We all know weddings an get expensive, and excessive. As a wedding photographer on Martha’s Vineyard I see first hand just how lavish these events can be. While your wedding day should be special, beautiful and uniquely yours, it can still be all of those things while being less wasteful. Plus, on top of feeling great about tying the knot you can feel good about lessening your impact too! Executing a “green wedding” doesn’t have to be hard, it just takes some thoughtful consideration.

Here are some of our favorite green wedding ideas that are easy to implement, and won’t take away from the beauty and elegance of your affair. Remember even small details can make a big impact on your big day!

1. Responsible Invitations. I prefer good old snail mail for wedding invitations, especially in this digital age there’s something particularly nice about opening a beautiful piece of mail. Try using 100% sustainable recycled post-consumer paper and minimize it by directing guests to your wedding website for additional information. As for your Save the Dates go paperless–Minted, Paperless Post, evite and Greenvelope offer a ton of templates and options that will still ensure your guests receive high quality invitations they can get excited about. The same goes for your thank you cards!

2. Upcycled dresses and accessories. Consider wearing a previously worn or second hand dress down the aisle or during your rehearsal dinner or brunch. Sites like Tradesy and Nearly Newlwed sell preowned dresses that look brand new (and no one will ever know!). Shoes and accessories can get pricey too, and there’s loads of gently worn versions available more affordably and responsibly. You may also want to ask around your family to see if there is an heirloom piece you can repurpose or redesign. Nothing is more special than sharing in the history of your family during your big day! If you prefer a brand new dress, shop around for a designer that uses sustainable fabrics (like organic cotton, silk or hemp) such as H&Ms eco-friendly wedding line Conscious Exclusive Collection. As for your bridal party why not give them a color palette to select from and have them wear something they already own? We all know most of those bridesmaid dresses we hope to “wear again” just stack up in the back of our closets…

3. Go plastic and paper free. Make sure to tell your vendors that you’re trying to be as zero-waste as possible and they’ll help you! If you’re ordering linens ask that they not be wrapped in plastic for delivery. If you’re serving cocktails ask your bartender to forego the straws. Serve water from pitchers or have a water station with a tap. Look for bar/catering options that offer stainless steel kegs that are reused and avoid buying ice in plastic bags. Use cloth napkins in the bathroom instead of paper towels.

4. DIY Flowers. There’s no denying that flowers are gorgeous but their environmental cost can be high. When selecting fresh flowers be sure your blooms are sustainable as possible by seeking out vendors that are farm-to-table or using local flower growers. By using locally grown in-season flowers you’ll be ensured the freshest, highest quality stems at the best price. On Martha’s Vineyard Tea Lane Farm and Morning Glory Farm grow many varieties of annual and perennial flowers and they design beautiful arrangements. Additionally, Donaroma’s offers floral design, as well as the opportunity for brides and grooms to rent their Island grown plants for their special event–allowing for the look of fresh greenery while knowing it will be thoughtfully repurposed.  

Paper bouquets can also be fabulous, and unique, plus they’re compostable. There’s also the option to plant your own flowers or use a recycled or foraged bouquet. For centerpieces, consider growing or purchase potted plants or fresh herbs that can be reused. Even dried herbs can make beautiful arrangements! I love the idea of clustering several small arrangements together to make one beautiful display that several guests can bring home. Be sure to compost any remaining flowers after the event that can not be reused, your soil will thank you.

5. Less is more. Decorating your venue can be enticing but some of my favorite weddings have been the simpler ones. You can save a lot of waste and money by minimizing your decorations, plus your venue is likely an attractive space in it’s own right, so let it shine! When decorating use organic materials that can be sourced in nature. Things like bark, seeds, rocks, stones, bricks, building materials, and found objects. Also don’t be afraid to ask for donations! You can use or collect jars/glassware that you or your family may already own for centerpieces. Pieces like bird cages, wooden grates, chalkboards etc. are likely lying around at your friends’ homes waiting to be repurposed.

6. Go natural with your place cards and signage.  You can also use plant matter for your place cards and table assignments. Get crafty by writing on things like eucalyptus leaves, flat rocks, and wooden bark or shingles for your signs and display notes. And of course there’s all sorts of green inspiration on Pinterest!

7. Make it family style. When it comes to your catering options consider serving local food family style, reducing the footprint it takes to get to your plates and reducing the dish ware that needs to be used and cleaned. Several Island-based caterers like Smoak BBQ and Kitchen Porch Catering offer farm-to-table menus that will allow your guests to taste the delicious local food available on Martha’s Vineyard, while reducing the resources it takes to feed them.

8. Go green with your gifts. Traditional wedding gifts often require shipping resources to get to you, and come decorated with wasteful wrapping paper. Instead ask your guests to donate to your honeymoon. Sites like honeyfund.com make it easy for guests to safely and securely donate to your dream vacation or new home. If your guests are insisting on giving you a physical gift create an eco-friendly wedding registry.

9. Do the world a favor with your favors. When it comes to giving your guests something special to remember your event by, look into items that come in compostable eco-friendly packages. Soap, reusable totes, plants, seeds or homemade jams all make great thoughtful gifts that are easy on the environment. Or instead of a physical gift make a donation in everyone’s name to a local charity you can feel good about!

10. Compost, and recycle as much as possible. Make sure to do all you can to reuse and compost whatever remaining trash and leftovers remain at the end of your event. As for recycling remember the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle”? Recycling comes last because it should be a last resort, it’s complicated and not as environmentally friendly as most people think. Composting on the other hand is easy and goes straight back to the earth. You’ll want to make sure to compost your flowers and any other organic matter that can be reused. Paper from your cards and envelopes can also be shredded and composted. Be sure to ask your caterer about composting the prep, scraps, and leftovers from your event, many caterers will do this anyway. You can also hire Island Grown Initiative (IGI) to do it for you as part of their Food Waste Collection initiative. Contact them at (508) 687-9062 or at sophie@igimv.org more more details.