10 Ways to Plan an Eco-Friendly Wedding

Ethical Eco-Friendly Wedding

Repeat after us, “Weddings don’t have to be wasteful.” Here at GWS, we’re all about going green and making the big day as eco-friendly as possible. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to skip on the things you love—florals, centerpieces, a gorgeous ring, or darling invitation suite—but you can opt for these small changes so you create less of a carbon footprint!

Fortunately couples and vendors alike are taking notice of our impact on the earth, and looking for ways to protect its resources. That said, there are so many new technologies and innovations that are making eco-friendly alternatives more accessible than ever. By talking with your vendors about their practices, figuring out ways to donate or use biodegradable goods, and going local, you truly can make an impact. To help you plan a more sustainable wedding, we’ve rounded up simple + sweet ways you can make your wedding eco-friendly.

{most of these photos are by Come Plum at The Assemblage in NYC, unless otherwise stated}

1. Greenery + Florals for an Eco-Friendly Wedding

Ethical Eco-Friendly Wedding

You can a few options when it comes to the greenery and florals used in your wedding. Our number one tip is to avoid floral foam, which oftentimes can be used in a lot of centerpieces. Floral foam contains a ton of chemicals and most of the time is not biodegradable (and even if it is, there are still toxic chemicals in its waste).

Some couples choose to rent faux florals, that way they never go bad; others choose to donate their flowers (to places like nursing homes) after the big day so that others can enjoy them. If you’d like to forgo the cutting of stems, we’ve seen weddings styled strictly with potted plants—which can then be given as gifts or taken home to plant in your yard! Another idea? Dried flowers! You can keep them in your home after the event so no waste created with these beauties! We put together this helpful guide on where to buy dried flowers if you are interested in DIYing your dried flowers – also many florists will work with them and can create GORGEOUS centerpieces and bouquets with dried florals.

Additionally, if you’re doing an exit toss, opt for petals or biodegradable goods, rather than rice, which can be harmful for birds.

Marisa at Revel Petals shares: From a floral perspective, the most eco-friendly practices include shopping local, or US grown only, and requesting that your florist not use any floral foam. When you support US grown flowers, or better yet, a local flower farm, the flowers will likely have way less chemicals in/on them because they haven’t been fumigated at the import border crossing. You also avoid any chance of poor working conditions/slave labor as well as sidestepping a hefty carbon footprint from flying flowers in from the other side of the world. The only consideration is that not all flowers are available in every season then, and so if you MUST have a certain flower, pick your wedding date well in its growing season. 

The florals above are from Larkspur Botanicals, who was the first (and perhaps only) certified sustainable florist in the NYC metro area, producing many of her florals, and working with amazing organizations to repurpose or reuse after events.

2. Make Use of Rentals

Ethical Eco-Friendly Wedding

There are so many rental companies out there with gorgeous pieces to choose from, so unless you’re going to buy things for the wedding and then incorporate them into your home after, it’s better to rent than buy and dump. Oftentimes vases for florals end up in the trash, so consider renting those. If possible, avoid disposable dinnerware and opt for rented tableware and assorted goods.

Need more tips on rental ideas? Check out this piece on What to Rent, Reuse, or Donate for an Eco-Friendly Wedding

3. Sustainable Fashion for your Wedding Dress

Ethical Eco-Friendly Wedding

When it comes to the wedding dress, choosing a brand that practices sustainable fashion is wonderful – and here are 13 designers who practice sustainability with their wedding dress designs!  Alternatively, you could opt for a vintage wedding dress or source one from a second-hand site and give the dress a new life!

Another idea is to buy a custom made gown. Sounds expensive, but we found this romantic gown for under $1000 and it is handmade! Each gown from this company is ethically hand made in their eco studio.  They are completely off grid, use renewable energy, and use fabrics that will biodegrade leaving a smaller foot print.

The above dress is from designer Celia Grace, who works with only sustainable and ethically grown fibers and is based in the US (unfortunately she is no longer in business). All bridal jewelry is from, Shop Love Locked, where nearly all items are made locally, and all gemstones and gold are ethically mined, or made from vintage/previously loved jewelry.

Also consider what the bridesmaids will be wearing.

We suggest allowing them to pick their own dress—perhaps in a given color range—because they are much more likely to wear the dress again, instead of just throwing it out.

4. Go for Plated

Food waste is inevitable when it comes to weddings, but planning ahead can limit the waste. Buffet dinners are notorious for producing wasted leftovers. Instead, consider plated dinners to avoid extra food. If you can, talk to your caterer about packaging and freezing any extra plates that were not used to bring home for later. Many caterers will not allow this due to food laws but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

5. The Ring

Lab Created Diamond

When it comes to the ring, we suggest either going vintage (or possibly utilizing stones from vintage rings and creating something modern), or opting for a lab-grown diamond! Curious about lab-grown diamonds? Learn more about lab-grown diamonds here.

image courtesy of Clean Origin

6. Eco-Friendly Wedding Invitations

paper culture eco friendly invites

Invitation suites are some of the prettiest details to photograph, so we understand not wanting to cut out this tradition. While some couples choose to go completely paperless and send their invitations via e-mail, there are other options for those that want a physical product! Paper Culture is a wonderful resource for invitation suites made on recycled paper! (invite above is from Paper Culture)

Here’s what the team at Paper Culture has to say: Weddings are about the future, and at Paper Culture, one of the ways we plan for the future is by making sure that every order placed actively works to make the planet healthier for future generations. That’s why we use 100% recycled paper, so no new trees are cut down to make your wedding invitation suite. The best part? Paper Culture plants a tree in honor of your marriage with every order. That tree will stand as a testament to your love and will be a symbol of a happy, healthy future together. Paper Culture has been recognized by the EPA as a Top 10 Climate Leader and is certified as a Green Business. 


7. Celebrate the Outdoors for your Eco-Friendly Wedding

Ethical Eco-Friendly Wedding

Celebrate the outdoors and the natural environment by choosing an outdoor venue where you can rely on natural light. Or, for a real intimate feeling, you could opt for candles instead of switching on light fixtures. Another way to make this work is by hosting a brunch wedding, instead of going well into the evening.

Alternatively, find a venue that makes “being green” a priority, like The Assemblage in the heart of NYC. It is a fully sustainable space, growing some of their food, and gathering the rest from no more than 100 miles from the heart of NYC. Everything is made in house with an emphasis on the ancient understanding of Ayurvedic practices of food.

8. Don’t Trash, Donate!

Ethical Eco-Friendly Wedding

Wedding clean-up might not be the most fun thing to think about, but you can reduce the waste by donating your leftovers…and we’re not just talking about food! Numerous companies exist that will pick up your flowers to deliver to nursing homes, hospitals or compost them if they aren’t salvageable. Check out Random Acts of Flowers, Floranthropy, or Repeat Roses.

If you can find a homeless shelter or food bank willing to take leftover meals—great! If not, you can set out compost bins for the scraps.

Recycle, recycle, recycle. If you are using any paper goods, glass, metal or plastic, set out appropriate bins so everything can be separated into the right category. Check out The Broomsmen—an Oregon-based company that will take care of your waste and put it to good use, so you can enjoy your event without a worry.

9. Eco-Friendly Wedding Favors

plants as wedding favors

Create escort cards that can double as favors, such as cookies with names or darling potted plants (we’ve seen succulents work out quite well!). Another idea is choosing a favor that gives back to the environment, like a package of seedlings! Another bonus, if you use potted plants for favors? They can also make great table décor, too!

venue: The Emporium Center // plants: Mighty Mud // photography: Magnolia + Ember

10. Go Local

Ethical Eco-Friendly Wedding

Go local for catering and choose artisans and vendors alike from the area. By going local, you’ll cut out some of the transportation costs associated with bringing other people or resources in, while supporting business in your local community. When opting for locally-sourced foods, products don’t have to be coated in extra preservatives to keep them fresh for the long journey. You can also seek vendors that give back to the community, too.

Greater Good Events shares: We are a boutique event planning company with a focus on sustainability, and ethical events. Working with food and flower rescue vendors, and as well as sourcing eco-friendly vendors to ensure that as many parts as possible are green and thoughtful.

If possible, working with a food and flower rescue vendor is a great step you can make in order to make sure those resources don’t go to waste.

Main Takeaways for an Eco-Friendly Wedding:

1. No floral foam and donate flowers after, or opt for potted plants
2. Make use of rentals
3. Choose sustainable fashion
4. Encourage guests to carpool
5. Go vintage or opt for a lab-grown diamond
6. Go paperless or have invitation suites made on recycled paper
7. Embrace natural light, choose an outdoor venue or a place that focuses on “being green”
8. Recycle as much as you can and compost the rest
9. Have favors that double as escort cards or décor (like potted plants!)
10. Go local when it comes to food + vendors

Got any tips you’d like to share? We’d love to hear your eco-friendly advice in the comments below!