A guide to planning a zero waste wedding

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Considering that a wedding generates on average 62 tons of CO2 and 500 pounds of waste, it’s a good idea to try to reduce the impact of your big day on the environment.

It must be said that the concept of zero waste is more an ideal to strive for than a practical reality to be applied at all times. The idea is to do as much as possible! It shouldn’t become a source of anxiety either…

Here are some ideas to reduce the amount of waste related to your wedding.

General tips for a zero waste wedding

It’s not a hard and fast rule, but the smaller the wedding, the easier it is to achieve zero waste. There’s nothing to stop you having a big party anyway, but the smaller the scale (less than 50 guests) the more manageable it is.

If there is a season to choose from, it is certainly easier to be zero waste in summer. Not only because there are more possibilities in terms of availability of flowers, food and local decor, but also because there are more options available. For example, getting married outside in an already harmonious location requires fewer decorating elements than a more formal style of reception.

Buy less

Instead of buying everything for a wedding, it’s important to know that there are other ways to do it! First, many wedding-related items can be rented instead of purchased.

This is the case for tablecloths, glasses, decoration elements, but also for the bridesmaids’ dresses. It’s worth thinking about it, because it’s not only cheaper, but it’s really more ecological too.

And with social networks, it’s easier than before to tap into the collective resources of the people around us. If you call on everyone, you could for example borrow tables, chairs, dessert bells, etc.
Opt for vintage wedding rings

Instead of buying new rings, it is possible to salvage for example wedding rings that come from the family.

Alternatively, you can buy vintage wedding rings on sites like Etsy or Ebay. If they are not quite up to date, it is quite easy (and not so expensive) to have them arranged by a jeweler.

The dress

Even though the wedding dress often has a very sentimental value in a woman’s life, it’s still hard to justify a dress that will never be worn again. Most “zero-waste brides” choose a second-hand dress, which can be adjusted or altered.

Sometimes all it takes is a little creativity: this bride bought a previously worn tulle skirt for $100 on Ebay, then a vintage corset for $50 on Etsy. Not only did it look great, but she then shortened the skirt and dyed the corset fuchsia to continue wearing them afterwards!

It’s not essential to have a traditional wedding dress either. We simply love the dress chosen by Vanessa, the cutie blogger of Fleur Maison, for her wedding last year. We bet she not only wears it again, but it makes her feel fantastic every time!

The Food

This is often where the majority of waste is generated. There is no magic formula, but rather different paths to consider and explore:

Give preference to local and seasonal foods.

A buffet formula allows for better control of quantities than individual plates.

Most caterers will allow for 20% (or sometimes even more) extra in the food. Try to negotiate this so that you don’t have excess; it’s not really necessary most of the time!

It is possible to arrange in advance to donate excess food to an organization.

Make sure there are no disposable items such as glasses or utensils, but also straws, etc. Toothpicks and wooden picks, unlike plastic ones, can be composted.

Use cloth napkins.

Another idea, easier to apply with a buffet, is to bring Mason jars so that people can help themselves after the reception and take food home.

It is possible to arrange with the venue to have different sorting bins in the room, rather than just garbage cans, so that people can separate compost, glass, paper and cardboard, etc. Of course, you still need to make sure that these bins are then processed properly rather than just thrown away! Some zero-waste brides do their own composting after the reception, for example.

Alcohol and drinks

Instead of an open bar or wine bottles at the tables, it is possible to serve alcohol in barrels or kegs, for example from a local micro-brewery or vineyard.

For other refreshments, with or without alcohol, it is possible to prepare large quantities of punch, sangria, cocktails, but also lemonade or other, and to serve them in large glass drink dispensers.

If you don’t have the choice to use individual sizes for drinks, consider aluminum or glass containers rather than plastic; both materials have a good recycling rate.

Decorating

The first rule of zero waste is simplicity. You don’t always have to have a lot of decor to make it look good. Or, rent those decor elements so they can be recycled later.

A zero waste decoration does not include balloons, glitter or confetti; it includes mostly natural elements that you can collect yourself (while remaining environmentally friendly, of course). For example, branches, wild flowers, moss, bark, shells, etc.

It is possible to mix several sources to achieve a beautiful result: recycled elements, antique dishes, natural materials, DIY elements made of paper or fabric, etc.

Flowers

To reduce the ecological footprint of flowers (which can be very high), it’s best to focus on local and seasonal flowers (hence weddings between May and October). Fortunately, there are more and more florists in Quebec, both in Montreal and in the regions, who favour this option.

Instead of floral centerpieces, it is possible to use potted plants or herbs that guests can take home afterwards. Or even seasonal fruits!

Another option is to donate the flowers to a hospital or residence
after the wedding day.

Invitations and printed materials

Most sources recommend sending invitations by email. This way, paper is completely avoided.

If this is not possible, it is best to use recycled paper and non-toxic vegetable inks.

In the reception room, you can use blackboards or mirrors on which to write the menu, the places at the tables, etc.

Gifts to guests

First of all, it is not an obligation to give them! But if not, it can be for example a bottle of wine or cider without packaging. Or even homemade jams, why not!

Another nice idea: buy tea and herbal teas in bulk and let the guests make their own mixes to be packed in metal containers.

The Wedding List

If you want to give wedding gift options to guests, rather than registering a list with different items at a store, you can also sign up for a contribution fund. This allows guests to donate an amount of their choice towards a goal such as putting money aside to buy a house, buy a car, take a trip, etc.

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