Hosting a Sustainable and Ethically Responsible Wedding
Planning a Sustainable and Ethically Responsible Wedding
Let’s get this out of the way, because weddings are sensitive subjects for people. It’s one event wrapped in ribbons of personal touch: finances, love, status, and style. Because of that, emotions run high when weddings are involved. At the end of the day, your wedding should be whatever you want it to be, whether sustainable or not. It’s your day to decide.
With that being said, for my wedding, I envisioned a fun weekend full of family and friends that had as little negative impact to natural resources as possible. This was partially driven by the fact we are getting married in Banff National Park, where the air smells of pine and crisp wildflowers, framed by views of the Rockies, turquoise glacier water and the occasional caribou. Banff is special to me and my fiancé, and we would do anything to protect this sacred park, wishing it remains the same for centuries to come. We also wanted the entire event to mirror our lifestyle; some guests see us only occasionally and we are proud to show them the people we’ve become!
So we set off to have a sustainable wedding!
What’s a “normal” wedding look like anyways? If you’ve ever seen a wedding checklist, they are filled with an incredible amount of “to-do” items that look like this:
Find a venue
Save the dates
Buy a dress, new shoes, jewellery
Hire a caterer, photographer, DJ and officiant
Get a floral designer
Taste your cake
Order and send wedding invitations
Create your gift registry
Reserve party linens and decorations
Order wedding favours for guest
Plan your honeymoon
Maybe you are starting to see our dilemma in planning a “sustainable wedding.” Literally every single item on the “to-do” list requires a workaround to insure you are making the most ethical, sustainable choice possible. Either that or we had to stop calling it a wedding and revert to “family reunion.” Honestly, what started off as a good intention quickly spiralled into something seemingly impossible.
Let’s start with one example: finding a sustainable venue.” There is an infinite number of ways to spin this to test against your “sustainability” practices. From utilization of space, to single-use plastics to renting decorations to more broadly questioning moral implications like “does this venue support or offend values we consider ethically important.” The simplicity of couples who choose a venue for it’s beauty is underrated; because, this stuff is time consuming and rather disheartening.
Complications Can Arise with Sustainable Wedding Planning
If you then think choosing vendors is complicated, layer on the tradition and sensitivity of social pressures. Our families have been great in this entire process and supportive of all of our decisions (probably partly because we are paying for the entire thing ourselves), yet I keep thinking we come off as “cheap” or “stingy” with some of our choices. We’ve decided not to do flowers at our wedding, for the simple fact they will die pretty quick. Yet people feel really strongly about flowers. The comments I’ve received are either 1) ohhhh yeah, I bet you are cutting flowers to save money or 2) but… you need a bouquet - what else will you walk down the aisle with?
For us, it’s been worth the uncomfortable conversations, and we are creating a weekend surrounded by our values as a couple.
So for those of you thinking of a sustainable wedding, below are some ideas to inspire your eco-conscious big day!
While we tried to tailor where we could, we definitely didn’t do everything on the list below. We tried not to be too hard on ourselves as it was mentally and emotionally exhausting to be perfect here. But the more people who push for sustainable wedding choices, the faster the industry will evolve to meet us. Because right now, there isn’t a lot in this space. Remember, it’s the small things that amount to big change.
Sustainable / Ethically Responsible Wedding Tips:
Choose ethical engagement and wedding rings / bands over the big dealers - research ethically sourced companies that utilise recycled products. Check out Bario Neal at bario-neal.com for inspiration
Opt for a venue that feels right to you. This one is a doozey, so don’t over think it. Ask venues questions that are important to you, whether that’s plastic usage or if they support gay ceremonies
Go 100% e-invites - opt for no physical Save-the-Dates or Wedding Invitations (sorry grandmas!). If you have to have physical paper printed, opt for the recycled paper options (minted.com has many prints that utilise recycled paper)
Re-think bridal fashion - there are so many ways to think about sustainability here. Below are a few ideas:
Wear an outfit you already own for your engagement photos, to your engagement parties and showers
Buy a vintage wedding gown / engagement dress or rent one (check out Rent the Runway or Vow to Be Chic for rentals)
If you must buy a new dress, there are some really great sustainable and ethical designers out there (though this requires research and working closely with your local dress shop). Some names I’ve discovered are:
Celia Grace, Reformation, Green Embassy, BHLDN (only some of their designers focus on this, so ask specifically)
Say no to physical gifts, unless you really need something! Opt for contributions or donations to charities you love
Limit decorations and rent where you can. There’s no need to buy new cutlery or linens if they will just be thrown away or stored in your basement
No flowers or single-use plants. If you really want greenery, ask the local garden centre if you can rent potted plants for the day. Or buy potted greenery and do a fun family activity where you plant the flowers / trees in a local garden the next day
Get creative with wedding favours (or ditch them all together?). I’m still struggling here because on one hand, I don’t want to spend money on gifts people may or may not like that produce extra waste. On the other, I don’t want to be “cheap.” I’m thinking about either doing candy gift bags or some travel item like reusable bamboo cutlery or travel water bottles. Let me know if you have any suggestions here
The food you choose has an impact. Opt for vegetarian dishes or fish / chicken over red-meat (beef produces more than 20 times more greenhouse gases than chicken or mollusks)
Travel ethically for your honeymoon - this one is extremely broad because there is so much you can do, from where you travel to how you travel to the excursions you go on. My best recommendation here is to ensure any tours you go on are reputable companies that want to protect their culture versus exploit (e.g. safari company that protects animals and wildlife versus allows hunting / ivory purchases, etc.)
While goals of sustainability are inspiration, really, at the end of the day, all that matters is your love for each other.
What are your thoughts on sustainable and ethically responsible weddings? Would you incorporate any pieces into your big day? Did you find resistance going against the grain? Share your comments and stories below!