10 Simple Ways to Make Your Wedding Greener (And Easier)


An official #lazygirl's guide

by Najva Sol, Brand Director

Eco Friendly Wedding Ideas

I’ve worked as a photographer and server at my fair share of weddings, and based on the number of bouquets, appetizers, and decorations I’ve saved from the trash and taken home, I feel like I can say one thing for sure: weddings cause waste. Now, I’m lucky enough to have worked with tons of ethically minded clients, so I’ve been shielded from the worst of it, but I’ve still seen boxes of leftover favors, piles of plastic, and trash bags full of… whatever, at almost every event I’ve been to.

And here’s the thing: I get it. Wedding planning is intense. You’re trying to figure out the right combination of venue, food, decor, outfits, all within a fixed budget, all while trying to please as many people as possible. So adding another element, attempting to source locally, or Fair Trade, or cruelty free, or eco-friendly—it can feel like too much. In fact, it’s a classic catch 22: you have the opportunity, numbers, and resources to make a real impact, but you’re too overwhelmed to actually make it happen. So what do you do?

We asked that exact question a few weeks ago, and you all gave us some seriously awesome ideas, but the best advice probably came from reader N, who said:

I think it’s important to remember that lots of green choices can be cheaper (and sometimes easier!) choices, too. Options that reduce things tend to be both cheaper and better for the environment.

Or in layman’s terms: an eco-friendly wedding doesn’t need to be one more thing to worry about it. In fact, in a lot of cases, simplifying can be the easiest way to make your wedding more eco-friendly and cost-effective. So with that in mind, here are ten #Lazygirl tips for making your green wedding happen, while saving yourself money, time, and effort.

1. Cut down on flowers AND/OR GO LOCAL

Sadly, traditionally cut flowers have a pretty serious carbon footprint. Luckily these days there are so many options for alternatives to flowers that you might be overwhelmed, but if you’ve got your heart set on fresh flowers at your wedding, there are still options. Check your farmer’s market rates and swing by the day of to snag in season flowers and to support a local farmer. And you can always cut down on your impact by doing fresh flower bouquets only and going non-floral for other decor, like centerpieces.

2.Rent your linens

You know what makes renting linens awesome? There’s zero ironing involved. You don’t have to purchase or transport new linens, and someone else will take care of the washing and sorting after the event. And don’t stop at linens; rent anything you can. Repeat after me: renting is always greener (and easier). Another green alternative: crowdsource and find out if any aunties or family friends have linens or other decor they’ll loan.

3. Encourage people to share

Let’s hear it for family style and buffet style food! In short: less waste, less expensive, and what you don’t want hasn’t been contaminated, which means your friendly wedding server can take the leftovers home for her roommates (just saying).

4. Reconsider the favors

First of all, you don’t need them. But if you really, really want to give your guests something to take home, aim for edible, useful, or recyclable things in order to avoid piles of unwanted plastic after all the guests are gone.

5. Go vegetarian for the day

You may have read the statistics: the production of meat takes a lot of water. But you don’t have to be a practicing vegetarian (and neither do your guests) to have an awesome, eco-friendly vegetarian dinner at your wedding. There are so many options (Mediterranean food! Delicious pasta! Even veg-friendly BBQ), that are tasty and filling; your guests won’t even notice the difference.

6. Pick a venue you don’t have to decorate

Venue decor can be fun, but not strictly necessary for creating a beautiful space. Sometimes the beautiful spaces exist as they are, and you don’t have to bring in anything extra (or stay up for several nights DIYing the perfect craft to hang). Pro tip: if you want to do minimal decorating, but still have a beautiful venue, look for outdoor spaces with lots of natural beauty (weather permitting), or historical structures that have built-in character.

7. Email your Save the Dates

More and more people are moving toward sending out Save the Dates electronically (you can still include engagement photos) and using recycled paper to print the actual wedding invites (or alternatively, only printing the invitations that really need to go out via snail mail, and sending the rest electronically). I promise, most of your guests won’t even bat an eye. (And if they do, that’s what the phone is there for. Maybe put your number on the RSVP card for your Nana.)

8. Have your wedding nearest the most guests

Travel in and of itself has a carbon footprint, so reducing the travel needs of your guests can go a long way to recovering that footprint. For some, finding a place that’s near the majority of your guests won’t be too hard. But for the adventurous destination folks (or just… folks whose loved ones are flung near and far): you can still reduce your footprint by making sure the wedding venue is walkable from the place most people are residing (hotel weddings and camp weddings can be great for this). And for the city kids: public transport, or pre-arranged buses, can make a big difference.

9. Be Mindful of your registry

Being eco-conscious doesn’t have to stop with the wedding. If you’re creating a registry, you don’t have to limit yourself to big box retailers and national houseware brands. Most universal registries will let you add ethically sourced, eco-friendly, sustainable, vintage, or even just more durably made versions of the items you’re already looking for. Basically, you get to harness the generosity of your wedding guests, and use it for even more good. It’s like being a superhero, kind of.

10. WHEN IN DOUBT… CROWDSOURCE

You might need a thing, and maybe someone has that exact thing lying around. Ask! I’ve heard stories of people getting all their flowers from a neighbor’s garden or glasses from an aunt, or you know, DJ equipment from a friend’s girlfriend’s roommate. Anything is possible. There’s no shame in asking for help before feeling like the burden is on you to find all the things. That’s what community is for. And if working with the community isn’t the biggest part of a green wedding, then I don’t know what is.

Najva Sol

Najva Sol is a queer Iranian-American writer, photographer, branding consultant, artist, and ex-poet.  She’s the token staff Slytherin and—while formally based in Brooklyn—tends to travel as much as possible. Storytelling is her life, but making chicken broth is a close second.

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  • Essssss

    This is great! I want to add one that I think is a big deal and often overlooked: use existing family rings, or use rings made of recycled metal, alternative gems, or vintage rings. Anything we can do to use elements that have already been mined and keep existing materials in the ground is a big contribution to a green ethic. The environmental and social impacts of mining gold, diamonds and other precious metals and gems is huge and hidden from our direct line of sight, but this is a big way we can vote with our dollars and practices. And have rings with a unique story!

    • Natalie

      I know it’s not always an option, but I agree that using family rings or vintage rings is a good-for-the-environment choice. My ring was my grandmother’s, and I love it. It makes me feel connected to her and to my heritage at the same time that it connects me to my husband.

    • Eenie

      Recycled metal and alternative gems FTW!

    • jubeee

      most definitely my engagement ring is an antique, as is my wedding band. The band I am buying for him is handmade from a local jeweler who uses entirely reclaimed element.s

      I like antique jewelry because I feel like it brings something with it. Behind every beautiful, old ring is a woman who loved it before.

    • Barbara J. Miller

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  • VKD_Vee

    So relieved to see number 3 on there! It’s definitely the most impact-ful point from the list! :-)

    • Eenie

      Although honestly, at some of the venues I’ve priced it’s actually more expensive per person for the buffet. Which was backwards from what I’d always thought? We’ll still probably do it because I think it’s insane to think everyone eats the same amount of food (a comment on the overall culture, not a judgment on anyone who has a plated dinner for their wedding).

      • VKD_Vee

        I SAID #3, BUT MEANT #5.
        #disqusfail

        • Eenie

          HAHAHA. I read the number and assumed it would be the meat free one. Then I was surprised you thought buffet/family styled food was the single best thing you could do for your wedding :)

          • VKD_Vee

            I AM ALSO REALLY REALLY PASSIONATE ABOUT BUFFETS! Just for more gluttonous reasons…

    • carissa

      Yes! I was about 99% vegetarian when we got married… Really wanted a vegetarian wedding. We ended up serving meat, but had a veg rehearsal dinner. And for the wedding we did a taco bar with tons of grilled veggies and fresh salads, along with local pork and salmon (wild caught in Alaska by my brother-in-law who lives there). I thought it was a good compromise, and all our guests seemed happy with both meals!

      • Eenie

        Taco bar… yum. I like this idea for ours too!

        • MC

          Another plug for taco bars! They’re also great for people who have dietary restrictions – we had a few vegetarians/vegans and some gluten-free guests at our wedding and tacos were the easiest way we could think of to make sure everyone was happy.

          • Eenie

            I’m gluten free. I refuse to serve food I can’t eat at our wedding. The appeal of the taco bar is very high.

  • mimi

    Some things we did:
    1) gave our guests each a mason jar mug as their drinking vessel for the evening and as their favor
    2) found a local flower vendor – we actually scouted the local farmer’s market a couple months before the wedding, and arranged with the vendor to buy a specific quantity and color of flowers. That way, we didn’t have to just take whatever was there on the day of, and it gave her some time to grow more flowers for us!
    3) I had my mom’s dress (which was also my grandma’s dress) tailored and also got a vintage engagement ring
    4) we used GloSite for our wedding RSVP’s. We sent out paper invitations, but they were only one page in an envelope (we also sent postcard save-the-dates).
    5) we got married outdoors on family property, so we rented everything – tables, chairs, dishes, linens, etc. We decorated with white Christmas lights that we now use at our house and the locally-grown flowers.
    6) we served dinner buffet style

    • jubeee

      I just bought 80 chalkboard painted wine glasses from a woman on facebook. I will be using these as drink containers/favors. She assembled them from 2nd hand stores. I am now going to cancel my wine glass rental order.

      • VKD_Vee

        And, of course, you can sell them on Craigslist (Facebook, Kijiji, whatevs) after yourself!

  • Natalie

    I love that most of these suggestions are also cheaper. We did a lot of these for our wedding: vegetarian, buffet-style food, renting linens, no favors, emailed save-the-dates, garden venue that needed no decoration, centerpieces locally grown (in our backyard). These were all easier and cheaper for us than the alternatives. It’s wonderful if you can afford organic fair-trade dresses for the entire bridal party, organic & locally grown food, and to buy carbon offsets for your traveling guests, but if you can’t, there are still so many ways you can reduce your wedding’s impact.

  • pajamafishadventures

    One of my favorite things about the list is that many of these options I was already considering (when my time comes) out of sheer laziness. Decorate a venue? pshaw, just find someplace that’s already pretty. Worry about save the dates? Not even a little! So now I can pass my decisions off as being environmentally conscious and save some face with the relatives.

    • Sarah E

      It helps SO much. We did minimal decorations with either keepsakes we already had or paper things that were recyclable (not that they got recycled, I believe), and used our Christmas cards to circulate the date-saving sentiment. Cut out everything that takes too much work– everything else will be more than enough work in the end anyway!

  • Sarah E

    I’m not sure that renting linens is always greener. Sure, if it cuts down on personal vehicles that are driving to event solely to cart stuff around, but if you’re bringing your car one way or the other the effect isn’t there. Also, I’d wonder (again, I don’t know the numbers), whether the industrial washing/ironing process at the rental company is any better than what you could do at home, say purchasing or using second-hand linens, washing them in a high-efficiency machine, and line-drying them. Until I saw some actual breakdowns on energy usage, I’d be hesitant to back that renting is greener. Just because someone else is doing the washing doesn’t mean energy and water aren’t being wasted.

    All that said, I had high hopes and dreams of having a 100% eco-friendly, waste-free event. I know it’s possible, but I just wasn’t willing to put in the endless detail work to make it happen. Still trying not to view that as a personal failure– it helps to remember that even if it is, my spouse is equally implicated, so someone else can burn in the fiery hell that encompasses our doomed earth with me :-)

    • Eenie

      With linens it might have to do with the economy of scales – if I routinely wash linens as a part of my business it’s more efficient than some random person washing and ironing them. You may have a high efficiency machine, but it’s not commercial grade.

      • Sarah E

        I considered this, but again, I’d have to see numbers to be convinced. I’m entirely down with economies of scale, but also hesitant to jump on board if that company isn’t utilizing green practices in the first place.

        • Eenie

          To Meg’s point on a previous post though – it is a lot less work and not as wasteful as buying new.

    • RoseTyler

      Also, what are you going to do with enough linens for a larger wedding sitting around your house? Just store a dozen or more table cloths etc? So by renting you aren’t purchasing new ones to then sit around and go to waste.

      • Kayjayoh

        Purchase and then Craigslist ’em. I’m telling you, people will buy them even without you have had to wash them.

      • Sarah E

        Purchasing new ones would be wasteful, but if you purchased second-hand, you’re still keeping things out of the waste-stream and not adding to demand for newly-manufactured items. In terms of being eco-friendly, the space they take up in your house isn’t a detriment– though, I agree you probably wouldn’t want to keep them, in which case re-selling or donation would continue the eco-process.

  • MC

    Getting our flowers from the farmer’s market the morning of our wedding was one of the best parts of the day! Some of the vendors that we were friendly with knew it was our wedding day and we saw some of our wedding guests there too, including my grandparents-in-law who were SO HAPPY to see us there! So we were basically wandering around with armfuls of beautiful flowers while people congratulated us. It was the best way to start the day :)

  • jubeee

    Wedding yardsale pages on facebook. I am buying lots of decorations/supplies second hand from other brides. In turn, I will sell them to the next bride when we are done.

    • Lauren from NH

      Ooo! Those exist?! I was hoping there was a easy way for me to pass on extra or reuasable wedding stuff. I know there is that page on Ruffled, but I would prefer something more local for ease.

      • jubeee

        there are two in my area. It seems like facebook is killing craigslist in the second hand sales these days.

        • Lauren from NH

          Excellent! I keep buying more than I think I will need of things to keep from having an “oh shit!” moment and needing to pay for shipping twice, but I don’t want to trash that stuff. Glad it sounds like people are happy to take it off your hands.

      • NatalieN

        Look for “Swap” groups in your area. There are several where I am (Santa Barbara), and a lot of them are “____ Swap”

      • BB

        I don’t know about your area, but in Chicago we have the Great Wedding Recyclery hosted by The Green Wedding Alliance. It’s a huge wedding garage sale! Maybe someone in your area is also doing something similar. It was also great to find vendors through them as well and we plan to sell back all our stuff after our Nov. wedding:)
        http://greenweddingalliance.com/great-wedding-recyclery/

    • We’re doing this with several decor items. My mom was really adamant that she wanted parasols and fans for folks who are sun sensitive during the ceremony; she managed to find some that have already been used/sold for two weddings previous to ours on the super cheap.

  • Nell

    We were told that a buffet wastes more food than a plated meal, because the caterer has to make extra of everything at a buffet while a plated meal gives the caterer a precise count and they don’t make extra of anything. Maybe that’s just our caterer?

    Our biggest eco-friendly decisions are around decor. We are using upcycled jars for centerpieces, we are re-using a friend’s chuppah, and we are having minimal flowers and decor generally.

    We also did email save the dates. I highly recommend Paperless Post – since you can also get some of them printed out for VIP guests or old people who have trouble with email.

    It was also important to us to pick seasonally appropriate food, and to work with a caterer that uses at least some locally sourced ingredients.

    • MC

      I’m not a caterer by any means, but my guess would be that a buffet means that the caterer has to make a bit more food but that less of it is wasted (because people choose how much to put on their plates and the leftovers can often be taken home), while plated meals might mean the caterer has to make less food but whatever isn’t eaten is thrown out. We had a buffet for our reception and the caterers let us take all the food home as long as we provided the containers!

      • Lauren from NH

        That is kind of a catch22. People take too much food at buffets though, so sometimes the eat too much (waste or not depending on your interpretation) or it gets thrown out…I really don’t know which better, but I do know we do a pretty good job at our house not wasting food so ya know, you do what you can.

      • *exactly* the un-eaten food can be saved! Once it hits the plates though, no dice.

  • TLC

    We’re doing a library wedding, so all of the favors are second-hand paperbacks that we got locally at rummage sales or on eBay. Less than $1 per favor. eBay ones had to be shipped, which was not ideal, but at least some old books are going to have new homes!

    • jubeee

      Books FYI-libraries have book sales where you can find many paperbacks for 50 cents. Fiancee is a used book dealer, this is how he gets his inventory.

    • Kayjayoh

      We did that and people loved it. We also used them as the centerpieces.

  • Kayjayoh

    I’m delighted to realize how many of these we managed, without even really thinking “green.”

    1. CUT DOWN ON FLOWERS AND/OR GO LOCAL
    Check. Three bouquets, all from farmer’s market flowers that morning. Total cost <$30.

    2.RENT YOUR LINENS
    Nope. But we resold them to another bride, without having to re-wash the ones we used. But man…it is true. Washing big table linens takes a lot of wash cycles if you do it at home. We could fit three per load, I think. (We were discouraged from doing it at a laundromat, as the high heat on the dryers can "shock" the polyester and cause permanent wrinkles. YMMV.)

    3. ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO SHARE
    Check! Buffets make the head-count much less fraught, since you don't need to have an exact number of dinners. Also, if you go for "finger" food, like pizza and things on skewers, you don't need a lot of utensils. (Also, check out compostible if you are using disposable.)

    4. RECONSIDER THE FAVORS
    Check. If you combine your table decorations and your favors, you can save a lot of cost, too. Someone is likely to take home a cool table decoration, and if it is something repurposed, even better.

    5. GO VEGETARIAN FOR THE DAY
    Check. Delicious veggie pizzas and sides. I doubt anyone missed the meat with that much tasty cheese. And almost everyone we know loves pizza.

    6. PICK A VENUE YOU DON’T HAVE TO DECORATE
    Check. CHECK. Totally check. :)

    7. EMAIL YOUR SAVE THE DATES
    Nope. Would have, but honestly, I really liked (and still do) the fridge magnets. And I know so many people with a collection of wedding magnets on their fridges. But I look at it as helping to keep the USPS going.

    8. HAVE YOUR WEDDING NEAREST THE MOST GUESTS
    Partial check. It was always going to be about half and half. But we did make sure that the venue was in walking distance of the hotel, for those who were coming in from out of town.

    9. BE MINDFUL OF YOUR REGISTRY
    Check. Another big thumbs up for sokindregistry.org, which let us do things like indicate that second-hand was acceptable.

    10. WHEN IN DOUBT… CROWDSOURCE
    Check.

    It really is true. Not every option will work for every situation, but it is amazing how much of this you can do without even considering the eco-factor, but just looking at the practicality of it.

  • Kayjayoh

    Also, postcards for RSVPs: it costs a little less for the stamps, and you don’t need to deal with any envelopes.

    • Lauren from NH

      Postcards for invites! We did postcard invites with just the basics and our wedding website url. It got the job done and I loved our custom design made by these fine people…

      https://www.etsy.com/shop/nestingprojectwed?section_id=11021225&ref=shopsection_leftnav_3

      • Kayjayoh

        We did large postcards for the invites, but we did send them in envelopes so that A. we could keep the info private and B. include the RSVP. Vistaprint has large postcards that fit perfectly into your average greeting card envelope.

        (We also used postcards for our thank you cards. Once more, in envelopes for privacy. But they were great for including a quick greeting and thanks from each of us, without requiring a lot of writing or looking sparse.)

      • Lauren from NH

        I might have posted it before, can’t remember, but here it is…(had it in my phone all along…)…

  • carissa

    Great list! Eco-friendliness was a major concern for us in our wedding planning a few years ago, and we maybe went a little more hardcore/handmade than most would be willing to. :)

    -We got married at our in-laws property, 40 acres in the woods. Gorgeous, no decorations needed.
    -We made bouquets, boutonnieres, and centerpieces from wildflowers and greenery picked on the property.
    -Had a vegetarian rehearsal dinner, and veggie heavy taco bar with local pork and wild caught salmon for the wedding (both catered by us).
    -My wedding dress and shoes, and my husband’s suit and shoes were all vintage/used.
    -No favors.
    -Had a honeymoon registry.
    -We made all our own simple STDs and invites, and had email RSVPs.
    -We rented linens, tables and chairs, although we purchased plates, silverware and mason jars for the dinner. The dishes have since been passed on to friends who cater, and the mason jars are used for our extensive canning.

    The biggest eco-unfriendly factor was travel. And unfortunately it has a really big impact. We held the wedding in Michigan, which was at least sort of a middle point (and some of my husband’s family is there). But we flew in ourselves, and our friends and family are literally scattered over the globe. We had guests come from Germany, China, Alaska, California, Oregon, Arkansas, Florida, Massachusetts, and everywhere in between!

  • eating words

    yay! glad to see this: we’re going to have an all-vegetarian buffet, will rent tableware and most linens, and are making simple centerpieces from thrifted vases and plants that we’re growing at home. and most of our guests are local, though the ones that aren’t have to fly across the country. love the rest of the ideas, too, especially vintage rings and for local flowers. we might even be able to get flowers from the farm where we’re getting married, which would be extra awesome.

    • eating words

      oh, and am super-excited to learn about facebook wedding swap groups.

  • veggiebride

    We kept our wedding green in a few ways:
    – We had a vegetarian cocktail reception, husband and I are both vegetarians and a formal sit down dinner wasn’t our style.
    – Minimal paper products: no ceremony programs, and no seating chart or place cards (yay cocktail reception)
    – All of our flowers were picked from my uncle’s beautiful garden and arranged by me and my bridal party the day before the wedding
    – Most of our decor items (vases, picture frames, etc.) were borrowed or we already owned.
    – Ceremony and reception at one location, close to many of our guests (one aunt and uncle could walk!)
    – Attire: I made my own wedding dress and husband got a lovely made-in-Canada 3-piece suit that he will wear again and again :)

    • veggiebride

      Oh, also, my husband had my engagement ring and band custom designed/made by a local jeweller using a Canadian diamond. We had them make his wedding band as well.

  • Ali

    Unintentionally did several of these because it was what we wanted and/or less expensive. No flowers (just not my thing), venue provided linens & table settings (country club wedding FTW; any other lazy brides use a country club? they were my lifeline), dinner was a buffet, cookie table with cookies made by family and friends served as favors (Pittsburgh tradition), & our DJ was a friend who had his own equipment. Sometimes being lazy has it’s perks!

  • Great advice. Some of these I already knew, but it is great to hear it again.

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  • At Paperless Wedding we are big fan on going green. This list is great and shows how simple it is to add an element of green into your wedding. In retrospect I think we actually had a very green wedding. We married in one venue, in central (ish) London, used public transport to get to venue and so did ALL of our guests, we had seasonal food and edible table decorations. I even used my Grans ring for my engagement ring!