7 Things I Would Have Done Differently to Make My Wedding More Sustainable

I was married in 2015 in a beautiful, multi-cultural wedding that I spent almost 2 years planning.  It was truly the happiest day of my life…so cliché but true!  There were so many components to create the fairy tale wedding theme combined with multicultural traditions.  It was also a rather stressful and exhausting day – but I loved it. 

My wedding was a two day event – it was impossible to fit so many traditions and ceremonies into one day!  First day was a Cambodian ceremony (5 hours long) and a Chinese Tea Ceremony (about an hour).   Day 2 was a western ceremony + reception. 

1.  GUEST LIST

Traditionally, Asian weddings are huge banquets with 400+ guests.  It’s customary for the parents to invite ALL of their friends, regardless if they actually know the bride and groom or the last time they’ve spoken.  This is a sign of respect. 

I really wanted a smaller, intimate wedding.  80-100 guests would have been ideal for me.    This caused quite the drama with negotiations and ultimately cutting down the guest list to 150.   The more guests you have, the higher the overall budget, resources and waste at the end of the event. 

 

Even with 150 guests – I wasn’t able to greet everyone the way I wanted.  Going from table to table and taking photos with everyone was exhausting and I felt rushed the entire time.  So keep that in mind as well!  Since the wedding, I’ve probably lost contact with at least half of the guest list.  This is probably because many did not know me personally.   I prefer much smaller, intimate weddings where the guests actually know you.    

Sustainable option:
Less guests, the better (for your wallet, environment and your stress level).

 

2.  DÉCOR & SIGNAGE

I rented most of my décor, linens and drapery.  I stayed away from personalized one-time use signage.  We used chalkboards and general signs that could be reused.  I wasn’t as creative at the time, but I definitely would’ve liked to include upcycled décor and more natural elements wherever possible. After all, I'm a huge nature gal.   


Sustainable option:
Rent as much as possible or buy used.  You can also create your own décor by upcycling wine bottles, tin cans, etc.  

 

3. FLORAL

My friend made the boutonnieres for close friends and family.   Unfortunately the tray of boutonnieres was forgotten and only a few were passed out towards the end of the night.   No one noticed except for me and my friend who made it.   This leads me to believe that these boutonnieres weren’t even necessary.  It was nice to have, but we did just fine without it. 

The table centerpieces were long stemmed orchids and clear marbles to hold the stems in place - no floral foam.  We used colored LED can lights in the vases, but since I avoid one-time use things now, I’d skip those.         

At the end of the night, our guests took home the centerpieces, but there were so many floral arrangements.

Sustainable option:
Instead of floral foam use marbles, rocks and moss.  You can donate the floral arrangements to charities that repurpose for hospitals.   Keep things simple. 

 

4.  INVITATIONS

I designed my own invitations – each one had about 10 components that needed to be pieced together perfectly.   I put so much time assembling each invitation to make sure it gave the desired wow factor.  However, the sad reality is that this beautiful invitation ended up in the trash.


To avoid additional card inserts, I created a wedding website for RSVPs, FAQs and summed up our love story.   It totally set the tone and fairy tale theme of our wedding.  Not only does that save paper and postage but it keeps your guest list organized.   You can fit so much info on the wedding website that you just can’t fit in an invitation.

In 2015, digital wedding invitations weren’t that common – or I never received any.  Nowadays I think it’s totally acceptable.  Most people use email and why not? 

Sustainable option:
Use a wedding website (it’s free) and digital invitations.  If you need physical invitations – use recycled paper or seed paper.

 

5.  PRINTED CARDS

I skipped the program cards but had separate menu and name place cards for each person.  At the end of the night, it goes to waste.

Sustainable option: 
Make one large sign (from recycled paper) or use a reusable chalkboard.  Use other elements for name cards - like leaves.

6.  BRIDAL PARTY

The groomsmen rented all of their tuxes, shoes and all of the accessories.  My husband bought his tux but he was able to wear it more than once – at our pre-wedding photo shoot and other weddings. 

I chose a neutral color for the bridesmaids’ shoes and let them decide on their own.  Women are so picky about their shoes and comfort – so the gals appreciated this.  They easily found shoes in their closet that would match the occasion.

Here’s where I would do something different – the bridesmaids dresses.  I was so caught up in everything being perfect that I wanted the gals to wear the same dress.  The dress was made of synthetic fabric.  These dresses aren’t made with the best quality or ethics in mind because they are really designed to be worn just once. 

 

Sustainable option:
Choose dresses that are likely to be more than just a one hit wonder.  The colors wouldn’t have to be so exact either – it leaves more room for flexibility.   Nothing is sustainable about buying dresses worn only once.   Your gals will appreciate having a dress that they’ll actually love to wear more than once.  I’ve been a bridesmaid a few times and well….my closet is rather full of dresses I’ll never wear again.  Anyone else have this problem?

 

7.  BRIDE’S DRESS

My dress was so beautiful and unique with a sheer caplet – yet it sits in a huge box and takes up valuable closet space.   I told myself that I would wear this dress more than once, perhaps at my 10 year anniversary.  I did not factor added weight due to future babies, but that’s a problem for another day.  I said ‘maybe my future daughters will want the dress.’  You can’t keep a dress for 30 years for a MAYBE.  It’s a bit wasteful if it turns out to be a ‘no.’ She may want something that suits her style instead.    

We rented all of the elaborate Cambodian wedding outfits.  We had about 6 outfit changes and it would be so expensive to purchase.  These were definitely once in a lifetime outfits!  

Sustainable option: 
Renting a dress, buying vintage or pre-owned, or buying a simple white dress that is likely to be worn again.    

 

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