them suitable for compost and thus perfect for food trays, favor wrappings, and to-go boxes.

01 of 17

Choose an Ethical Ring

Ashley Garmon

Green wedding planning can begin as early as ring shopping. Choose an antique diamond, or go to a dealer who is committed to obtaining precious metals and gemstones in ways that are socially and environmentally responsible. Tiffany & Co., Ash Hilton, Brilliant Earth, Cred Jewellery, Dogeared, Leber Jeweler, and Ingle & Rhode are all great resources.

This couple's bands, pictured here, were heirlooms.

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Pick a Sustainable Wedding Venue

Biodegradable Serveware
Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Get the best of both worlds by saying your "I do"s in a wedding venue dedicated to sustainability. Blue Hills at Stone Barn in New York, for example, grows much of the food offered using resilient farming practices. You can also opt for venues that are beautiful on their own, requiring less décor to be added to turn them into your celebration spot. Another idea? Get married locally, or wherever most of your guests are based, to reduce the amount of fuel your event exhausts. If becoming newlyweds farther afield, recommend to your loved ones that they carpool on the special day, cutting down on gas and maybe encouraging new friendships along the way.

03 of 17

Use Recycled Paper

Biodegradable Serveware

Save-the-dates, invitations, programs, menus, and thank-you cards can quickly add up to a whole lot of paper. Look for recycled options, such as this invitation suite created by a graphic designer bride, which included a rubber-stamped linen save-the-date sewn onto recycled paper. When possible, post information such as directions on your wedding website instead of using an additional piece of paper.

04 of 17

Go Local

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Annabelle Charles Photography

Cut down on your carbon footprint by hiring local vendors, and buying local and in-season flowers and food. Bonus: Regional touches serve double-duty to bring together the theme of your party.

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Research Your Vendors

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beall + thomas photography

Read up on the companies you're considering hiring. Are any of them going above and beyond to conserve energy and reduce waste? If not, ask if they'd be willing to work together to make your fête a little greener. Your planner might be able to connect you with florists who reuse blooms or caterers who source ingredients locally, such as this farm-to-table favorite, Blackberry Farm.

06 of 17

Veer Toward Vintage

Rylee Hitchner

Besides lending style and sentimentality to your big day, incorporating family heirlooms or special items already in your possession cuts down on consumption. Whether you wear your mother's wedding gown or put your aunt's retro jewelry to work, repurposing will minimize what you need to buy for your nuptials.

If your heart is set on a dress of your own, choose sustainable designers such as Adele Wechsler and Lindee Daniel. Or seek out a rental that can put you in an ensemble you can consider your "something borrowed."

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Get Thrifty

Biodegradable Serveware
Ashley Sawtelle

Scour flea markets and thrift stores for forgotten treasures and give them a second life as wedding décor. For table markers, this couple displayed vintage license plates from states with special meaning to them in slices of birchwood from a tree that had fallen by their home. A horseshoe was placed at each setting, all sourced by the groom's father, who had spent a weekend reviving 120 old ones for the event.

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Rent Reusable Items

Biodegradable Serveware
Leila Brewster Photography

Companies such as La Tavola Fine Linen, Broadway Party Rentals, and New England Country Rentals, pictured here, enable you to host a party kitted out with elegant—and nondisposable—linens, plates, utensils, and more. Laundering and washing services are usually included in the rental price, making this route a win-win.

Tip: If you must offer disposable servingware, seek out biodegradable products, such as those offered by Susty Party.

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Opt for Potted Plants

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Landon Jacob

Instead of cut flowers, showcase planted blooms that will live long past your wedding day.

10 of 17

Decorate With Double-Duty Items

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Make your place cards or centerpieces work as wedding favors. Here, barrel and prickly-pear cacti planted in small concrete pots serve as both escort cards and tokens of thanks.

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Glow With Candlelight

Biodegradable Serveware
Kate Osborne

Set the mood for a romantic evening—and cut down on electricity—by lighting your reception tables with candles.

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Toss It Wisely

Kate Headley

Work with your venue or planner to set up a disposal system that includes recycle containers for cans and bottles and a compost bin for biodegradable substances, including fruits, vegetables, and plants.

13 of 17

Recycle Your Wedding Flowers

A Guy + A Girl Photography

Let your arrangements live beyond the wedding day by donating them to a nursing home, hospital, or shelter through organizations like Petals With Purpose, Floranthropy, and Random Acts of Flowers. Another company, Rebloom, will resell your florals and give the proceeds to the charity of your choice.

14 of 17

Donate Leftovers

Biodegradable Serveware
Collin Hughes

Many food banks across the country will pick up chilled leftovers of unserved food from your rehearsal dinner or reception. Speak with your caterers in advance so they can make the necessary arrangements. If they have done this before, they may know just whom to call.

15 of 17

Get Charitable

Biodegradable Serveware
Max Wanger

Purchase products from organizations that give back, such as vino from ONEHOPE Wine or tree sapling favors from the Arbor Day Foundation. This couple got involved with The Center for Discovery, a charity that provides a wide range of services for children and adults with disabilities, and gave jars of spices grown in their biodynamically certified farm as favors. "We loved using that moment to educate our guests about a cause so special to us," the bride shared.

Another couple simply gave a sealed note explaining that a tree had been planted in the guests' honor through the American Forests Global ReLeaf program, while a third couple noted in their welcome bags that they had donated an acre of rainforest on behalf of attendees.

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Shuttle Guests


Providing after-party transportation for guests in buses, vans, or trolleys is not only safer, but it also decreases the number of vehicles (and therefore, fuel) used.

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Register Responsibly

Biodegradable Serveware
Bryan Gardner

For your wedding registry, choose products made with sustainable materials, and support companies that are doing good. Bambeco is an online store offering only reclaimed, repurposed, renewable, recycled, natural, or organic items. Or, for couples that have everything, consider setting up a charity registry through organizations like the I Do Foundation for a cause close to your heart.

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