A no-BS guide to planning an eco-friendly wedding without the sh*tty guilt trip

You don’t have to go as far as calling meat-eating people as ‘murderers’ as one vegan bride decided to do in order to do your part for the planet. You don’t need to wear a wedding dress made from hemp or miss out on beautiful paper invites in order to have a green wedding.

Let’s be honest – wedding celebrations are not the most eco-friendly events. Weddings, like most events, produce a lot of waste. It is far easier to buy pallets of bottled water and place them into ice buckets to keep your guests hydrated on a hot day than it is to continuously serve chilled water in urns. You’re not a bad person for wanting to prevent your family and friends from being dehydrated. But why are plastic bottles bad for the environment anyway?

Here are very some troubling facts about our best friend plastic:

  • Virtually every single piece of plastic ever produced still exists in some shape or form.
  • 500,000,000 (500 million) plastic straws are used every day in America.
  • Nearly 2,000,000 (2 million) single-use plastic bags are distributed worldwide every minute.
  • 8 million metric tonnes of plastic winds up in our ocean each year.

How much waste does an average wedding produce?

Did you know that a wedding can produce up to half a tonne of garbage? This waste includes paper (invites, save-the-dates etc.), water and chemicals used to clean dishes, linen etc., and of course, there is uneaten food – up to a quarter of wedding banquet food is being thrown away!

Short of aiming for a zero waste wedding, we’ve put together a definitive list of how you can have an eco-friendly wedding. But here’s the key difference – you don’t have to follow every single recommendation. I respect that we’re all from different backgrounds and that we all have varying comfort levels of compromise. For example, I’ll be first to admit that I put my comfort and lifestyle over being environmentally conscious. I own and drive a V6 SUV, I turn on the air-conditioning once the temperature hits 30-degrees Celsius, and I don’t compost. But I try to minimise my consumption of single-use plastics, I bring my own keep-cup for my daily coffee hit, and I walk to the shops when I can instead of taking the SUV.

Chances are that we’re more alike than you would think.

We’re not bad people and we acknowledge the damage that we’re doing to our land and oceans. And if you have tried to look for ways to plan a zero waste wedding, you have probably been taken on a guilt trip. For example, many eco-friendly wedding blogs recommend that you buy a pre-owned wedding dress, skip the beautiful paper invites, and I even once came across an author who suggested that you have your bouquet made from recycled paper flowers.

Eww.

I’m sorry but seriously? Recycled paper flowers?

Yeah, no thanks.

Is it possible for the modern couple to be more environmentally mindful without having to go full vegan? Is it possible to have a guilt-free wedding that still looks and feels incredible?

With a few compromises – the answer is a resounding Y-E-S.

1. Gift your wedding flowers to retirement homes

Some of our best friends in the industry are wedding florists who have close relationships with wholesale growers so it would be unimaginable and unconscionable for us to recommend that you cut out fresh flowers in order to have a zero waste wedding.

wedding flowers by Sydney wedding florist Chanele Rose Flowers (studio in Rosebery)

Admit it, almost every Instagram-worthy wedding photo features fresh flowers.

Why? You know why (because fresh flowers are the cornerstone for all things beautiful doh!).

Do you know what happens to most wedding flowers?

They get dumped in the bin.

And this makes us super duper sad. But did you know that many wedding florists and wedding stylists offer to regift your wedding flowers to your wedding guests or better yet, to nursing homes?

That’s a win-win for everyone in our books.

Alternatively, some awesome wedding florists such as Francis Floristry go the extra effort of collecting all the florals after the wedding and composting it. For those of you who don’t know, composting takes far more time, effort, storage space and patience than chucking everything into a bin.

2. By all means have paper wedding invitations but RSVP by email

stunning personalised wedding invitations by chloeand.co

There is no denying that paper stationery is stunning. And the last thing we would want to do is to put our stationery friends out of business! Whilst you can totally do electronic invites to be super eco-friendly, this is an area that we recommend taking a compromised approach. That is, proceed with paper invites (using recycled paper of course) but ask guests to RSVP by email-only.

3. Organise carshare or buses for guests

A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year (emitting roughly 404 grams of carbon dioxide per mile). Multiple this by the number of guests attending your wedding and you can get an idea of the footprint you could save by organising carshare or a shuttle bus for your wedding guests.

If you’re having a wedding outside of Sydney (e.g., Hunter Valley, NSW South Coast, Southern Highlands, Blue Mountains), organising buses for guests is a great idea to be eco-friendly as well as allowing your guests to enjoy themselves without worrying about drink-driving.

4. Get married and party at the same venue

Many purpose-built event venues accommodate for both wedding ceremonies and receptions.

Some of our favourite all-in-one wedding venues include Curzon Hall, Miramare Gardens, Bendooley Estate, and Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA).

By having your wedding at the one location, you can reduce your wedding’s transport-related carbon footprint.

5. Invite your guests to hire a dress rather than buy a new one

Fast fashion has a serious impact on our environment contributing 6000 kgs of clothing being dumped in a landfill every 10 minutes in Australia. Similarly, the fashion industry generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

So if there ever a reason for you to invite your friends to join in your cause, your wedding is a great excuse to do so!

There are a number of great fashion sharing economy platforms available to you – Glam Corner, The Volte, and Dress For A Night – just to name a few.

For the gents, we know something bespoke or made-to-measure does fit best. So rather than hiring something that doesn’t fit you or the season, if you are going to buy a suit, get one that you can wear for work and other events. That is, pay a little bit more for quality than buy some cheap off-the-rack suit that will lose its shape after just one wear.

Remember, our goal is to reduce the amount of waste that ends up into our landfills and slow-fashion is one way to achieve this.

Recommended reading: When should you book your wedding reception venue?