June 13, 2024

How To Have An Eco Friendly Wedding: A Compassionate Couples Handbook

Create a Sustainable and Beautiful Celebration

Planning a wedding can be one of the most exciting times in your life, but it’s no secret that planning traditional weddings not only can be really stressful, but they also aren’t very eco friendly. As an experienced elopement photographer specializing in sustainable practices, I’ve witnessed firsthand the beauty and benefits of small eco-friendly celebrations for my couples.

If you are a couple who cares about the environment and want to ensure your wedding honors our earth, you are incredible! You’ve come to the right place! My goal with this handbook is to show you how to create a stunning, sustainable celebration that aligns with your values AND leaves a positive impact on the planet.

A couple is standing on a trail in the middle of the forest during a foggy day. They are having an eco friendly wedding with very little details other than nature around them.

Table of Contents

Why Have a Sustainable Wedding?
10 Steps to Having an Eco friendly Wedding
1. Minimize Guest List
2. Choose an Eco Friendly Venue
3. Sustainable Invitations
4. Eco Friendly Attire
5. Local & Organic Catering
6. Sustainable Decor
7. Eco Conscious Favors
8. Green Transportation
9. Local Vendors
10. Green Honeymoon
Eco Friendly Wedding Summary

A couple is smiling and laughing after having their first look during an eco friendly wedding on a mountaintop at sunrise.

Why Have a Sustainable Wedding?

A typical wedding generates around 400 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of CO2.

From single-use decorations that get tossed into a landfill to excessive food waste and copious amounts of energy consumption, traditional weddings often leave a significant carbon footprint. If you care about having a celebration that aligns with your values, you probably don’t want your wedding to contribute to climate change and the negative impact on the earth

By committing yourself to having a sustainable wedding instead, you can reduce waste, support ethical businesses, and inspire your guests to adopt eco-friendly practices.

Moreover, an intimate wedding or elopement allows you to focus on what truly matters: your love and commitment to each other, without the stress and excess of a large event.

A couple is hugging and looking up into the treetops while standing in a forest during their Asheville elopement. The woods are very green, covered in moss and filled with evergreens. They are wearing backpacks after a hike.
A couple is standing snuggled up in a beam of sunlight on a mountaintop in asheville while they elope. The groom is behind his bride and there are plants all around them with a funny shaped blue mountain behind them.

10 Steps to Having an Eco Friendly Wedding

Planning a sustainable wedding involves making thoughtful choices that reduce environmental impact while maintaining the beauty and joy of your special day. Here are key steps to help you create an eco friendly celebration:

An eco friendly wedding at a mountain overlook with just a few guests. There is a rainbow and bright sunshine surrounding them.

1. Minimize Wedding Guest List

  • Keeping your guest list small not only reduces waste but also allows for a more personal and meaningful celebration.
  • Consider an intimate wedding or an elopement with just your closest family and friends. Not sure how to do that? Read this blog post: How to Plan An Elopement With Family, to learn more.
Embraced Intimacy

By intentionally keeping your guest list small, you’re not just reducing waste; you’re creating an intimate gathering where every person plays a significant role. Imagine the joy of being surrounded only by those who truly matter, where every smile, hug, and shared moment carries profound meaning. With a smaller guest list, you have the opportunity to forge deeper connections, ensuring that every guest feels valued and cherished. From heartfelt conversations to shared laughter, an intimate celebration fosters a sense of community and belonging that simply can’t be replicated in larger gatherings.

Break Free From Tradition
  • Choosing to have an intimate wedding or elopement allows you to break free from tradition and craft a celebration that authentically reflects your love story. Picture exchanging vows in a breathtaking natural setting, with only your closest family and friends by your side. The intimacy of such a moment is unparalleled, creating an atmosphere of pure romance and adventure. Whether you’re saying “I do” atop a scenic mountain peak or beside a tranquil forest stream, the experience becomes an unforgettable journey shared with your nearest and dearest.
Elope Alone Instead
  • Consider just eloping as a couple, without any guests at all. This will ensure the most minimal impact of your wedding and it comes with lots of benefits. Some of these include absolute flexibility, more opportunity for genuine intimacy, no stress of others expectations, and more!
A couple is walking away from their eco friendly wedding ceremony in a flower field in the late afternoon sun. They are smiling at the camera and their guests are looking back at them.

2. Choose an Eco Friendly Venue

  • Select a location that prioritizes sustainability, such as a venue with green certifications or an outdoor setting that requires minimal energy use.
  • Consider non-traditional venues like parks, botanical gardens, or even your own backyard.
Set the Stage

The venue sets the stage for your entire wedding experience, making it a crucial decision in planning your sustainable celebration. When selecting a venue, look beyond just aesthetics and consider its environmental impact. Opting for an eco-friendly venue demonstrates your commitment to sustainability and minimizes the carbon footprint of your event. Seek out locations that prioritize green practices, such as venues with LEED certifications or those powered by renewable energy sources. These venues often implement eco-conscious initiatives like energy-efficient lighting, water conservation measures, and waste reduction programs, ensuring that your celebration aligns with your values.

Think Outside The Box
  • Additionally, think outside the box and consider non-traditional venues that offer unique opportunities for sustainable celebrations. Imagine exchanging vows beneath a canopy of trees in a local park or surrounded by the vibrant blooms of a flower farm. These outdoor settings not only provide a stunning backdrop for your ceremony but also require minimal energy use, allowing you to connect with nature and minimize your environmental impact.
Backyard Wedding
  • For a truly intimate and eco-friendly experience, you might even choose to host your wedding in the comfort of your own backyard, transforming familiar surroundings into a magical and sustainable celebration space.
An eco friendly wedding invitation made on recycled paper shows the timeline of the day like a map, illustrated by the bride.

3. Sustainable Invitations & Announcements

  • Opt for digital invitations to eliminate paper waste.
  • If you prefer physical invites, choose recycled paper or seed paper that can be planted.

Here are some options:

Paper Culture
Botanical Paperworks

Reduce waste

Your wedding invitations are the first glimpse your guests will have into your special day, making them an ideal opportunity to showcase your commitment to sustainability. Embracing eco-friendly practices when designing and sending out your invitations not only reduces waste but also sets the tone for an environmentally conscious celebration. Consider the following options to make your invitations more sustainable:

Digital Invitations
  • Opting for digital invitations is a simple and effective way to minimize paper waste. Digital invitations are not only eco-friendly but also convenient for your guests, allowing them to RSVP with just a click. Explore a variety of online platforms and design options to create personalized digital invitations that reflect your unique style and vision for your wedding day.
Recycled Paper Invitations
  • If you prefer physical invitations, choose paper made from recycled materials. Recycled paper reduces the demand for new paper production and helps divert waste from landfills. Look for invitations made from post-consumer recycled paper or paper certified by reputable sustainability organizations. These invitations are not only environmentally friendly but also beautifully crafted, ensuring that your wedding stationery makes a positive impact on the planet.
Seed Paper Invitations
  • For a truly unique and eco-friendly option, consider using seed paper for your invitations. Seed paper is embedded with wildflower seeds that can be planted after use, allowing your guests to watch your love bloom long after your wedding day. As the paper decomposes, it nourishes the soil and supports local biodiversity, turning your wedding invitations into a symbol of growth and renewal.
A wedding couple is sitting next to a river in the fall during their eco friendly celebration and they are looking down at their rings.

4. Eco Friendly Wedding Attire

  • Choose wedding attire made from sustainable fabrics or consider renting or buying second-hand.
  • Support designers who prioritize ethical and sustainable practices.

Here are some Options:
Borrowing Magnolia
Rent the Runway

Personal Style & Sustainability

Your wedding attire is not only a reflection of your personal style but also an opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment. By opting for eco-friendly wedding attire, you can showcase your commitment to sustainability while looking and feeling your best on your special day. Consider the following options to make your wedding attire more eco-conscious:

Eco Friendly Fabrics
  • Choose wedding attire made from sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, or Tencel. These materials are grown and harvested using environmentally friendly practices, minimizing the use of pesticides and synthetic chemicals. Not only are sustainable fabrics better for the planet, but they also offer superior comfort and breathability, ensuring that you feel confident and at ease throughout your wedding day.
Second-Hand or Rental Options
  • Embrace the circular economy by opting for second-hand or rental wedding attire. Renting or buying pre-loved wedding attire reduces the demand for new clothing production and extends the lifespan of existing garments. Explore a variety of rental services and consignment shops to find the perfect wedding attire that aligns with your style and budget. By choosing second-hand or rental options, you can reduce waste and support sustainable fashion practices without compromising on style or quality.
Support Ethical Designers
  • Seek out designers who prioritize ethical and sustainable practices in their production processes. Look for brands that use eco-friendly materials, pay fair wages to workers, and prioritize transparency and accountability in their supply chains. By supporting ethical designers, you not only invest in high-quality, responsibly made wedding attire but also contribute to positive change within the fashion industry.
An eco friendly wedding table is set with flowers and food that is locally sourced and organic. A bride is sitting at the table with a stacked tall type of food in front of her.

5. Local and Organic Catering

  • Serve organic, locally sourced food to reduce your wedding’s carbon footprint.
  • Consider a vegetarian or vegan menu to further lessen environmental impact.
Mindful Nourishment

The food you serve at your wedding not only nourishes your guests but also has a significant impact on the environment. Choosing local and organic catering options allows you to minimize your wedding’s carbon footprint while delighting your guests with delicious, sustainably sourced cuisine. Consider the following options to make your wedding catering more eco-friendly:

Organic, Locally Sourced Food:
  • Opt for organic food that is locally sourced whenever possible. Locally sourced food travels shorter distances to reach your plate, reducing fuel emissions associated with transportation and supporting local farmers and producers. Organic farming practices minimize the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, protecting soil health and promoting biodiversity. By choosing organic, locally sourced food, you can ensure that your wedding menu is not only delicious but also environmentally responsible.
Vegetarian or Vegan Menu
  • Consider offering a vegetarian or vegan menu to further lessen the environmental impact of your wedding catering. Plant-based meals require fewer natural resources, produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and have a lower water footprint compared to meat-based dishes. By embracing vegetarian or vegan options, you can reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding celebration while promoting sustainable and cruelty-free food choices. Plus, you’ll impress your guests with creative and flavorful plant-based dishes that showcase the best of seasonal produce.
An eco friendly wedding table is set with glass containers and beeswax candles. The plates are thrifted secondhand and there are little dried flowers as decor.

6. Sustainable Decor

  • Use natural elements like flowers, leaves, and wood for decorations.
  • Rent decor items instead of buying them, or repurpose items you already own.
  • Consider not using any decor, and letting nature’s beauty speak for itself during your celebration!
Decorating Mindfully

Elevate the ambiance of your wedding while minimizing its environmental footprint by embracing sustainable decor practices. From centerpieces to table settings, every decorative element offers an opportunity to showcase your commitment to sustainability and creativity. Consider the following options to make your wedding decor more eco-friendly:

Design with Nature
  • Incorporate natural elements like flowers, leaves, and wood into your decor to bring the beauty of the outdoors inside. Opt for locally sourced and seasonal blooms to reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation. Arrange floral arrangements using earthy hues and organic textures that complement the natural surroundings, creating a rustic yet elegant aesthetic. Incorporate wooden accents such as driftwood, branches, or reclaimed wood furniture to add warmth and authenticity to your decor.
Rent or Repurpose
  • Instead of purchasing decor items that will only be used once, consider renting or repurposing decorations to minimize waste. Renting decor items like table linens, centerpieces, and lighting fixtures not only saves money but also reduces the demand for new production and the accumulation of unnecessary items. Alternatively, repurpose items you already own or borrow decor items from friends and family members to infuse your wedding with personal touches and sentimental value.
Minimalist Approach
  • Embrace the beauty of simplicity by opting for a minimalist decor approach that lets nature’s beauty speak for itself. Consider forgoing elaborate decorations altogether and allowing the natural surroundings to serve as the backdrop for your celebration. Choose a venue with breathtaking views or host your wedding outdoors surrounded by lush greenery or majestic mountains. By embracing a minimalist decor approach, you can create a serene and intimate atmosphere that highlights the inherent beauty of your surroundings.
A simple white paper gift bag for an eco friendly wedding favor has a note on it from the couple. There is trail mix sitting on the rock beside it that says "happy trails".

7. Eco Conscious Wedding Favors

  • Consider forgoing favors all together. Everyone is likely just happy to be there with you anyway.
  • Give guests eco friendly favors such as reusable items, thrifted items, plants, or experience gifts.
  • Consider giving charitable donations in honor of your guests to non-profits you think they would be excited to support.
Share the Love

Show appreciation to your guests while minimizing waste by opting for eco-conscious wedding favors that reflect your commitment to sustainability. From practical items to meaningful gestures, there are various ways to express gratitude to your loved ones while leaving a positive impact on the planet. Consider the following options for eco-conscious wedding favors:

Reusable Items
  • Give guests practical and sustainable gifts that they can use in their everyday lives. Choose reusable items such as stainless steel straws, bamboo utensil sets, or canvas tote bags that help reduce single-use plastic and promote eco-friendly habits. These thoughtful gifts not only demonstrate your commitment to sustainability but also provide long-lasting value to your guests.
  • Gift guests with potted plants or seedlings that they can nurture and enjoy long after your wedding day. Plants not only serve as beautiful reminders of your special day but also contribute to improved air quality and environmental health. Choose native or drought-tolerant plant species that are well-suited to your guests’ local climate and conditions, ensuring their continued growth and vitality.
Experience Gifts
  • Offer guests the gift of experiences rather than material possessions by providing vouchers or certificates for activities or services they can enjoy. Consider options such as cooking classes, wine tastings, or outdoor adventures that align with your guests’ interests and preferences. Experience gifts create lasting memories and foster meaningful connections, making them a thoughtful and sustainable alternative to traditional favors.
Charitable Donations
  • Make a meaningful impact by making charitable donations in honor of your guests to non-profits or organizations that align with your values and causes you’re passionate about. Choose organizations that support environmental conservation, social justice, or community development initiatives, and include personalized thank-you notes or certificates to inform guests of the donation made in their honor. Charitable donations not only support important causes but also inspire generosity and goodwill among your guests.
Forgoing Favors
  • Consider forgoing wedding favors altogether and instead express gratitude to your guests with heartfelt thank-you notes or personal gestures. Let your guests know that their presence and support mean the world to you, and that their participation in your celebration is the greatest gift of all. By eliminating favors, you reduce unnecessary waste and expenses while emphasizing the true essence of your wedding day: the love and connection shared with your closest family and friends.
A couple is facing each other while standing over their own bikes and kissing during their eco friendly wedding.

8. Green Transportation

  • Encourage carpooling or provide a shuttle service for guests.
  • Consider eco-friendly transportation options like bicycles or electric cars to traveling around from place to place. You can actually rent electric cars on the the site Turo.
Prioritize Green Transportation

Reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding celebration by prioritizing green transportation options for you and your guests. From carpooling to eco-friendly vehicle rentals, there are various ways to minimize emissions and promote sustainable travel. Consider the following options for green transportation:

Carpooling and Shuttle Services
  • Encourage guests to carpool or provide a shuttle service to transport them to and from your wedding venue. Carpooling reduces the number of vehicles on the road, cutting down on fuel consumption and emissions. Offering a shuttle service ensures that guests can travel together conveniently and efficiently, while also reducing the environmental impact of individual transportation.
Bicycles and Electric Cars
  • Embrace eco-friendly transportation options such as bicycles or electric cars for traveling between locations. Provide bicycles for guests to use during their stay or arrange for electric car rentals through platforms like Turo. Electric cars produce fewer emissions than traditional gasoline-powered vehicles, making them a more sustainable choice for transportation. By offering alternative modes of transportation, you encourage guests to reduce their carbon footprint while exploring the local area and enjoying the scenic surroundings.
Choose Sustainable Airlines
  • If air travel is necessary for you or your guests, prioritize airlines that prioritize sustainability and environmental responsibility. Research airlines that have implemented measures to reduce fuel consumption, minimize waste, and offset carbon emissions. Choose from one of the most sustainable airlines available to minimize the environmental impact of air travel and support companies that are committed to sustainable aviation practices.
A wedding videographer is filming a couple hugging and kissing each other on a trail in nature with golden light streaming down on them.

9. Local Wedding Vendors

  • Hire someone locally to the area where you want to get married! Not only will this help to minimize the travel required for another person (or multiple), but it will also help ensure your support team knows the location REALLY well.
  • Choose someone who incorporates sustainable practices into their business, like countering your carbon footprint and living an eco friendly lifestyle.
Your Chosen Vendors Matter

Hiring local wedding vendors enriches your celebration with a sense of community and sustainability. These vendors bring invaluable expertise and intimate knowledge of the area, ensuring your day runs smoothly and beautifully. Their familiarity with local resources and hidden gems adds a unique charm to your wedding. Moreover, supporting local businesses fosters economic growth and strengthens community bonds.

Value Match

Choosing vendors who prioritize sustainable practices further aligns your wedding with your environmental values, creating an event that is not only memorable but also mindful of its impact. This conscious decision enhances the authenticity and warmth of your celebration, leaving you with a profound sense of connection and purpose.

A couple is standing at an overlook during their honeymoon and the fog is clearing to show mountains underneath filled with color.

10. Green Honeymoon

  • Make your wedding location ALSO your honeymoon location, so you’re not doing double the amount of travel – just wrap it all into one amazing experience!
  • Extend your eco-friendly approach to your honeymoon by choosing destinations that prioritize sustainability and support eco-tourism.
  • Consider local travel to reduce your carbon footprint or stay at eco-friendly resorts that practice conservation and environmental protection.
Celebrate Sustainably

A honeymoon focused around sustainability allows you to begin your married life with a shared commitment to environmental stewardship. By choosing an eco-friendly destination, you immerse yourselves in natural beauty while supporting conservation efforts and local communities. The serenity and purity of untouched landscapes enhance your connection with each other and the environment. Every moment, from exploring pristine natural wonders to staying in eco-conscious accommodations, is imbued with the knowledge that you are making a positive impact. This shared journey not only deepens your bond but also reinforces your dedication to a sustainable future, creating lasting memories that resonate with purpose and love.

Eco-Tourism Destinations
    • Extend your commitment to sustainability by selecting honeymoon destinations that prioritize eco-tourism and sustainability. Look for locations that implement environmentally friendly practices, such as energy conservation, waste reduction, and protection of local wildlife and habitats. These destinations often offer eco-friendly accommodations, sustainable dining options, and activities that promote environmental education and conservation. By supporting eco-tourism, you contribute to the preservation of natural and cultural resources while enjoying a unique and enriching travel experience.
    Local Travel
    • Consider exploring local or nearby destinations to further reduce your carbon footprint. Traveling closer to home not only lowers emissions from long-distance travel but also allows you to discover hidden gems and beautiful locations within your region. Whether you choose a charming countryside retreat, a scenic coastal getaway, or a tranquil mountain escape, local travel offers the opportunity to connect with nature and experience new adventures without the environmental impact of international travel.
    Eco-Friendly Accommodations
    • Choose to stay at eco-friendly resorts or lodges that are committed to sustainable practices. Look for accommodations that prioritize energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction, and support for local communities. Many eco-friendly resorts offer unique experiences such as farm-to-table dining, wildlife conservation programs, and guided nature tours, allowing you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of your destination while supporting environmental protection efforts. By selecting eco-friendly accommodations, you ensure that your honeymoon leaves a positive impact on the environment and local communities.
    A couple having an eco friendly wedding is hiking across a creek in the woods during winter. They are in their fancy outfits and jumping across rocks.
    A couple is standing silhouetted by plants during a morning sunrise turning from blue to a soft peach during their eco friendly wedding.

    Eco Friendly Wedding Summary

    Creating a sustainable and beautiful wedding is not only possible but incredibly rewarding.

    By making conscious choices and prioritizing eco-friendly practices, you can celebrate your love in a way that honors the planet and inspires others to do the same. Whether you opt for an intimate wedding or an elopement, remember that the most important aspect of your day is the love and commitment you share.

    With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to planning a wedding that’s as meaningful as it is beautiful.




    I believe everyone deserves a wedding experience that feels genuine to them.
    That’s why I help those who value intimate, unique, & adventurous memories
    have a celebration they cherish for a lifetime.
    If you’re dreaming of an elopement immersed in the natural beauty of Western NC,
    get in touch and I’ll help you bring everything to life!




    Let's Start The Journey