Monday, March 4, 2024

How to Say ‘I Do’ to a Sustainable Wedding


From the dress to the venue and even the cake, here’s how to make your wedding day as memorable as it is sustainable.

Weddings are celebrations of love and commitment. But your nuptials could be causing harm to the planet. The average wedding generates 400 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, according to The Green Bride Guide, a book that helps eco-conscious couples plan their big day. 

Granted, not as many weddings took place the past few years due to gathering restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. But in prior years, about 2.5 million weddings were held in the U.S. each year — which equates to a lot of trash. But your wedding day doesn’t have to be wasteful. From the dress to the venue and even the cake, with a few small changes, you can still make your wedding day as memorable as it is sustainable. Here’s how.

How to plan a sustainable wedding

Ready to say “I do” to the eco-friendly wedding of your dreams? All you need is something old and nothing new, something borrowed and something… green! Here’s how to plan a sustainable wedding.

Wedding ring
Wedding ring | Photo courtesy Jeongim Kwon

The rings

So, you’re ready to put a ring on it, eh? An easy way to reduce your impact on the planet when planning your nuptials is to ensure your wedding bands are ethical. From reclaimed to vintage and even lab-grown, brands are increasingly turning to ethical jewelry amid consumers’ demands for more sustainable products. 

There are several jewelry companies that offer engagement rings and wedding bands that incorporate conflict-free stones, recycled metals, and other repurposed jewelry components. Ethical jewelry brands Jean Dousset, 12FIFTEEN, Brilliant Earth, and others create diamonds in a lab — reducing their environmental footprint and ensuring there’s no risk of human trafficking for forced labor. In addition to recycled and lab-grown diamonds, Montreal-based jeweler Ecksand Jewelry uses recycled gold to craft its sustainable jewelry. (Check out our guide for more eco-friendly jewelry.)

Wedding tux
Wedding tux, courtesy Kadarius Seegars | Unsplash

The dress and tux

For a wedding gown or tuxedo that’s timeless, sleek, and environmentally friendly, rent, rent, rent! In addition to saving money, you’ll also be reducing the amount of new clothing waste generated.

If you’re dead set on purchasing a new gown for the big day, then shop brands like Stella McCartney and Reformation. The latter carries dresses made from eco-friendly materials, including viscose, a man-made material derived from wood pulp. The brand’s floor-length Lecee Dress, which has a fitted bustier bodice and a low, scoop back, saves 11 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, compared to a traditional wedding gown.

For a sustainable tux, opt for brands like Everlane, Hangrr, and Brave Gentleman.

Wedding venue
Wedding venue, courtesy Carlo Buttinoni | Unsplash

The venue

The average carbon footprint of a non-destination wedding is about 56 tons, according to Stanford Magazine. The vast majority, 43 tons, comes from transportation emissions. Destination weddings may be dreamy and IG-worthy, but their environmental footprint is even greater due to air travel. Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to forego a destination wedding venue. There are many eco-friendly hotels and resorts that put sustainability first. 

But choosing a venue where most of your wedding guests are located will help to reduce transportation-related emissions. The Green Building Information Gateway is a terrific resource for finding “green” venues, event spaces, etc. in your area. Locally-owned vineyards, campgrounds, botanical gardens, and even national parks that allow wedding ceremonies to be held also make great options for reducing your footprint.

Wedding cake
Wedding cake, courtesy Photos by Lanty | Unsplash

The cake (and the food)

Is there a more important component of your wedding day than the cake and the post-wedding dinner? There’s no easier way to lower your footprint than by shopping locally, from seasonal fruits to fair trade products. You can also help counter the environmental impact of the animal agriculture industry by incorporating plant-based foods into the spread. Look for local vegan restaurants that offer catering services for a meal to remember. 

carbon footprint of roses
Flower bouquet, courtesy Polina Kholodova | Unsplash

The flowers

Last, but certainly not least — the flowers and bouquet. Did you know that imported cut flowers have to travel thousands of miles in airplanes just to make it to the flower shop? And many flowers are grown overseas in industrial-scale greenhouses, which means lots of water and chemicals are needed. Even if they’re grown in the U.S., they may still need to travel long distances via gas-guzzling trucks. So, before you choose your perfect bouquet, consider where the flowers were produced. Were they ethically and sustainably grown? In lieu of freshly cut flowers, you can also opt for locally grown, in-season herbs, foliage, and other potted plants.

And, of course, remember the honeymoon! For a list of sustainable resorts and hotels to escape to for a little TLC after your big day, click here.

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