Sustainable Wedding Planning (Part 1)

PC: R&J Lyell

Within the last year, so many of my peers have gotten engaged! I can’t help but daydream about my wedding day. There are so many fun, creative and affordable ways that you can incorporate sustainability into your wedding and I am excited to share what I’ve learned so far!

My friends got married last year and they wanted to incorporate sustainability into their wedding while planning on a budget. Some of the photos from this post are from their beautiful wedding! Since they are now wedding planning pros, I asked them for wedding planning tips which are listed at the end of this post.


Go paperless and create a wedding website to share with your guests. Wedding websites are great because guests can RSVP, submit their meal choices, look at your registry, and more! You can share all of your wedding information in a single, easy to access place. The Knot, has hundreds of free, easy-to-use wedding templates.

If websites aren’t your thing, consider sending digital invitations or save-the-dates. Greenvelope has many elegant online wedding invites and donates to the National Park Foundation. Other great online wedding invitation sites include Paperless Post and Evite.

If you want to go the more traditional route and mail out invitations, you may be interested in creating plantable wedding cards. BloominBotanical PaperWorks and Etsy offer many unique wedding invitations that can be planted and transformed into beautiful flowers after your wedding day is over. If you’re feeling creative, you can create your own wedding invitations from recycled materials or buy them from Etsy. Be on the lookout for soy or vegetable based ink. Lastly, PaperCulture is a greeting card company which plants a tree for every purchase made, creates is products from recycled materials and works to offset their carbon footprint.



Flowers: When it’s time to pick out your wedding flowers, try your best to choose local, organic, and in-season flowers. The Spruce has a great article which lists wedding flowers for each season. A great way to get locally grown flowers is to check out a local Farmers’ Market. Also, keep in mind that you can decorate with potted plants instead of cut flowers. (These can later be given away as wedding favors!) If you plan to decorate with cut flowers, consider donating these flowers after the wedding to organizations, such as Repurposed Rose. This awesome Bay Area organization delivers flowers to places, such as nursing homes, children’s hospitals, and veteran care facilities!

Name Cards: If you would like to have name cards, you don’t have to use fancy card stock. Use a gold or silver sharpie to write your guests’ names on leaves or use take your seeds place cards which are plantable and biodegradable. For my cousins’ wedding, they put chalkboard stickers on mason jars which served as our cups for the night. We all wrote our name on the jars and took them back to our seat so that they also acted as name cards and wedding favors!

Confetti: Swap out rice and synthetic confetti with natural alternatives. You can make your own confetti from leaves or used dried flower petals. You can also purchase growfetti, which is biodegradable seed paper that will grow into flowers when planted.

Center Pieces: Arrange potted plants and succulents so that they can act as table centerpieces. These can later be given away as wedding favors. Rather than buying new decor, work with what you already have. This includes soy candles, mason jars, and other recycled glassware.

Programs: Rather than handing out paper programs, my friends hand painted a wooden pallet as seen in the photo above. I absolutely loved how they repurposed items into decorations! Their creativity is inspiring and they did a great job at demonstrating that you can host a sustainable wedding while on a budget.


If you chose to use small potted plants or succulents as centerpieces, give them away as favors! This can help you save money, especially if you home grow the succulents/plants. It will also help lessen the clean up at the end of the day. Edible favors are also another great sustainable alternative. Edible favor ideas include jars of local honey or baked goods. Plantable favors are awesome because your guests can will always be reminded of your special day when look at their garden. You can either give seed packets, or cute plantable seed hearts. If you aren’t interested in giving out material wedding favors, donate the money that you would spend on wedding favors to charity instead. Choose two or three of your favorite charities and give each guest a token. Each guest will then drop their token in the jar that corresponds with the charity they would like you donate to. This might sound expensive, but it doesn’t have to be because you choose how much each token represents. This is definitely my favorite sustainable wedding favor idea!


There are a few different options when it comes to choosing a wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses. You can buy used dresses from places like Once Wed, support sustainable designers, such as Reformation and Wear Your Love, or rent from companies like Rent The Runway. You also might be interested in wearing a family member’s wedding dress or vail, such as your mother’s. Bridesmaid dresses can be expensive, so instead of choosing a uniform dress, you can chose a color and give your bridesmaids the freedom to chose their dress style. This way they will be more likely to reuse their dress for other events in the future.

Wedding Rings

Mining for metals and gems can have detrimental environmental and ethical impacts, so it’s important to support jewelers who partake in ethical practices, such as Brilliant Earth. You also might be able to find a local jeweler who is willing to melt down old jewelry into rings. Not only would it be great to create your rings from reused gold or silver, but you have the opportunity to repurpose meaningful jewelry.


To help reduce your carbon footprint (and to help everyone save money) try to choose a venue that is located close to a majority your family and friends rather than a destination location. If your wedding is local, you will significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions that are associated with traveling. It’s helpful to chose a venue where both the ceremony and reception can be held. Outdoor weddings in the summer are great because they really make use of the sun’s natural lighting. If you are feeling extra ambitious, you can even chose a venue that is LEED certified! Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is one of the most popular green building certification programs used worldwide and it would be pretty cool to have your wedding in a green building.

Food and Tableware


When it comes to food, support your local vendors. You might want to think about hiring a Farm-to-Table caterer so that all your food comes directly from one local farm. This is also a great way to make sure that your ingredients are all organic. Compose a menu that consists of in-season produce and opt for chicken or turkey instead of red meat. You can even have a delicious vegan or vegetarian meal! As for drinks, order a few kegs from a local brewery rather than serving bottled and canned drinks. If you end up with a lot of leftovers, share them with your guests or donate them to a local food bank.

When it comes to tableware, opt for reusable plates, cups, napkins, and silverware. If this option is not available to you, choose compostable tableware instead of plastic. You can also always use a combination of reusable and compostable tableware. I loved how my friends’ had a wooden cake topper and a tree slice as a cake base!


The easiest way to transition to sustainable living is to add green products to your registry. If you aren’t in need of any household items, set up a honeymoon registry, such as Honey Fund. Your guests have the opportunity to boost your honeymoon experience by helping fund certain activities, such as a couples massage or snorkeling excursion! Experience gifts are always great because sometimes an abundance material gifts results in a lot of unnecessary clutter. Another great way to make use of your wedding platform, is to have our guests donate to an organization of your choice in lieu of a present.


Eco-friendly Wedding Tips from Newlyweds!

By: Rachel and Julia Lyell

What motivated you to plan a sustainable wedding?

We wanted to have a sustainable wedding for many reasons. One big reason is that we have access to so many sustainable resources like Grown Acorn and SimplyLily that have inspired us in our personal life. Since we try to live a sustainable life at home it seemed natural to also have a sustainable wedding! Additionally, it is more cost effective. We had a pretty tight budget and didn’t want to buy single use items that would get tossed after the big day. We opted for items we could use again like the mason jars and milk bottles we used as table decor. Both of which we use for food storage at home!

Where did you get your eco-friendly wedding ideas from?

I used Pinterest a lot for ideas on how to decorate for the day. I also consulted Etsy for favor ideas. We ditched the single use plastic that is attached to bubbles or glow sticks, and went with California wild flowers. Not only were they unique and personalized, we felt good about gifting our guests with something that can create beauty in their own lives!

What challenges did you encounter?

There are fewer options for eco friendly dining wear and most of the time they are a bit pricey. Since our wedding was more earthy with wood accents and forest green & beige color schemes, having brown hued plates & flatware wasn’t a big deal. But I imagine if a shopper is looking for something a bit more fancy, eco friendly options are less available.

What tips/suggestions do you have?

Use your resources first! We were able to get a lot of the things we needed from others. We looked to our family/neighbors/friends to help provide cookware, serving dishes, and serving utensils. We borrowed 50 mugs and put a cute twist on it, “mix matched mugs and warmest hugs”. Buy in bulk, if you look online you can find wholesale websites for table clothes and cloth napkins. We ended up buying our table clothes for just above a dollar each. Also, look on websites like Craigslist and offer up. We ended up repurposing free pallets to make a wedding schedule. We also found our photo-booth backdrop for free that way! Have an open mind and be prepared to find a balance. For every item we purchased we asked ourself where it fit in the frame of sustainability, style, and price. Sometimes we had to put in a little more money to have sustainable items, other times we had to sacrifice our personal style a bit to ensure we didn’t spend an unnecessary amount of money.


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