Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Happy Earth Month!
Sustainability is the hottest (pun intended) topic right now, and when planning your wedding, the crazy amount of waste that could be created is a huge concern. Take it from someone who worked for a caterer for over 10 years… there’s pretty much no limit to the amount of waste you could cause if you wanted to, or if you simply chose to be blissfully unaware of that fact.
On the other end of the spectrum, you might be asking, why try for sustainability, when you could go for zero-waste? Unfortunately, this is nearly impossible, from the cocktail napkins to the leftover food, even considering guest transport… Look, even The Zero Waste Warbler produced a full grocery bag of waste at her super-sustainable, 100-person wedding, so let’s be pragmatic, ok? No private jets, please! And as my friend Marine, who runs ReEvents in New York, explained to me: it’s about making the better choice, if you can’t make the best one. So, without further ado, here are some accessible ways to reduce your wedding’s waste output with better choices:
1. Locally sourced flowers would be ideal, and grown without chemicals in the soil. But most important is to avoid using floral foam, because it’s a microplastic, and there are tons of compostable or reusable alternatives. (There is also the question of what to do with the flowers at the end of the event, so might I suggest inviting your guests to take centrepieces home with them, or donating them to a senior’s residence?)
2. Speaking of flowers, you can make your own sustainable confetti with dried flowers, or order some on Etsy. (I haven’t found anyone making this in Canada yet, so if you know someone who is doing it, please send me their contact!)
3. Avoid single-use plastic, opting instead for compostable or reusable cutlery, dishes, and glassware. More and more, I’m seeing bar services supply metal straws that guests can take home with them, or more often, leave behind to be washed and re-used at the next party. Everything else can be rented, but be mindful: most rental companies wrap their dishes in plastic wrap, bubble wrap, and plastic bags.
4. Consider buying a previously worn wedding dress, or at least letting your bridesmaids rent their dresses. I’ve rented dresses from Ocurent, which has tons of designer labels, and I just love the experience of not having to commit to one dress to rule all my summer events, and knowing I’m not contributing to landfills when something no longer fits me… I just drop it off with them, and then I can actually earn a little money with my outgrown clothes! Suits are also often rented, although, depending on your lifestyle, an affordable custom-made suit that gets worn again and again might be well worth the purchase.
6. Reusable signage that you can sell or give away after the event works, and so does calligraphy, which can done on mirrors, plexiglass, or windows, and wiped away after the event.
7. Some people still love a paper invitation, and I think this is a keepsake and perhaps an exception: you can minimize your footprint by using recycled or seeded paper, and hiring local printers and calligraphers. That said, paperless is gaining popularity, and some wedding websites make RSVP’s easy. Check out my recent post for a shortlist of my favourites.
8. For favours, instead of organza bags tied off with cheap ribbon, I always suggest something guests can eat or something they can use. How about reusable beeswax food wrappers around the lid of a jar of homemade jam? And I love T. Lee’s candles, which are made in Montreal with soy wax and come in reusable jars. They also teach candle-making at their studio, so you could make this activity one of your pre-wedding events.
9. Last, and most importantly: hire suppliers who support your desire to be low waste. While you can’t control everything, you can and should demand that your suppliers make an effort to be sustainable. The simple truth is that the supply will always work to meet the demand, and suppliers will listen to you and work to have your business. The more people insist upon it, the quicker it will become the norm.
A lot of these sustainable options can also be affordable options, but the most important thing is to remember, as I always say, that it’s not just about the wedding day. It’s about you and your partner, making decisions together, and enjoying the moments leading up to the day as well. The engagement is the time you really get on the same page, talking about money, family, and your values. On your wedding day, you get to share some of those values with your family and friends, and by making it sustainable, you’ll have something you can be proud to share with your children and grandchildren, who will be enjoying the planet you helped save.