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Green wedding ideas: Make your day more sustainable

It's easier than you think to plan an eco-friendly celebration - and this doesn’t mean going back to basics. Just as people are finding ways to bring sustainable habits to their daily lives, we'll show you how to have a low-waste wedding that's kinder to the planet without stripping away the fun.

What does an eco-friendly wedding look like? It can be anything from a chic and elegant city celebration to a boho-glam country party. What makes a wedding ‘green’ isn’t about the style – it’s about keeping sustainability in mind in important areas. You can still treat your loved ones to a fabulous feast and fill your venue with the décor of your dreams. All you have to do is approach each decision with an eco-conscious attitude and some extra engagement – so your day will show love not only for you but for the planet, too. We’ve highlighted the wedding areas you need to think about, from catering to flowers, and explain how to give each one an eco-friendly makeover.

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Confetti & glitter

For years, one of the big wedding waste culprits was confetti. However, you can still have that just-married confetti moment – you simply need to make sure you choose a biodegradable option. Certain tissue types will break down on contact with water, or you could choose the ever-popular dried petal confetti or herb. Check out Shropshire Petals and The Real Flower Confetti Co. The same goes if you’re having a glitter bar in the evening – choose a company such as EcoStardust. You can also look into alternatives to confetti. Having your guests waving ribbon wands or ringing bells as you make your just-married ceremony exit will still be fun – and make for great pictures, too!

Biscuits and a miniature pot of jam
Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

Favours

You may want to give your guests a lasting reminder of your wedding – but with some single-use plastics taking hundreds of years to break down, you should avoid anything that’s plastic or comes in plastic packaging, as that’s rather too “lasting” in environmental terms. Instead, go homemade if you can. Edible favours generally go down a treat, and it’s an eco bonus if you use locally sourced ingredients. Sound like a lot of effort? Choose ethical favours, such as personalised seed packets from Wedding in a Teacup, or have an area of woodland dedicated to your guests courtesy of The Woodland Trust. Charity donations are also a lovely idea – just make sure the actual favours, such as pin badges, are environmentally friendly. The British Heart Foundation, for example, have hearts made from biodegradable paper and embedded with seeds that will grow into wildflowers.

Flowers

When it comes to the big-day blooms, one of the most important things you can do is choose British-grown, seasonal flowers, to reduce air miles and storage-energy consumption. But it’s also the floral foam – known as “oasis” – that’s unkind to the planet, as it isn’t biodegradable. This is used to keep arrangements hydrated and in place; ask your florist if they’re able to use an alternative. We’ve seen an increasing number of couples using potted plants as part of their décor, including some beautiful succulent displays, either replacing flowers or alongside their floral arrangements. This gives a fresh, bringing-the-outside-in feel, and you can give them to your guests as favours. And it’s worth asking if your florist has any eco-friendly plans in place. Some, such as Blooming Haus, have a tree planted for every couple whose wedding flowers they create.

Green and gold wedding table garland

Lighting

Reducing energy consumption lessens your environmental impact – but it’s not really an option to add “BYOT” (bring your own torch) to the invitations for the evening party. Relying on candlelight in the evening may sound romantic, but it will still be pretty dim and is a potential fire hazard. What’s more, in order to be truly eco-friendly, you’ll need to source candles made from natural materials, rather than paraffin. You could look into solar-powered fairy lights, you’ll just need to make sure they’ve had a full day’s charge in constant sunlight to last the evening.

Dining table set out in a field
Photo by Anita Austvika on Unsplash

Food & drink

Ever heard the term “food waste wedding”? Several couples have hit the headlines in recent years by catering their weddings solely with food destined for landfill, sourced by The Real Junk Food Project, a charity that collects edibles that don’t meet supermarket or restaurant standards but are still safe to eat. Check out Zelig, the charity’s catering arm (trjfp.com). Of course, this may not suit your style, or be available where you are. In that case, ask your caterer whether they have any plans in place for limiting food waste, and whether they have any suggestions for using the leftovers. It might be possible to give guests goody bags of excess treats – though you’d need to plan this well in advance. You could also look into donating to a food charity or homeless shelter, but do your research – many won’t accept pre-prepared food for safety reasons.

Another question to ask your caterer is how they source their ingredients. Do they choose products with the smallest
carbon footprint? If they’re providing coffee and tea, is this Fairtrade? Is any fish or meat ethically farmed? And don’t forget the drinks. When you’re working out how much drink to order, try to source beer and wine locally, and opt for filtered tap water over plastic bottles. Some caterers and bars provide plastic glasses for any drinks that are taken outside – not to mention straws for certain wedding cocktails – so ask whether these are compostable.

Stationery

We’re not suggesting you go fully digital, unless that’s what you both want. But it will lessen your impact if you have only a few elements of your stationery suite printed – send digital save the dates, for example, and have one menu per table, rather than per person. Don’t include information inserts – put the information on a personalised wedding website and include the link. Instead of individual orders of service, put up a wedding sign with the running order where everyone can see it. If your stationer will be providing the finished, printed product, rather than just the design, ask whether there’s an option to have recycled or plantable seed paper.

Gift list

When you’re starting your gift list, there’s nothing wrong with choosing homewares or other products. Opt for long-wearing items you’ll use for years – and even pass on to future generations. It’ll also make your guests feel good to know they’re giving you something that will be used by your family for years, not having to be replaced within a couple of wedding anniversaries.

The Wainhouse Barn at Dewsall Court. Image by Kerry Diamond

Venue

It’s worth asking what your shortlisted venues have put in place to offset their environmental footprint – as sustainability issues become better understood, some have brought in exciting planet-friendly measures. Herefordshire’s Dewsall Court, for example, has a range of initiatives, including reducing water use while maintaining their beautiful grounds, banning pesticides, having their used cooking oil turned into biodiesel and allowing only environmentally-friendly cleaning products. At The Wellbeing Farm in Lancashire, all electricity is generated by its very own wind turbine, while Elmore Court in Gloucestershire has installed a biomass boiler to heat its water. Guests staying over? It might be worth looking at venues that have low-impact accommodation, such as glamping tents. And consider travel implications, too. If you’re set on having separate ceremony and reception spaces – for example, having an outdoor ceremony then heading to a different venue for the party – look at laying on transport, such as a private Routemaster, so your loved ones don’t have to travel between the two in multiple vehicles.

Décor

Another key question for your venue is whether they have any décor available to hire. Using existing reusable props, from lanterns and linens to vases, is considerably better than buying new. If your venue doesn’t offer this service, there are plenty of prop hire companies around the UK, so you should be able to find something local to you that suits your style. If you’re into craft and DIY, don’t be afraid to scour second-hand shops for furniture you can upcycle into a fabulous and unique wedding element – transforming an antique mirror into a table plan, for example, or using a reclaimed dresser to serve drinks. If there are any decorations you really want to buy new, take a look at what they’re made of and veer towards materials that are better for the environment. Hessian, for example, is ideal for a rustic look, and is biodegradable and created from sustainable plants.

Extras

If you’re putting together welcome bags for your guests, avoid packing them with products made from single-use plastics, such as packets of sweets. If you’re making bathroom packs, include beauty products that are cruelty-free and have recyclable packaging. And handing out flip-flops in the evening is now a no-no if you’re keen to reduce plastic use! You can get cork and recycled vegan flip-flops, but these would come in on the pricier side for the average guest list.

Beauty

If you’re planning on upgrading your beauty routine in the run-up to your wedding, look out for products that are kind to the environment. Ethique, for example, is a zero-waste, plastic-free, cruelty-free beauty brand, with bars for everything from moisturising to deodorising. Our favourite?

Tone It Down range, from £14, Ethique

Their Tone It Down solid purple shampoo and conditioner, which really take the yellow out of blonde, highlighted hair. It’s sulphate- and palm-oil-free, too!

You’ll know about recycled packaging, but what about recycled beauty products? UpCircle repurpose natural ingredients such coffee grounds, apricot and olive stones, argan shells and chai spices to create a rather lovely skincare range.

Bottle of face UpCircle serum surrounded by coffee beans
Organic face serum, £14.99, UpCircle

Try the ultra-hydrating face serum with rosehip for a skin-quenching moisture boost.

You can also be planet-kind with your dental care. The new toothpaste range from Spotlight features tubes made from sugar cane that are 100% recyclable.

Toothpaste, £7.95, Spotlight Oral Care

When you’re putting together your on-the-day bridal kit, try to avoid single-use plastics.

Plasters in cardboard pot
Patch bamboo plasters, £6.99, Holland & Barrett

Plasters are a w-day essential, in case of blisters from your shoes. These bamboo versions are plastic-free, compostable, hypo-allergenic and vegan.

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Looking for more inspiration? Check out our guide to vegan wedding food.