We’re all used to hearing about weddings ‘costing the earth’ and one would normally surmise that the phrase referred to the eyewatering £25,000 price-tag of the average big day; however, could the choices we make on our wedding day actually be harming the planet? Unfortunately, the answer is yes! Here in the UK, the average wedding generates around 14.5 tonnes of carbon emissions and between 250-450 kilos of rubbish, which is significantly higher than the average person emits in an entire year! “SURELY NOT” we hear you cry, but with all that disposable décor, packaging, food waste, plus the carbon footprint of your guests making their way to the venue, big day emissions can quickly add up.
Fear not though, there’s no need to weep with guilt into your non-biodegradable confetti! When one considers the 280,000 weddings that take place in the UK every year, even the most minuscule of tweaks and changes will create a positive environmental impact.
So with World Earth Day just around the corner, we thought we’d list ten of the simplest ways you can go from planet shredder to eco-wedder without sacrificing on style PLUS by going eco, you’ll probably save yourself a pretty penny too:
Switch up your Stationery
One of the simplest ways to green up your big day is by switching your wedding stationery. The process of producing paper and ink is hugely harmful to the environment and the average wedding involves a LOT of both. From save-the-date cards and wedding invitations to place cards and table plans, our leafy friends quiver in fear when they hear that another wedding has been announced!
Hello technology: Rather than sending out hundreds of paper invites, why not embrace the world wide web and send out e-invites instead? This will not only have a positive environmental impact, it also saves guests sending back a paper RSVP as they simply have to click and the job is done.
Get creative: Instead of using traditional place cards at the table, why not write guests names on pebbles, fallen leaves or bake edible place cards, which will even double up as tasty favours!
Blooming invitations: If you’re set on sending traditional wedding invitations, then we are LOVING these plantable wildflower seed invites! Not only are they made from 100% recycled paper, your guests can plant the invitation in the garden under a thin layer of soil and watch wildflowers grow, which will serve as a perfect reminder of your big day. Plus the bees will love you!
Projector power: Why not borrow or hire a projector and beam your table plan onto the wall rather than using reams of paper to do the same job? Once everyone is seated, the projector can then go onto display a montage of photographs of you and your guests.
Question time: Depending on the environmental ethos of your chosen venue, the emission factor can vary massively! Humungous stately homes and castles are unlikely to score highly on the eco-efficiency chart; however, they may have impeccable environmental policies so if you’re concerned, it’s always worth asking your venue about their policies on recycling, water usage, renewable energy and their support of local suppliers.
Combined Ceremony & Reception: In order to avoid guests having to drive sometimes in excess of 100 vehicles from one location to another, try to make sure that your ceremony and reception are either at the same venue or very close to one another. If there is a fair distance between the two, consider organising transport such as a coach to cut the carbon footprint.
Pick an eco-venue: Blank canvas venues such as the local village hall or a marquee will offer complete freedom as to how green you want to go, meaning you can have the flexibility to choose suppliers based on their environmental ethos. Alternatively, why not book an eco-friendly venue such as the gorgeous Roulotte Retreat in the Scottish Borders? This utterly romantic, eco-chic venue includes a collection of gorgeous hand carved Roulottes for couples and their guests who will love the peace and tranquillity of Roulotte life beside a loch and wildflower meadow.
Without doubt, the biggest carbon footprint of your wedding day will come courtesy of all the travel involved in getting to the chosen venue. Hundreds of guests will be making their way, often across Continents, to be with you on your special day. The best way to offset this is by choosing a venue close to the majority of your guests. There will inevitably be occasions where guests will have to fly in and you could always consider offsetting their air travel by donating to a Carbon Offset Program.
You could also forget the Bentley for your grand entrance and make like Magda and Gordon who arrived at their wedding ceremony on a tandem bicycle!
Wedding decor is EVERYTHING and you won’t want to be cutting corners in this department, but there are a number of eco-options that’ll help green up your big day without having to compromise on style.
Light of your life: By lighting the venue with candles as opposed to electricity eating fairy-lights or state-of-the-art lighting concepts, you’ll save electricity and give your reception a mega romantic atmosphere and there are tonnes of eco-candle options to choose from, from clean-burning candles to refillable candles, the world of atmospheric lighting is your oyster.
Go vintage: By hosting a rustic or vintage themed wedding, there are oodles of ways to get your eco on, plus it’s such a beautiful look. We’ve seen recycled gin bottles, tin cans, wooden boxes, vintage bicycles, handmade bunting and banners used to create the most amazing mismatched and eclectic effect! Check out this gorgeous vintage wedding reception by Emily Wren.
Dress to impress [the earth]
Wedding dresses are definitely not the most environmentally friendly pieces you’ll find in the wardrobe! Often made in factories in the Far East, there are not only huge problems with labour exploitation to contend with, there’s also the issue of fabric. Polyester, which is the basis of most wedding dresses, is made from petrochemicals, is non-biodegradable and involves the intensive use of energy and water in its production. Add to that, the air miles and CO2 emissions resulting from transporting the gown and you’ve got yourself an eco-warrior’s white nightmare! To combat this, thankfully, there’s lots of options available:
Hiring: For green brides and grooms, hiring a wedding dress or suit is a great eco-option as well as a huge money saver and most towns in the UK have a great range of stock in a variety of sizes for you to get your mitts on!
Vintage: For the ladies, both brides and their maids will be spoilt for choice as the second-hand wedding dress market is thriving. From Preloved through to vintage shops, there’s a huge selection available. We LOVE Hannah’s incredible 1970s gown from Those Were the Days Vintage Bridal in Edinburgh.
Eco-designers: If you’re not sold on second-hand, how about seeking out environmentally-friendly designers who use organic and sustainable materials?
Re-use: Consider buying bridesmaid dresses that your gal pals will want to use time and time again. Similarly, how about having your wedding gown altered into a more flexible style after the big day?
The best way to reduce the environmental impact of your wedding flowers is to think seasonal and local, this will dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of flying in out-of-season flowers. Flowers produced out of season are often grown with the aid of chemicals and fertilisers and are covered in pesticides. We’re loving Mayfield Flowers down in Ayrshire, who provide unusual, locally grown and environmentally sustainable flowers from their own cutting gardens.
Be openminded: From the depths of winter to the height of summer there is always something glorious growing nearby, so if you have your heart set on tulips in November, think more bountiful bouquets filled with gorgeous autumnal offerings.
Forget the foam: Floral foam does not break down in landfill, the chemicals found within the foam can leach into water and air, plus the dust it forms as it breaks down can be harmful to skin and to your lungs!
Pot some plants: Rather than using freshly cut flowers as centrepieces on the tables, how about using pretty pots of plants which can be kept after the wedding? It needn’t just be small plants either, we’ve seen Bay, Cherry Blossom and Jasmine trees taking pride of place on tables. Not only do they look fantastic, they can all be taken home and planted in your garden or given as gifts after the big day.
Alternative bouquets: Check out our Big Day Bouquets with a Twist blog, which lists our top-ten non-traditional bouquet ideas, some of which are super eco-friendly.
Wedding favours with an Eco Flavour
Wedding favours are often wrapped in plastic and tied with non-biodegradable curling ribbon so first things first, ditch the plastic in favour of paper wrapping, or better still, no wrapping at all. There are infinite possibilities for favours, from homemade chutneys and preserves in reusable glass jars to herb cuttings or handmade soaps. We love the Edinburgh skincare company, Amaranthine’s, gorgeous face masks, which are handmade here in Scotland and made of ethically sourced and mostly organic ingredients, plus they’re amazing at perking up dry ‘day-after-wedding’ skin!
Good [for the planet] Food
Choose your own caterer: Many ingredients do some serious air miles to get to our plates and so the carbon footprint when catering en-masse can be a frightening thought. What’s more, many of these items will arrive wrapped in unnecessary plastic packaging. If you’re lucky enough to have the flexibility to bring in your own choice of caterer, search around for a local company that has an eco-friendly ethos and good relationships with local farmers and producers. We love Hickory in Edinburgh, who offer eco-chic wedding packages where couples enjoy all the benefits of amazing food with an eco-friendly twist – meaning you can enjoy a first-class event while knowing you’re doing your bit for the environment.
Communication is key: If your venue only offers in-house catering, then speak to the kitchen team and make them aware you’re interested to know where the food comes from and if there are local alternatives to produce that will be flown in out-of-season with lots of packaging.
Use eco-alternatives where possible: Switch plastic crockery and cutlery for china plates, glasses, metal cutlery and paper straws. While wedding cake will go stale pretty quickly, a cheese cake will get better with age and you will be dinner party host/ess with the mostess for months to come! We love this gorgeous example of a cheese tower by Hickory.
Gloriously Ethical Gifts
Everybody loves to receive a gift and if you’re planning on creating a gift list, how about using a company specialising in sustainable and ethical products? Not only will you get some amazing, unique gifts, they will most likely arrive covered in eco-friendly wrapping paper. The other major bonus is that it’s also a great opportunity to introduce your guests to some gorgeously green products they might not have previously known about.
We are currently obsessed with Respiin, a homeware brand created to showcase stylish recycled and renewable textiles like these woollen throws, cushions and seagrass baskets and bowls. All of which are sustainable, renewable and biodegradable. Unfortunately the gorgeous whippet doesn’t come with any purchases!
If your house is already filled to the rafters with products, how about signing up to a charity wedding gift list? This way, your favourite charity will benefit from your big day.
Honeymoon at Home
Let’s face it, we live in one of the most romantic and glorious countries in the world so why would you want to honeymoon anywhere else than sensational Scotland? Enjoy the delights on your doorstep and use the money you would have otherwise spent on an expensive flight to really splurge on your Scottish accommodation. One of our favourite Scottish self-catering options is Oran na Mara, this delightful thatched beauty on Harris.
If we can’t tempt you to stay put, forget air travel and take the train through Europe. You can reach France within a few hours and then you’re free to get a high speed connection into Spain, Italy, Germany and more.