6 Ways To Save Cash By Making Your Wedding Gorgeous And Green

Plan a green wedding: Keep hundreds of pounds of garbage out of the landfill, reduce air pollution, and save serious cash in the process.

June 16, 2017
green wedding
Vladimir Kukuruza / EyeEm/getty

Wedding season is in the air, but after all the dancing, champagne toasting, and celebrating, what's left behind is often an ugly mess—up to half a ton of garbage, food trucked in from hundreds of miles away that winds up being wasted, and junky favors that often wind up in the landfill. 

(On just a quarter-acre of land, you can produce fresh, organic food for a family of four—year-round. Rodale's The Backyard Homestead shows you how; get your copy today.)

It's easy to associate a green wedding with spending more, but the truth is you will most often save money by slash your celebration's carbon footprint. Romance novel author Maya Rodale, whose family founded Rodale Press and the Rodale Organic Institute, threw her own green wedding with her family, and was able to cut out unnecessary expenses while still planning the wedding she wanted. 

Related: What Happened When I Decided To Grow The Flowers For My Daughter's Wedding

When greening your own wedding, it's important to remember that it's not all or nothing, and every small eco-upgrade helps. "Make the better, greener choices where you can, and don’t stress what you can’t," suggests Rodale. "My menu will be totally organic because I know a great caterer who does that. My dress is not at all organic because I didn’t love any of the eco-gowns I found." Below, 6 tips to get you started. 

Check out this video on how to arrange flowers:

diy wedding decoration mason jar
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Use recycled and reusable materials

Reusing something is the ultimate in eco-awareness, since it keeps items out of the trash and spares the energy used to make, package, and transport something new. Get creative with your decorating.

You can use old, unique bottles found at thrift stores or antique shops to make eclectic centerpieces to hold local wildflowers. Reusable tablecloths, aisle runners, and napkins from similar sources can add some vintage appeal. One option for a rustic wedding is to rent wooden farm tables, which won't need to be covered with linens. 

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Related: Eco-Friendly Engagement Rings That Make Saying Yes Easy

flowers for bride
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Pick your own local flowers

Harrison, a Yale School of Forestry graduate with a J.D. in environmental law, had a fall wedding in New York's Hudson Valley. 

"I wanted my wedding to feel like the season it was held in," she says. So instead of opting for expensive, exotic flowers shipped in from another country, she saved lots of money by selecting hydrangeas and dahlias from a local organic farm.

She also collected ferns and pine cones locally and handed them over to the floral designer to create beautiful, local arrangements. Wedding flowers typically cost about $2,000, but Harrison only wound up spending about $200.

Related: The 7 Worst Flowers Used In Summer Weddings

vintage wedding veil
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Embrace vintage style and make it your own

Even when it comes to getting dressed and styled, you can save money and be earth-friendly. Look for a preowned gown, veil, or wedding shoes. Since they've only been worn once, these are practically new. 

Harrison was able to buy once-worn Vera Wang shoes for a fraction of the original price on eBay. Then, she resold them for $50. "You can do the same thing with a wedding gown, veil, or other accessory," she says. "When you're finished, you can donate, sell, or recycle it." And of course there's the tradition of wearing the gown that belonged to your mother or another relative. Even if you have it altered or updated, it counts as reuse.

Related: How to Make Your Own Wedding Veil

envelopes
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Opt out of a few wasteful traditions

Consider making your own invitations and printing them on recycled paper. And please, forgo all the extra envelopes and tissue paper. "I have read the reason was to blot the ink and keep everything clean in the days when they were handwritten," says Harrison. "Obviously, this is not needed anymore, so it is just a relic."

Rodale advises avoiding this type of waste by using a self-mailer RSVP card instead of cards and envelopes, printed on recycled paper. "Rehearsal dinner invites can be via paperless post, a beautiful online invitation option," she adds.

Another great way to green your wedding and save money? Nix table favors. Saving this extra cash could allow you to splurge on a great local band or more sustainable food. You could also make a donation to the nonprofit of your choice in lieu of a favor. "For favors, we’re giving folks a darn good dinner, lots of dancing and, hopefully, a night to remember," says Rodale. "So we’re not providing landfill-clogging goodies." 

Related: Make Your Own Eco-Friendly Wedding Favors

wedding dinner
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Set a sustainable table

Factory-farmed food is cheaper because it is subsidized by the government, but the animals live in horrid conditions, are fed antibiotics that lead to superbug outbreaks, and pollute drinking-water sources and our air. Chemicals used on crops degrade the health of the soil and can end up on, and in, the food we eat. So in the end, cheap chemical food costs a lot more.

For Rodale, food definitely took precedence over other wedding greening categories. "Our menu will be all-organic, all-local. It’s more expensive, so we’re cutting costs in other ways to compensate," she explains. "Organic food is one way to make a major, beneficial impact on the environment and local economies. Plus, everyone can appreciate a darn good meal, and what better way to showcase organic?"

Related: 11 Surprising Reasons Organic Is Better For You

If your wedding is slated for next year or beyond, consider growing some of your own wedding food. You can grow more than 100 pounds of produce in an average-size backyard garden.  "We’re growing our own flowers and food to supplement our menu and decorations. We have a farm and even we can’t grow it all, so I do not recommend anyone else try to do so," Rodale says. "But growing a bit can help with costs. We’re also having our wedding on the farm, so that the décor will definitely be all-natural, all-organic."

Also, work with your caterer. He or she may allow you to source in-season, organic produce through a local farmer. Buying direct could cut costs, and if you buy in bulk, it puts you in a better position to negotiate for a lower price. The farmer could also cut you a deal if you mention the farm in your wedding program. Visit LocalHarvest.org to find a grower in your area.

Related: How to Find Organic Flowers

natural wedding
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Use the ceremony as an opportunity to educate

Nothing could be more off-putting than a preachy Bridezilla. But there are tasteful ways to educate your guests on green issues without being overbearing. You may choose to use local native plants as centerpieces, with a little note explaining how these flowers benefit birds, bees, and butterflies in your area.

If you don't want to publicize your green-ness at your wedding, you could post information under a tab on your wedding website: "That way, it's there for anyone who wants to learn more," explains Harrison. You could also add an eco-awareness note on your seating cards or in your program. It could even be as simple as using a recycled symbol on your recycled paper invites or programs.

Editor's Note: This article originally ran in May 2010.

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