After being immersed in the wedding industry for the past few years, I've seen a lot of waste at the end of the night. While it would be difficult to eliminate waste altogether when you're throwing a party for potentially 100 or more of your closest friends and family (major props to you if that is your goal!), there are easy steps you and your partner can take to reduce excess trash at your wedding. So, if you're like my recent bride who feels guilty using floating candles because of the potential water waste while we are in a massive drought here in California, listen up!
1. Recycle your wedding dress. At some point after your wedding, you might realize your dress takes up space you don't necessarily have to spare. Or, maybe you've finally given up the idea that your potential future daughter will wear your dress at her wedding. Or, your just want to give someone else the same magical experience you had in your dress. There are many phenomenal charities and organizations you can donate your dress to, and in return receive a tax deduction. Two of my favorite dress charities are Brides for a Cause which exclusively partners with Wish Upon a Wedding. This charity grants couples facing serious and life-altering illness or circumstances the wedding of their dreams and allows to be like any other couple for a day. Another great charity is Brides Against Breast Cancer. With this organization you can donate your dress and the funds raised from your dress go directly toward cancer patient support services across the country. There are many other great causes that would happily accept your used wedding dress, and you can feel good about giving someone else the chance to have your dress make them as happy as it made you.
2. Make a donation to your favorite charity instead of favors. Remember, your friends and family came to your wedding to celebrate you - not because they would get a small gift at the end! I promise your guests won't mind if they don't receive a jar of honey or a coozie with your faces after they've spent the last 6 hours eating and drinking free food and booze to celebrate your love. Providing a donation to your favorite charity is a much more personal favor option and your guests will appreciate knowing they were part of a generous donation made behalf of your entire wedding.
3. Send your guests home with the centerpieces! There are few things that make me more sad than seeing gorgeous flowers thrown in the trash after a wedding. The easiest and total win-win solution - send them home with your guests! As the night winds down, I go around to the empty tables and transition the centerpieces to a table guests will pass on their exit with a sign encouraging them to take home a centerpiece. Now your guests have cheerful flowers for the next week or so to remind them of the fun time they had at your wedding! And, no flowers get thrown away prematurely! If there are still leftovers, you can donate your leftover florals to local retirement communities.
4. Cut back on paper goods. While ceremony programs might seem like a good idea, in my experience, there are very few guests that opt to take one without it being forced into their hands, and even fewer guests who take the time to thoughtfully admire the silhouette faces and names of the bridal party. The vast majority of programs end up on the ground, get stepped on as guests leave the ceremony area, and ultimately end up in the trash or recycling following the ceremony. Aside from your grandmother (who might not have brought her reading glasses), most people will not be offended if they can't follow along with your ceremony on a piece of paper. I say, ditch the programs, ditch the individual menus on each place setting and ditch the individual placecards. Instead, opt for one large ceremony program or menu sign, or provide only one menu per table, and let guests pick which seat at the table they will sit at (I promise they are grownups, or with a grownup, and can decide which seat will suit them).
5. Choose vendors that share the same values. Many florists like Jaclyn K. Nesbitt Designs, among others, only use seasonal flowers and purchase from local growers to support the nearby community and deliver the freshest floral arrangements to their clients. The same goes for caterers - look for caterers like Katie Powers Catering that serve food hand picked from weekly local farmers markets or ordered directly from local farms and who serve a seasonal menu to minimize the travel time from the farm to your plate. Doesn't local food taste so much better too??
6. Donate leftover food. While most catering companies have got it down to a science on how much food needs be ordered for the size of your wedding, sometimes there are leftovers. In that case, there is a great program called Feeding Forward (based in Berkeley, CA) that will come and pick up the leftovers and bring it to a local shelter in need. Another helpful site is Feeding America where you can research nearby food shelters and ask if they would accept your perishable wedding leftovers. Some may have a problem accepting perishable food, so its always best to check with them first. If neither of those options are feasible, have your caterer box up the leftovers and send them home with guests! Everyone loves a midnight snack after a long night of dancing!
7. Work with me! As an event planner, my number one priority is to make you happy - from the vendors I suggest, to the personal design elements, all the way to the detailed care that goes into set up - it's all to make sure you have the best day possible. I truly want to make your day as special and as meaningful to your relationship, which is why I also donate 10% of the cost of your services to the charity of your choice. One of my biggest hopes is when you look back on your wedding, you will not only remember it as one of the most fun, special, beautiful days of your lives, but you will also smile because you know you were able to touch others lives just because you decided to get married! There are so many wonderful organizations out there, and with all of the love at your wedding, I think weddings are the perfect time to give back and spread the love to others.
I'd love to hear from you - what are other ways you would be interested in going green or adding additional ethical or conscientious elements to your wedding?