12 fab ways to have a more sustainable wedding (and save some cash too)

This old planet we live on is the bee’s knees, and we all want to do our best to keep it this lovely for as long as possible. Over the 14 years that I’ve been photographing weddings, I’ve seen more and more couples and wedding suppliers moving towards sustainability, which is bloody great!

Weddings unsurprisingly often have a big environmental impact – when you add up the travelling, food waste, packaging, and more. But they don’t have to be too wasteful.

If you’re planning your wedding and are looking for ways to make it more green, I got you. I’ve made a bumper list of brilliant ideas for how to have an eco-friendly wedding.


1. Join a community of those who are soon-to-be-wed

Find a local group on Facebook for betrothed folk – people love to share tried-and-tested wedding recommendations, whether it’s eco-conscious wedding suppliers, places to source wedding decorations, or clever DIYs.

Many recently married people will pass things on to the next happy couple too, including items they didn’t end up using at all – a bride made lots of little parcels of confetti but didn’t end up using them all at her wedding, so she passed them on to a friend of mine who was in one of these aforementioned friendly Facebook groups.

It saves stuff ending up in the attic never to be seen again (or even worse, the bin) and often you can pass them on again after your wedding. Think about all the second-hand wedding items you could get your hands on – clothing, wedding decorations, tableware…



2. Minimise the wedding guestlist to your nearest and dearest

I know, I knowwwww. It’s hard to narrow the wedding guestlist down, especially when there’s pressure from your mum to invite her next door neighbour and their kid and their dog and their dog’s best friend. But if it’s something you feel you can do, a smaller wedding will have less of an effect on the environment.

Fewer guests at your wedding reduces the emissions from travel, and it means there’ll be less food waste too. It’ll feel way more intimate, and it’ll be cheaper too. It’s looking a bit more appealing now, right?



3. Recycled and recyclable wedding invites & stationery

Or better yet, don’t have any. There are other options to pretty much all wedding stationery, what with virtual invites and innovative ideas for zero waste table plans – I’ve seen couples make use of old chalkboards or a projector used to display all the information wedding guests needed.

If you totally love stationery and feel your wedding will be lacking without it, use recycled materials that can be recycled again after use. Some designers even make wedding stationery with wildflower seeds that can be planted after your big day, which I think is proper nice.

Laura from design studio Forever Begins says, “there are lots of ways you can choose to be more eco-friendly with your wedding stationery, the first and most obvious is to choose recycled paper. It’s often assumed that recycled paper will be dull in colour, but in a lot of cases you can’t actually tell the difference.

My next suggestion would be to utilise the space on your invite – if you’re including lots of extra info about transport or accommodation, why not pop it on the back of the main invite instead of adding a separate card?

You could also go paperless with your RSVPs to reduce your carbon footprint and avoid your wedding guests posting these back to you – have them reply by email or text.”



4. Wear sustainable wedding outfits & eco-friendly makeup

Not only are new wedding dresses and suits super pricey, they have an effect on the environment too. Luckily, second hand shopping is booming these days, and you can source really fancy vintage or second hand wedding clothing pretty easily.

Have you ever felt that meant-to-be feeling when slipping on a vintage garment to find it fits like a glove? Trust me, there’s something special about it which proves you don’t need to buy new.

Clothing rental is becoming more and more popular for special occasions too. It’s always been a thing to rent suits, but now you can loan out pretty much anything you could possibly want, including accessories. Take a look at Wear My Wardrobe Out’s bridal section for examples.

If you’ve got a specific idea of what you’d like to wear at your wedding and you cannot find it second hand, have a think about what fabrics your outfit will be made from – you could find a designer who makes fancy clothing from natural fibres, deadstock or recycled fabric.



And if you’re choosing to wear makeup on your wedding day…

Amazing Lake District based cruelty free makeup artist Felicity Ashby says, “unfortunately, there is a lot of waste created within the beauty industry, from plastic packaging to synthetic fibres in cotton pads which can’t decompose. Thankfully, makeup brands are trying their best to improve their CO2 output and overall sustainability.

Two of the best changes we can make are to use reusable fabric cotton pads and cloths, and recycle packaging, as you would your grocery produce. Boots, Superdrug and John Lewis also recycle containers in store, and for awkwardly packaged beauty products, you can send them off, free of charge, to larger recycling sites like Look Fantastic who can organise it for you.

In addition, find beauty products from brands who are conscious of their eco-footprint, and perhaps sell refills of your favourite products, and buy beauty products from vegan, cruelty free and sustainably conscious companies such as KVD beauty, Charlotte Tilbury and Hourglass.

Lastly, if you are hiring a makeup artist or hair stylist for your wedding day, ask if they use decomposable single use mascara wands in their hygiene routine, how they clean their kit, whether they use single use equipment and if they recycle. These all add up and affect our overall eco-footprint.”


5. Use lovely local wedding suppliers who off-set their carbon footprint

Lots of wedding suppliers such as wedding car hire companies may not be able to reduce waste or carbon emissions, so they choose to off-set their impact by planting lovely trees.

I decided to do something greener than custom USB sticks full of wedding photos and boxes (that are less environmentally friendly, and end up in a drawer anyway). Using Memotrees, I plant a tree for each of my couples who book an all-day package, in a beautiful forest in Cumbria.

Picking a local company was really important to me, as I wanted the new trees to be planted in my home county to support the local ecosystem. It also means my clients can visit their tree after, which makes for a super cute anniversary day out.

Plusssss, I’ve chosen to also use Ecologi, which plants trees across the globe to offset any carbon emissions I make by travelling to weddings. I bloody love trees, they’re brilliant for absorbing carbon and giving us that delicious oxygen.



6. Seek out local eco-conscious wedding venues

Wherever you live, I’m willing to bet a whole pack of biscuits that there’s a bangin’ wedding venue nearby. Why not hold your wedding there, instead of shipping your family and friends to the other end of the country, or another continent altogether.

If that local venue has a sustainable mindset – even better. Lots of wedding venues are working towards being kinder to the environment by using less energy, creating less waste, and being big on recycling and composting.

You could even consider having an outdoor wedding, which uses even less energy. But of course, here in the UK it’s hard to guarantee pleasant weather…

And finally on the wedding venue front, it’s best to hold the ceremony and reception at the same place if it’s feasible, but if your guests need to travel between the ceremony and reception, a great way to take cars off the road is to hire transport for your wedding guests.



7. Adorn your venue with eco-friendly wedding decorations

Does your chosen venue of dreams offer rentals for dressing? Lots of wedding venues come with a whole hoard of amazing decorations, furniture and tableware that you can use.

If not, Wilde & Romantic are a great shout for styling without buying wedding decorations you won’t use again – they offer an amazing wedding styling service in Cumbria, which allows you to rent tableware, beautiful decorations and other interesting props to kit out your wedding venue.

It’s also worth asking your pals or family members if they have items you can borrow, but if there are bits you have to buy, think about what they’re made of, the packaging, and then try to donate or pass them on to the next couple to be wed after your big day.



8. Beautify with bloomin’ loads of seasonal wedding flowers

Talented and thoughtful florist Harriet from Cumberland Flower Farm says, ​​“your choice of flowers can make a huge difference to your wedding’s carbon footprint. British-grown flowers generate a tenth of the carbon emissions of imported blooms, and locally grown flowers better still.

Sustainably focussed florists are on the increase, beautifying weddings with seasonal, sustainable flowers. We design using the most beautiful flowers for your special day, picking and arranging according to your colour palette in our naturalistic style. This means we create something truly unique to you, that won’t cost the earth.”

After your wedding day, you could dry some of your wedding flowers as a memento, and then make sure the rest go in the compost bin ready to feed more lovely plants. Talking of plants, why not swap out cut-flower centrepieces for potted plants which can then be planted in gardens afterwards.



9. Toss some brilliant biodegradable confetti

The confetti throw makes for such amazing photos, but it doesn’t have to be to the detriment of the environment – choose biodegradable confetti that is fully recyclable and compostable. Dried flower petals like roses and lavender smell heavenly and can work well, but they don’t photograph as well as regular confetti.

As colourful and fun as it is, just make sure to tell your great auntie Doreen not to bring that plastic or foil confetti!


10. Serve up a locally sourced wedding breakfast with zero waste

A recent post by Magpie Weddings on Instagram showed that an estimated £488 of food is wasted per wedding every day in the UK – can you believe it? Thankfully alongside this wild statistic, they also shared great tips on how to avoid wedding food waste.

I think that going for fewer courses or simpler options is better – less food is wasted and it saves you money too. Use local suppliers so that food isn’t travelling far, and local booze too. It’s also worth noting that vegetarian meals are better for the environment.

Or you could go for a super fun option – hire a food truck. I love Cumbria faves Fell & Dales, Liz’s Country Kitchen, and Nacho Nacho. When choosing a truck, try to avoid single-use cutlery and plastics.

If after all this you do end up with leftover food, see if your venue is happy to donate to local charities or food banks, or supply tupperware for wedding guests to take leftover food home.


11. Opt for a controversial no favours, no-gifts policy

Wedding favours are such a lovely way to thank guests, but they are often left behind. You could opt for a sustainable gift of a charitable donation, or how about wildflower seeds for your wedding guests to sow?

Gifts for the couple might be a good one to swerve too – setting up a registry or receiving homewares is a great idea if you’re not already cohabiting, but in 2023 most couples live together before they get married, and have pretty much everything they need.

If your loved ones are feeling super generous and are insisting on giving you something, perhaps you could ask for cash gifts or a charity donation instead.


12. Ditch distant destinations – honeymoon close to home

Take a few minutes to consider the actual birds and the bees when you’re deliberating where to go for… well, I think you know where I’m heading with this whole birds and the bees thing.

You don’t have to head to the other side of the world for a romantic getaway – there are so many cracking places for a honeymoon or mini-moon in the UK, whether you want super cosy and intimate or a totally luxurious experience.

There are some really romantic places to be found – you could get the train to the Scottish highlands, stay in a tiny cosy cabin with a hot tub in the Cumbrian mountains, or book a stunning hotel in the Lake District – Green Traveller has a bunch of great green recommendations.


A final note from Weddings by Annabel:

“Make conscious decisions – for every element you decide on for the wedding, think about the true impact it has. Not just for the planet, but for your money, effort and stress – is it worth it? Does it affect the day or memories made?

Get creative, even if you don’t have a crafting bone in your body, I bet you can up-cycle something instead of importing it from China. A pebble for a place name, a bit of wood for a sign… have a go.

Lastly, have a green team. Everyone who plays a part in this awesome event can be part of the same eco-mindset. Sharing lifts, rentals not purchases, local not shipped in, no waste – every little bit helps.”


Hopefully that’s got your brain buzzing with loads of eco-friendly ways to celebrate your wedding day, as well as how to cut costs a lil bit – we all know how important both of these are right now.

And remember, you don’t have to do everything in a green way – making small sustainable changes while planning your wedding helps. Don’t stress yourself out trying to be perfect, because it’s impossible. No one is doing everything right – you’ve just gotta try your best and think about our lovely planet.


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