How to Have A Zero Waste Wedding

How to Have A Zero Waste Wedding

As some of you might know, I recently got engaged! It was the happiest day of my life (thus far). As you can imagine, engagement also means wedding planning – and there’s a lot to consider, especially when you’re trying to do things as sustainably as possible. From which venue to choose, to décor, to invites, there’s so much to plan out. I’m still in the middle of planning my own wedding, but I figured I’d share a few tid-bits of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way. If you’re planning your wedding, you don’t have to do everything on this list – but you can certainly learn from it and get inspired. Even if you do just a few things I suggest, it’ll make a difference. Here’s how to have a zero waste wedding.

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How to Have A Zero Waste Wedding

How to Have A Zero Waste Wedding

Why throw a zero waste wedding?

Weddings, like any other event, can get pretty wasteful. From food waste to decor waste – and everything in between – The average wedding produces 400 lbs of garbage. Yikes!

So many floral centerpieces end up in the trash – and I’m not talking compost bins. The terrible part is these can cost hundreds of dollars! You might think “oh, but won’t people take them home?” not necessarily – people tend to get drunk at weddings, so taking home a centerpiece isn’t the first thing at the top of their minds.

Centerpieces aren’t the only form of waste of course – lots of the flowers we buy for our wedding day end up in the trash. And lets not forget all the other excessive décor items that can accompany weddings, like confetti and balloons (just a few examples).

Not to mention food – I’m sure there will be plenty of guests who don’t eat everything on their plate, which ends up in the trash. And what about all the food that doesn’t get eaten? That will likely end up in the trash too.

Aside from waste, there’s other things to consider about having an eco friendly wedding, like choosing sustainably sourced food, décor, makeup, dresses and invites. Everything at your wedding has an impact on the environment, so it’s important to be mindful of this as you go about planning your big day.

As someone who’s planning a wedding, I know first hand how overwhelming and stressful things can get – especially when you add being eco conscious into the mix. That said, my best piece of advice is to just take things slow. Do what you can. Remember to breath. Most of all – it’s okay if things aren’t perfect, just have fun with it. Being an imperfect environmentalist is better than not trying at all!

How can I have a zero waste wedding?

Glad you asked – here are a few ways your special day can be low waste. Be mindful this isn’t an exhaustive list and I myself am still learning as much as I can about all this! It’s honestly a learning process and there’s no wrong way to go about it.

How to Have A Zero Waste Wedding

1. Invitations

In order to throw a wedding, you’ll need to invite guests. When most people receive an invitation in the mail, they’ll keep it up until the party and then toss it into the trash. Waste of paper much? Not to mention a waste of the carbon emissions used to get that invite delivered. Surely you’ll want nothing but the best for your special day, but it’s very possible to send an eco-friendly invitation. Here’s a few green alternatives:

  • Virtual invitation – Thanks to technology, there are countless online sites that offer some beautiful virtual invitations. E-invites are a great way to reduce waste and make managing your guest list even easier. Check out sites like Greenvelope, Paperlesspost, Minted, and Magnet Street.
  • Eco-friendly paper – There are many companies that offer different varieties of papers used for invitations. There are options for recycled, bamboo and seeded paper! Of course, you can never know for sure if others will recycle, compost, or plant their invites, but giving people the option is better than no option at all.
  • Design your own invitations – You can design your own invites on Canva and choose exactly how you want them to look. Just make sure you choose “uncoated finish” at checkout so it’s easy to compost/recycle. Canva plants a tree with every purchase!
How to Have A Zero Waste Wedding

2. Wedding dress

Finding the perfect wedding dress can be a real challenge, but finding a sustainable wedding dress can be even more intimidating. But thankfully, there are several amazing companies that offer beautiful, sustainable wedding dresses so you can look gorgeous and feel guilt-free on your big day. Here are a few examples:

How to Have a Zero Waste Wedding


  • Made from 56% recycled polyester/ 44% organic cotton
  • Saves 9017 gallons of water
  • Saves 63 lbs of co2
  • Made in Los Angeles

Hestia Dress

This gorgeous Hestia Dress is form fitting, slim through the hips, and has a mermaid skirt. It’s made from 56% recycled polyester and 44% organic cotton. Reformation buys aging, leftover, and over-ordered fabric from factories and other designers, called deadstock. This way they can reuse and divert these materials from the landfill and into your closet.

Shop for more wedding dresses at REFORMATION.

How to Have a Zero Waste Wedding


  • Choice of natural silk chiffon fabric or vegan chiffon
  • Ethically sourced
  • Three layers
  • Customizable

Giselle Dress

This beautiful Giselle Dress is a body hugging, three layer full circle skirt that pairs wonderfully with a silk chiffon belt. Each Giselle dress is made to each bride’s individual measurements! A measurements guide will be sent to you after your purchase is made, which will direct you through the process of providing the precise measurements needed to create your gown to your unique shape. You can also choose your dress’s fabric. You can choose between natural silk chiffon (from silkworms) or vegan chiffon (synthetic fibers).

Shop for more wedding dresses at Wear Your Love.

  • Secondhand Dress – One of the most sustainable options out there is to purchase secondhand items- especially when it comes to clothes. Wedding dresses are usually only worn once, so it makes sense that some people would prefer not to spend a fortune for a single-use outfit. If you aren’t sentimental, you can re-sell it when you’re done using it and earn your money back.
  • Handmade dress – If you know someone who can sew and is willing to make you a handmade gown, god bless! That is so beautiful and what could be more ethical than something made especially for you by a person you know? You could also look on the market and see what handmade dresses are available near you. I’m sure there are several on Etsy.
How to Have A Zero Waste Wedding

3. Decorations

Single use decor is incredibly wasteful. Especially when there’s so many sustainable decorations out there that you can recycle, compost or reuse. Since you can choose and control the decorations chosen, it’s important to consider these factors beforehand.

  • Rent, rent, rent! – While purchasing a bunch of glass jars is much better than buying plastic decorations, you may be better off finding a local wedding renters company and renting out your decorations. You’ll save yourself a ton of money and unnecessary clutter.
  • Potted plants – Use plants from your own home or plants that you or your guests can take home. Succulents are ideal because they’re easy to brow at home and take care of.
  • Candles – if the venue doesn’t provide candles, see to it you use beeswax, soy or coconut wax candles. Traditional candles actually release a number of harmful chemicals when you burn them and tend to be petroleum based.
  • Flowers – see if you can partner up with a sustainable florist who only uses in-season, locally grown, pesticide-free blooms. FYI, 80% of flowers are actually grown overseas and have a massive carbon footprint. So choosing flowers grown here in the USA is a great choice! Work with your florist and ask them what sustainable initiatives they’re a part of and if they can reduce plastic-use as much as possible too – as in, foam-free installations.
  • Reuse bouquets – Instead of throwing them away, reuse bridesmaid bouquets are floral décor. Pro tip- use locally grown flowers to support biodiversity.
  • Make sure to use reusable or compostable goods – Look for products made with compostable materials that will actually break down. This goes for everything like favors, to utensils, to wedding table place cards. Think natural, biodegradable materials – and when in doubt, reusable.
How to Have A Zero Waste Wedding

4. Food

The food you have at your reception and cocktail hour matters. After all, food waste is a huge issue in America – 40 percent of food here is wasted. And, having vegan options is an inclusive, eco-friendly idea: After all, It takes 100 to 200 times more water to raise a pound of beef than it does to raise a pound of plant foods. Choosing more plant-based foods will also be easier to compost.

  • Choose local – Support your local farmers by choosing foods that are local and in-season. Look for venues that support these local farmers with in-house catering. One place I’m considering for a venue has a farm near them that they partner with, so a lot of their food comes straight from them!
  • Offer vegetarian and vegan options – Meat-heavy food options aren’t just more costly for your budget, but for the environment. Meat has a heavy carbon footprint, as well as a big water footprint. Offering more vegan and vegetarian options isn’t just more inclusive, but better for the planet overall. Ask your venues and caterers how they can accommodate that – bonus points if they already have several vegan/veggie options to choose from!
  • Donate leftovers – Make sure your venue and/or caterer knows you’d like to donate the leftover food instead of throwing it away. You can also see if any staff would like to take some home!
  • Have a smaller cake – LOTS of cake gets wasted at weddings, so keep it smaller and help fight food waste! Bonus points if you’re able to have a vegan wedding cake too. Also, try cutting back on the frosting – lots of people don’t eat it!
How to Have A Zero Waste Wedding

5. Venue

I know it’s definitely tempting to have a destination wedding, but the closer you have your wedding to home, the less carbon emissions you’ll be putting into the atmosphere. Look into the venues that are close to you and see what they offer – you may be surprised at what’s right under your nose! Have a local beach? Get married there! A botanical garden? Tie the knot there!

Also, while staying local, see what outdoor venues are available. Outdoor venues are amazing because you won’t need as many decorations and flowers – the scenic areas can speak for themselves! Think beach, farm or garden wedding. Let nature do the talking!

  • Ask venues if they have recycling + composting options – This is very important if you want to reduce as much waste as possible. You can compost any flowers and leftover food that doesn’t get taken/eaten. I cannot tell you how many venues flat out lie about composting too when they clearly don’t even know what it is so be careful of them yesing you just to make a profit!
  • If venues don’t have recycling/composting – Don’t panic, there are options. You can research local companies that you can partner with for proper waste baskets. Some will even come pick up the compost/recycling after the event is over! Make sure the composting and recycling bins are clearly marked so guests and staff alike know where everything goes.
  • Ask about reusable décor – Some venues actually have décor inventory you can pull from and re-use which saves you money and emissions because you’re not buying anything new! You’ll also save emissions because event rental trucks won’t have to haul décor to your venue.
  • See if you can have the ceremony at the venue – To reduce traveling and thusly carbon emissions, it would be wonderful if the ceremony happened at the venue too. This of course depends on the venue and your religion. That said, it’s something worth looking into! Plus, it’s much simpler and less of a headache to have everything in one place!
How to Have A Zero Waste Wedding

6. Beauty

All brides want to look beautiful on their special day. But makeup can be extremely wasteful and not exactly eco-friendly. From packaging to the actual ingredients, there’s a lot to consider. I recommend finding the most zero waste makeup products you can afford, or looking into a eco-friendly salon that offers makeup application. And lets not forget hair, nails, and other essentials.

  • Invest in low waste beauty products – Whether you’re doing your own makeup, or having it done professionally, see if you can make the swap to cleaner beauty products with minimal packaging. A personal favorite of mine is Kjaer Weis – they’re a luxury makeup brand that uses natural ingredients and beautiful, refillable packaging. You can ask the makeup artist to use your products too.
  • Hire an eco-friendly professional – If you’d prefer someone else doing your makeup on the big day, I can’t say I blame you! I’m going to be doing that myself – I have an eco-friendly salon near me that has done my makeup for past events. They use only all-natural beauty brands which I love. You can try to do the same! See if there are any eco salons near you that will do your makeup and hair on the big day, or even make house calls! If not, ask a makeup artist you trust if they’d be willing to use natural makeup brands with minimal packaging.
  • Go to an eco-friendly salon – Honestly, if you have an eco-friendly salon where you live, utilize it! Use it to get your hair, nails, and makeup done. If you need facials, waxing, or body wraps, do it there too. Whatever you need to get ready for your big day, they’ll have it. Most salons use products with questionable ingredients, but eco-friendly ones will go out of their way to use more natural, organic products and methods. Ask them about their sustainable initiatives and see what they’re doing to better our planet. You could also see if they make house calls and if they’d even do your bridesmaid’s makeup/hair on the big day!
How to Have A Zero Waste Wedding

7. Party favors

Sustainable wedding favors are a nice way to say “thank you for coming!” at the end of the day. There are plenty of ways to get creative with this, but it really depends on what you think your guests will enjoy + your own budget.

  • Herb kits – Little mini herb kits can be found on etsy for reasonable prices. You can grow anything from lavender, to rosemary, to basil. Guests can take whichever they feel most drawn to and any leftovers can be given away or used by you! Seeds don’t go to waste.
  • Seed packets – These can have cute personalized sayings on them and inside can be wildflowers, native flowers, or anything really. Etsy definitely sells these.
  • Succulents or cacti – Any tiny plants in general make really cute favors that almost no one can refuse. Who doesn’t love a pop of green in their homes?
  • Consumables – Anything that can be used up counts as a consumable (not just edibles). A beeswax candle, a little pot of local honey, a mini jar of organic lotion – any of these would make adorable favors.
  • Reusable straws – Always cool to keep your guests from sucking – on plastic that is. Bamboo or stainless straws make cute favors that keep on giving.
How to Have A Zero Waste Wedding

8. Gifts

Last but not least, consider the gifts you will be getting throughout your wedding journey. From your engagement party to your bridal shower to your actual reception, there are plenty of opportunities for gifts to come your way. But, as a zero waster, you probably don’t want anything excessive or unethically made. This is a good time to think about registries and what to tell people.

  • Money – no one ever scoffs at money simply because it’s practical and can be used for things you actually need. Perhaps you’re saving up for a home or a car. Couples starting a new life together will always be grateful for any money they receive because there’s a never ending list of expenses that go into wedding planning.
  • Registries – If you’re thinking of creating a wedding registry, consider doing it with an eco-friendly website that stocks a wide variety of sustainably made items, like Earth Hero and Made Trade. These two online stores offer a wide array of sustainable furniture, home appliances and clothing you’ll need for starting a life together.
  • E-gift cards – You could always ask for a virtual gift card to your favorite eco-shops, or anywhere really. This will keep things plastic-free and allow you to buy whatever you need, instead of something you may not want and don’t end up using.
  • Minimal wrapping – For those who want to gift physical gifts, ask them to not overdo it on the wrapping. Request plastic-free wrapping if at all possible and suggest low waste alternatives like furoshiki, or reusing gift bags.
How to Have a Zero Waste Wedding

What do you think of these zero waste wedding tips? Leave your own tips below – I’d love to hear them!

Stay tuned for more zero waste wedding inspo – for now, check out these adorable zero waste notebooks that could help you plan out your big day!

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By Ariana Storniolo (Palmieri)

Ariana Storniolo is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.

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