our wedding

INTERESTED IN ADDING ZERO WASTE / SUSTAINABLE ELEMENTS TO YOUR WEDDING? READ ON, FRIENDS!

My husband Mike and I got married May 12 at the Beaver Train Station in Beaver, Pennsylvania. It was an unbelievably wonderful day 😀

My goal wasn’t to have a zero waste wedding. Sure, it’s possible to have one, but for my family and budget, it wasn’t feasible to go entirely zero waste.

Mindfulness was key in a lot of my wedding prep. When making a decision I would think, what is the most ecological, sustainable, ethical choice that also isn’t going to break my budget?

Some decisions were no-brainers. Others, not so much.

Looking back there were definitely decisions I should have or could have made differently… but I didn’t. Overall, I’m proud of the decisions I made, even though some could have been better 😉

On this page you’ll find tips for a mindful / eco-friendly wedding on a budget and things, in hindsight, I would’ve done differently.

BRIDAL / BRIDESMAID DRESSES + TUXES

MOST ZERO WASTE OPTION: Most likely, the most zero waste option would be to buy a dress from a second-hand store. Consignment shops can have some beautiful options for wedding gowns and if you’re OK will your bridesmaids wearing miscellaneous dresses, there are plenty to pick from, too. Another option would be to simply rent a gown and have the bridesmaids do the same. A lot of people are doing that lately and I’ve seen some beautiful dresses you can rent.

For tuxes, unless the boys already have a tux they can use, I’d recommend renting. We got ours from Mens Warehouse, but you can find a pretty decent package a lot of places.

WHAT I DID: My dress wasn’t second-hand and it wasn’t zero waste. But it was only a couple hundred dollars and I was in love with it.

For bridesmaid dresses, I had all of my girls get dresses from eShakti.com. It’s safe to say I’m obsessed with this shop. It’s not zero waste, but it kills it in just about every other category. Here’s the deal:

EShakti’s headquarters is in New Delhi where they hand create every dress. “Shakti” in Sanskrit means “power,” and the company is all about empowering women.

Although the company isn’t certified “fair trade” they follow most of the practices a fair trade company would: they offer appropriate wages that surpass India’s minimum wage by 70%. The work environment is well-lit and ventilated. Not to mention the name of every person involved in the making of the dress hand writes their name on a card that comes along with your dress.

Also, every dress is almost entirely customizable. You can choose almost any cut and fabric combination. And did I mention the majority of dresses are under $100? And the customer service is amazing. If you get the dress and try it on and it doesn’t fit, you can send it back for a refund or to completely exchange it — no hassle.

And the shipment comes about two-weeks after purchasing. Not too bad at all! I wouldn’t recommend a company I can’t stand by. And this company I can stand by for SURE!

WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY: I’d buy a second-hand wedding dress or try and find one made from 100% organic cotton or that’s made out of recycled fabrics. But I don’t regret my decision because I felt my best on my wedding day. 😀

INVITATIONS + STATIONARY / SIGNAGE

MOST ZERO WASTE OPTION: The most zero waste option would be to go entirely digital with invitations. Email or Facebook wedding invitations are a thing, but they aren’t quite as lovely. Another good option would be to have everything on recycled paper — that means invitations, signs, programs, etc.

For signs, like chalkboard or otherwise, I’d recommend borrowing those or renting them from other people. That’s what I did….

WHAT I DID: My dear friend Emily Olsen from Dirty Hands Clean Soul Creations created my invitations and all my signs, programs, menus, etc. She did EVERYTHING and did it BEAUTIFULLY. AND anything she printed out she made sure it was on recycled paper. 😀

Perks of having friends or locals helping you out: supports local/small business, it typically allows you to be more comfortable being nitpick-y because it’s your friend and often you can borrow items and not be charged extra for them. Winning all around, fam!

WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY: Honestly, nothing. Em did such an unbelievable job and charged me wayyyyy less than anyone else would’ve. I felt comfortable telling her exactly what I wanted and asking her to re-do things I wasn’t into. And she was more than happy to print my paper items on recycled paper. {psssst. she also designed steel city wasteland’s logo! check her out on insta @dirtyhandscleansoulcreations :D}

FLATWARE + GLASSWARE + LINENS

MOST ZERO WASTE OPTION: I’d say either renting or already using what you have. Opt for glass / metal plates, cutlery and glassware. Same goes for linens. Or you could consider purchasing from a second-hand store.

WHAT I DID: I went the cheaper, but not cheapest route. I went for compostable cutlery and plates. They were muuuch cheaper than renting, which fit in my family’s budget. Also, since we had a morning / brunch wedding, we had a coffee bar and had everyone use real mugs rather than plastic or styrofoam cups. And I rented my linens.

WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY: I would’ve rented everything. But what we did fit into my family’s budget, so I’m still pleased with how it worked out! 🙂

FLOWERS / CENTERPIECES

MOST ZERO WASTE OPTION: The most zero waste option would probably be to use items you already have for centerpieces, or don’t use any at all. Another option would be to use second-hand items from consignment shops.

WHAT I DID: I used mostly second-hand items in my centerpiece, and also bought some potted plants and ferns to go down my aisle and around the venue. Everyone got to take home plants at the end of the wedding, which saved on waste, and I always try to dry any florals/greens I get because certain greens (particularly eucalyptus) stay beautiful when dried. I also bought placemats that I used as centerpieces, too. I bought them from Pier1 — I know, not the most environmental / ethical / sustainable option. But I ended up selling most of the placemats and I also use some in my apartment now.

WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY: I would potentially use more second-hand items in my centerpieces. There were some items I bought or that family members bought for me. But for the most part, I’m satisfied with how my centerpieces and floral arrangements turned out! Also, I still have the ferns from my wedding and one of my centerpiece potted plants. They’re all staying strong! And my mom has a bunch as well, and many other family members and friends who attended my wedding 🙂

Also, I would’ve tried to find a more sustainable / ethical option for centerpieces that didn’t involve my Pier1 purchases… but I still love the way my centerpieces turned out.

RINGS + JEWELRY

MOST ZERO WASTE OPTION: Check with your family! There might be an engagement ring from your great grandmother or even your mom that is vintage and has lots of meaning to you! Another option is to ensure the diamond you get is conflict-free or that is fair trade or from a thrift shop.

Same goes for jewelry — buying fair trade or second hand, or opting for jewelry that was passed down from a family member.

WHAT I DID: Mike had my engagement ring created without using diamonds — I was worried about conflict diamonds. My ring has both of our birthstones on it and I love it!

For our wedding bands, we got them from Brilliant Earth. This company is amazing! They go beyond ensuring the diamonds are conflict free — the metals in each ring are made out of recycled metals; they support community development in the town the diamonds are from; and you can even create your own!

I wore earrings that were my grandmothers, another set of earrings from Francesca’s, and a fair trade bracelet from Ten Thousand Villages.

WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY: Other than buy earrings that were either recycled or fair trade instead of the ones I got from Francesca’s, I don’t think I’d do anything differently.

Mike made my engagement ring more than I ever thought it could be and our engagement rings are created from the best possible company. I’m really thankful that we went the route we did! I look at my rings everyday and feel encouraged to have supported such important causes with one purchase.

VENDORS

MOST ZERO WASTE OPTION: This is a tough one because it’s hard to say / depends on where you live and your resources. But I’d say choose a local caterer that has food grown locally or that clearly prioritizes their environmental impact. When I brought up using compostable plates to my caterer, he was super excited about it! It’s important to talk about your options. Also, make sure to ask if your caterer composts and recycles, or see if there’s a way to do that for your wedding.

Another idea, though maybe one not everyone would want, is potluck! I’ve heard awesome things about potluck weddings. It immediately sets the tone that your wedding will be laid back and full of love.

WHAT I DID: Like I mentioned above, my caterer was great when I mentioned the compostable plates and cutlery. I asked about not having water bottles at the wedding and instead having large pitchers of water at tables, but for some reason it wasn’t possible with my venue. I think it had to do with there not being any filtered water or ice at my venue, or something like that. We, unfortunately, opted for bottled water but I asked the caterer to bring recycling bins.

We also supported local businesses. Our donuts, coffee bar and catering were all local, small businesses.

WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY: Before going with a caterer, I would’ve gotten more information about recycling and composting options, or ways to limit waste and plastic. I’m bummed we went with the bottled water, but even having compostable cutlery and plates was a huuuuge step for my family. Next time, I’d ask more questions and do more research.

FAVORS + BRIDAL / FAMILY GIFTS

MOST ZERO WASTE OPTION: Either not doing favors, or doing something sustainable or edible. A lot of people go with little glass jars of local honey. Or, some people will have a sign that says they donated money that would go toward favors to a local charity or cause.

For family and bridal party gifts, the options are truly endless. Sustainable / fair trade jewelry is always a great option and so is a letter, a handmade lotion or scrub, etc.

WHAT I DID: My favors were coffee mugs that I had hanging on a wall beside the coffee bar. All the mugs I purchased were either my own or family/friends that no one wanted anymore, or ones bought second-hand. (All were washed before the wedding 😉 )

For bridal gifts, I got all of my girls fair trade jewelry for them to wear on the day of the wedding. Mike got the boys hankies with their initials stitched on them from Etsy. We got handmade gifts for our parents.

WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY: I wouldn’t do anything differently. I was pleased with the jewelry I got for my girls (some from Ten Thousand Villages and some from Mata Traders. I’d hiighhhlly recommend both companies!) and Mike was pleased with how the hankies turned out for the boys.

ADDITIONAL NOTES + THOUGHTS

RENT RENT RENT! Rent as much as you possibly can or buy second-hand.

OR — buy fair trade, eco-friendly options or support small business when available.

Don’t be afraid to ask, either! If you hire a wedding planner {I did not and didn’t feel the need to} or even when working with vendors and your family and friends, make sure they know you’re trying to minimize plastic use and be as mindful as possible in the decisions you make surrounding your wedding.

Often, when I wanted to buy things fair trade or eco-friendly, people would tell me, “yeah but it’s your wedding day!” — just because it was my “wedding day” didn’t give me a pass to tell the environment to screw off and turn a blind eye to oppression. If anything, you have the most power when planning your wedding. You have the ability to put money in responsible, mindful places, so do it 😀

Also, check into wedding fairs on Facebook, online or in person. I bought and sold a lot of my wedding items that way! It’s sustainable and could get you a little cash 🙂

What zero waste, sustainable or eco friendly things did you do at your wedding?