How to Plan a Zero Waste Wedding on a Budget
A wedding is likely to be the biggest, or at least the most important, party you will ever throw, which is why couples spend so much money creating a special event that celebrates their commitment in a way that also reflects their values. Balancing wedding costs is notoriously tough, but if you want to make your wedding environmentally-friendly, have no fear.
Talk to Your Venue+ VENDORS
The first and most important thing you’ll want to do if you want to throw a zero waste wedding is to ask questions when you’re scouting potential venues and vendors. Before writing a check, consider asking the following in addition to all of your questions about times/dates/costs:
Does the facility recycle and provide recycling receptacles?
What tableware/linens and decor items are available?
If disposable items are necessary for food and drink service, what are they made of and can they be composted/recycled?
Do you have experience hosting/working zero waste or low-waste events?
It is important to express your desire to hold a low-waste event. In my experience, it was immensely helpful to have the support from vendors that really shared my vision. Since my fiance and I wanted a slightly less formal vibe at our wedding, we opted for a food truck (which is also way cheaper than full-service catering). Wildfire Catering was able to provide all compostable items for our taco dinner. The only non-compostable item were the cocktail cups - unfortunately, we couldn’t find a classy-looking compostable option. We considered renting cocktail glasses, but woah, rentals = $$$$$. Instead, we opted for a recyclable option and made sure there was proper signage encouraging people to reuse their cups throughout the night and finally recycle the finished item. We also provided keg beer to cut down on can/bottle waste. If people wanted a straw with their cocktail, we had only paper straws available, which helped cut down on plastic trash.
Organize Compost and Recycling Collection
Since we opted for a food truck dinner, it was imperative to provide compost bins throughout the event space. That way, there would be no food waste. We worked with Bootstrap Compost, an amazing and affordable Boston compost collection company that can even take meat, dairy, paper towels, and other items that are usually tricky to compost at home. For events like weddings, they provide bins and signage and will come collect the compost after your event is complete. They were incredibly easy to work with and our venue, Peirce Farm at Witch Hill loved having compost available!
It’s time to think seriously about those wedding extras. While some items may really enhance the event, others are often overlooked and end up piling in the trash within a few days. Consider using a chalkboard instead of paper programs. Think twice before ordering custom koozies, mini bottles of bubbles, and other guest gifts. If you decide to give something to your guests, make sure it is something that most people will really value in the long term. Unfortunately, it is probably only a small percent of your wedding guests that still have a champagne flute with your name on it in ten years.
Decorate with Reclaimed Items
There is no need to buy new votives or vases for your wedding. So save your cash and skip the trip to Michael’s. Instead, ask friends to keep vases and jars for the next few months. Before you know it, you’ll have enough to decorate 20+ tables! Another way to do this is to reuse items from a friend’s wedding (trust me, no one will notice). I reused jar votives from a friend’s wedding the year before. Now I have them ready to pass on to the next couple!
We even saved the himalayan salt from our votives to reuse (sparingly!) on our icy driveway and walkway in the winter. We also opted for beeswax candles instead of paraffin, since beeswax burns cleaner.
Also remember to compost florals instead of throwing them in the trash.
Note: please don’t salt roads near rivers/wetlands.
Make it Easy
Remember, neither you nor your guests are going to be focused on their carbon footprint on the day of your wedding. The best thing to do is to make the composting, recycling, using-less mentality second nature by setting up your event space intuitively. We removed all trash receptacles from the space (except the bathrooms of course), so trash wasn’t an option. Our venue coordinator and vendors all knew about the compost and recycling, so if they saw cups/napkins, etc. left on tables, they knew exactly what to do with them, so that the rest of us could focus on what is most important about the day: having fun and celebrating love.