Grow Your Own Zero Waste Solutions

Love, Not Waste, Should Last Forever

It’s that time of year when I may be lucky to pass by a wedding celebration emptying from a church or having picutres taken in the park. It makes me smile to get a glimpse of the happy couple and their entourage, knowing that it’s such a special day that has been planned for months if not years.  

As a former bride myself, I recall the months of preparation leading to that “perfect” day.  Yet before the big event there can be a lot of stress, with so much to consider -  the venue, the dress, the flowers and decorations, the list goes on.  Unfortunately, with our list of “must haves” we often leave behind an unintentional amount of waste that provides its own legacy.  According to the Green Bride Guide, the average wedding produces around 400 lbs of waste and 63 tons of CO2.  

Planning to reduce waste at your wedding does not take away anything that makes that day special or unique to you. In fact, waste conscious options can not only save cost, but add special touches that you and your guests will remember.  From local flavours, to personalized web sites and thoughtful donations, your sustainable wedding can have a lasting impact on you and your guests.

Though my wedding took place years before I started my personal zero waste journey, there were things we did then to reduce costs that also reduced waste.  At the start of our planning, we prioritised what was important to us and what was not. Ensuring our guests were well fed and watered and had plenty of time to dance were  top of the list. Having added “stuff” was not.  For example,  instead of giving out favours to our guests, we donated money towards some meaningful charities on everyone’s behalf.   Decorations at the hall were rented, so no centrepieces were being thrown out and flowers were kept to minimum. We also asked a friend to take our photos instead of hiring a professional photographer. From the digital files we were given we just printed out what we needed later.  We’ve only ever had one wedding photo up in the house!  

Food is a primary area of waste at weddings.  I recall the beautiful 3 tiered cake at our wedding, two-thirds of which we needed to fit in our freezer that night.  I also recall being a kid at a relative’s wedding which had many courses to the dinner.  At one point my dad begged the kitchen staff to stop bringing us kids anymore food as it was going to waste.  

Having a plan for leftovers and keeping the number of guests to just a meaningful number are all things you can do to cut down on food waste.  

Below are some tips for reducing wedding waste in a variety of categories.

Invitations and Wedding Attire

  • Send e-vites to the wedding for a fast and easy way of inviting your guests and getting quick responses!
  • Create fun and simple webpages where people can access hotel information, directions, gift ideas and more!
  • Choose recycled paper if you are mailing out physical invitations.
  • Be intentional with your guest list and who you really wish to be there, fewer guests mean less waste. Will you be looking at your photos years from now wondering who the person at the back table is?
  • Look for clothing rental options for your wedding party, they will appreciate the cost savings! Or let them choose a formal item from their own closet to give an eclectic look.
  • Find items you can borrow, like a veil or shoes to go with your dress.
  • Donate your wedding dress after the wedding to give it a new life with another happy bride and make their day!

Gifts and Wedding Favours

  • Consider asking for gift cards or financial contributions as an alternative to having guests buy gift items. Gifts can be experiences like dinners out and date night options!
  • Donate to a charity that is meaningful to you and your partner on behalf of the group instead of giving your guests wedding favours.
  • Offer things like having a photographer take photos for groups of families and friends on site and sending them to your guests after if you would like to give guests a momento of the wedding.
  • Give consumables like jars of jam or bottles of wine. You can also gift usable items like glass drinkware that they use at the table and take home.

Venue, Decorations, Food and Drinks

  • Select a venue that has décor built in whether an outdoor natural setting or an indoor setting with lights, staging, etc. This will minimize the need for additional items to be brought in.
  • Consider décor items that already are available through family and friends (plants, mirrors, martini glasses, frames)
  • Pass on decorating with items such as balloons, streamers, glitter, confetti.
  • Use rented table centerpieces from a wedding decorator that can be reused or have potted plants that guests can take home.
  • Cut down on things like place cards and individual menus by having one framed seating chart and menu at the entrance (or on your website)
  • Check that your venue uses glassware/ceramic coffee cups and not plastic, paper cups or straws.
  • Ask if the caterer/venue offers recycling and composting
  • Choose locally sourced menu items and seasonal fruits and vegetables if possible.
  • Ask if smaller meals are available for children if not using a family style or buffet option
  • Consider the size of your wedding cake (typically lots of cake is leftover or wasted!)
  • Keep late night snacks to a minimum or serve the wedding cake at that time. Bring containers to save leftovers if the venue allows or ask for food to be donated if possible.

Consider the areas that are most important to you and your partner for a fabulous wedding. You can eliminate a lot of waste by identifying items you don’t need to have a wonderful and memorable experience and focus on what you really value.

May the love shared at your wedding live forever, and not your waste!