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How to Have an Eco-Friendly Wedding

How to Have an Eco-Friendly Wedding
(8 Ways to Have a Sustainable Wedding)

Kathryn Kellogg

Weddings are beautiful, wonderful, and oh-so wasteful. Probably didn’t see me going there, did you?

In fact, weddings can be so intense, have their often have their own category on carbon offsetting websites. The average wedding has a carbon footprint of 70 metric tons, and creates 400-600 lbs of waste - which is CRAZY.

I personally feel like that’s a pretty bad way to start a marriage, but I’m not here to rain on anyone’s parade. I love the idea of dancing the night away with my friends in style so I’m going to tell you how you can drastically reduce your waste, emissions, and still have the wedding of your dreams.

The Guest List:

One of the easiest ways to cut down on the carbon emissions of your wedding is to shrink the guest list. More people = more emissions. So if you’re feeling pressured to invite people you don’t really know or want at your wedding, I’m hoping I can provide you with a “Get out of jail free card,” so to speak.

Besides, when it comes to your wedding, you should focus on the people that matter to you most. If you didn’t spend a lot of time with your third cousins or uncle twice removed, there’s no reason they NEED an invitation to your big day.

You can easily send friends and family members who are removed from your inner circle a wedding announcement after the big day to inform them of your recent nuptials. This is what I did for my own wedding, and hey - even Emily Post approves.

I also want to throw in a plug for REALLY small weddings. Don’t be afraid of eloping or having just a very intimate ceremony with immediate family.

It can be really stressful planning a wedding, and just because you elope doesn’t mean you can’t have a gorgeous dress or a beautiful bouquet. You don’t have to sacrifice any of the traditional experience, you can just do it on a smaller more personal scale.

The Location:

Location, Location, Location. When it comes to weddings transportation is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gasses. Try to have the wedding in a spot where the ceremony and reception are in the same location.
Try to arrange your block of hotel rooms close to the venue so everything can happen in one centralized place. As a bonus, this also saves money on transportation!

I recently stayed at the Catamaran Resort in San Diego and there was a big wedding happening on the lawn. Gorgeous views for the ceremony, reception, and a block of hotel rooms all in one place - that’s the way to do it!

The Dress:

Wedding dress shopping was really hard for me. Spending $1,000s on a gown worn for one day is something I just couldn’t do. I also never got that, “IT’S THE ONE!” feeling manufactured by modern media.

All of the dresses just felt like dresses and they all had to be pre-ordered and altered. I was clipped into these dresses and had no idea if once they were altered they would even look that good.

I wound up going for a vintage wedding dress. Thankfully, there are tons of wedding dress websites where brides sell their dresses for a fraction of the cost. If you’re near Berkeley, CA, it’s worth making an appointment at Emerald City Gowns as they offer the full wedding dress experience but specialize in consignment wedding dresses.

All of the dresses have been professionally cleaned and look brand new. But, the best part is the dresses have already been altered to fit REAL bodies meaning you’re very likely to find something that fits off the rack.

The Rings:

It might come as a surprise, but rings are probably the more wasteful wedding items. On average, 20 tons of waste is created for one (yes! ONE) wedding ring.

Mining for precious metals destroys land through strip mining, and results in toxic waste that often winds up in our waterways. In order to separate the gold from stone, mines use toxic substances like cyanide which contaminate the groundwater.

You can read more about the problems with mining for precious metals here.

One of the best ways to avoid these problems is to opt for second hand, heirloom jewelry, or jewelry made with recycled metals. There are so many beautiful pieces already out there. Check out your local pawn shop, estate sales, or even local jewelry stores often have a pre-loved section.

And, I know that a pawn shop might not sound super romantic, but I got my engagement ring from a local pawn shop and it was a lovely experience! The store was immaculate it looked like a high-end music/jewelry store combo.

The Food:

When it comes to emissions, food will be one of the high ticket items. The three things you’re going to want to prioritize on the plate is local, in-season, and plant-forward.

There’s often a lot of food that’s leftover after the wedding so try to partner with a catering company that’s connected with a local charity so the food can be dropped off after the event to make sure that it doesn’t go to waste.

Waste Management:

I can’t help but cringe at the waste management stations at large events. The trash, recycling, and compost bins are often treated the exact same so they are severely contaminated meaning everything in all of those bins is going to the landfill.

This has to do with people not paying attention or not knowing how to sort properly i.e. your paper takeout box covered with food residue is NOT recyclable even though it’s “paper.”

A lot of weddings use real plates, champagne flutes, cutlery, etc. which is great! But, if you’re having disposable items, you should think about having an attendant or making a sign/announcement specifying what goes in each bin.

This will keep the waste streams separate and make sure that the compost will be composted, the recycling will actually be recycled.

Depending on where you live composting may be a regular addition to events or it may not. If you’re not used to composting, it’s something you should definitely add. Organic matter can’t break down in a landfill so it’s stuck in limbo releasing methane and greenhouse gas 30x more powerful than CO2 so it’s one of the best ways to reduce your wedding footprint - compost!

The Flowers:

You might not think too much about your flowers, but did you know about 80% of the flowers sold in America are grown overseas?

This means most of your flowers have to make quite the journey before arriving to your florist. To give you an example, the 100 million roses grown for Valentine’s Day produces approximately 9,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

You can make a better choice for the environment by simply asking your florist to source local and in season flowers. If you have your heart set on a particular color scheme, chat with a florist about what’s being grown local in your area during what season.


The Gifts:

When it comes to shopping for gifts, I think you should ask yourself, “Do I really need it?” I know it’s fun to take the scanner gun through the store ringing up random items that bring a brief smile to your face, but I encourage you to take a step back and be really methodical about what you need.

In fact, you might find you really don’t need anything. Thanks to popular sites like Zola it’s easier than ever to ask for experiences instead of gifts.

When it came to my own wedding, I asked for donations to the honeymoon fund. We preferred to spend the money having fun together rather than getting more stuff that would create clutter.


If you’re looking for a place to have a beautiful wedding in the San Deigo area, I can’t recommend the Catamaran highly enough. The property is has an amazing stretch of ocean and is absolutely beautiful. They have also managed to check off so many items I mentioned on the list.

They have an awesome waste management program where they’ve diverted 70% of their total waste from landfill and compost all of their food waste! When it comes to food, all of their restaurants are certified Ocean Friendly by the Surfrider Foundation!

The Catamaran is also a member of the California Green Lodging program achieving the highest level meeting all seven of the program’s criteria like waste minimization, reuse and recycling, energy efficiency, conservation and management, waste management, hazardous materials management, and environmentally and socially sensitive purchasing policies.

I’m already planning one of my friend’s (another sustainability nerd) bachelorette parties there. Between their spa (which sells some of my favorite clean beauty products), access to the beach, night-life, and amazing restaurants - it’s going to be such a fun weekend!