Having recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, I thought I would share some of the things we did to have a (nearly) zero waste wedding ceremony way back in 2010. With small, backyard weddings gaining in popularity (especially during Covid), approaching the day with a low waste mindset has never been easier. This is not a comprehensive guide – just a list of what we did and what we would change if we did it again. Simplicity is key!
Invitations and Guest List
A small number of guests not only makes for a more intimate occasion, but costs less, is less stressful, and generates less waste overall.
Because we had a very small wedding (18 people), we made our own paper invitations by hand with materials purchased from a local independent shop. We chose undyed paper and a rubber stamp in a floral pattern than I still use to make cards to this day. Because I love getting personal things in the mail, I would do the same again, with an added note for folks to please save, recycle, or compost the card. If you want to go paperless, there are countless options for e-invitations and full service wedding management websites.
While I have thrifted since high school, I did buy a new dress for my wedding. I opted for a cocktail dress versus a traditional wedding gown thinking I would re-wear it, but I never have. If I could do it again, I would opt for a vintage/secondhand dress or rent one. I also chose a new cardigan and flats that are still in my wardrobe rotation to this day. My husband wore clothes he already had, which worked perfectly with our laidback wedding vibe. I did my own hair and makeup.
Guests we free to dress however they liked, with looks ranging from a summer suit to bare feet and cut offs. Our witnesses also had free reign, which led to our best man turning up in a full kilt tuxedo, so give a little more direction if this type of surprise isn’t your jam.
We chose not to hire a photographer, but we are very grateful to our brother-in-law for the photos he took that day! As much as I enjoy other people’s photos, it simply was not a priority for us and we do not regret that decision. If you do choose to hire a professional, go with someone who shares your values and aesthetic.
Venue and Accommodations
Our venue was the lawn at our family cottage. Some folks stayed in the house, others at a nearby B&B, and our friend pitched tents in the yard with much related hilarity. We rented enough chairs, tables, dishes, and linens from a local party rental place.
Flowers and Decorations
The majority of our decorations were made by a friend from foraged materials and herbs he grew in his garden. It wouldn’t be a DIY wedding without burlap and mason jars making up the rest of the decor. Guests were welcome to take home what they liked – my SIL just let me know she still had the hollowed out birch branch vase from in front of her on the table.
Instead of cut flowers (which can have a huge environmental impact and serious ethical considerations), bouquets and boutineers were also made from foraged materials, including birch bark and pine cones. I am not a sentimental person at all, but I still have my bouquet (shown in the header photo) because it is just too incredible to part with.
Food and Drink
Both the rehearsal dinner and wedding day were potluck style, prepared by us, and our friends and family on site. The kitchen party aspect of it made it more special. Other than a friend’s incredible potato salad, I could not tell you what the actual wedding meal was! Our wedding cake was strawberry shortcake, with cakes and cream handmade by my MIL, with many of us hulling a flat of strawberries and staining our fingers. We had a large water cooler, and an open bar with real glassware and collected recycling.
While we did not actively decline gifts, we did not register, give out favours, or give each other gifts. This is just personal preference and those closest to us were our guests and understand our values on this. If you do choose to give favours, check out this guide to eco-friendly “non stuff” options. Instead of anniversary gifts, our tradition is to go on a picnic – now with two kids in tow.
My best wedding tip? Just go with whatever the day brings. Our wedding day was so windy a tree fell across the driveway and the officiant couldn’t get in! Stay true to your values, keep it simple, and enjoy!