21 Tips For Hosting An Eco-Friendly Wedding Reception

21 Tips For Hosting An Eco-Friendly Wedding Reception

Sue Seabury

Published: Mar 8, 2023

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Sustainability and environmental impact are a top concern for many people these days, and they’re right to feel this way.

Weddings can produce a lot of trash; the average is over 400 pounds!

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

With a little planning and research, you can greatly reduce your carbon footprint without sacrificing the joy of the experience. As you make a commitment to your future, you most certainly want a clean, healthy planet to spend it on.

Read on to pick up a whole bunch of handy tips for hosting an eco-friendly wedding reception.

Adopting just one or two ideas can make a big difference to the planet!

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links. When you make a purchase we receive a small commission at no extra expense to our readers.

21 Tips For An Eco-Friendly Wedding

1. Stay Local

Now that travel restrictions have eased, destination weddings are becoming popular once again. But travel, whether by car, plane, or train, produces a lot of carbon emissions.

If you want to make your wedding more eco-friendly, choose instead to host your wedding locally. Besides doing something good for the planet, your guests will thank you for keeping things simple.

2. Select A Sustainable Venue

The venue itself offers a prime opportunity to significantly save on resources.

Rather than going with a ballroom that’ll require a lot of decorations to give it character (and will be subsequently tossed in the trash), hold your reception at a place that’s naturally beautiful, such as a park, beach, or farm. If the spot has personal significance for the happy couple, such as your own backyard, then even better.

With nature providing the scenery and plenty of space for everyone to spread out, an outdoor venue is the ultimate display of your love for each other as well as the planet.

screenshot of backyard wedding

3. Carefully Review The Guest List

This isn’t to suggest that you ruthlessly cut out anyone you care about, and it’s certainly possible to host a green wedding for 500.

But it’s also true that in the excitement of the moment, many among us are prone to over-inviting. The objective isn’t to offend, but rather to simplify.

Paring down your guest list reduces waste from start to finish.

photo of wedding guest list

4. Make Your Venue Work Double Time

Another way to make your wedding reception more eco-friendly is to have a single destination for both the ceremony and the party.

This not only saves on gas and time for everyone involved but also reduces stress as guests only have to navigate to a single location.

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5. Offer Shuttle Service

If combining the wedding ceremony and reception isn’t possible, you can still cut emissions by arranging for a shuttle service to transport guests between the hotel and the site.

This is another winning idea when it comes to simplifying transportation issues for your guests.

screenshot of bridal party in shuttle service

6. Research Sustainable Accommodations

Another thing to consider is the impact of your guests’ travel.

Green lodgings are yet one more way to reduce the carbon footprint of your nuptials. Many national chains now offer a sign to hang up indicating your willingness to skip towel and linen service for multi-day stays, but also have fun researching and discovering previously unknown eco-hotels.

screenshot of green eco lodging

Look into options to avoid single-use toiletries, individually wrapped food items, and disposable dishes and cutlery. LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is another thing to keep an eye out for. It has a point system that tracks multiple features of sustainability from the facility’s construction to its energy efficiency.

7. Use Recycled Paper

One of the simplest steps you can take to reduce waste is to print your invitations, menus, and other announcements on recycled paper.

There are so many beautiful choices out there that this one probably won’t seem like a sacrifice at all. With options like seeded paper that sprout wildflowers, it may even feel like an upgrade!

Alternatively, choose 100% biodegradable cards made from cotton or sugar cane. Whatever you do, avoid anything that involves plastic. Look for an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) certification, both of which promote sustainable harvesting of paper. Also, be mindful of your ink. Most inks are petroleum-based, which is hard on the environment and human health. Choose vegetable, water, soy, or black algae-based inks instead.

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Pro Tip: Want to go totally zero-waste? Don’t print a thing. Use electronic messaging for all of your communications. Wedding designs for digital invites offer endless gorgeous options, making them just as personal and special as old-fashioned paper ones.

photo of greenvelope wedding invitation on recycled paper

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8. Choose Eco-Friendly Fashion

Many brides are opting to change outfits more than once during the reception. And then there are all those events leading up to the Big Day: the bridal shower, engagement party, bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, and so on.

Fashion is a notoriously wasteful industry, responsible for producing up to 10% of carbon emissions worldwide. And wearing a dress for just a couple of hours is not exactly an eco-friendly practice.

Tux rental is de rigeur for men, and ladies finally have the same option.

recycled wedding dress photo

To save on resources, rent or shop consignment for all of your wedding wear. A vintage or heirloom bridal gown can be a wonderfully unique option that won’t trash the planet — or your bank account, making it a double win.

To keep the good vibes flowing, be sure to recycle your wedding dress when you’re done with it.

9. Opt For Sustainable Rings

Wedding rings are small and made to last, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an impact on the planet.

Many mining practices inflict significant damage on the environment and the surrounding populations of flora and fauna. And then there’s the issue of ‘blood diamonds,’ aka using the money made from gem mining to fuel war and oppression.

One option for sustainable jewels is to shop consignment.

Recycled jewelry is all the more beautiful for its long history, and you can always have the stones reset if you prefer a more modern look. But if you have your heart set on something new, look into lab-grown gems that don’t harm the environment or its inhabitants.

Diminutive in size yet powerfully symbolic, your engagement and wedding rings are a fantastic way to show your commitment to each other and to the planet.

photo of lab gown wedding ring

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10. Consider Potted Or Dried Flowers

Fresh flower arrangements are lovely, but they’re also quite wasteful.

Green up your wedding in multiple ways by opting for potted plants or dried flowers. Dried flower arrangements are extremely popular now, for everything from swags to wreaths to tabletop decor and favors.

As for live plant options, succulents are low-water plants and compact yet intricate, making them a lovely choice to top reception tables. Splashy colors such as geraniums or hydrangeas are always beautiful, while simple, feathery green ferns create the perfect modern boho vibe.

Potted herbs like lavender or rosemary offer a delightful natural fragrance, adding another dimension to the beauty of the table setting. Choose what’s in season, and go a step further by seeking out a local farmer who uses organic practices and have fun creating the centerpieces yourself!

Flowers can also double as environmentally-friendly favors.

photo of boho wedding flower arrangement

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11. Take A Pass On The Trinkets

Little novelty items like noisemakers, bubbles, and flip-flops are wedding standards, but sadly, many of these extras wind up in the trash without being used even once.

Encourage your guests to wear comfortable shoes and to make their own noise.

Skip the trinkets, keep more stuff out of landfills, and save your resources for more meaningful ways to share the love, such as by making a donation to an eco charity.

12. Source Locally

When shopping for anything for your wedding reception from decor to dessert, reduce shipping by sourcing within your community first.

When you shop locally, you double your investment in the planet and its people by cutting carbon emissions and supporting local businesses.

13. Rent Rather Than Buy

From lighting to dance floors, virtually everything you need for a wedding is available to rent these days.

Make a master list of everything that you’ll need: Do you want a rug to stand on at the altar? A special arch to walk under? Have friends and family help you brainstorm about the details.

Plate chargers, table runners, even lounge furniture and bars, all of these items and more can be gotten on loan. Cut down on clutter and keep waste out of landfill by renting.

photo of wedding rental set up

14. Go Thrifting

Decorations, dishes, and other wedding reception essentials also contribute significantly to waste.

Before you click ‘buy now,’ have a look at secondhand shops, whether local or online. For example, Mason jars are charming, practical, and eco-friendly, serving as excellent vessels for drinks and flowers.

photo of thrifted champagne flutes in France

Unique photo frames are another fabulous thrift shop find.

Secondhand tablecloths and linens can also be a great option to green up your ceremony. They also save you stress from worrying about damage to rentals. Likewise, china and cutlery can be another smart thrift-shop buy, and you can either recycle them once more or keep them for future parties.

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15. Research Vendors’ Practices

Another facet of your wedding reception to consider is the businesses you’ll be buying from.

Many vendors proudly announce their sustainability practices right on their website, but if the ones you’re considering don’t or the information is vague, ask directly.

Most suppliers will be happy to work with you to provide you the service you want.

16. Green Up Your Menu

It should also be possible to find a caterer who uses organic, local, or otherwise ethically-sourced food. If you’re willing to be flexible on individual food items, you might even discover one that can offer a zero-waste menu.

You may not want to go totally vegetarian or vegan, but aiming for about half veggie-friendly is a good goal in terms of lessening environmental impact. Local breweries and wineries are another great way to stock the bar while simultaneously shrinking your carbon footprint.

screenshot of fruit and veggie table for wedding reception

17. Offer Eco-Friendly Wedding Favors

The idea behind eco-friendly is to be kind to the planet, not cheap out on your guests.

To that end, offer meaningful favors that jive with your personality. Soaps, candles, seed bombs, and seedling trees all express gratitude without creating waste.

Another eco alternative is to look into local specialties like honey or wine that support small businesses. Check out the honey locator on honey.com or the americanwinderyguide.com to get started.

photo of recycled wedding favor idea

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18. Donate Leftovers

Food waste is one of the biggest culprits of waste at wedding receptions.

Talk with your caterer ahead of time to discuss options for how to handle extra food. Ideally, it can be donated to a homeless shelter or food bank, spreading your joy even further while cutting down on trash.

19. Remember To Recycle

Going eco means thinking about where everything will end up after the party is over. Arrange to have flower arrangements sent to a local nursing home or hospital, or have guests take them home as a lovely reminder of your special day.

Donate decor, linens, and even your dress. Every item that stays out of landfill is a win.

20. Practice Composting

For anything that can’t be reused or recycled, do your best to find a way to keep it out of the dump. Avoid buying plastic whenever possible, and compost food, plant material, paper, and anything else that you can.

Do your research ahead of time. Even disposable utensils can be made from compostable materials these days.

21. Register For Eco-Friendly Gifts

The internet makes it super-easy to search for environmental brands.

As you’re making up your wish list, include words like ‘sustainable,’ ‘eco,’ or ‘earth-friendly’ to find brands that support your values. Registering for a cash fund is another alternative to traditional wedding gifts as guests donate money that will be used in a way that is meaningful to the couple.

This saves guests’ time and reduces waste. Or share the love with the planet by registering for an earth-friendly charity rather than gifts.

photo of eco friendly self-care gift for her

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Putting It All Together

As you can see, there are as many ways to throw a green wedding as there are people getting

Small steps really do add up, and the simple act of making conscious decisions about
your choices has a ripple effect. By picking one, two, or more of the above ideas, you can
significantly reduce your impact on the planet, making your Big Day that much more amazing!


Sue Seabury

Author’s Bio:
Sue Seabury is a novelist and regular contributor to The Pearl Source blog. She is passionate about fun, fashion, and keeping the Earth healthy and fit for the next generation.


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