15 ways to throw an *affordable* eco-friendly wedding

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goats eating the seating the day before

Often times, okay, for the most part, eco-friendly means CRAZY expensive. And though you may not be able to afford the organic soy votive candles, or the disposable bamboo plates, I have compiled a list of actually affordable ways to go green on your wedding day. Some of these tips may seem a little strange to your guests, but since we are offbeat brides, we're not afraid to look a little strange in order to help the Earth, amahright? So let's get down and dirty…

  1. Email your invitations and direct guests to your wedsite for all your wedding info. And for the very few non-internet friendly people out there, invest in a few sustainable and eco-friendly paper invites.
  2. Wearing my mother's dress
    "Wearing my mother's dress" by Aga Images
    Rent, buy used, or purchase wedding clothes that you know you'd wear again. Look into wearing your mother's wedding dress, or, if your mom's dress looks as ugly on you as my mom's did on me, see if you can't create a new one out of the fabric.
  3. Ask your friends and family to donate a piece of their old gold jewelry to the environmentally-friendly jeweler, greenKarat, instead of giving gifts — greenKarat will then melt them down to make your wedding rings. This has the added benefit of, not only being eco-friendly, but also enabling you to keep a piece of your family and friends close to you at all times.
  4. Recycle bottles and cans to pay for your wedding.IMG_5132
  5. For bouquets, use wildflowers that you gather yourself. Common sense alert: make sure you're picking flowers that aren't endangered, someone else's property, etc.
  6. For centerpieces use potted plants, especially ones that you already have. One OBB used the succulents from their own collection as the centerpieces.
  7. Repurpose stuff — Go thrifting for your decor, use the bridal party bouquets as centerpieces for the reception.
  8. Choose a venue in which you can hold both the ceremony and reception to cut down on traveling. If that's not possible, then make sure the two venues are within walking distance from each other.
  9. Buy local and organic products and foods whenever possible. Weekend farmers markets are great places to get ahold of such things.
  10. Request only digital prints from your photographer — no wedding albums, no proof sheets, etc. And then ONLY print out the few photos that you're going to have framed.
  11. Have your wedding in someone's backyard. We have tons of backyard weddings to use as inspiration.
    From Sara and Matt's summer camp wedding.
  12. Set up composting bins during the reception.
  13. Use thrift stores dishes and silverware at your wedding and then donate them when you're done.
  14. Instead of favors, make a donation in your guest's names to eco charities, or use Ariel's “muglies” idea.
  15. Repurpose your seating. One Offbeat Bride started collecting chairs, stools, etc. that had been abandoned. Another one asked the school she works for to let her borrow their chairs, and my favorite example — use hay bales instead of seats, then let the goats eat them!

Like always, if you have more suggestions, feel free to leave 'em in the comments!

Comments on 15 ways to throw an *affordable* eco-friendly wedding

  1. finding your linens in grandma’s closet or your cake plates in your auntie’s attic is not only cost effective, but can be intimate and even fun. and since chairs are mentioned, I will share that for my sister’s at-home wedding, folding chairs were borrowed from the local funeral parlor. plain white, no one would have guessed it.

    • Never ever ever pick ANY (not even one!) wildflower from any park. If everyone “just picked one flower” it would really really harm that environment. Wildflowers are good for many different animals that actually need them. We need their biodiversity to remain as high as possible with how the climate is changing and by picking wildflowers you’re hampering their chances. National parks are already seeing changes in wildflower blooms because of climate change so please don’t pick them!!!

  2. Recycled or thrifted tablewares aren’t the only option. We used bamboo plates and cornstarch cups and silveware at our wedding.

    We composted the cups and forks ourselves.

    • ooo, I like that idea! How well did they compost? I mean, how long ’till they degraded?

  3. Another way to get around the invite thing is to thrift them. In Canada we have places called “St Vincent De Pauls” thrift stores that sell cards for 10cents a piece, and you can get super amazing retro ones if you shop often enough.

    As for the place to have it, some conservation areas have outdoor pavillions you can rent for $50 or less a day, and the money goes to a not for profit organization!

    • FYI, St. Vincent De Paul is a world-wide organziation. Search for them online and you’ll likely find that they have a store in your area. Other thrift stores may also have cheap cards. You can also repurpose used cards by printing your information on the back of previously used paper and glueing that to the inside of the old card.

      For our “guest book”, we’re collecting unused postcards from random people. At the reception, our guest will choose a card, fill it in with well wishes and drop it in a mail box.Our two closest friends will then separate the stack and mail us a few each month leading up to our 1yr anniversary. So far, we have tons of travel postcards from around the world and dating back as far as the 1970’s.

  4. Although we didn’t plan for an ‘eco’ wedding, reading this I realise that quite a few of our choices were pretty eco friendly – yay!

    Our wedding and reception venues were in walking distance of each other, our caterers are specialists in locally sourced produce, we hired gorgeous vintage china. Instead of formal florals we had flowers in enamel jugs (new, but handed out to friends and family at the end of the day), vintage glass vases that I bought from charity (thrift) shops and old jam jars. Also, my veil and shoes were borrowed and my hair accessory was made from vintage jewellery.

    My dress was new but I’ve decided that it will be my family heirloom and a I really hope a future daughter, niece or granddaughter will wear it. I absolutely love that photo of the labels sewn into the hem.

    Hope this is inspiring for any brides not going all out for the eco wedding but maybe wanting to go some way towards it.

  5. Most of the eco-friendly stuff we did was probably in the mid-range on expense: it was vegan; we rented our tables, chairs, linens, dinnerware, and vases from the venue, caterer, and florist; the guys all rented their tuxes. We had paper invitations (by Crane, which is supposed to be a “greener” paper company), but we skipped the inner envelope for the reply card and just had the one return envelope. Myself, my mom, and one of my bridesmaids got prettied up at an Aveda salon, which is all cruelty-free and eco-friendly.

  6. You could try taking public transit instead of renting a limo (depending on where you live, of course). There’s always car sharing (zipcar, autoshare…), borrowing a friend’s car, etc.

    Our wedding involved a limo/public transit combination. I rented the limo mostly to satisfy our parents but it ended up being impractical as our venue was downtown in a major city (limited parking, too much traffic…we ended up walking anyways!)

    • We own a hybrid, but it’s beat up, so we might rent a Prius. I’ve heard of places that rent hybrid limos, but they’re sparse, expensive and too fancy for us.

  7. For seating, you can have a BYOLC (bring your own lawnchair) event. If they don’t have lawn chairs, they can always bring a blanket.

    For dishes, cups, cultery, etc you can order compostable! (here is where we are ordering ours from http://www.greenshift.ca/index.html)

    Skip Reply Cards and add a phone number or email address. Saves time, paper, and you don’t have to worry about the post losing the RSVP.;)

    • We’re doing a picnic-style wedding, so asking guests to bring a blanket is a wonderful idea!

      We’re considering renting dishes, since they’ll be reused over and over again.

      We’re asking guests to RSVP by phone or on our website.

  8. Find a venue that provides tables and chairs, this way you won’t have to buy them. If your venue provides china and tablecloths even better. Pick a venue that tries to be green and ask them what they’re doing to be environmentally friendly.

    This is a bit more doable if you have a wedding with a 10-20k budget, but look for a B&B that offers full weekend rentals. This way you don’t have to find a venue for the rehearsal dinner and everyone is already on site and you may not even need to leave for the entire weekend. Also, more time to hang out with friends and family!

    • We’re doing a local-destination-weekend-wedding for this reason!

      We originally wanted a camping, all-DIY, lowest-possible budget weekend, but when we factored in the needs of guests (older or handicapped guests, kids, 1/3 of the guest list flying in, weather woes, etc.), plus the extra costs and time of full-DIY (tent, table, chair rentals, organizing potlucks, extra bodies & trucks needed, etc.), it became evident that going slightly higher in budget and finding venues open to negotiation was a better option for us.

      I loathed the venue research, but I loved the negotiation process, and now that we’re ready to sign the contract and put down the deposit, I’m thrilled with how it is looking. The poor economy means vendors are more willing to negotiate, even our venues’ vendors, so everybody saves. We’ll get to have the Friday rehearsal through the Sunday brunch all in one location, with indoor & outdoor gathering spaces (no tent rental needed!), local food distributors who source from nearby farms & wholesalers, and a variety of sleeping options (thrifty, plush, or rustic). FTW!

      For us it comes down to time vs. cost vs. eco-responsibility — where can we save the most of all 3, and where do we have wiggle room to lean more in one direction?

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