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10 Tips for a Zero Waste Wedding or Elopement

Post Summary: "Help! I care about the environment but I also want to get married! Is it even possible to do both?" I'm here to tell you that HECK YES IT IS!! All it takes is a little bit of intentionality and planning and you can have as much of a sustainable, eco-friendly and zero waste wedding experience as you choose! Keep reading for 10 easy and helpful tips to taking your commitment to each other and the earth a little further with a zero waste wedding or elopement.

If you’re thinking about eloping you’re probably on the small wedding train. A small wedding is automatically going to produce less waste than a large, traditional wedding. But you can take your commitment to each other and to the environment even further with a zero-waste or sustainable elopement. 

But before we get much further, let’s start with a pop quiz. What produces 400 lbs. of garbage and 63 tons of carbon dioxide?

A giraffe’s birthday party? No.

A rolled over garbage truck? Maybe...

I’ll just give you the answer so you can stop guessing such ridiculous things. Get ready for it. What produces that much waste is your average wedding. Then multiply those numbers by the millions of weddings every year and you’re looking at billions of lbs. of waste and millions of tons of CO2. 

A zero waste wedding is looking pretty appealing, isn’t it?

What is a sustainable or zero waste wedding/elopement?

It is a wedding or elopement that has one extremely VIP on the guest list: the environment. These types of ceremonies prioritize reducing waste, eliminating single-use plastics and respectfully navigating the environment where the wedding takes place.

Choosing to elope is more sustainable than a traditional wedding. It’s the best of many worlds. You get to have your wedding, your way. You get to take an elope-cation. And you get to do your part in reducing waste and saving the environment. Win, win, win!

Whether you’re already planning to elope or you’re on the fence, here are some practices you can implement in your wedding to go the extra distance in protecting our planet. 

Tip 1. Elope and Keep it Small

By limiting or getting rid of your guest list all together, you are already producing less waste. Go you! But there are more bonuses to having a small wedding.

When it’s just about you and your boo there is so much more opportunity for romance. Can you feel the passion rising? 

When you don’t have a hundred people to consider, organizing is as easy as it gets. 

And, you guessed it, a small wedding has so much less of an environmental impact. Zero waste wedding, here we come...

Tip 2. Be Flower-Conscious

Did you know that live flowers are one of the most unsustainable parts of the wedding if you don’t choose your flowers consciously? I know, total buzz kill. But that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of the flowers, just be more picky with where they came from and the types of florals you choose.

Here are some tips

  • Choose local, organically grown flowers 
  • Choose in-season and native flowers
  • Make sure your florals won’t leave non-native seeds, pollen or insects. Bad form…
  • Consider dried florals. The bonus here is you get to keep your bouquet as it was on your wedding day. Plus bonus points on the boho vibe. 
  • Fake flowers are not the tacky option they used to be. They’re more realistic looking than ever and they’re reusable.
  • Foliage and evergreens look great, they’re cheaper and they have less of an environmental impact

Tip 3. When it comes to decor…Pass on Plastic and Donate

What happens to the majority of decor at a wedding? Trashed!

So many hours of planning, so many frills and baubles that were chosen because they were “just right” for the decor of the wedding. Then the day comes and after a few hours of being examined — or maybe not even noticed at all by guests — they are thrown into the garbage. 

Don’t trash your decor!

Reuse, recycle, donate. 

Florals can go to a local hospital, homeless center or senior care center. See if there is a Random Acts of Flowers or Forget Me Knot near you. Whatever you do, don’t let your beautiful (expensive!) flowers be thrown away. 

One of the best things you can do to reduce waste is to find a rental service. You can rent everything you need: arbors, chairs, linens, mirrors, stemware, utensils, etc., etc. 

Think about your decor before you start picking out faves. Ask yourself where will this end up when the wedding day is over?

Tip 4. Choose Sustainable Brands

Every little piece of your wedding has more than just a price tag on it. There are also the social, environmental and ethical factors to think about. Lucky for us, there are so many sustainable and ethical options out there nowadays. 

Here is a fantastic list of 14 ethical and eco-chic wedding dresses to choose from. 

My personal fav is Reformation. They use sustainable materials, vintage fabric and rescued dead stock. I also love Wear Your Love, who specialize in bamboo fabrics and organic cotton, and Celia Grace, who use natural fiber fabrics, local materials and handmade eco-silks.

And don’t forget about all the options you have in shopping second hand for your dress. Brides for a Cause in Portland is my personal fav, but there are more and more of these second hand boutiques popping up everywhere.

Shop small, think local. Put your money where your heart is.

mt rainier elopement

Tip 5. Hair and Makeup

Want to look good and feel great? Think about “green” makeup. As a trend, many makeup artists are already going green but you can ask your makeup and/or hair artist to use the healthier, more environmentally conscious products on you.

Not only are you using products that are better for the environment, but they’re better for your body. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the products they are using on you and advocate for “greener” choices. 

And, hey, if you’re the DIY type, then this is the perfect excuse for you to go out and buy new products that are going to be healthier for your skin and more environmentally conscious.

Tip 6. Sustainable Meals and Reducing Food Waste

Let’s talk food for a minute. If you plan on having your wedding catered, think about caterers, restaurants or private chefs who focus on local, sustainable and seasonal menus. You may want to also consider the same with drinks. Think local craft beer, spirits and wines. 

Another consideration is to go with a more plant-based menu, as these types of items have a significantly smaller environmental impact than meat and dairy. 

Now, let’s talk about food waste. Food waste is a HUGE problem. 40% of the food produced in the U.S. is wasted every year. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest contributor to greenhouse gases in the world, just behind China and the U.S. That’s insane! 

Think of ways to waste less if you are trying to feed your guests. Maybe skip the buffet, as there tends to be waaay too much left over. And when it comes to your plan with the leftovers, look into donating to homeless shelters of food banks. Send friends and family home with plates for days. 

Do everything you can to reduce food waste. That’s good food you’re giving to your guests, don’t let it become garbage!

Tip 7. Go Paperless or Eco-friendly with Invitations

First you send out a save the date. Then there’s the invite. Then there are all the RSVPs that come back to you. Not only is that a lot of paper, it’s also a lot of carbon emissions.

Send out digital options for invites. There are so many options now, like Evite or Paperless Post. Or if you’re super into the idea of physical invites, then go with recycled paper or other paper options like bamboo or elephant dung (!?), yup, it’s a thing. 

Or, better yet, make it personal and give your friends and family a call or see them in person and tell them how much you want them at your wedding. Cut out the middleman! Cut out the wasted paper.

Tip 8. Nix the Confetti and Balloons 

Yes, we all like to see the confetti fly and the balloons decorating everything but even the most “biodegradable” options are bad for the environment, wildlife, the oceans, etc. 

There are a lot of new trends popping up for eco-confetti but it’s all just waste that doesn’t really have a place in any natural environment. 

Let’s just stick to the beauty of the natural surroundings and the beauty of you, just glowing like the sun on your wedding day.

Tip 9. Ask for Eco-Friendly Gifts

The gift culture of weddings has been around since ancient times. Nowadays a registry is all but expected. But you don’t have to go the traditional route, there are many ways to go eco when it comes to gifts.

One thing you can do is ask guests to donate to a charity in your name. All it takes is a few clicks and there is a great start to a zero waste wedding. 

You can also ask for e-gift cards to avoid paper waste. Orrr ask for experiences on your registry. A photoshoot, a trip with an Airbnb (or an eco-hotel) stay, donating to a honeymoon fund, skydiving, visiting an animal sanctuary, you name it.

And people just love to give kitchen gifts for a wedding (and we love to receive them). But you can ask for naturally sourced kitchenware. Skip the plastic and go with things made from bamboo or other natural options. 

Let’s your gifts be a present to both you and the environment. 

Tip 10. Practice “Leave No Trace” Ethics

The saying goes “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” If you’re going to elope or have an intimate wedding in nature, remember to leave no trace. Make sure you and your guests stay on the trails and pick up after yourselves. And make sure you check in with parks regulations and rangers to know the exact rules of any place you are visiting.

Pack it in. Pack it out. Have the experience of a lifetime and make it look like you were never there. 

There you have it, a zero waste wedding or significantly lowered environmental impact wedding. It is possible and I highly encourage you to look into ways you can do your part to save the earth as you say “I do.”

While a literal zero waste wedding might be the ultimate goal, don’t forget that just minimizing your impact even a little bit will alleviate the toll on the environment. You can definitely practice all 10 of these tips, but even if you implement 1 or 2 (or 3 or 4) you can make an impact. 

Your love and your wedding day matter, but the earth also matters. We can all do our part to nurture the environment while we celebrate love. You can have your cake and eat it too —  by not letting it become waste! 

Let me show you how easy it is!

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In order to make your dream elopement day happen, it's super important that we connect and that you feel comfortable with me! The best way to do this is to reach out and schedule a call so you can learn more about me and I can learn about you two so i can document what's real + the most important to you.

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