Reprinted with permission from Custommade
Wedding planning can be really (really) stressful. For earth-loving folks, the process can get even trickier, as most classic wedding decorations, favors, and traditions are far from eco-friendly. Luckily, a DIY attitude is all you need to create a wedding celebration that is unique, true to you, and kind to the earth. Whether you’re knee deep in planning or daydreaming about future nuptials, read on for a variety of environmentally friendly wedding ideas.
Recycled or plantable paper
Any time you choose a paper product for your wedding, seek out recycled or plantable options. Plantable, seed-embedded paper products are a great choice; they’re completely biodegradable, and planting them promotes reforestation, the greening of urban spaces, and sustainable food choices.
Whether it’s an engagement announcement, save the date, shower invitation, wedding invitation, or thank you card, you can go greener (and save a ton of money) by choosing paperless e-vites. Pingg, Evite, My Punch Bowl, and Green Envelope all offer pretty, functional digital invitations that prevent you from spending thousands of dollars on stationery.
Ditch the plastic confetti and choose lavender or seed-embedded paper confetti. Both biodegradable choices cut down on waste as well as the energy and natural resources it takes to produce plastic products. In the case of seed-embedded paper confetti, you’ll actually give back to the earth by sowing flower or other plant seeds.
Decorations and Signage
Mason jar hanging lanterns
They’re pretty, economical, and low-waste. Borrow or buy small glass jars, fill them with coffee beans (extra sustainability points for choosing used grounds), place a tea light on top, and attach twine to the lid. Hang the lantern from a tree, beam, or other sturdy surface. Find detailed instructions at Glue and Glitter.
When it comes to pretty paper garlands, repurpose is the name of the game. Turn newspaper or used books into works of art that’ll last for years. These garlands are low waste, low cost, and easy to make. Round up some recycled paper, scissors, tape, and twine, and then follow these instructions at Project Wedding to make pinwheels, fringes, or other shapes of your choice.
Flowers are a wedding mainstay. Why not craft some that will last long after the big day? Paper roses can adorn virtually any wedding. Recycle old book, magazine, or newspaper pages to create elegant “floral” arrangements that cut down on waste and can be reused at future functions. They may take a little practice before you get the hang of things, but the final product is pretty impressive. Get full instructions at HGTV.
This one’s easy: Instead of decorating the venue with balloons, which are both wasteful and harmful to birds, sea life, and other animals, decorate with suspended vintage umbrellas. It may require a little digging to find what you’re looking for, but you can rent or borrow colorful umbrellas instead of buying new ones. Get more tips for decorating with umbrellas at Bridal Guide.
Keep wood scraps out of the landfill and save cash: Turn those cast-offs into handmade signs that direct guests to your wedding, the beverage table, the restroom, or anywhere else they may need to go. Get detailed instructions at Green Bride Guide.
Window seating assignment display
Raid a construction scrap pile for old windows. Though they may be past their prime, old windows make for beautiful display boards for your seating chart. Write out each table assignment in the window’s various panes. Choose washable paint or markers if you want to reuse the window down the road.
Centerpieces & Place Settings
Chalkboard candle centerpieces
These quick and elegant centerpieces can double as wedding favors at the end of the night, which ups functionality and cuts down on waste. Start by coating glass jars with chalkboard paint. (You can leave an unpainted shape, such as a heart on each jar.) Place a tea light inside, light the wick, and enjoy. Find detailed instructions at Heart Love Always.
Centerpiece flowerpots provide three functions: place settings, table decorations, and favors. Paint small terra cotta pots (preferably used) with chalkboard paint, then write out one guest’s name on each. Fill with herbs or other small plant varieties so your friends and family can remember your wedding for years to come. Get detailed instructions at Green Bride Guide.
Twig name holders
For a simple, low-waste place setting idea, look no further than the local park or wooded area. Gather a few fallen twigs (or small branches you can break into twigs), cut out pieces of recycled paper in the shape of leaves, and write a name on each slip of paper. Poke a twig through each “leaf” to hold it upright. Find detailed instructions at Centsational Girl. At the end of the festivities, toss any unpainted twigs back into the woods where they’ll decompose instead of sitting in a landfill.
Butternut squash flower vases
Perfect for fall weddings, these vases come straight from the earth. Hollow out a butternut squash (be sure to choose one with a flat end so that it can stand upright) and fill it with pesticide-free flowers. At the end of the festivities, bake the squash into a tasty snack or toss it and the flowers into a compost pile. Who says you can’t have your centerpieces and eat them too? For extra sustainability, choose organic, native flowers.
Rustic plant centerpieces
Start by selecting several plastic containers from the recycling bin. Then collect fallen bark from a local park, forest, or backyard. Wrap the bark around the containers, plant some herbs or local flowers inside, and voila! While these instructions call for cutting the plants and inserting them into floral foam, you can plant them in soil for a lasting (and less wasteful) gift.
Button and bead bouquet
This beautiful, one-of-a-kind bouquet will never wilt, which also means you never have to throw it away. It’s made from buttons, beads, feathers, and any odds and other decorative ends you happen to have lying around. Raid your grandma’s button collection (or your jewelry-making friend’s bead collection), then follow these instructions at Offbeat Bride.
Inexpensive, no-waste, and relatively sturdy, this newspaper bouquet is made from recycled materials instead of pesticide-laden conventional flowers that only last a few days. Personalize the bouquet by choosing pages that represent the couple. The couple can share it in their home to remember the occasion. Find detailed instructions at PopSugar.
Paper flower corsage and boutonniere
Because they don’t perish after the nuptials, these pretty corsages and boutonnieres serve as lasting keepsakes from your special day. They’ are particularly kind to the earth if made with recycled paper. Find detailed instructions at Lia Griffith.
Apple cinnamon pancake mix
This simple mix looks pretty in a glass jar wrapped up with ribbon and will keep well until your guests are ready to chow down on a tasty pancake breakfast. Choose organic and local ingredients whenever possible.
This favor is great for summer weddings when fresh fruit is abundant and in season. Repurpose old glass jars as jam containers and choose organic and local ingredients when possible. And depending on your color scheme, you can match the jam color to your wedding colors. Find full instructions at The Kitchn.
Seedlings, herbs, or succulents
See the instructions in the centerpieces section above. Alternatively, purchase custom seed starter packets or bundled saplings.
This gift is functional, cute, and sure to be universally loved, since pretty much everyone reaches for the salt occasionally. Follow detailed instructions at The Kitchn. When you’re all done mixing, pour the flavorful salts into small, repurposed glass jars or corked test tubes and tie them with a ribbon for a pretty presentation.
Buy a used dress
The environment pays a steep price for the materials and shipping necessary to manufacture new clothing. Go green—and save a whole lot of money—by purchasing a used wedding dress.StillWhite.ca, OnceWed.com, and PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com are all great sources for gently used gowns. Remember, you can always consult a tailor to adjust the fit.
Upcycle a vintage dress
Turn a neglected gown into a work of art by painting it—yes, we’re serious. Start by selecting a used and/or vintage dress, then hand paint it following the instructions at Instructables. Consider the same process for a suit.
The earth doesn’t have to pay for your big day. Save money, reduce waste, and take it easy on the planet by utilizing any or all of these eco-friendly, DIY wedding ideas. Your wedding will make a lasting impression on your guests while leaving Mother Earth free to do her own thing. It’s a win-win!
If this article has you considering a greener wedding, check out these custom wedding invitations.