As we as a society become more aware of the impact that our actions have on the planet, many couples are now looking for eco-friendly wedding ideas.
From using sustainable local wedding suppliers to finding a green wedding venue, having an eco friendly wedding will help you save money, give your guests food for thought and, most importantly, play your part in helping to save our planet. The best part is, there’s no compromise on style or taste.
We’ve consulted with the experts to find out the importance of sustainability on your wedding day, and how to best make your eco wedding dreams a reality. Let's get green!
Sustainability and the Wedding Industry
Let’s be real for a second: we could all be a little more sustainable in our day-to-day lives. And when it comes to your wedding day, making green choices is just as important. Planning a wedding without sustainability in mind can have a serious environmental impact - think plastic cutlery, disposable decorations and high carbon emissions.
Research from The Sustainable Wedding Alliance estimates that nearly a third of a metric tonne of solid waste and 14.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide are produced and emitted per wedding!
However, the wedding industry is currently making grand strides to combat this. Ellie Cashmore, marketing manager at sustainable wedding venue Sheepy Meadows says: “Events and hospitality industries are working exceptionally hard to accelerate change and becoming greener is now top of the priority list for many businesses.”
Elizabeth Ruddick, founder and designer of 29 Atelier, agrees with this. She highlights the excitement in the wedding industry, saying: “I believe that we are on the cusp of an environmental revolution.”
While there’s still a way to go to make the wedding industry more sustainable, we have some good news: change can start with you. The decisions made by each couple for their wedding day, while they may seem small, can have a big impact on the environment, as well as inspiring their guests, suppliers and friends to take the same steps at weddings in the future.
How to Have a Sustainable Wedding?
If making green choices is important to you and your partner, then what better way to begin your married life together than having an eco wedding?
When it comes to planning a green wedding, it’s important to highlight that every little helps. As Amanda, Wedding and Private Events Sales and Marketing Executive for sustainable wedding venue RSA House, says: “Having a sustainable wedding does not mean that a couple must have a fully plant-based menu or cut back on their floral dreams to play their part.
"Merely taking some small steps, like carefully considering each supplier they choose and that supplier’s sustainable and ethical practices, will go such a long way.”
Elizabeth from 29 Atelier also emphasises the importance of carefully researching your suppliers and their sustainable practices and ethos: “Taking the time to find suppliers that will take care about the way they run their business, where they source materials from and what they are made of, through to limiting their carbon footprint.
"It’s all about being mindful of choices and making sure you do your research to find the best options for you and the environment.”
How to Plan a Sustainable Wedding?
One of the best ways to figure out the steps you can take towards sustainability is to break down your wedding into its separate elements and work out how you can make each of these more sustainable. It’s all about taking things one step at a time!
Luckily, we’ve done that for you. Read on for some more advice from industry experts.
Sustainable Wedding Venues
If you want to make sustainability a priority at your wedding, then it has to be one of the foremost things in your mind when you make your decision about where to hold your ceremony and reception. Choosing a wedding venue that has a sustainable ethos is a great way of making eco-friendly practices an important part of your big day as well as making a commitment to sustainability.
Rebecca from eco-conscious venue BMA House puts it best: “Talk to your potential venues to understand their commitment to sustainability - what actions are they taking to protect the planet? How will they support your sustainable choices?
"Many of the subsequent decisions you make about your wedding will be based on the capabilities and options available at the venue, so ensure you discuss sustainability with them from the very beginning.”
An important thing to consider is the location of the venue. A venue that’s far for you and your guests to travel to will ultimately result in your wedding having a higher carbon footprint, as more fuel will be required to transport you. Therefore, choosing a local venue will always be the more sustainable option.
If you’ve chosen to have a destination wedding, or are having several people fly in to your ceremony, you can always offset their air travel, or put a link to a carbon offset program in your wedding invitation.
You can even find a venue that offers an eco-friendly wedding package, like the new Sustainable Wedding Package at RSA House. This eco-conscious wedding package highlights the venue’s new sustainable menu designed by RSA’s catering partner Company of Cooks, offering low-carbon fine dining.
Opting for this package also means that all suppliers recommended by RSA House share sustainable goals and practices.
Amanda adds “The package also benefits from the steps RSA House has and is taking as a venue to commit to a greener future including reducing the overall waste produced by their weddings, including food waste, and reducing the carbon footprint that they leave behind. Couples will enjoy the benefits from these changes solely by holding their wedding at RSA House.”
You’ll also want to find a venue with a track record of prioritising sustainability. Rebecca from BMA House reveals more about the sustainable practices that couples can benefit from at this venue: “BMA house, as a sustainable venue in London, offers a dedicated wedding planner as part of every wedding ceremony and reception who has a wealth of knowledge in eco-weddings.
"Advice, ideas & cost-saving tricks are discussed with our couples to ensure that if they choose to have an environmentally friendly wedding that this is made as simple as possible.
“When it comes to menu printing, we offer to display these on iPads around the room to save on paper. Water and packaging should also be considered, and at BMA House all of our water is filtered and bottled on-site, you won’t see any plastic bottles around. Suppliers have a big part to play in a couple’s special day; we vet all of ours to ensure their sustainability goals meet our high standards.”
Ellie from Sheepy Meadows explains how we can look for sustainable practices and accreditations: “Teaming up with a sustainably accredited venue is a great place to start as they not only provide a venue with lower carbon emissions but they will have access to sustainably focused suppliers who can support in other areas such as décor and catering.
"Holding your wedding at a venue that is run on solar power, like Sheepy Meadows tipi, is one way you can make a real difference, knowing your day is powered by completely renewable energy.”
And if you’re looking for an eco-conscious tipi wedding venue, then you can’t get much better than Sheepy Meadows. As Ellie says, “From 500 solar panels, a wildflower meadow, beehives, energy-efficient appliances and 12,000 trees planted, eco-conscious owners Joanna and Joe Garland have managed to save enough carbon to equate to a further 10,000 trees planted.”
Sustainable Wedding Fashion
Eco-fashion is thriving in the UK and if you want to make a big sustainable statement, a green outfit is the way to do it (not in colour, unless that’s what you fancy!).
If you’re a fan of thrift and vintage shopping (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?) you’ll be familiar with the thrill of finding that perfect pre-loved piece for you. The exact same principles apply when it comes to looking for your sustainable wedding dress, suit or other attire.
Buying your wedding fashion second-hand is a great way to reduce the environmental impact of your wedding day. Not only that, it’s a great way to counteract the ‘wear once’ nature of wedding attire and extend the lifestyle of existing clothes that would otherwise sit in storage for decades.
If you decide to opt for a brand-new outfit, the first thing to consider is who designed your wedding fashion and what type of fabrics they use. Seek out designers committed to environmentally-friendly fabrics and ethical production.
Elizabeth explains how easy and important this can be: “There is a lot of innovation in the fashion industry with fabric science and demand for supporting sustainable producers. These are filtering into the wedding industry and things will only get better as time progresses and demand increases. It's a very exciting time for the wedding industry.
“I think the best place to start is trying to find a designer or brand that has consideration for their carbon footprint, where they’re producing their dresses. It is also worth considering who is making them. My brand, 29 Atelier, produces in our local proximity and supports our communities by working with local businesses, producers, and makers.”
Something else to ask your dress, suit or other garment designer is their waste policy. For maximum environmental impact, it’s best to opt for a designer who strives to create as little waste as possible.
29 Atelier provides a shining example: “I am mindful of every element that goes into my designs, favouring natural and recycled fabrics and trims where possible but never compromising on quality and aiming for zero waste. We donate all our off cuts of fabrics to local schools and colleges.”
And if you’re at all worried about compromising on quality or style, never fear. Elizabeth reassures, “There should be no reason that choosing a sustainable dress should impact how you want it to look and feel. From the design through to the fabric choice and the final fitting your dress should reflect your personality to make you feel yourself on your very best day.”
If you want to up the sustainability, there’s also the option of renting your wedding attire. If you don’t feel overly sentimental about holding on to your wedding garments, renting is a great way to reduce your wedding’s carbon footprint, while still allowing you to be fully decked out when you walk down the aisle.
Why rent? Zoe Graham, co-founder of wedding dress rental service P.S. Rental puts it simply: “Each time a dress is rented it reduces the manufacturing carbon footprint and creates a circular economy.”
There are several ways to go about renting your wedding dress in the UK. Some wedding dress shops and suit services give nearlyweds the option of renting their wedding attire. If you’re not sure whether somewhere offers this service - it never hurts to ask.
You can also look at online rental services - think of it like online shopping, except you have to return the clothes at the end.
Or, you can opt for a dedicated wedding fashion rental service, like P.S. Rental. Zoe explains how the process works: “P.S. RENTAL is the first ever dedicated luxury wedding dress and accessories rental platform, giving brides-to-be the opportunity to access revered designers at a fraction of the retail price.
“Brides can try up to three dresses at home at a time, this session costs £40 per try on session depending on the number of dresses requested. Once a dress or accessories have been chosen it’s possible for a bride to ‘book’ these items up to a year in advance with free postage and free cleaning.
“Temporary alterations are possible under the watchful eye of the P.S. RENTAL team and implemented by experienced seamstresses. With P.S. RENTAL dresses and accessories can be loaned for up to 28 days so you don't have to worry about not having your dress well before your wedding date and returning straight after.
"At the end of the rental period, dresses are returned, professionally cleaned and repaired if needed, ready for the next bride.”
Sustainability isn’t the only advantage if you opt to rent rather than buy your wedding fashion. Our National Wedding Survey revealed that the average spend on a wedding dress in 2022 was £1,350, so if you’re looking to cut costs to suit a smaller wedding budget, this could be the place to get thrifty.
P.S. Rental co-owner Ella adds, “With rental, you are not under the time restrictions of lead times, which are generally around 8 months, then you'll need at least a month for alterations once you've got your dress. If you're short on time, renting is your best option! The biggest plus to rental is always saving you money and the planet."
Sustainable Wedding Food and Drink
Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or a meat-eater, we can all recognise that the food you choose to provide at your wedding can have a massive influence on the overall carbon footprint of your day. Making sure that guests eat their fill and enjoy every mouthful is obviously a priority, but choosing the most sustainable catering options should also be top of your list.
There are several things to keep in mind when deciding on catering for your eco friendly wedding. First of all, are you going to be serving meat or animal products? Meat alternatives are always going to be a better option for the planet, making vegan and vegetarian wedding caterers an excellent choice.
However, there are still ways to help the environment while serving meat. Amanda from RSA House says, “When it comes to food, plant-based is always going to be the most sustainable option. But if you really want to serve meat on your wedding day, make sure that it is being sourced locally, and consider serving ‘better meats’ such as pork and poultry rather than red meats.”
Ensuring that your food is locally sourced is another great way to reduce environmental impact. Food that is grown, harvested and prepared closer to your wedding venue will result in fewer emissions when it is transported to feed your guests on the day.
Eco-conscious couples should also make sure that their wedding menu offers food that is in season. Ordering produce that is out of season in the UK means that it has to be grown abroad and then transported to your wedding, further driving up your wedding carbon emissions.
Rebecca summarises it well: “Our key recommendations are to seek out local and seasonal food; order the right quantities and select menu options that have lower impacts on the environment. And when it comes to drinks – try the local wine and avoid bottled water.”
When deciding on catering companies, work with your partner to create a shortlist of companies that prioritise preparing tasty and environmentally-conscious dishes.
Spook Catering provides an excellent example of a hospitality company prioritising sustainable practices, as owner Emily Few Brown explains: “To ensure that we are on the same page, we send all of our suppliers a detailed questionnaire about their procedures, how they obtain their products, and how they manage their employees.
"All of our food and beverage menus are centred on seasonal ingredients and locally sourced produce, with a strong handcrafted component.”
Sustainable Wedding Stationery
Using recyclable paper for your wedding stationery is a great way to be more eco-friendly. Some guests may want to keep their wedding invitations, place names or thank you cards as a memento (we’re looking at you scrapbookers!) but if not, be sure to instruct your guests to put their discarded stationery in the paper recycling bin.
Another fun option is seed paper. This green product is made from recycled paper waste that’s turned to pulp and embedded with seeds before being turned into paper once more. Once your guests are finished with their stationery, they can plant it in the ground, which will result in some beautiful blooms. Think of it as an extra wedding favour!
You and your partner can go one step further with your wedding invitations, RSVPs and thank you notes by making them completely digital! Digital wedding invitations and other wedding stationery are the best way to save paper - by not using any paper at all.
There are plenty of stylish designs and templates available by artists online perfect for a chic introduction to your wedding day, whether that’s via email, WhatsApp or another platform of your choosing. With our National Wedding Survey revealing that 33% of couples are sending out their invites via WhatsApp or similar, going paper-free is a priority with plenty of couples.
Sustainable Wedding Flowers
Wedding flowers are one of the most effective ways to brighten up any wedding ceremony and wedding florals are always in high demand. There are several simple steps you can take to ensure that your flowers are sustainably sourced.
Perhaps the most important thing is to choose locally grown and seasonal wedding flowers. This easy decision will allow you to reduce the carbon footprint caused by the transportation and refrigeration of fresh flowers, as well as allowing you to support local growers and help the local economy - there are literally no disadvantages!
Using wildflowers or native plants not only allow you to create a gorgeous rustic vibe, but they’re also adapted to local growing conditions, don’t need as much water and can be cultivated without pesticides or fertilisers. Native plants can also provide habitats for local wildlife.
Another great option for sustainable wedding flowers is dried wedding flowers, rather than fresh flowers. Not only do dried flowers look great, they also offer a wealth of environmental benefits.
Katie Gavaghan, from Norfolk-based dried wedding flowers company The Parson’s Wreath, says, “Dried flowers are usually more sustainable than fresh wedding flowers for two reasons. Number one, fresh flowers need to be prepared as close to the wedding as possible, as trying to hold them back to get them in perfect condition can be tricky.
"Some won't make the grade and this can lead to over-ordering and waste.
“Number two, you can reuse your dried wedding flowers. We have brides and bridesmaids re-wearing their dried flower crowns for parties. Anything that doesn't go into landfill is great.”
Sustainable Wedding Favours
Forget sweet wrappers and cellophane gift bags: an eco-friendly wedding favour is much better for the planet, particularly if you’re having a big wedding and providing favours for hundreds of guests.
If you or your partner are a DIY whiz, it’s your time to shine. Use reusable jars to serve up homemade jam, a herb cutting, hot chocolate mix or handmade soap for your guests. Little bags of confetti are a lovely addition to the table and you can make your own very easily by drying out rose petals which you can collect from neighbours and friends’ gardens.
You can also buy favours that give back to both the environment and charity like packets of wildflower seeds. You can even make your own birdseed favours easily from seed bought from an environmental charity.
And of course, delicious edible wedding favours are no-waste guaranteed - your guests will have them gobbled up in no time!
Rebecca offers some more expert advice: “Favours are a lovely memento of any wedding but think about the long-term usage and how realistic it is that the attendees will keep or make use of whatever it is that you give them. Trinkets are likely to gather dust and eventually end up in landfill, food stuffs are a far better option as are small plants, seeds and the like.”
Having eco-friendly wedding doesn't end once the sun has set on your wedding night. If you and your partner have decided to keep the party going with a romantic honeymoon, then prioritising sustainability is still very much on the table.
The word honeymoon may call to mind far-off destinations and elaborate luxury hotels; however, this doesn't always have to be the case. Just like your wedding, your honeymoon is exactly what you want it to be.
One great way to make your honeymoon more eco-friendly is to change it to a mini moon, a shorter break after tying the knot in a more local venue. Staying local means you'll drastically reduce your carbon emissions, as well as supporting local businesses - a win win situation! Check out our roundup of the most romantic minimoon hotels in the UK for some green inspo.
If you do decide to take things further afield and celebrate at a honeymoon destination abroad, why not consider asking guests to donate to offset the carbon footprint of your honeymoon as a wedding favour? And while you're at it, why not think of some more sustainable items to add to your wedding gift list?
Another great way to prioritise sustainability on your honeymoon is by staying in eco-friendly accommodation. There's no shortage of hotels and other accommodation that champion sustainable practices such as energy-efficient lighting, water conservation, recycling programs and more.
And when it comes to activities to do on your honeymoon, you can keep it green by participating in eco-tourism activities. The popularity of eco-tourism has skyrocketed in recent years, and there are plenty of activities that support the local economy and environment, such as hiking, wildlife watching and cultural tours.
If you’ve loved these ideas, then check out the hottest wedding trends for the year ahead and see how you could adapt them.