From champagne toasts to high-end entertainment and elaborate flower arrangements, it seems no level of extravagance is off limits in today’s world of weddings. Nuptials over the last decade have evolved into over-the-top celebrations, but it does indeed come at a cost (and beyond the bill).
A typical wedding in the UK produces 18kg of single-use plastic waste, according to Sky Ocean Rescue, including decorations, plastic cups and water bottles.
However, conscientious couples are finding ways to plan stylish weddings without the harsh carbon footprint, saving some pennies and the planet in one fell swoop.
Thanks to the rise of new eco-friendly wedding planners, venues and dress options, a sustainable wedding can be just as elegant as traditional nuptials, if not more. Here’s where to start.
The simple swaps
There are some simple changes you can make for a more environmentally conscious wedding that will still be the big day of your dreams. “Simplicity is key – I think it’s so easy to get carried away with the hype, but the most important thing is that you’re surrounded by the people you love the most and everyone is there to celebrate your love,” says Venetia La Manna, fair fashion campaigner and host of the podcast All The Small Things. Venetia and her now-husband Max planned an eco-friendly wedding in 2019.
Her first top tip is to stay local. “Prioritise local and seasonal food and drink wherever you can. Not only will this help to support small local businesses, it will also be the most environmentally friendly option,” she says. “My husband and I are both vegan, so our menu was plant based which, like the dress code, gave our guests something to talk about – even if they hadn’t met before.”
Not sure where to start? Head to Green Union, a wedding directory set up to guide brides-and-grooms-to-be to help pinpoint the perfect local and sustainable options – everything from sustainable cakes to catering and venues.
The second key tip is to avoid anything single use if possible. “For decorations, prioritise items that can be used time and time again,” says La Manna. This is echoed by Sian Bowron, founder of Amethyst Weddings, which specialises in sustainable receptions: “I try and hire as much as possible for the weddings I organise – such as glasses, cutlery and candle holders – to avoid using plastic, disposable versions and reduce waste.”
If you want to turn your big white wedding green, we applaud you – look no further for a complete guide to how to plan an eco-friendly wedding, from the venue and decor to the all-important dress.
Eco-friendly wedding venues
There’s no one type of wedding venue that’s the most environmentally friendly – it’s simply a case of selecting a venue that lessens the amount of energy and resources needed for your wedding as much as possible. Although, as La Manna says, travel is a key contributor to a wedding’s carbon footprint, so “perhaps consider hosting it in a place which requires the least amount of travel from your guests.”
While a wedding in a field or on a farm may seem like the most sustainable choice, it can often be more energy and resource-intensive to construct a temporary structure like a marquee or tipi and supply it with power. Wedding venues are also likely to have the necessary infrastructure in place already, which takes some of the practical considerations off your plate. Opt for decorations and furniture you can re-use, too.
Here is a small selection of our favourites to add to your moodboard…
Nestled in 70 acres of private wildflower meadows and ancient woodland, Wellington Wood is the perfect location for a rustic wedding. They offer outdoor and covered ceremony areas, a tipi reception venue, an outdoor bar stocked with your selection of drinks and accommodation for your wedding party powered by renewable energy.
An outdoor tipi or marquee wedding venue set in relaxed farmland and woodland in East Sussex, with the bonus of a picture-perfect lake and glamping for guests. Wickerwood Farm actively supports local business and suppliers wherever possible.
This one’s for the foodies: get married at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage, which is set in 65 acres of organic farmland. It offers beautiful views across the rolling Devon countryside and, of course, exemplary food and drink. You can either get married in the famous kitchen garden or a characterful restored barn.
Eco-friendly wedding decorations
For a sustainable approach to wedding decorations, beg, borrow and steal to ensure as little as possible is single-use (although we wouldn’t condone stealing, of course).
For instance, you could borrow hurricane candle holders, table runners and vases for centrepieces from family and friends if you strive for a rustic look. If you’re after a more professional finish, prop hire companies such as To Have and To Hire offer a wide range of props, decorations and themed accessories you can borrow for your wedding. Many wedding venues, such as Wickerwood Farm above, will have props, decorations and accessories you can use, too.
There are also endless opportunities for DIY decorations: from wine bottle candle holders (which are surprisingly chic) to home-made fabric bunting. If you do want to buy some finishing touches, go for paper and card rather than plastic – buy biodegradable paper lanterns rather than plastic balloons, for instance.
Eco-friendly wedding dresses
First thing’s first – there’s no totally ‘eco-friendly’ way to buy a new dress that you’ll only wear once (but you’ve got to choose something you’re going to feel fabulous in – it is your wedding, after all).
“As a fair fashion campaigner, I was really keen for all of our guests to make the most of the clothes that they already own. Our dress code was “Something old, nothing new, something borrowed, something renewed,” La Manna says.
“There’s a fantastic second-hand wedding dress market which is really worth diving into,” she adds. Ebay, The Sustainable Bride, which reworks family hand-me-downs and vintage finds, and Still White, the UK’s largest bridal resale site, are good places to start.
La Manna bought a vintage wedding dress and then rented a dress from HURR, a fashion rental site, for dancing. MyWardrobeHQ also carries bridal options from top designers including Amanda Wakeley and Charlie Brear. If you do want to shop first-hand, Good On You is an app that gives brands an ethical rating based on their environmental standards – check out a brand’s standing before you buy.
Eco friendly wedding invitations and save-the-dates
You may be imagining that your carefully crafted wedding invitations will make a lovely memento for your guests – but, unfortunately, there’s a high chance they’ll end up in the bin after the big day.
For a more sustainable option, go for invites and save-the-dates made from recycled card or paper, or choose a paperless invite company like Greenvelope or Paperless Post (these have the added benefit of keeping track of RSVPs for you). Feeling crafty? You could even make your own from recycled card and dried flowers.
Treasure Studios makes beautiful bespoke wedding stationery from recycled paper and vegan ink, glue and paper dye – even the website is run by a 100% carbon neutral company.
Eco friendly wedding flowers
Flowers that have been flown in from outside the UK are another aspect of a wedding that can easily add to its carbon footprint. Opt into the #GrownNotFlown movement by going for flowers grown on home soil. A good place to start is Flowers From the Farm, a membership association for sustainable British growers, which has a nationwide map of where to find British cut flowers near you.
Here are some eco-friendly florists who source their blooms from the UK:
This Somerset-based florist makes beautiful wedding bouquets from seasonal, sustainably grown flowers that are always British. If you’re looking for something small for a micro-wedding, you can choose from their range of bridal bouquets that are available by post, or call them for bespoke wedding floristry.
Grown sustainably and free from chemicals on a farm in Kent, Blooming Green is a great choice for British-grown wedding flowers. They even offer a fun ‘pick your own’ service which would be perfect for an intimate wedding.
As one of the only flower farms in London, Wolves Lane is unique in more ways than one. They offer stunning British-grown seasonal flowers from March to autumn but, if you have a winter wedding, they’re more than happy to discuss an arrangement of greenery and on-trend dried flowers instead.
Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.