Planning A Sustainable Wedding

Having an eco-friendly, low-waste wedding can sound daunting, but it’s actually a totally achievable goal! Here are some of my favorite tips for planning a sustainable and beautiful wedding celebration!

Updated for 2021!


Vintage Or Heirlooms

I certainly don’t have to tell you how stylish and unique vintage attire can be! Instead of shopping new, check out your local vintage shops for dresses, suits, jewelry, and more!

Shop Your Closet

Have your bridal party wear something they (or their stylish friend) already own! Or if they want to buy something new, have them pick out something on their own that they love and would wear again.

Rent It

Why drop piles of money on something you’ll only wear once?

Most people these days are familiar with the concept of renting suits and tuxedos, but did you know that you can rent gorgeous dresses as well?

This is far from a sponsored post, but I have personally had incredible experiences renting from Rent The Runway. They have a wide variety of the latest styles in a great range of sizes for all occasions.

Decor + Details

Get Thrifty

If you’ve ever set foot in a thrift store, you’ll know that so often they have shelves packed full of an eclectic collection of vases and glassware, boxes full of picture frames and candlesticks, and full rooms of furniture and rugs!

Sure, it takes a little bit of time and creativity to get that perfect thrift store haul for your wedding, but if you’re looking to save some money and reduce your environmental impact, there’s no better place to start!

Go Paperless

I’ll be the first to say that I love stationery, and I am sort of in awe of some of the perfectly-designed invitation suites I’ve seen over the years.

However, if you’re looking to cut down on your waste (and give your wallet a bit of a break!) skipping the paper invitations is a great option.

With services like Paperless Post, you can have a beautiful invitation and make collecting RSVPs a breeze. Again, that’s not a sponsored post, just an honest recommendation.

For my wedding, my husband and I had a tattoo artist friend draw something up to use as an email header image, and then seriously just emailed the folks we wanted to invite.

That idea might not be for everyone, but it was free, easy, and completely zero-waste, which is just about our speed!

Do Double Duty With Potted Plants

Using live, potted plants to replace or supplement your cut flower arrangements is a great option for reducing waste. You can also use the small plants as favors for your guests, and larger ones as gifts to your parents or wedding party.

Or, if you’re like me, you can always just hoard them all into your own home and live in a little potted jungle.

Either way, you’re cutting down on the flowers that end up in trash bags at the end of the night, while still having that super lush, green look.

Recycle Your Flowers

If you do opt for cut flower arrangements, talk to your florist about donating the arrangements to local nursing homes, retirement communities, and hospitals after your wedding.

Here are some organizations to check out for recycling your flowers! Petals With Purpose , Random Acts of Flowers, ReBloom. Rebloom actually sells the recycled flowers and donates the proceeds to charities, so you can check them out if you’d be interested in buying recycled flowers, too!

Your local florist or wedding planner might also have some connections for this sort of thing in your area!

Update for 2021: There is a new company in Richmond, VA doing this! They’re called Repurpose Flower Co.!

Food + Catering

Talk About Trash

Most wedding cleanup at traditional venues involves people hurriedly cramming everything into garbage bags at the end of the night.

Chat with your planner or venue contact about having landfill, recycling, and compost bins. Or if your celebration is at a less conventional venue, and you’re doing things a little more DIY, make sure to have clearly labeled bins and ask your guests to dispose of things responsibly!

Zero-Waste Catering

As more and more restaurants, grocery stores, and caterers worldwide make the move toward Zero – Waste, it is becoming easier to find zero-waste caterers for your wedding.

A quick Google search didn’t turn up anything in the Richmond, VA area, unfortunately, but you can definitely chat with your caterer about their environmental practices!

The more demand there is for zero-waste catering, the faster we’ll see it! At the very least, you should be able to find a caterer that sources from local farms!

Feed The Hungry

Talk with your planner/venue/ caterer or local food banks and homeless shelters about donating any unserved food from your wedding!

This is a common enough practice these days that most organizations will have some sort of procedure for accepting your donations!

Composting for your wedding


1. What is composting?

Composting, in the simplest sense, mimics the basic digestive process by which organic matter is broken down.

There are different types of composting, whether in piles, with worms (vermicomposting) or through processes like fermentation, and the different processes are good for breaking down specific things.

For example, those clear plastic-looking compostable to-go cups break down well in piles that get up to high temperatures.

Vermicomposting is great for basically any food scraps that would be created by a household on a vegan or vegetarian diet (except for bread and dairy!).

At his setup with Compost RVA, Bruno has a combination of different composting processes going, and so he is able to compost just about anything, including meat and bones which are typically thought of as non-compostable.

2. Why is composting something that couples should consider when planning their wedding?

Composting helps to reduce waste and lessens the amount of material that sits in landfills. When you consider that the average 100 person wedding produces between 400-600 pounds of waste, every little bit counts!

3. What makes composting worth the additional cost and effort as compared to traditional disposables?

This really comes down to a question about your priorities and values. There’s no denying that cheap plastic disposables and hefty trash bags are a less expensive solution than reusable tableware or compostable disposables and composting food scraps.

If sustainability is something that is important to you, then the additional cost and/ or effort are worth it.

4. Are there certain brands/ lines of “compostable” disposable products that aren’t actually compostable that couples should steer clear from? 

There are a bunch of brands online that aren’t as compostable as they claim, but the big thing to look out for is actually just misleading messaging.

Lots of brands are greenwashing their products by touting that they are “Biodegradable” and/or “made with compostable material” when what that often looks like is just plastic combined with compostable materials that make the plastic break down faster.

But plastic never actually goes away, it just becomes smaller and smaller pieces of plastic.

5. How can couples easily explain to guests what they can and can not compost at a “clear your own table” sort of event like a backyard wedding? Any advice for signage, processes, or enforcing the “compost rules”? 

The best way to ensure success is to have a few touchpoints with your guests.

We recommend making an announcement before dinner about what is compostable and where the bin is located.

Then also include some signage (you can make it pretty!) about what to compost and where. And last, have a person designated to hang out near the bin and talk to people about how to properly dispose of everything.

6. What happens if non-compostable stuff ends up in the compost bins by mistake? 

That is pretty much bound to happen, no matter the event and no matter how careful you are. Don’t let the fear of not being able to do it perfectly keep you from composting!

Bruno jokes that receipts (which are not compostable) end up in the compost bin at every event, even those where no transactions are taking place.

The best way to handle this is to try to communicate clearly what can go in the bin, and then to just keep an eye on it and manually remove non-compostable items when you see them in the bin.

7. What does Compost RVA offer for special event composting? Are pick up and drop off included? What are the different options and the costs associated with each? 

Compost RVA offers special event composting for every size event and budge with receptacles ranging from 5 gallons to 96 gallons and available pickup and drop off service, and basic services starting around $45.

In addition to day-of composting services, Compost RVA also offers finished compost to special event customers to use in their gardens, houseplants, etc.

8. Any other tips/ advice/ information for couples who are considering including composting in their wedding planning?

Composting should be thought of as just one part of your strategy for planning a sustainable or eco-friendly wedding.

For example, a wedding that uses reusable plates, glassware, silverware, etc, and just composts food scraps is far more sustainable than a celebration that uses compostable disposables.

Planning a sustainable celebration starts before the day-of.

When selecting vendors, have conversations with them about their environmental practices. This especially applies to caterers!

While they are prepping the food for your celebration there are bound to be scraps — are they composting kitchen scraps, or do they end up in the trash?

Talk to your floral designer about using local, seasonal blooms, and your options for recycling or repurposing your florals after the part is over.

In Richmond, we have a great new company called Repurpose Flower Co that recycles your special event flowers!

Meet The Author

Leah is an elopement photographer and composting enthusiast living in Richmond, VA.

Teaching others about easy ways to make their everyday lives more sustainable and environmentally friendly is one of her favorite things to do, even if it annoys her friends a little bit.

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  1. This post is SO important! So much goes to waste when we plan events and we don’t even realize it! Amazing job, thanks for sharing!

  2. So much good info in here for planning sustainable weddings. I hope these trends make their way into every wedding going forward. Great stuff!

  3. Love the idea of planning a sustainable wedding. I hope more couples read this blog and take these ideas to heart when they are planning their wedding 🙂

  4. So many good tips! I love vintage clothing and am so excited that it is making a comeback! As well as renting a wedding dress! The wedding industry definitely needs to adopt better practices! Education is key!

  5. Ahh I absolutely am in love with this helpful post!! I am a huge advocate of living as sustainably as possible and always striving to do better and better. I started with a capsule wardrobe and it just snowballed from there! Thank you for sharing this!

  6. I love this idea so much. Thank you so much for posting this. I hope more couples follow your lead! Also the good thing about secondhand dresses is, you don’t need to worry if they get dirty 🙂

  7. Jacqueline G says:

    I LOVE all of these suggestions! So many great things to consider and plan for to be thoughtful about the environment and waste!

  8. It’s amazing how much waste a wedding can produce, these are great tips to help minimize their footprint!

  9. Love all these tips for a sustainable wedding! The potted plants tip is my favourite – I’ve had a few couples do this and it’s the best idea!

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