“Green” weddings are becoming more and more of a thing, but it was still extremely difficult for us to find some information online last year. Let’s hope this will really become a sincere trend! Because unlike common believe, even an eco-wedding can be fun.
After we decided to get married, and I had come to terms with this idea, I wanted this not to be capitalist feast, not a money swallowing wassail. I was not willing to kill my building loan contract (and I am sure, my mother would have killed me if I did) or use any other of our savings. I also wanted the whole wedding to have as little impact on the environment as possible. I didn’t want it to be a wasteful affair which included the purchase of countless little vases, candle sockets (and candles), signs, garlands and konfetti in “Mr&Mrs”-design and wooden signs.
I was also very reluctant to the idea that I would spend several weeks or even months with this big party on my mind, being stressed out to plan the “most wonderful day in my life”. And good that I didn’t, because the actual wedding day was so overwhelming that I had no clue what had actually happened until I received the pictures. It truly looks like an awesome party.
Jokes aside, I do remember enough to confirm that it was a wonderful celebration with just the nicest people. If I’d did it again, I wouldn’t change a bit (but maybe I’d be less ‘absent’, because practice makes perfect.
So, how is it possible to have a ‘green’, yet fun wedding?
I think, the first most important thing is to ask yourself how important sustainability really is to you. Because celebrating in a more sustainable way will ultimatively mean that it should not be a wasteful party. For us it was okay that not every dish was matching. But that said – it also does not mean that you cannot fulfil your childhood princess dreams.
Before planning the actual thing, my husband and I set out or priorities.
- The food should be vegetarian, seasonal and regional
- the location should be close to our families and easy to reach for everyone
- the clothes should be ethically produced and made from sustainable fibre
- no plastic
- no one-time-gadgets
- ethical rings
Initially, we were planning a big party with all the trimmings including a long white dress for me, all the guests and a big, colourful candy bar (I was clearly inspired by the wedding industry).
After some research I had found an ethical bridal brand which even offered to dye dresses in more party-fit colours than white in Hannover, near my hometown. We also found a beautiful venue with an all-organic kitchen just on the outskirts of our hometown. When we went we quickly realized though that this would meet all our formal criteria, that it however not represents who we are – and that we really don’t feel like spending the money that comes with it.
So we scaled down. In the end of the day that is one of the most important things if you want to be sustainable. Do less.
So here comes my small inspiration how to have a sustainable, yet fun wedding.
First things first – you must be pretty on your wedding day, right? After I had skipped the plan to get a white gown I wanted to get myself a flowery vintage dress (because I love flowery Vintage dresses) and I actually found a stunning dress sold by ButchwaxVintage in the US. I ordered it to a friend’s place for her to bring it over on her next visit in Europe – but then we spontaniously married a year earlier than initially anticipated. So, not very sustainable, I went for a second dress and skimmed through some of the most amazing Vintage Stores in Krakow.
In the end, I chose a new dress (and petticoat) by the ethical UK brand “Palava” which combines retro patterns with their own stunning designs and organic fabrics. The brand also follows a “no-waste” policy and creates accessorizes and notebooks from their left-over fabric. I was gifted a bundle of leftovers from my dress to craft a little flower for my husband’s suit. My shoes are from a small family-owned company in Spain, the scarf from high quality wild silk was tailored by hand in France and the little jacket is thrifted from a second hand store in Amsterdam. Truly European, just like me! My husband just wore his everyday shoes with a Hess Natur organic linen suit and a shirt, also organic linen.
Most importantly, none of our clothes are ‘wedding exclusive’ – in fact I enjoy to wear my beautiful dress over and over again on different occasions.
Initially, we wanted to get rings from ethically sourced gold. There truly is not enough awareness about the extensive exploitation of children in gold mines around the world, and for us it was evident that we would not want to support the terrible conditions under which much of our (Western) jewellery is produced. Our goldsmith had an even better idea – to use recycled gold (and a dash of palladium). Because using the existing is always more sustainable than buying new stuff, even if that new stuff is ethically produced.
As I mentioned before, we had our eyes on a beautiful venue which uses only organic ingredients and is very easy to reach for guests and family. Most important for us was to make sure that the venue would not be out in the wild to avoid the negative impact of transportation. So, if you are really serious about sustainability it is probably possible to find a nice eco-place (but maybe not for 150 people, again: scale down). It just wasn’t our thing.
Instead, we went for my parents’ garden and house. It was perfect for us, even if the weather was not 100% on our side and we had to re-organize the set-up the day before, to be prepped for an indoors-only party – in the end it was a mix of both.
There are advantages and disadvantages of throwing your garden party, the biggest disadvantage being obviously that first of all you need to know someone with a garden big enough to throw a party for 70 guests (as in our case). We also learnt (the hard way) that you should get yourself some help tidying up the day after… Since the weather failed us, we moved half of the furniture from the first floor up to the second the day before the wedding – only to move it back down the day after. Luckily, we had some friends to help us out!
The advantages outweigh the disadvantages though: It is very cozy and friendly, we had full flexibility with everything we needed and it also turned our wedding into a neighbourhood event, because every immediate neighbour threw in some tables, chairs or dishes. It was a relaxed event without all eyes on us the whole time which was also nice.
Before we came on the all self-made trip we had looked into different restaurants and caterings in our city to provide organic and/or regional food. Our Plan A was to source food from different restaurants which met our standards, because it was difficult to find one to serve 70 people. But in the end we threw a “everyone-brings-a-dish”-party (plus, my mum made an enormous amount of delicious antipasti). This worked well, also because we had limited our guest list to immediate family and ‘old’ friends who still have their families in our hometown.
I understand that not everyone might be comfortable to ‘ask’ this favour of their guests and it definitely helped that we are in our mid-20s and had a student-vibe wedding. In the end of the day it was our wedding, so we set the rules. Luckily, my mother-in-law is a person ready to throw a big party, so she was able to provide us with dishes, an additional refrigerator and a party tent. But again, we collected everything needed for the buffet from our common stashes of party equipment.
For our eve-of-the-wedding party we provided a (homemade) salad buffet and vegetarian barbecue for about 100 guests. We found some friends patient enough to prep the skewers with us. Many people had been sceptical at first when they heard about this all-vegetarian barbecue, but it was actually a great way to just show how delicious and diverse vegetarian cuisine is.
For drinks we sticked mostly to juices, lemonade in glass bottles, organic wine and beer from a local brewery.
For extra fancy points my father-in-law crafted some amazing fruit sculptures. In general, I think it is never wrong to just ask around if anybody has some great craft or kitchen skills which they could contribute to this special day.
I did not spend a minute looking into bakeries, because I knew that I wanted to make our cake by myself (and I did – despite the tradition – together with an entire cake buffet!). As a passionate baker there is only so much I can say: I always think a naked cake (hence a cake not covered in tons of fondant) is a great option for an eco-wedding, because you actually eat the whole thing and there isn’t a bunch of fondant going to the trash. A romantic decoration with (organic!) flowers and berries fits the theme nicely.
Originally, I did have great(er) plans for our wedding cake (pictured below), but ended up down-scaling it a lot – because in the end of the day there are many, many things to think about the day before your wedding, so that limits the capacities for baking. But I am already super excited for my friends to get married – secretly I have all their cakes designed already (you hear me, friends??).
Now, this is the really tricky part, because your wedding should look nice and feel atmospheric, but at the same time you don’t want to clutter and buy all these cute, yet unnecessary, one-use-only deco items. The internet is overflowing with the sheer amount of bridal blogs and shops which list an uncountable amount of things you must have for your wedding day to be perfect. Decoration-wise we did not buy a thing.
If you want to have a sustainable wedding this is one of the aspects where you can most easily go for less. The decision of the venue helps a lot, too. If you are into countryside vibes you could go for a barn wedding which really does not need much deco to it to be atmospheric. We were in a beautiful garden during the summer, full of flowers. In addition to that, my godmother had some left-over flowers from my bridal bouquet and some lavender she had brought from her home in Southern France, so we assembled these in little vases and jars that my parents own. Collecting in the family we also got some nice glasses for candles and many, many fairy lights to light up the garden at night. For some extra garden party vibes we recycled the wedding garlands of my sister-in-law’s wedding. She’s been married for many, many years, so I guess that’s a good mojo. The decision not to buy anything made us realize how many nice things friends and families already own and it was beautiful for our wedding to consist of this beautiful collection of things.
So, now we come to the presents. We asked for two things: donations and concrete gifts. We had created a wedding webpage with all relevant information – also a great way to save on paper correspondence – which featured a “wedding table”. In order to avoid a collection of unnecessary stuff, we chose gifts that we needed or really wanted for a longer time. It obviously would be a lot more sustainable to just go gift-free, but we are guilty of loving a well-equipped home. We encouraged guests to shop locally or alternatively, to choose products from sustainable web shops, such as the www.avocadostore.de, www.mehr-grün.de und www.kivanta.de . We also particularly asked for “activity games”, such as outdoor games or our guest’s favourite board games. It’s a matter of personal taste, but we like to be remembered of different people every time we get out a game of chess or squeeze a smoothie.
On top of that we offered different options to donate money instead of gifting us material things, but turns out that people really want to get you a present when you marry – so many people did both.
Going plastic-free + sustainable wedding favours
If you are 100% in charge of your party as we were, it is much easier to make sure that it will be plastic-free. But even if you are renting some place, there are the essentials to avoid: no balloons, no one-time-dishes, no soap-bubbles in little plastic tubes to give away, no plastic straws. We did quite the opposite and shamelessly used our wedding for some eco propaganda. To make sure people would not confuse their glasses, we gifted everyone a metal straw with name tags. We also attached some info on the “refuse-the-straw-campaign” – I take my straw everywhere I go now. The straws – at least in my opinion – made some wonderful wedding favours. My first thought was to get everyone some seed bombs with bee-friendly flowers. My mum upgraded the wedding favour game with home-cooked berry jam for every guest.
In the end of the day, it really is not too difficult to celebrate a more sustainable wedding. Obviously, the party will always leave a footprint, but I think there are different things to be done to at least give a positive signal. For us, a main priority was to consider ethical choices (labour protection!). A wedding is always a costly endeavour, so why not invest that money in small, family-owned businesses and brands which pay their workers decently and protect them. Another big part for us was to not give in to the wedding industry by buying many pretty, yet unnecessary things. Instead, it was quite beautiful to have everyone contribute a little bit to our wedding.
When I look back at the wedding, I really feel like it is the perfect representation of how we want to live our life together: a big party, a little planned, but mostly improvised, to which all of our wonderful friends and family members contribute their bits. In summary, that’s the ethical and sustainable spirit which characterizes our life.