The wedding industry remains fraught with waste, but a growing contingent of brides and grooms is pushing for more sustainable changes, from the way they invite guests to the food they serve and the clothes they wear.
The wedding resource The Knot estimates that more than two-thirds of about 15,000 site users did or planned to incorporate eco-conscious touches, including secondhand decor, minimizing food waste and avoiding one-time use products. Nearly 1 in 3 said vendors should be more proactive in leading the way.
After two chaotic years for the wedding industry, searches on Pinterest for thrifted weddings have tripled, and they’ve doubled for reuse wedding dress ideas, according to the site’s 2022 wedding trends report. The online resale giant Poshmark said demand for secondhand wedding dresses is at an all-time high, especially for those costing $500 or more.
Lauren Kay, executive editor of The Knot, said more venues, caterers and other vendors are taking notice.
“A lot of vendors are really educating themselves on ways to be more sustainable in an effort to meet the demand,” she said. “We’re seeing across the board much more interest and recognition around sustainability.”
For example, Something Borrowed Blooms offers silk florals rather than fresh cut flowers, which often travel long distances and are arranged using non-recyclable foam. Nova by Enaura rents bridal veils. VerTerra sells bowls and compostable plates made of fallen palm leaves, while Pollyn, a plant shop in Brooklyn, uses biodegradable nursery pots as more couples turn to plants in place of cut flowers.
If paper goods are a must, Paper Culture makes invitations, save the dates and reception cards using 100% post-consumer recycled paper. The company offsets its manufacturing and transportation carbon footprint through credits that put resources back into the planet, and it plants a tree with every order.
For 28-year-old Anna Masiello, getting it right for her wedding was an extension of a more climate-friendly lifestyle she embraced several years ago after moving from her native Italy to Portugal to earn a master’s degree in environmental sustainability.
“I really started to learn about climate change and the real impacts of it. We hear so much about it but sometimes it’s so overwhelming that we decide not to learn more or to understand it,” she said. “I just said, OK, it’s time to act.”
She took her journey to social media, using the handle hero_to_0, in reference to zero waste, and has amassed more than 70,000 followers on TikTok and nearly 40,000 on Instagram for her regular updates on her life and wedding planning.
Masiello’s naturally dyed lavender wedding outfit of a long skirt and matching top is made of deadstock linen (material that factories or stores weren’t able to use or sell). The trousers and shirt her fiance will wear are secondhand. The rings they exchanged belonged to two of their grandparents.
Her fiance carved her engagement ring out of wood from a tree her parents planted when she was born. Her video about it has been viewed more than 12 million times.
The couple’s 50 guests at the outdoor ceremony in an uncle’s yard threw confetti punched out of fallen leaves, and the decor included wood, used glass jars, and plants from the garden. In place of paper goods, they went digital. And no favors were handed out.
To help take the carbon sting out of some guests’ plane travel, the couple plans to plant trees.
Not all of Masiello’s feedback on social media has been positive. Some have mocked her efforts. But she has embraced that conversation.
“When I started sharing and I saw that it was impacting so many people, and also so many people were having a very negative reaction, I was like, OK, this is really stirring people’s emotions. I have to talk more about it, and I’m very glad I’m doing it,” she said.
In Los Angeles, 31-year-old Lena Kazer has thought about it, too, for her wedding in her backyard with 38 guests.
“Both of us are a little disgusted by the extravagance of the wedding industry,” she said. “We agreed we would use the resources that we have and avoid buying anything that we won’t continue to use.”
They are using compostable or recyclable utensils, cups and plates. They’re batching cocktails to reduce waste, and are using their own furniture for seating. Kazer’s bouquet has been be made of real flowers, but she has kept flower purchases to a minimum.
“We’re buying almost all decorations at thrift stores, and I’m wearing my sister’s wedding dress and my mom’s veil,” she said. “We told everyone they could wear whatever they wanted after hearing about people spending thousands of dollars on new outfits for weddings.”
Other ideas for green weddings include using seed paper, which can be planted by recipients, and serving organic, seasonal, farm-to-table food, with leftovers donated.
Kat Warner, whose T. Warner Artists provides entertainment for weddings along the East Coast, offers options ranging from solar-powered lighting to full solar receptions. She also uses carbon offsets, donating to funds that support such things as reforestation and bird conservation.
Warner said couples are asking more questions, including “what various parts of their weddings can be recycled, composted or reused.”
Greater Good Events, which bills itself as “event planners for those who give a damn,” takes a holistic approach in Portland, Oregon, and the Tri-State region of New York. Waste in weddings isn’t always tangible, said Maryam Mudrick, who bought the company with Justine Broughal in September.
“If you’re working with vendors with bad labor practices that are not reinvesting in communities, you’re creating some ancillary waste in that regard as well,” Mudrick said.
One of their catering partners, Pinch Food Design, has a zero waste pledge, which includes designing menus to limit food waste, donating used cooking oil for biodiesel, and supporting sustainable and regenerative farming.
Florist Ingrid Carozzi of Tin Can Studios in Brooklyn cited other issues with floral arrangements beyond the use of non-biodegradable foam, such as bleaching and chemically dyeing flowers to achieve unnatural colors.
“It’s terrible for the environment, and working with these materials isn’t good for you,” she said. “Some florists are working towards sustainable methods, doing everything they can. There’s a real mix now.”
Kate Winick and her fiance had a rule for their May 22 backyard wedding at a home in Northport, New York: If it’s destined to get thrown out or be used only once, skip it or buy secondhand.
“I don’t think living sustainably means you need a crunchy aesthetic,” she said. “It just means using what is already in the world. The most sustainable purchase is something that already exists.”