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You will (hopefully) only get married once.

Why not push the boat out? Just for one day, be decadent, lavish, carefree.

Thing is, with over 200,000 weddings happening in England and Wales alone every year, that decadence can take a pretty heavy toll on the environment.

Don’t worry though, we’re not going to ask your guests to bring their own dinner.

In this series of articles around planning an Environmentally Friendly Wedding, we will look at simple and cost effective ways to reduce the impact of your wedding. Make sure you also have a look at Part 1 – Reducing Your Wedding Mileage.

How To Reduce Your Wedding Waste

Reducing waste is a huge topic right now.

As a society we are starting to wake up to the damage that single-use plastics are causing.

There are simple changes that many are starting to make in our daily lives such as reusable takeaway coffee cups and packing lunches in Tupperware rather than cling-film.

But what about your wedding day?

As mentioned in the intro, from your perspective your wedding is a one-off event.  You’re not doing this five days a week throughout the year.  That means that the environmental impact of your wedding is relatively minimal. 

The challenge, of course, is that there are hundred of thousands of weddings happening every year.  If everyone has that same wasteful attitude then this can add up to a pretty serious problem.

So, what can you do about it?

Lose the Single-Use Clothing - Hire or Re-Use

It’s nice for the wedding party to have brand new suits and dresses to make the day special.  

What happens to those outfits after the big day?  

Here are a few ideas to make sure you don’t end up with wedding clothes that will only ever be worn once.

Look for re-usable suits and Dresses

For the guys, you can get plenty of suits that work well on your wedding day and would look equally smart in the office.  If you make a good choice with your wedding suit it may also double as your interview or client meeting suit.

It isn’t quite as simple for girls of course, since your typical Bridesmaid’s dress probably wouldn’t be appropriate attire for a job interview.  

Still you may be able to find one which can be brought back out on a special occasions.

Hire, or Find Second Hand Outfits

Sometimes you just want people wearing outfits that would only work at a wedding.

That’s fine, there are still options.

Men have been hiring wedding suits for decades, so there are plenty of options out there to find the right one.

How about second hand dresses?  

Obviously it will be much harder to find exactly what you want, so make the mismatching dresses part of your theme.  

Give your bridesmaids some ideas to guide them, like ‘little black dress’, or ‘pastel colours’, and then embrace the differences.

Do The Environment A Favour

Wedding Favours are little gifts that you give each of your guests as they sit down for the wedding breakfast.  They are typically included as part of the place setting.

Being that Favours have been traditional at weddings for centuries and are considered a gesture of good luck, it would be a shame to eliminate them from your wedding entirely.

So what can you give your guest that doesn’t involve a small disposable box and a few trinkets that will most likely end up in the bin before the end of the day?

Pile of Favours

Going back a few centuries you might have gifted your guests a cube of sugar as a sign of wealth.

That sugar cube would probably end up in their after-dinner tea and would thus not go to waste.

In the 21st Century sugar is much easier to come by, so that tradition has fallen out of, ahem, favour, recently.

Your typical favour these days comes in a small, delicately designed cardboard box, wrapped with a ribbon perhaps accompanied by plastic diamonds or other glittery items.  All of that goes straight in the bin almost immediately.

So, either you get rid of all the packaging entirely, or you find recycled, bio-degradable gift packaging for your favours.

Personally, I love the idea of gifts that don’t need fancy packaging.  

Something like a custom shot-glass with your names and wedding dates prints on them.  

That’s the kind of keep-sake people will love, they can take them home and either display them or use them, and it probably wouldn’t cost you a huge amount to get 50 or so made.

If you don’t like the idea of shot-glasses, how about candles?  

Or even a small bunch of flowers?  

Something that looks nice bound with a little twine and doesn’t need fancy boxes.

Or just, apples.

Vet Your Suppliers for Wasteful Behaviour

When you pick your suppliers you’re probably not thinking about their eco-friendliness.  

You’re probably more concerned with reliability, cost and quality.

There are a few simple questions you can ask, and these will help address your other concerns too.

Ask your caterer where they source their ingredients from, and what they do with left-overs.  Can anything that was left from the main meal be safely re-used at the evening buffet?

Does your florist use locally grown flowers, and can they do anything with the flowers afterwards such as drying them out for display purposes?

Photo booths, does every picture need to be printed?  Could they be stored digitally and given to your photographer to be included on the online gallery?  They could still print on demand, but not 2 copies for every shot.

Venue decorators, is everything re-usable? 

Photographers, can the photos be delivered digitally to avoid unnecessary prints and memory sticks and postage.

I think you get the point.

Other quick and simple ideas

Get a Bag of Dried Petals for Confetti

Tell your guests to not bring their own, because then you’ll end up with loads of little boxes to throw away, and you won’t know what it’s made of.  

Look for a florist who can provide a bag of dried petals that you can pass around when it comes time to throw it.

Reclaimed And Reusable Decorations

If you or someone you know is crafty, see if you can make your table plan and other decorations out of reclaimed items.

You could make signs out of old bits of driftwood or palettes. 

For table plan ideas, maybe write it on a mirror, or mounted in a photo frame that you can later re-purpose by hanging it in your living room filled with your wedding photos.

Yes, your photographer may grumble at how difficult it can be to get a good photo of a mirror table plan, but that’s all part of the fun 🙂

Conclusion

This article isn’t intended to be a lecture on responsibility.  The problem of waste isn’t going to just go away, we all need to have it in the back of our minds, even when planning something big like a wedding.

Fortunately, as we have discovered in this article, there are loads of little changes that you can make without spending extra money or going too far out of your way.  In fact, some of these ideas may even save you a penny or two, and that’s never a bad thing.

If you enjoyed this and would like to find more tips, have a look at Part 1: Reducing Your Wedding Mileage.

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