how to have a sustainable wedding guide

Couples and their families spend a lot of time, energy, and resources to create a beautiful and memorable wedding celebration. Unfortunately, there’s also often a hidden, less glamorous cost associated with the wedding industry: unsustainable practices, leading to lots of waste and pollution.

If you’re at all concerned about the environmental impact of your event and looking for ways to make your wedding more sustainable, this ultimate guide to a more eco-friendly wedding is for you!

How much waste does a wedding produce?

The Green Bride Guide says an average wedding results in 63 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and 400 lbs of trash — that’s a huge impact for just one day. With just a few swaps and a little extra planning, you can greatly reduce these numbers for a more sustainable wedding.

How can I make my wedding more sustainable?

There are tons of different ways to make your wedding more sustainable, and we outline some of these below. Even if you can’t make all of these changes, doing what you can is always better than nothing. It’s all about putting in the extra thought and effort earlier in the wedding planning process that can create a ripple effect down the line as you get closer to your wedding day.

We’ve created a guide outlining actions to take and things to keep in mind during your wedding planning journey, from creating that initial budget to enjoying your honeymoon. Check out how you can have a more sustainable wedding below (or head on over to Emerald Hour’s Green Swaps Guide) — you might be surprised to find it’s easier than you think.

Get intentional with your budget.

Be more selective about what’s important to you. Having an eco-friendly wedding doesn’t have to be more expensive. When you get clear on what’s necessary and meaningful to you, you may find that there’s a lot you can do without that won’t impact your special day. 

Sometimes the more sustainable options are the best for your wallet, too. For example, you can check out your local library for wedding planning resources instead of buying a new print edition of every single book you can find.

Be selective about your guest list.

Everything adds up for weddings with hundreds of guests, so keeping the guest count small keeps you from wasting more food, drinks, and favors (and even saves you money). As a bonus, it can make the event more meaningful by giving you time to truly celebrate with everyone attending.

We’ve come up with some tips for planning a small wedding that might be useful if you’re keeping numbers low for a more sustainable wedding.

Choose an eco-friendly venue.

One of the first things you think about when planning a wedding is the venue. There are a few things you might want to ask yourself and the venue to ensure you’re making the best choice for the planet:

  • Is this venue central to the majority of guests to cut down on travel-related pollution?
  • Is the building made with sustainable materials?
  • Do they use renewable energy sources for power?
  • What is the venue’s policy when it comes to recycling and single-use plastic?
  • If the venue provides catering, are they sourcing food and beverages from local businesses?
  • Are they involved in other green initiatives / do they give back to the community?

Thinking about getting married in Colorado? Here’s a list of green venues you may want to check out for your sustainable wedding, written by one of our favorite Colorado-based wedding planners who specializes in eco-friendly weddings! 

You could even get married in a national park, which will save you money on the venue cost as well as on decorations. You don’t need to add much to those views!

Ensure your vendors align with your values.

The vendors you choose to work with for your wedding can make a huge difference when it comes to the environmental impact of your event. Carefully choose the ones that care about sustainability and put practices into place to reduce their carbon footprint.

Here is a brief guide to choosing vendors for your sustainable wedding:

Stationary designers: Choose a stationery designer who uses recycled paper for save-the-dates and invitations.

Photographers/videographers: Choose a photographer and videographer who is purpose-driven and cares about the environment. For example, at Skyewater Photo + Film we donate a percentage of each package we sell back to nonprofits doing important environmental work.

Bridal Boutiques: Choose a bridal boutique or wedding attire business that uses sustainable materials for their dresses or suits. 

Makeup artists: Choose a makeup artist who uses cruelty-free makeup.

Bakers: Choose a baker who uses local ingredients for their wedding cakes.

Florists: Choose a florist who uses locally-sourced flowers and greenery, silk or wooden flowers, or potted plants.

Caterers: Choose a caterer with a farm-to-table practice, composts food after the event, or doesn’t use single-use plasticware.

Jewelers: Choose a jeweler who sources conflict-free stones, or choose a secondhand shop.

Design your day with sustainability in mind.

When you start thinking through the details of your wedding, there are lots of small details you can tweak to have a more eco-friendly wedding. 

You can buy used decor, opt for biodegradable or plant-based materials for your ceremony exit over confetti, avoid balloons and floating lanterns, and even use candlelight instead of electricity for light.

These are just a few examples of how being more intentional with the little things can have a big impact.

Choose a “green” or pre-celebrated wedding dress.

Especially if you don’t intend to wear your wedding dress again, buying a used wedding dress or renting your wedding dress can be a great option to save money for your sustainable wedding. You can find lots of dresses on Poshmark and Etsy.

If you want a new dress, you could buy from brands like Reformation or Wear Your Love that use organic fabrics and eco-friendly processes.

Note: All of this can apply to tuxedos, suits, and bridesmaid dresses, too.

Take advantage of technology.

Rather than using a bunch of paper, make your wedding sustainable by creating a wedding website that gives guests all of the details they need. You can even send your invitations virtually, have guests RSVP online, and use your website to live stream the ceremony for those who can’t make it in person.

If you really want that physical save-the-date for people to hang on their fridges, make sure you’re seeking out vendors who use recycled paper.

Going paperless applies to your planning activities, too. Online tools like Google Docs and Notion make it easy to keep track of vendor payments, schedules, and to-do lists.

Be realistic about your registry.

How often will you really use all of those fancy kitchen gadgets? An easy way to have a more environmentally-conscious wedding is to build your wedding registry thoughtfully, only including items you need. Ideally, those items would also be made in an ethical, eco-friendly way.

An alternative to material items is allowing guests to send you the gift of money for your honeymoon or to buy a house. You could also have them donate to a charity that’s close to your heart.

Rely on rental items for decor.

Buying used decor or renting decor from a local vendor is one of the best things you can do to have a sustainable wedding. Pre-celebrated items like battery-powered candles, table runners, centerpieces, and ceremony archways can be found on Facebook Marketplace or The Wedding Swap App. If you do buy new decor items, make sure they are things you would want to keep in your home (or things you could give to other brides after you’ve used them).

You can cut down on the amount of decor used during your wedding by re-using decor throughout the day. Tables, chairs, and flowers from your ceremony and cocktail hour can all be repurposed and relocated to use for reception decor. 

Think through transportation.

Try to cut down on transportation in general and offer carpool or shuttle options from the hotel to the venue to make your wedding less harmful to the environment. You can also choose a venue that has all of the spaces you need for getting ready, holding the ceremony, the reception, and maybe even overnight stays to limit the number of places people have to travel to during the day.

Buy wedding bands secondhand or conflict-free.

You can buy sustainable wedding bands with unique, vintage styles by shopping secondhand. When purchasing new wedding bands, make sure they come from businesses that ensure conflict-free products, or lab-made diamonds.

Plan a menu that’s better for the planet.

See if your caterer or bar service can give each guest one glass to use for beverages for the whole night, rather than a new one each time. Choose kegs and full bottles of wine over bottled beer and cans of wine. Bonus points if the alcohol comes from local wineries, breweries, and distilleries.

When it comes to food, more vegetarian and vegan options are also less harmful for the planet. Go for plated meals over buffets, and make sure to talk to your caterer and venue about how you can handle potential food waste. Some caterers and venues offer ways to donate leftover food to local charities, or compost the food at nearby farms. 

Ditch the guest favors.

If you want to produce less waste, do without the party favors, or give out edible ones like snacks or coffee. You could also give succulents, potted plants, or seeds as gifts. Make sure you’re thinking about what your guests will actually use.


Recycling is probably one of the more obvious eco-wedding tips. Make sure to recycle your invitations, menus, place cards, and any other recyclable items made of paper or cardboard.

You can also pass on anything you won’t use after the wedding to other future couples looking to get married, either by donating or selling your pre-celebrated items.

Plan an eco-friendly honeymoon.

While your honeymoon isn’t technically part of your wedding, it can still be an opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint, especially if you stay closer to home. You can also use a resort or hotel known for having a sustainable focus and prioritize locally-owned attractions and restaurants while you enjoy newlywed bliss.

For something different, you and your partner could volunteer together for an eco-friendly organization during your honeymoon.

Or… scrap all of it and elope!

Eloping is one of the most sustainable wedding options available today. It cuts back on guests, food, and transportation, and you get to keep things super simple and eco-friendly. If you think eloping might be the right choice for you, check out our ultimate guide to planning an elopement in the US.

Hire an Elopement Photographer + Videographer Team that Values Sustainability

Skyewater Photo + Film is a photography and videography team that specializes in destination weddings and adventure elopements all over the US. Sustainability is also at the heart of what we do, and we’d love to help you find ways to make your special day more eco-friendly.

Whether you’re looking for a meaningful wedding video or an adventurous elopement photographer, contact Skyewater Photo + Film for your big day!

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