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5 Ways To Plan a Sustainable Wedding That’s Inexpensive and Fabulous

how to plan a sustainable and cheap wedding

Photo Credit: Pham Hoang Kha/Pexels

While weddings are wonderful times of celebration, they are not always the most eco-friendly events. With all the invitations, decorations, and food, lots of waste seems inevitable. But Jess Drawhorn, a traveling wedding photographer, knows that planning a sustainable wedding is worth the effort. 

“I started my adventure elopement business in 2017 with a big goal: to help couples plan experience-driven weddings in nature so they could avoid the wastefulness and overconsumption of a large traditional wedding,” Drawhorn tells CircleAround

Drawhorn has helped more than 300 couples plan weddings in private, remote areas around the Western US, creating special moments without waste. While having a sustainable wedding is very doable, many people are hesitant to try because they have misconceptions about what the process might be like. CircleAround asked Drawhorn advice on how people can plan sustainable weddings that are inexpensive and fabulous.  

1. Cut Costs Where You Can 

Often, when we think about sustainability, we think about things like organic produce or solar panel installations. These things can be expensive, so it follows that people believe planning a sustainable wedding will also cost more. But this doesn’t have to be the case. 

There are many ways you can save a significant amount of money from taking a more sustainable approach to your nuptials. Drawhorn suggests limiting the number of guests, which allows for more flexibility in planning and fewer things needed on the day of. “It’s more about making conscious choices so you can lessen your impact overall,” she explains. “It’s ok not to achieve perfection here...You deserve to throw yourselves a beautiful celebration — so do what you can, but don’t sweat the small stuff.” 

2. Use an Eco-Friendly Wedding Venue 

Many traditional catering halls are waste-makers, but there are so many wonderful greener options to choose from. 

“Consider an eco-friendly wedding venue such as a local flower farm, a campground, a botanical garden, or a conservatory or greenhouse. You’ll have built-in decorations and know the price of your venue rental is going towards conservation.” 

3. Focus on Something Borrowed, Not Something New 

It’s important to have items that mean something to you on your wedding day. After all, you’re making memories and forming traditions that can be passed down. Not every element of your special day needs to be brand-spanking new, however. One way to create a more sustainable wedding is to shop secondhand.

“Is your wedding an adventure elopement? Don’t worry about buying new hiking boots — wear the ones you already have,” Drawhorn explains. “Whether you’re wearing simple accessories, like jewelry, or you’re thinking more along the lines of backpacks and headlamps, consider borrowing… Something borrowed actually fits tradition.”

“Check out your community social media pages for fun, secondhand stuff,” she adds. “There are so many groups on Facebook for local couples who want to share their wedding-specific items, like candle holders, signage, and even florals if your dates are close!”

4. Wow Your Guests With Eco-Friendly Decorations and Food 

Thanks to Pinterest and Instagram, many people feel pressured to pack in as many photo-worthy elements as possible for their wedding. They want to impress their guests with lavish decorations, thank-you gifts, floral arrangements, and more. Drawhorn knows these elements are completely possible to do in an eco-friendly way. 

Floral arrangements are a great place to start. “Consider using native flowers or even paper or wood for faux flowers,” she states. “You could also purchase from small local farms or growers to ensure your flowers aren’t traveling long distances.” 

Next, Drawhorn says consider serving a plant-based meal. She and her husband Austin had a plant-based taco bar, carrot cake, and donuts for their wedding. “Everyone loved the food and, according to some calculations, we avoided using 66,000 gallons of water and 1,200 pounds of CO2 emissions for our meal!”

5. Elope 

“If having the most green wedding possible is your ultimate goal, eloping is the answer for you,” Drawhorn advises. “It limits guests, which removes the necessity of providing single-use items needed for each guest.... It reduces food consumption and waste, and it eliminates the need for single-use dishes. You can also bring your own water bottles and support local businesses, wherever you are.

You can also skip the formal invitations and decorations — like arches, balloons, confetti, and more — which reduce waste and save money.

“You get to focus on making the decisions that feel right for you, as a couple,” Drawhorn adds. “There are so many ways to make an elopement special for you, especially if getting hitched in an eco-friendly way is important to you.”

The Bottom Line

Planning a green wedding can be a very special way to create a unique experience while reducing your carbon footprint. By thinking about elements you can cut or modify in sustainable ways, you’ll be able to spend your big day the way YOU want to and help the earth at the same time.

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