When it comes to weddings, everyone has their own preference and style. However, a growing trend among betrothed couples is to worry about the environment in addition to what shade of chiffon the bridesmaid’s dresses should be. Rachel Conroy, one of the co-owners of the Sweet Bough Wedding Collective and the owner of Kinship and Company, has worked on several sustainable weddings. She has several tips for making sure people can say I do while doing the right thing to fight against climate change. 

In terms of decor, Conroy said, limiting the number of single-use items that will be purchased. She’s found that stores have a lot of items geared towards weddings but can’t be re-used around the house. Often times at the end of the wedding, there are plenty of decorations being thrown away. Conroy also has tips about the kinds of party favors guests can reuse instead of tossing in the trash or even leaving behind.  

“Think twice about favors - people rarely take them home, and even though it’s something that the couple has spent time and money on, we then just throw the ones left behind out at the end of the night when guests don’t take them home,” Conroy said.  If you do really want to have favors, consider having something that you wouldn’t mind having 80 extra of at the end of the night (at one wedding I did, the favor was local garlic bulbs - so if people didn’t take one, the couple just got to keep a bunch of garlic! No waste!). Edible things (like caramels!) also go over well, since guests can always just eat them at the wedding or during the ride home.” 

She also advises against having small containers of bubbles or custom coasters since these are likely to end up in the garbage. Conroy said the same goes for sparklers, glow sticks, confetti, etc. because they produce more unnecessary trash. In order to prevent too many couples from doing this, she keeps a list of items so that couples she works with aren’t likely to produce great amounts of waste. Another suggestion of her’s is to buy reusable items that aren’t just for the wedding day. 

Conroy also asks couples to consider where they are getting their rings from. Consider finding a place that uses recycled metals, rings that are already in your family, or perhaps purchase them at a vintage shop. Conroy said since gold and diamond mining can have a devastating impact on the environment, the source of jewelry can improve the sustainability of a wedding immeasurably. Finally, there is in fact a way to have a sustainable wedding dress.

“You don’t have to wear a white dress you’ll only wear once,” Conroy said. “You could consider getting a second hand or vintage outfit or dress, or getting an outfit that you can wear again (this works especially well for separates, like a white skirt & top that can be worn with other clothes in the future). If you do purchase something new to wear, see if you can get it from a business that is eco-friendly and fair trade.”

Conroy has identified several challenges in having a sustainable wedding with some being couples who want to donate the food from their wedding. Depending on how the food was handled, according to Conroy, it’s always worth asking the caterer if there is any way for them to donate food at the end of the night that wasn’t put out on a buffet line. 

Other suggestions she has are renting dishware that will produce less waste than disposable items. It will be more expensive to use all rented items instead of disposable ones, she said. This is due to the extra labor of cleaning off the dishware. There have been some couples, in her experience, that collect their wedding day dishes from thrift shops that have a lovely presentation. Composting at weddings, though isn’t always going to be a good option. However, couples would have to ensure there is a composter at the wedding venue. 

For now, she isn’t sure if this is a long term trend but Conroy doesn’t know how many couples are aware of the volume of waste produced at weddings. She’s always willing to help couples find creative ways to make their wedding more environmentally friendly.

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