Good day engagees! This will most certainly not be your first interaction with a guide to eco-friendly wedding choices, there are volumes of information on the subject. So let’s condense those volumes and help you plan your wedding while keeping the environment in mind.
We can all agree that making eco-friendly choices is the way forward, whether it’s about minimizing your carbon footprint, being less wasteful or saving a bit of money while giving back – no matter your motivation, they are all excellent reasons to go eco-friendly with your wedding.
Too often environmentally conscious alternatives sound complicated or even potentially expensive, but it’s rather simple when you take it down to these basic 5 Green Goals.
- Waste less – It is all about resisting the urge to overcompensate and inevitably waste on your Big Day. It takes a little bit more planning but the environment and your wallet will both be pleased you did.
- Sustainability – Sustainable practices are nothing more than making use of the environment and its natural resources but in a way that continuously replenishes those resources, making sure not to damage or deplete.
- Locally and responsibly sourced – Locally sourced goods cut down on transport, refrigeration and other running costs that emit harmful greenhouse gasses and deplete irreplaceable natural resources and fossil fuels. Sourcing locally also supports the surrounding communities. And goods sourced responsibly leave behind little to no environmental impact.
- Reuse and recycle; the green campaign classic – If you can get more than one use out of anything you are already winning. And it’s so simple to apply.
- Giving back – If you have elements in your wedding that you cannot reuse or recycle then donate.
Note: Donating food usually requires correct protocol and permits. So wasting less food on your day and donating money to your local shelter instead, would be easier and more effective.
So let’s keep those goals in mind and dive straight into our Top 10 Green Tips:
When planning an eco-wedding it is best to choose a venue that has already adopted a green philosophy. Remember, your venue will be your biggest expense as well as a giant cornerstone of your wedding, to completely transform it is both expensive and wasteful.
There are many venues around the Western Cape that implement water wise and eco-friendly practices already and are improving by the day. Make a list of questions that you would like to ask about your potential venues’ sustainable practices.
When you are deciding on your floral arrangements and decor keep in mind that plants can also be reused and recycled by simply keeping their roots intact. That way you can take them home and plant them in your garden so you and your significant other can enjoy them for longer. Cut flowers in a vase is not the only way to incorporate flowers and foliage into your wedding. Potted plants can make for stunning focal- and centrepieces, with the added benefit of you or your guests being able to take them home.
Another option is to donate your floral arrangements to a local home for the elderly or women’s shelter after the celebration is over. They often have volunteers associated with their organisations and would be more than happy to arrange transport for your donation.
The trick to chic and stylish eco-friendly decor is keeping it simple. Sit down with your planner or decor team and decide on a direction for your eco-wedding style. Keeping it toned down, clean and simple will keep costs and complicated design choices down to a minimum.
When you choose your venue it is important to take note of what is already there in terms of decor. The less you have to add the less you could possibly waste. Ask whether they have foliage, plants or green spaces you can incorporate into your decor.
Avoid single-use options as much as possible, like single-use plastic packaging etc. If you don’t have any particular use for certain items after your wedding, you can also donate them to shelters or homes that can use them.
Consider flower petals or micro-flowers as pops of colour or confetti. Petals are natural and organic, no matter where they land they will not harm the environment. Not to mention your church, chapel or venue will be grateful to not have to clean up tiny scraps of paper littered everywhere.
Clear Conscience Catering
The food you serve is one of the highlights of your Big Day. It is also one of your lager expenses and a great opportunity to really minimise your weddings’ carbon footprint.
There are a few ways to make your menu more eco-friendly. Locally sourced ingredients save on transport and refrigeration costs. A well run kitchen with a well planned menu can cut down on food wastage in a big-big way. Opting for food stations or served dinners are much less wasteful than a buffet. And of course if there is leftover food, donating is an option.
However the biggest way to minimise your carbon footprint is by eating less meat. Studies show that the meat we eat is a great strain on our environment. Not only does raising livestock need vast space, but the feed and grain they eat is also a drain on natural resources.
Top Trivia: Each kilogram of beef emits the equivalent of 60kg of CO2 and greenhouse gasses. While peas emit just 1 kilogram of CO2 and greenhouse gasses per kg!
In other words the ultimate environmentally conscious menu would of course be a vegetarian menu. I know I know, not every guest is going to jump for joy when they hear the word vegetarian, but that is only because they already have their minds made up; that vegetarian food is nothing but flavourless bunny food. With a good caterer you can squash their opinions with delicious vegetarian options.
Environmentally conscious choices need not stop at venues and decor. When purchasing alcohol for your wedding look to vineyards and breweries who implement sustainable practices – from being water wise to using organic pesticides to recycling their bottles and much more. Give organic and vegan wines a try, there are more options and varieties available on the market today than ever before.
Top Trivia: Wineries and cellars use a variety of ingredients in the wine making process. Some unnatural ingredients can be replaced with natural yeasts or acids – giving you organic wine. And some natural organic ingredients used to make regular or organic wines use animal products like egg whites and gelatin, omitting these products during the wine making process then gives you a vegan wine.
When buying Champagne or sparkling wine for your toasts opt for magnum bottles, more sparkling wine using less glass. And if possible look to local wineries, breweries and distilleries in the surrounding areas of your venue. In the Western Cape that should not be a difficult task. Just another small way or two to make your wedding a bit gentler on the environment.
When it comes to invitations we think paper wastage is the only offender. When having your perfect save the date and invitations made there are many stops along the way until it reaches your guests where better, more eco-friendly choices can be made.
Digital save the dates and rsvp cards are an easy and chic way to waste less. No manufacturing and transportation costs! You could make a digital invitation as well, but most brides and family prefer to have the tangible invitation as a memento. Look for recycled paper options. Or a fantastic new innovation is paper embedded with seeds – so no matter where the paper is discarded it will germinate and create new life.
Wise Wedding Dress
Eco-dresses might sound like wrapping an overpriced, itchy burlap sack around you on your special day – no need to worry, that is luckily not the reality at all. Natural and organic fibres are almost always superior to synthetic fabrics – they make for stronger, more durable and breathable fabrics (a must for comfort in our summer heat).
Locally and responsibly sourced fabric is a major step in the right direction. Some designers recycle patterns or measure thrice and cut once in order to not be wasteful. So ask your wedding dress maker what options they have for you. And of course upcycling your great aunts’ wedding dress or simply renting a dress is also great for the environment.
You might not have thought about your wedding bands, but diamonds have a long history of being sourced less than responsibly. Diamond mining in particular has destroyed not only the environment but many lives. Make sure your jeweler has the right accreditations and that their diamonds and precious stones were mined responsibly.
With technological advances we can now manufacture stones. Some of these stones are stronger and even more brilliant than diamonds – not to mention much more affordable and less maintenance.
Using a family heirloom as your wedding band – well that is reusing and recycling, see how effortless it is to incorporate environmentally friendly choices into your wedding?
There has been a trend moving towards charity registries. Where your guests could make a donation towards causes you have listed; as you would wedding gifts. Helping a foundation near to your heart or feeding a family in need will, without a doubt, bring you more joy than a brand new cake mixer that you will maybe use once before it goes back onto your shelf.
Giving your guests a succulent or seedling as a living memory of the day is better for the environment and guaranteed not to go into the bottom of their junk drawer. Reusable glass water bottles are both thoughtful and practical – instead of buying and throwing out plastic water bottle after plastic water bottle.
Now that the big day is over, you wasted as little as possible, made all your environmentally conscious choices, it is time to unwind with your significant other and enjoy your honeymoon. Why not go out with a bang by celebrating your honeymoon the green way too. Again choosing to do anything locally saves on that carbon footprint monster known as jet fuel. However most couples have been saving up and dreaming of an exotic honeymoon destination ever since the Big Question was popped. And fortunately there are many destinations now that put the environment at the forefront without sacrificing on luxury.
Now that you see how uncomplicated eco-friendly choices can be, and with these Green Goals in place you are on the right track for a beautifully stylish eco-wedding.
What eco-friendly options do you offer?
What environmentally responsible practices are you implementing?
Photography Shantelle Visser Photography