We should all be planning a sustainable wedding in the 2020s. Our responsibility to the planet doesn’t stop on our wedding days! So is your wedding goal to be plastic-free, zero waste or just to not have a bad impact on the world around you? Wherever you are on the sustainability scale – and let’s be realistic, we’re not all ready for composting toilets and vegan banquets – we have 60 simple, easy and sustainable wedding ideas which will work for YOU today.
Grab a cuppa, find your wedding planning journal and get ready to plan your little-bit-greener wedding!
1. Keep it intimate!
Sustainable weddings start with a small guest list. Having fewer people travel to your day will cut down on your wedding’s carbon footprint and wastage. And hey, intimate weddings are less stressful to plan and wonderfully relaxed and laid back! What’s not to love?
For the brave, thrifty or adventurous free spirits out there, an elopement has to be the most sustainable way to say ‘I do’. With only two on your guest list, you’ll save money, reduce waste and have a ball. Just don’t fly to Iceland – there are amazing places to elope right here in the UK.
3. Minimise your guest list
If an elopement’s not for you, how about a micro wedding? Micro weddings include just a couple of your fave humans: parents, siblings and besties only. Your carbon footprint won’t be much more than a normal weekend away! Win!
4. Choose an eco venue
There are a handful of exceptional wedding venues around the UK whose whole ethos is sustainability. Consider the Matara Centre, River Cottage, or one of the many barn wedding venues which focus on green weddings.
Venues have a surprising amount of control over many aspects of your wedding, from catering to preferred suppliers. Your venue could be the one thing that dictates how sustainable you can make your wedding – so choose wisely! Ask about their sustainability practices: how do they reduce waste, recycle, minimise their carbon footprint etc.?
5. Plan for an outdoor wedding
An outdoor wedding in fields or forests can have minimal impact on the environment. Think posh picnic with solar fairy lights and soy candles, and let nature be your backdrop!
6. Have your ceremony & reception in the same place!
As gorgeous as they are to look at, vintage cars and buses guzzle fuel like nobody’s business. So avoid unnecessary transport by having your ceremony and reception in the same location, whether that’s a country house, barn or castle.
7. Walk to your ceremony and reception
If you’re marrying in church, you’ll need to find somewhere for your reception! So check what’s in walking distance. Village hall? Gastropub? Just let your guests know their shoes will need to cope with a 5 minute walk!
8. Get wed close to home
Remember the impact of travelling from home to your wedding location. Choose somewhere local for most of your guests so they don’t have to drive for hours to get to you.
9. Offset some carbon!
If your guests do have to travel, donate to compensate for it – Offset Earth is one way we love!
10. Or get wed AT home!
If you’re sold on the micro wedding thing, why not get hitched at home? Do the registry office thing then head back to yours for a celebration – or borrow your folks’ house, or your gran’s garden!
11. Choose an ethical wedding dress
Sooo many ways to do this – but the key message is to ask your bridal boutique all the right questions. Where are their dresses made? Who is employed to make them? Are the fabrics sustainable? Do they have an environmental policy? (For example, using sustainable energy providers, recycling and minimising waste) Of course, you can do more by avoiding high street boutiques and making bolder wedding dress choices…
12. Find a sustainable wedding designer
We’ve featured Sanyukta Shrestha on the blog before. Her gowns are made from peace silk and vegan fabrics, and handcrafted by skilled craftswomen from marginalised communities in Nepal. We’re huge fans of her designs, and in awe of Sanyukta’s ethics and philosophy.
13. Or choose a preloved, vintage wedding dress
Whether it’s a family heirloom or a timeless dress, vintage is the ultimate in sustainable wedding fashion! It’s also pretty amazing if you’re on a budget. Find your dream dress and then have your vintage gown altered to fit you like a glove by an amazing seamstress like Caroline Arthur.
14. How about a modern preloved wedding dress from Bridal Reloved?
If vintage isn’t your thing, search Bridal Reloved for your dream dress. Their gowns are second hand, modern designer dresses just waiting for you to give them a new lease of life!
15. Shop Oxfam wedding dresses
Did you know Oxfam have bridal boutiques in 12 UK towns and cities? With profits going to an amazing cause, and dresses at affordable prices, this is a huge win for your sustainable wedding points!
16. Have your dress handmade – and ask the designer to help with your green dress dreams!
Perhaps we’ve not quite made it to actual green dresses… but a local wedding dress designer will work with you to create your dream dress – and if vegan fabrics are important to you, just ask!
17. Guys – choose your sustainable suit option!
By far my favourite choice for guys is to have a bespoke suit made by a local tailor. Do ask about ethical fabrics, including local cloth and tweed from UK shores – and support your local economy by doing so!
18. There are benefits to hiring suits…
The ultimate in recycling is to hire your wedding suit, as we’ve been doing for years! If you’re comfortable in clothes twenty guys have worn before, you’re certainly getting eco-points! The only downside is the dry cleaning process: not exactly good for the environment – but perhaps the benefits outweigh the negatives?
19. No suit!
Wedding trends and traditions are just that: and they’re there to be challenged! Guys – you don’t have to buy or hire a new suit for your wedding! Suits just don’t look right at a festival style wedding or boho, woodland affair – so treat yourself to some ethical fashion from your favourite brands.
20. Sustainable bridesmaids
Gone are the days of bridesmaids wearing matching outfits for one night only! 2020 sees your best girls in outfits they love – not matching, not necessarily even brand new, but special, and definitely something they’ll wear over and over again!
21. Shop local for your accessories
Choose a local designer for your bridal accessories. Hair crowns, belts, jewellery and shoes can all be found close to home, from independent labels and all the more beautiful for it.
22. Upcycle or heirloom accessories
That special brooch of your gran’s… or your mum’s favourite necklace – having a ‘something borrowed’ with you on your day is saving cost, waste and keeping a favourite tradition going! Designers will often work a favourite item into your wedding accessories – a special brooch pinned to your bouquet or a favourite gem as part of your hair crown.
23. Plastic free bridal accessories
By having something handmade you’re most likely to avoid any plastic in your accessories. Ask the designer, explain your priorities and make sure your bridal accessories are from ethical and sustainable materials.
24. Style tables with growing plants
The trend for clay pots of houseplants on wedding tables is one we LOVE here at English Wedding! All that greenery makes tables look amazing, and you can double up your plants as favours for guests to take home! Try succulents and herbs for a chic modern look and fabulous scent!
25. Can you avoid cut flowers?
It’s hard to know which is the best way to do your wedding flowers sustainably. Some things to avoid if at all possible are imported blooms, pesticides and floral foam. If you want to avoid cut flowers altogether you could choose a brooch bouquet, paper flowers or faux blooms – but try to avoid plastics with the latter.
26. Grower florists are the brave bride’s choice!
The dream – and my personal favourite – is a local, organic grower florist who can create the bouquet of your dreams on your wedding day. Not an option if you’re set on specific flowers or colours, but absolutely thrilling and guaranteed to be beautiful if you’re prepared to trust in a designer whose insta you’ve fallen in love with!
27. Organic flowers
Pesticides are so harmful to the environment, and just as you’d shop for organic fruit and veg, you can choose organically grown flowers for your wedding tables or bouquet. Ask around to find a suitable florist near you – and be prepared to travel a little for the right blooms.
28. Grow your own flowers
Mums and Dads with green fingers can be brilliant at this! Not only can you have that personal touch to your wedding blooms, but parent-gardeners will be able to tell you what’s in season in the month of your wedding, and you can choose your flowers together, then watch them grow!
29. Dried flowers
Dried flowers and grasses have been huge trends in recent wedding seasons. There’s definitely something special about a bouquet you can keep forever, and the look is absolutely beautiful.
30. Faux flowers
Faux blooms have always been great for hayfever sufferers, and again if you would rather avoid cutting flowers which will die within days, faux is a great option. Choose quality blooms and avoid plastic if you can!
Create a wonderful ambiance with potted trees which you can take home and grow – olive trees with fairy lights look magical at a wedding reception!
32. Seed favours
On the subject of growing, why not share the love and give all of your guests a packet of seeds to take home and grow! We love sunflower seeds, cosmos or sweet peas which are firm favourites and easy to grow – and wildflower seeds for a spot of guerrilla gardening! (Find neglected land, throw seeds, watch nature bring it to life!). Check out Friends of the Earth‘s wildflower seed wedding favours or buy from an Etsy seller.
33. Plantable place names
Seed paper is a lovely idea – combine place names with favours with seed paper hearts from Etsy, which can be planted after the big day! I love mine from London-based Ruby and Bo.
34. Confetti – bio or bubbles!
There are so many wonderful confetti options, from real petals to recycled paper shapes or even bubbles! Avoid plastics – and provide your own confetti so guests don’t bring the bad kind!
35. Stationery – paperless wins!
For maximum eco points, go paperless and send invites by email or even by inviting people in person! Easier for micro weddings and intimate celebrations, this is a big save for the environment – and for your pockets!
36. Sustainable stationery is the only paper choice
If your wedding stationery in 2020 isn’t sustainable, you really should rethink your choices. Paper is so often wasted – so choose recycled, recyclable and FSC certified papers. Look for manufacturers and suppliers supporting ethical projects. For example, my own wedding invitations are always printed on recycled kraft paper or FSC card, and my sustainable wedding place names use recycled cotton rag supporting ethical projects in India.
37. Set up a wedding website to reduce the amount of paper inserts
There’s so much to say in an invitation! Rather than including accommodation and travel info, gift lists and more, set up an affordable wedding website and share the details your day online!
38. Find caterers who’ll use seasonal and local ingredients
Most quality venues will work with caterers who carefully source their ingredients – and this should mean seasonal and local produce, always. If you’re choosing a venue where you have the option to choose your own caterers, shop around and find the most ethical you can!
39. Vegan dining
Meat production is such a huge threat to our environment, and quite frankly weddings are a lovely opportunity to tempt those carnivores to try more plant based food! Ease them in gently with a vegan pizza food truck, or something other than the boring old meat and 2 veg they might expect!
40. Organic ingredients
Great caterers know exactly where their food comes from. Organic veg, bread made from organic flour, vegan cheese from organic nuts… every little thing counts. (Huge sustainability points if you actually choose vegan cheese from organic nuts on your wedding day, by the way!)
41. Organic wines
There are some fabulous organic wines out there – so reduce your wedding’s impact on the environment by supporting a vineyard which doesn’t use fertiliser or pesticides.
42. UK wines
Buy your wines from a UK vineyard – and enjoy a wine tasting together in the run up to your wedding! You can even get married at a handful of vineyards in the UK… does this sound like a dream or what?!
43. Support your local craft breweries!
Drinking wine all day long has never worked for anyone – so think out of the (wine) box and provide your own bar with the help of a local craft brewery! Independent beer producers are popping up all over the country and plenty have an eye on their carbon footprint. Find a good one, and provide a craft beer treat at your wedding!
44. Vegan wedding cake
We promise, unless you tell your guests, they will never know the wedding cake they’re eating is vegan. Having said that – it’s a wonderful way to show how amazing vegan food can be! Find a vegan wedding cake designer, serve to your guests, and THEN thank them for their plant-based choices!
45. Don’t try to be clever with plates.
Sometimes it feels as though everything ‘wedding’ has to be different. And it doesn’t. I’ve seen websites promoting the use of sustainably produced bamboo plates for weddings, or recyclable paper plates… but really, there’s nothing wrong with normal, platey plates like you have at home! They’re washable, and can be used again and again and again! You might need to provide plates if you’re bringing in a food truck, so check with your caterers first. If you need to hire plates, check out local wedding hire companies. There are some amazing ones all over the UK!
46. Hire your decor!
Save money and waste by hiring everything from your fairy lights to your chairs. Local hire companies will have the latest trends in wedding styling and can make your wedding shine – and everything can be used again for other weddings. A huge win!
47. Minimise food waste
Ask your caterer if they can help you to minimise food waste. Hopefully they’ll already have a policy they can share with you, but if you hit a dead end, look at Olio (food sharing app) or contact a local homeless charity to see if any leftover ingredients or food can be given away to someone who needs it.
48. Choose ethical wedding rings
Just having a diamond with a certificate falls way short of sustainability when it comes to your wedding rings. If you must have a gemstone of any kind, consider where it’s mined, who by, what is their life like? Could that miner afford the wedding you’re having? If not, then perhaps there are more ethical alternatives out there…
49. Moissanite (instead of diamonds)
Diamonds feel a little old fashioned to me now – so if you’re having a new ring made, and if sparkle is important to you, choose a moissanite ring instead. Moissanite is the lab grown alternative to diamonds, and it’s beautiful.
50. Heirloom pieces
Whether it’s your own family heirloom or just a beautiful antique with a story behind it, choosing a preloved wedding ring is a great choice for sustainability and for your pocket!
51. Get tattooed!
Perhaps not for everyone, but a fabulous choice for some – have a subtle tattoo on your ring finger instead of splashing out on wedding rings! This is great for guys who don’t wear rings too!
52. Handmade wedding rings
There are some incredibly talented ethical jewellery designers around the UK whose craftsmanship is second to none. Support your local economy, help an indie business and buy from a real human instead of getting a ring on the high street. Ethical win – and a wonderful experience for the two of you to share!
53. Wooden wedding rings
Wedding rings don’t have to be precious metals. Eco Wood Rings create beautiful wedding rings from the wood of fallen trees. Choose from their predesigned selection, or have a ring custom made.
54. Recycle your decor
If you’ve bought little bits to style your tables and wedding reception room, make absolutely sure they don’t go in the bin the day after. Have everything brought home and then give it to charity or reuse it in your home.
Never. Fireworks are awful.
56. Honeymoon in the UK
Once it’s all over, the planet still needs your help to survive. So forget long-haul destinations and honeymoon closer to home. Take a romantic train ride to Inverness, Windermere, Aberystwyth or St Austell and enjoy the beautiful countryside right here on UK shores.
I’m lucky enough to have been to some of the most romantic glamping sites in the UK – and I know there are more to discover. A few personal recommendations are Ty Donkey in Crickhowell, Yurt Reynolds in the Cotswolds, and Seventh Heaven Glamping in Gwynned.
The last thing environmentally aware couples want is more stuff – and hopefully your friends and family will know that! But there’s no getting away from the fact that people like to give gifts at weddings. The first thing to do is be absolutely clear on your gift wishes, and communicate it strongly. Use your wedding website so everyone knows the plan. Then give sustainable alternatives to toasters and plastic…
59. Charity donations
Why not set up a charity fund for an environmental charity of your choice. Think about local good causes too; or Oxfam’s ‘gift list’ of goats, honeybees and clean water.
60. Leave only footprints
The day after your wedding, nothing should be left but wonderful memories. If you hired a farm or barn venue, or married in woodland or in a festival field, the location should be ready to welcome back the bees and butterflies after you’ve gone. Don’t leave rubbish behind; be kind to the environment you’re in and ask your guests to respect it too.