How to Plan An Eco Friendly Wedding On a Budget

Affordable green weddings

According to The Green Bride Guide, the average wedding produces 400-600 lbs of garbage and 63 tons of CO2. (And that statistic is from 2008.) That’s about how much waste a single person generates over the course of six months, produced in a single day! As modern couples work to find more sustainability in their daily lives, planning a green wedding can make a huge impact without breaking your budget or compromising your vision.

As a general rule, eco-friendly weddings cost less than the average traditional wedding. The reason sustainable weddings cost less is because they are usually smaller, more local, and avoid the waste of certain elements of a traditional ceremony and reception.

That’s great news for engaged couples who’d like to plan a green wedding on a budget. Keep reading for tips on how to keep your budget on track while saving the planet! Or check out these other ways to plan a dream wedding on a budget.

Source an ethical ring

Start your engagement off on the right foot by choosing a more sustainable alternative to the traditional diamond. Moissanite is a great choice because it is man-made, requiring no mining to extract like diamonds or other gem stones. That also makes it an extremely ethical choice. Plus, Moissanite is about 1/10th the cost of a GIA Certified Diamond!

Can Moissanite pass for a diamond? No. If you look close there are many differences that are visible to the naked eye. But if you’re already considering diamond alternatives, Moissanite is a great way to go.

Say “I Don’t” to diamonds

Plan a micro wedding

Consider keeping your wedding guest list small and planning an elopement or micro wedding in order to create a wedding that has less impact. This isn’t a must but if you’re serious about creating a smaller carbon footprint for your day, trimming the attendees will have the biggest impact on waste. Here’s why – fewer guests means less inter-state or global travel, less food waste, less need for invitations, favors, etc.

Planning a smaller wedding is also a great way to stay on budget. How many guests you invite directly affects 40% of your budget. You can read all about how much weddings cost per person to understand how having a smaller wedding can help the world and your wallet.

Many couples are not willing to compromise in this area and want all of their friends and family there to celebrate with them. Continue reading for additional tips that won’t require you to cut your guest list.

Keep your wedding local

One roundtrip flight generates .5-1 t CO2. So if you’re requiring your guests to flight or drive long distances to get to your wedding, then you’re generating a lot of extra greenhouse gases. Try to pick a venue that is less than a 30 minute drive from the majority of your guests’ homes or close to a public transit line. You can also keep the wedding more localized if you host the ceremony and reception within the same venue, find hotels for any out of town guests that are close to the venue, and provide transportation, like a shuttle bus, when necessary to help cut down on guests driving by themselves.

Pick a sustainable venue

More venues are taking sustainability into account when planning events. You can do a quick Google search for “sustainable wedding venue near me” to find places that will make an effort to keep things green by composting, limiting disposable paper products, and other solutions.

If your dream venue doesn’t market themselves as a green venue, don’t despair. Ask them how they source their food, if they have an approach to limit food waste, if the building is LEED certified, what options you have for limiting specific types of waste. You’ll find out a lot about what you can and can’t control.

For example, an easy one is to ask the venue not to use paper napkins at your wedding. They’ll likely be able to accommodate this request by simply removing the cocktail napkins they typically keep at the bar or supplying a more eco-friendly alternative.

Venues are prioritizing sustainability

Tell your guests that your wedding is green

Letting your guests know that you’re trying to be more sustainable and providing tips on your wedding website to help is a key step in keeping all aspects of your wedding eco-friendly. Your guests can send e-congratulations instead of cards, RSVP electronically, wrap gifts in reusable or compostable packaging, choose local small businesses to shop from, and more.

Instead of the efforts of 2 people, now you’ll have the efforts of dozens or over a hundred people!

Send compostable or paperless invitations

Invitations are a surefire way to make an eco-conscious couple cringe. They’re usually bulky, made of non-recycled materials, need to be shipped all over the country, and are often thrown out quickly after they’re sent. They are the definition of a single-use item.

Here are three eco-friendly alternatives:

Send paperless invitations

With the exception of a handful of older people who may not be email savvy, the bulk of your guests are comfortable with receiving an electronic invitation. There are so many gorgeous templates on Etsy or Paperless Post that can still capture your wedding theme and style. Plus you’ll save money on everything from paper to postage.

Or try compostable wedding invites

Again, Etsy is a great resource here. There are a number of creative options for traditional snail mail invitations that can be repurposed afterwords. The most popular are invitations on compostable paper that contain seeds so they can be planted in the ground to grow flowers.

Limit the number of pieces

If you don’t want to sacrifice the look of the traditional wedding invitations of your dreams, consider just cutting back on the amount of paper you send. If you eliminate the response card and ask guests to RSVP electronically instead then you’ll cut the amount of paper in half and you’ll reduce the amount of mail coming back to you. Or you can send out a digital save the date and keep the rest of the invitation on paper.

Don’t forget to include somewhere on your invitations that you’re having a green wedding and how your guests can help you keep things sustainable.

Throw an unwrapped bridal shower

What’s an unwrapped bridal shower? It’s where you ask all of your guests to forgo the wrapping paper and bring their gift with a tag on it that says who it is from. Then you can display all of the gifts at your party and skip the oohing and ahhing of opening all of the gifts.

This is a great option for brides or couples who feel awkward about opening gifts in front of everyone. And the concept can be applied to an engagement party, wedding shower, or even the wedding itself to help cut down on paper waste.

Buy a secondhand wedding dress

Wedding dresses aren’t exactly fast fashion but it can be considered wasteful to buy a dress that you only wear once and is often shipped from far away when you order it to your size. While you can’t take down the industry with one wedding, you can make a small difference by ordering your dress secondhand.

Some tips to make this a successful purchase:

  • Try on dresses in multiple styles so you know what fit you like on. what you think you’ll like might be different once it’s on your body.
  • Buy a size up and have it tailored to fit you.
  • See if you can try on the dress before you buy. Many former brides or thrift stores will be willing to let you do this.

Not only will you be helping the planet and saving money but you’ll also be helping out a former bride by helping her recoup some of the costs of the dress.

a woman smiling in her wedding dress
A wedding dress gets a new life

Choose a green and wildlife friendly send off

Most people have ditched the rice these days but there are other ways to have a grand send off without added waste. Sparklers, bubbles, and confetti are all popular modern alternatives. To get even more green think about a send off that doesn’t involve buying something new.

For example, have guests light up a circle with their phones as you and your partner have one last public smooch. Or hand out flash lights to have guests create a light bean tunnel for you to exit through. Both ideas will make an excellent photo.

Donate to a cause instead of giving out wedding favors

Wedding favors are a nice way for guests to remember a wedding. But chances are only your closest friends and family will cherish a favor with your names and date on it. Most favors are cheaply produced overseas and shipped many miles to only be forgotten in a drawer by your guests.

Make a sustainable statement by donating to an eco-friendly charity instead. You can put reusable signs in the venue that let your guests know that a donation was made to help save the planet in honor of your special day.

a pink neon sign that says "don't just take, give"
Donating to charity is a great way to celebrate your wedding and your values

Reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on your wedding day. A bold wedding can be had sustainably and on a budget. And every little bit we do helps fight climate change. So repeat that to your in-laws when they ask why you’re not hiring a calligrapher for your invitations.

Need additional ways to plan sustainably or on a budget? Check out my exclusive, free Facebook group for Bold On A Budget Weddings.


Jaime is the owner of Loud Bride and Coast Designs LLC. She got married in 2017 in Geneseo, NY and designed her own wedding invitations and programs for the occasion. Now, she designs bespoke wedding stationery and affordable templates for other couples. She lives in New York city with her husband and two children.

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