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How to Be Beautiful & Guilt-Free on Your Wedding Day

The idea is simple: To live sustainably, you consume products and services that renew resources faster than the rate at which they are consumed. The reality is much harder, especially since you also want to have your dream wedding. Though weddings are beautiful, memorable events, they tend to produce a disproportionate amount of readily preventable waste. This goes beyond the immediate waste produced during the event itself—the planning and event details already go a long way toward determining how eco-friendly your wedding is. Everything from buying local to carpooling, from reusing materials to turning on the lights, it all contributes to a sustainable lifestyle and sustainable weddings.

Eco-friendly weddings are growing in popularity. Juliet Horton from Everly Wedding, a Seattle-based wedding planner, agrees: Couples, especially those in the western part of the country, are turning to locally-sourced materials and energy-saving alternatives. With such a massive bill, wouldn’t it be great if some of that cash went back into your community? Below is a guide to making choices that will deliver a beautiful and guilt-free wedding experience.

Go Vintage

Re-wearing a gown or purchasing a vintage ring is one of the easiest steps you can take toward a sustainable wedding. Rather than purchasing a dress—which includes materials, labor, and shipping costs—look for a vintage gown. Check out local resale shops, then check online. Sites such as Nearly Newlywed, Tradesy, Still White, and PreOwned Wedding Dresses are great for both selling and purchasing your vintage wedding gowns. Work with a seamstress to create that perfect fit.

If you don’t have a viable dress or ring to work with, you can still make conscientious shopping decisions. Find designers who use sustainable fabrics or jewelers who source non-conflict diamonds. Consider renting bridal party and groomsmen attire from websites like Rent the Runway. You’ll also want to have a plan for the dress after the wedding. You don’t have to wear your wedding dress every Friday night, but you can save it for the next generation or maybe talk to the same seamstress about doing something creative with the dress, or even just the remnants if you also plan to trash the dress.

Choosing the Venue

A great way to cut down on energy consumption is to get married outdoors. There’s no better light source than the sun. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a backyard, though it certainly can be. In fact, storage for backyard weddings is one of the things Closetbox does best. You might also look to rent out a farm with a refurbished barn, a vineyard, or a space in your local botanical garden. Either way, not only is this a sustainable choice, but outdoor weddings are extremely trendy.

Naturally, both your location and your date directly impact the feasibility of getting married outside. There are still several ways to keep indoor weddings green. The easiest is to hold your ceremony and reception in the same room or building. In addition to cutting down on fuel emissions, this option is often cheaper and easier on guests, anyway. Keep an eye out for LEED-certified buildings, too. You can easily search the LEED directory to see which buildings in your area are certified.

If you have guests coming in from out of town, you might have to reserve a block of hotel rooms. To make this a more environmentally-friendly bill, check out Environmentally Friendly Hotels for reviews and rankings.

Alternatives to Traditional Stationery

Making an eco-conscious invitation choice is also becoming more popular. As a result, many couples are turning to online resources—whether that means building a website or creating the perfect evite. If you don’t want to let go of the traditional paper invitations, you can reduce material waste by using small, simple invitation cards and directing invitees to your wedding website for additional details.

Keep an eye out for recycled paper products and vegetable-based inks. For example, The Windmill Paper Boutique sources printing from windmill-powered printers, while Botanical Paper Works’ products are embedded with seeds. Instead of discarding the invitation, guests can plant the card to grow herbs, flowers, or vegetables. Do what you can where you can because some stationery may be unavoidable. Every table needs a seat marker, right?

Food and Drink

Food and drinks are often one of the most memorable details of a wedding. This makes finding the perfect meal even more stressful. However, to reduce your environmental impact, look for a caterer who uses locally-grown and sustainable food sources. This reduces the carbon emissions that come with shipping, packaging, and refrigeration.

Horton of Everly Wedding explained: “Many of the best caterers source their food from local, organic farms to build delicious and environmentally friendly menus. This even includes the bar, with countless craft breweries and distilleries in the local area making for some truly signature cocktails.” Turning to locally-sourced caterers and bartenders is an ever-growing trend. You’ll have the opportunity to support small, local businesses while also capitalizing on state, city, or neighborhood pride. It also helps to choose in-season produce. Want to cut your impact even more? Offer a vegetarian menu.  

How to Make an Eco-Friendly Wedding Your Own

No matter what you choose to call it—green, sustainable, eco-chic—an eco-friendly wedding can decrease the negative impact the event has on the planet, while also creating a beautiful day that you’ll never forget. Put another way, you don’t have to think of your big day as an eco-friendly wedding at all: You can just think of it as your wedding, planned and executed by a couple who prefers to live more sustainably. 

Just like the rest of your wedding planning, you’ll likely be more responsible in some areas, while also allowing for personal indulgences in others. Maybe you go all-out for the environment during the wedding planning, so you can feel a little bit better about the negative impacts of a cruise for your honeymoon. Worried about finding the right balance? It’s great to have a wedding planner at your side who understands the vision you have for your wedding, as well as plenty of connections to local, sustainable wedding vendors.