Waste + Weddings: My efforts at making a less trashy wedding

Zero waste wedding table

Reusable napkins and potted succulents serve as wedding favors. Photo by Jonathan Gipaya.

I got married this past summer. It was a whirlwind of activities and events, planning and coordinating. When looking forward to my big day, there was lots to consider – but one thing I couldn’t neglect was the environmental impact of my event. I didn’t want to have a trashy wedding ;)

Weddings, and many large gatherings, often create a lot of waste. Still, there’s easy ways to make choices that can minimize this. My event, and any event you’re planning, doesn’t need to be totally waste-free to be successful. Even just making a few choices to reduce waste makes a difference.

Buffet line with reusable plates and silverware. Photo by Jonathan Gipaya.

At weddings, food is important (duh!), and can be a main generator of waste. For our wedding, we sought ways to reduce the possibility of wasting and throwing away food. We chose a buffet style meal so folks could take as much or as little as they wanted. Then our caterer saved the leftovers for us in large Ziploc storage bags, so we could eat it later. We brought it home, fed it to friends the next few days, and ended up freezing some! We enjoyed our wedding catering long after the wedding day ended!

Many caterers we talked to offered paper plates and disposable utensils. It was important to me to use durable dishware – both because it looks nicer and to eliminate this point of waste. I definitely factored this in when deciding which caterer to book. Our caterer provided durable plates, silverware, water glasses and more – eliminating a huge possibility of waste.

We made our own hand dyed cloth napkins for the wedding, too. These then could be a favor if guests wanted to keep them, and are infinitely reusable. Now, we use them all the time at home, and know some of our guests do too.

Mason jars with labels help guests hold on to their drink glasses all night. Photo by Jonathan Gipaya.

For drinks, we asked the caterer to bring a large water dispenser, instead of having to rely on bottled water (our wedding was in a rural area with tap water that smelled like sulfur L). We bought mason jars for glasses, and put name labels on them. Our guests used (and reused) these for beer and wine. Buying kegs of beer is a better choice than bottles or cans, and we tried to buy some larger bottles of wine, so there were less to recycle at the end. Then after the wedding, I sold the jars for use at another wedding.

Minimal decorations, reused or made from materials I already had when possible. Photo by Jonathan Gipaya.

For decorations, I kept it minimal. We made signs out of wood that we already had, and reused some decorations from a friend’s wedding. I bought tablecloths, and now my friend will be reusing them at her wedding this fall. We opted out of doing favors, but had succulents on the tables and encouraged people to take them home. The leftover succulents came home with us, and made some great planters! Our flowers came from a local farmer’s market vendor – no need to fly in flowers from elsewhere when we grow some beautiful ones here in Washington.

Our wedding wasn’t zero waste – we had some balloon letters, packaging waste, water bottles (it was 92 degrees on our wedding day!), and more, but that’s ok. The choices we made in advance definitely lessened what we had at the end. Our day was memorable, and didn’t generate too much trash!