The elephant in the room: big weddings, one planet

Published by Claire Gould on

No one is really talking about the waste generated by big weddings. It almost feels as though you can’t have a big wedding without a huge impact on the environment… as if most of the wedding media are implying it’s just one day: what harm can a wedding really do, and do you even need to think about sustainable wedding planning?

A couple laugh together on their wedding day. They're surrounded by mountains and she's holding a bouquet with lots of greenery. By Luke Flint Photography

All images in this feature are by the terrifically talented Luke Flint Photography. Discover more from Luke at https://www.lukeflintphotography.co.uk

We know there are lots of you out there who would love to reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding. We believe the wedding media should play a much stronger part in normalising sustainable weddings. Right now, it still feels a little as though they’re a niche choice – but that’s wrong.

Let’s TALK about sustainable weddings more.

We have one big fact to share with you today.

The bigger your wedding, the worse your carbon footprint is likely to be.

It’s a bad fact. It makes us sad.

But it means the secret to a more sustainable wedding is dead simple: reduce your numbers.

Here’s a nice fact, for balance:

Smaller weddings tend to have a lower carbon footprint.

Isn’t that lovely?

A bride is lifted up by her groom and they're about to kiss. She's holding a bouquet of ivory and pink flowers. By Luke Flint Photography

If you’ve already considered the environmental impact of your wedding, you’ll be familiar with Green Union. In their words, “a happy accident of COVID-19 is that intimate weddings are by their very nature more sustainable: the fewer the guests, the lower the carbon footprint of travel, the less waste… the list goes on.”

We’ve talked so many times about the beauty and warmth of micro weddings. The trend towards smaller and more intimate celebrations was beginning to emerge before the pandemic, but 2020-21 really saw a huge shift in the size of the average wedding.

It wasn’t by choice, of course – but for many couples it was a revelation to be able to have a cosy and heartfelt small wedding, with a big party later.

And whether knowingly or not, couples who celebrated with their very closest people had a minimal impact on the environment compared with the average ‘big wedding’ of 2019.

We hope micro weddings are here to stay, we really do.

We appreciate that not every wedding guest list can be culled – we really do! Different cultures and different family traditions will often dictate the size of your wedding. Often it’s out of your control who will come: if your parents are footing the bill for example, or in cultures where the wedding is as much about the family coming together as it is about the couple.

And that’s fine. All we’d ask is that you look at reducing single use items, consider transport and reducing or offsetting your carbon footprint as much as you possibly can.

But if your situation is a little more flexible and you’re in the position of being able to really have “your day, your way” – then you have the option to minimise your guest list and have a sustainable wedding.

A couple sit snuggled together on a hilltop with a mountain behind them. The sun is flaring in the background. By Luke Flint Photography

Here’s how to keep your guest list planet-friendly!

  • Start with parents, close grandparents, and siblings
  • Invite your very closest friends – the ones you see every week
  • Everyone else is optional 😉
  • DON’T feel you need to invite people you don’t see often
  • You don’t have to invite everyone whose weddings you’ve been to
  • There’s no rule that you have to invite colleagues

Remember, lots of couples choose to have micro weddings now, and people will understand if they’re not invited when you say yours is only a small wedding!

The ultimate in planet-friendly weddings: why not elope?

The sweet spot for a micro wedding is 20 – 30 people. An elopement might be just the two of you, or a couple of witnesses. You can always have a party later, and if this party is more relaxed with none of the traditional… well, traditions!… of a wedding*, there’ll be less waste, fewer single-use items, less chance that people will buy a special outfit they’ll only wear once… and another little win for the planet.

*Think: floral arrangements, table settings, seating plans and signage, favours, food waste, vehicle hire, decorations…

If this intrigues you, read more about planet-friendly elopements


With thanks to lovely Gwenda from Green Union for the inspiration – more coming soon!


    Claire Gould

    Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at www.byMoonandTide.com. Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.

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