Not only do weddings represent substantial expenditure (the average spend in the UK is around £19,000) but also they can involve huge amounts of waste that can have a crippling, rippling effect across the environment and into far-flung communities which are anything but “fair-trade.” Here are 12 top tips on how to make a wedding much greener – without compromising on style.
1. Rings. If buying a new diamond, ensure it was mined in Canada or other fairtrade location. Consider a man-made gemstone instead. For wedding rings, buy secondhand or have new ones made from recycled gold. You can even have wedding rings made from reclaimed wood!
2. Hen and stag celebrations. Organise your party as close to home as possible, and if you are travelling abroad choose overland transport rather than flying. Avoid activities that involve burning fuel or other forms of pollution.
3. Location. Choose a location that involves a minimum of travel for you and guests, and a reception venue that has a decent recycling policy. If you’re having a civil wedding, have the ceremony and reception in the same place.
4. Communications. Do as much communication as you can by email / a wedding website, and ensure that what printed material you use is done by green printing techniques on recycled or sustainable- source paper.
5. Wedding dress. Don’t buy a brand new dress before checking out hire, buying secondhand, borrowing, etc. Ensure all wedding outfits, if bought, can be used again afterwards, and choose natural, washable fabrics to avoid the pollution of dry cleaning.
6. Wedding gifts. Ask for gifts made from recycled and/or ethical sources, and remember that money may not be PC but is actually quite green! If you don’t need gifts ask guests to make donations to a charity or eco-activity instead.
7. Flowers and floral decorations. Avoid commercial floristry that uses flowers from non-fairtrade countries, imported by air. Try to use organic, locally produced flowers and greenery. Consider potted plants, topiary, dried or fake arrangements instead of cut flowers.
8. Reception. Have yours in daylight hours to cut back on energy used for lighting. Avoid disposable crockery and cutlery – china and metal are greener. Make sure your wedding favours are “green” in nature – e.g. small potted plants – and ensure as much as possible afterwards is properly recycled.
9. Food and drinks. Choose organic and/or locally produced ingredients for your wedding food wherever possible, preferably using only fresh foods that are in season. Choose organic, fairtrade, sustainable, biodynamic and British-produced drinks. Ensure your tea and coffee are fair-trade, too.
10. Photography. Ensure your photographer uses digital systems as traditional film involves harsh chemicals. Do not offer guests disposable cameras at your reception. Keep prints to a minimum; choose online viewing of your pictures wherever possible.
11. Transport. Avoid gas-guzzling cars to transport the wedding party, and try to minimise motor vehicle use amongst guests. Consider horse drawn transport or pedal power, but don’t sacrifice clothes, hair makeup etc. just to save a few litres of fuel!
12. Honeymoon. Remember that the closer to home you honeymoon, in general the greener it will be. If you must go abroad, use a reputable carbon offset scheme and consider a location of eco-tourism. At all costs avoid cruise ships which normally are very “dirty.”