How to Plan a More Sustainable, Eco-Friendly Wedding

Written by Katrina Otter
Hi everyone… it’s been a while since I last said hello so first and foremost, I just wanted to check in and make sure you’re ok?

I really do hope that you are, especially during these somewhat surreal and uncertain times.

Secondly, if there’s anything you’d like me to cover (as Resident Wedding Planner for Coco Wedding Venues), from a features perspective, over the coming weeks and months, whether that’s general planning advice or something more specific (including additional contributions to this incredibly informative series – Coronavirus and your wedding), then PLEASE just let me know by dropping me a note on Instagram, I’m here to help in any way I can.

Finally, a quick intro to today’s feature. I actually wrote this pre-lockdown when in all honesty it was one of, if not THE BIGGEST movements in the wedding industry. Post-coronavirus we see sustainable and considered celebrations being even more important to couples.

As a society we’ve all become much more aware of the issues facing our planet and the role we play in this, and many couples are finding that they simply can’t ignore this on their wedding day either. So today, I’m going to guide you through some of the ways in which you can easily make small changes to your day that in turn will make a world of difference.

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to find out that weddings really do have a big environmental impact. The most obvious being potential food waste and the carbon produced from guest travel and production of items used on your wedding. Then, consider the paper that makes your stationery, the fabrics and materials in your dress and the floral foam that sits beneath those impressive arrangements that you’ll have pinned to your boards. It all adds up and it’s something to think about if you’d like your wedding to leave as small a footprint as possible.

Of course, these things aren’t new. Weddings have, for years, been affecting the environment so it’s not that we’re somehow worse than couples in previous years. But things are changing. We’re all much more environmentally aware and we’re all trying, in whatever way we can, to be more eco-friendly and this goes for everyone involved in weddings, from couples to suppliers, venues to honeymoon destinations. The good/great news is that the options available are always improving and increasing, and it’s now easier than ever to create a wedding day that’s just a little kinder to our world.

If you too want to make a difference with the wedding that you plan, then read on…

Do your research

Firstly, if you want to plan a more sustainable wedding, do your research! I know that this is an ongoing theme when it comes to choosing suppliers but if you want to work with suppliers whose values are aligned with your own, you need to look around to find them. Check out suppliers’ environmental statements that might be online and if you can’t find what you’re looking for – ask.  The more pressure that suppliers come under from couples to provide this information, the more readily available it will be for everyone else who follows you.

Venue & travelling

Also, choose wisely, particularly when it comes to the location of your wedding and the suppliers involved. If you want to cut down on driving miles, don’t book a venue that’s too far away. When you add up all the miles you’ll cover heading back and forth to meetings and menu tastings, you’ll be surprised.  The great news is that you can search by location here on Coco to find the perfect venue that’s closer to home or alternatively you might want to consider an eco-friendly wedding venue.

Similarly, choosing a venue that’s relatively central for your guests is also a great idea and you might even want to opt for one that’s accessible via public transport if you’d like to encourage everyone to leave their cars behind. You could make it even easier for your guests to make an eco-friendly choice by arranging group transportation.

Food & drink

Now that we’ve covered the venue and travel, the next BIG eco-topic is food and drink. As mentioned previously, take your time and research the options available to you, along with any policies and practices. The wonderful people at Caper & Berry, for example, participate in a carbon offset scheme and Pickle Shack, the in-house caterers at Pynes House, only use local, sustainable and ethically sourced produce.

Once you’ve chosen your caterer, work with them to create a menu that’s as eco-friendly as possible.  This means thinking about seasonal, organic products, and if you can, opt for those that are locally and ethically sourced. And whist you’re thinking about food and drink, you might also want to consider cutting out single use plastics by, for example, making sure that your bar is stocked with glass bottles or even kilner jars.

Décor, Stationery & Flowers

On the subject of ‘single use’ there are more and more companies now offering items for hire and what about biodegradable items too – can you recycle paper and what about your confetti? Do you really need to give wedding favours that might simply be left behind, or can you swap in favours that are natural or eco-friendly in some way (I absolutely adore these up-cycled flip flop favours that my dear friends Matthew & Bertie from Matthew Oliver Weddings used on one of their recent weddings). If you decide that you can live without favours, you might like to make a charitable donation instead and these are always gratefully received.

To keep your plans heading in the right eco-friendly direction, question everything that you do. Ask yourself if you really need everything and cut down in areas that are just a little superfluous. For example, limit the amount of stationery that you order and combine it with paperless options or alternatively, talk to your stationery designer about using recycled papers and eco-friendly inks.

Rounding off décor, there’s the absolute biggie of flowers…

When it comes to all things floral, working with seasonal blooms that haven’t been forced or grown out of season is an obvious choice to make and so is avoiding flowers that have been air-freighted half way around the world, particularly when so many independent flower farmers in the UK are doing such amazing work.

But, look beyond the blooms themselves and think about what’s going in to those fantastic floral arrangements. Oasis, the floral foam that some florists use as a base to hold flowers in place, is incredibly damaging to the environment. You see, floral foam is non-biodegradable and instead, it crumbles into tiny micro-plastics that end up in the water system whilst the larger chunks will sit in landfill for centuries. It also contains chemicals such as formaldehyde, barium sulphates and carbon black… so, this one is right up there on the sustainable, eco-friendly consideration scale.

The good news is that more and more florists are ditching the Oasis and going foam free (check out #foamfree on Insta for lots of glorious inspiration). Foam free floristry really suits the organic, natural style of floristry that’s just so romantic and current so there really is less of a need to use foam in your wedding flowers. Again, ask your florist what they do and, if you’re really concerned about the damage caused by micro plastics, be prepared to walk away if a florist can’t give you a foam free promise.

Lastly, let your wedding leftovers do some good and try to avoid too much being thrown away at the end of the evening. Encourage guests to take flowers home (or alternatively speak to your florist about any floral donation schemes) and if there’s any leftover cake, make sure it’s also available for guests to take with them as they leave. Don’t let your wedding fill black sacks and be consigned to the bin at the end of your unforgettable day.

The fashion

Planning a sustainable, eco-friendly wedding isn’t just about the venue, food, drink and décor, it’s also about YOU and what you wear!

There’s an argument to say that your wedding dress could be the most expensive item you’ll ever buy… that you’ll only wear once.  It’s the ultimate piece of disposable fashion but, at the same time, I’m certainly not advocating that you shouldn’t miss out on those wedding dress dreams.

However, if this is something you do want to consider then I’d urge you to look into ethical bridal designers. Research production methods and locations, practices on sourcing of fabrics, policies on treatment of workers and transportation distances, and ultimately ask yourself if the answers fit with your values. For example, there are lots of designers doing really great things in this area – Sanyukta Shrestha works with eco-friendly, sustainable fabrics (none of which are chemically enhanced) and she actively works to improve the lives of the women in Nepal’s artisan communities.

For the groom, there are also some ethical choices with Moss Bros. creating a whole range of eco-suit options. Crafted from earth-friendly fabrics like recycled PET polyester and responsibly sourced cotton with trims that have been consciously chosen for their low impact on the environment, you can feel confident in your choices!

Ethical & eco honeymoons

Finally, it’s not just about the pre and on-the-day impact, think about your post-wedding impact too. Ethical honeymoons are on the up, or you may want to consider somewhere in the UK.  Canopy & Stars, for example, offer lots of eco-friendly accommodation options that are also suitably special for newlyweds.

The Gift List

Another post wedding impact/post wedding treat is your gift list! Think carefully about your gift list because here again, it’s easy to indulge when you really don’t need to. Prezola, for example, has launched a range of exciting initiatives, from sustainable brands and products to social gifting.

Your wedding day is all about your future and hopefully being mindful of the above will allow you to show a little love to the future of the planet at the same time too.

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