A guide to my (somewhat) sustainable wedding
What’s the worst part about a wedding? Going to your search engine to look for ‘Wedding ____’ and realising that by typing ‘Wedding’ you are charged the earth!
This is where my research began. We were on a tight budget and couldn’t afford these wedding prices, and to be quite honest, it’s not always worth it and is much more fun to do it yourself.
Don’t get me wrong, the convenience of some aspects can be a lifesaver, especially if you have a large guest list or left something to the last minute. I was lucky enough to have 2 years to plan and create, which definitely helped; it gave me time to get things wrong and try again, and to change my mind countless times!
At the beginning of our engagement, I was very new to the world of sustainability, and most parts of our sustainable wedding were a complete accident. A big part of sustainability is all about reusing and repurposing where you can, and this is something I enjoyed doing before I realised how happy it makes the planet!
All the furniture and almost all the styling in my house is secondhand and/or has been repurposed purely because I love giving things a new lease of life. So, when it came to our wedding, I mainly wanted to keep it simple. I challenged myself to reuse as many of the decorative items as I could, either before or after and both if possible!
With the décor, we wanted our wedding to have rustic, outdoor themes, while also being chic and beautiful; not too rough around the edges! This meant logs everywhere, flowers flowing down the tables, and romantic lighting. This is what it looked like:
The easiest decorative item to have at any themed wedding: the humble glass jam jar!
If you have the time, you can even be picky with the style, shape, and size like I was. The underlying theme to our wedding (and life) is organised chaos. I love things to be mismatched, but with some kind of order – kind of like odd socks, but they have to be from the same pack! In the end we collected almost one hundred.
After after the wedding, some of these we kept to store produce in the kitchen, but the rest unfortunately had to be recycled… My dream was that our first home would have a garden where I would be able to create an Eden of lights, but we ended up moving into a flat with very little storage.
The logs were one of my favourite, but also simplest DIYs.
A neighbour of mine chopped their tree down which is what the place card names are made from; I bought myself a saw, marked how tall I wanted them to be, and sanded the edges. My husband then took them to his workshop where there was a workbench vice (to make sure he had all his fingers by the wedding!) and made the slits where the name cards would go.
I have kept the little logs and put pictures in a few, some friends have taken a handful for the same purpose, and when we have a bigger house I’m going to print more pictures!
The place cards themselves were sold as business cards, and I used my stamp set for the names. If you want a simple way to personalise things such as gift wrap, I would really recommend an alphabetic stamp set!
If I could, I would have had long tree trunks down the aisle, but with both our venue and transporting them in the first place, I had to be realistic… So, my compromise, we had chunky pieces of trunks from a neighbour of my parents (who chopped down lots of trees). My maid of honour decorated the trunks beautifully with some bigger jars, tealights and fairy lights. We didn’t even buy any fairy lights - we just used my parents' Christmas lights!
As a little added extra, we placed a stem of rosemary (lovingly grown by my Mum) on each of the napkins to spruce up the place settings, and made wildflower seed packets for the wedding favours.
We didn’t want the favours to go to waste as very few guests actually take them, so these were great because it meant some people took handfuls and they would keep if they couldn’t plant them all at the same time. I would definitely recommend some kind of plantable favours, or edible for the clean up crew!
During one of my many sessions on Pinterest, I knew I wanted a quirky table plan, and I got my heart set on a pallet. I found a pallet in a skip at work (with permission) which was very old and the wood was warped from the rain, and decided that I was qualified to be able to fix it up – it only just lasted until the wedding when it officially fell apart!
I stained it and decorated with fairy lights and the flowers that I’d dried from our engagement. Our friends had made an amazing flower arch in the woods for our engagement. After, I dried the flowers to keep and reuse for our wedding 2 years later making a really special addition to our day.
A really simple way of giving your guests extra information is to make signs and just put them in picture frames that are in-keeping with your theme. Signs for a Bathroom Refreshment Basket (get deodorant/sprays etc that you would personally use afterwards) or information about the games table. We also created little cards with dietary information for our dessert table that went in some of the extra logs we had.
Have a look in your house (or a friends’ house!) Is there anything you could use for the decorations at your wedding? I didn’t start off with much because I was living in a single room in a shared house. So, I went out to charity shops and scrolled through Facebook Marketplace for decorations, but had in mind: Could I use this afterwards/is this my style for our house? I wanted some of the decorative items to hint at films and books that reflected our personalities and shared interests, and on the most part didn’t need to be matching sets of things which made them easier to find, but also give uses to afterwards.
Flowers & attire
We had flower bouquets for myself and the bridesmaids. After the ceremony, the flowers are so often forgotten which seems like such a waste. So, I bought a couple of vases so that we had somewhere to put the flowers when we got to the reception venue, and they brightened up the dessert table and the gift table.
I also wanted to keep/dry out my flowers (make sure you give this job to someone you trust while you’re on your honeymoon otherwise they will have drooped by the time you get back…) Once my flowers were dried, there wasn’t an urgency to decide what to do with them. If you want them to be preserved while fresh, make sure this is organised before the wedding. My wedding flowers are now arranged in a lovely frame, as well as set in resin as a tealight holder, and earrings!
The Groom’s suit was brand new, however, we bought a style that he would wear again for other events, and where the jacket could be styled with jeans. My earrings were from a small business, and again, are a style that I can wear again in more casual settings and not just for formal events.
We wanted a board game table to keep guests entertained if they didn’t want to dance, and we would really recommend this! Large outdoor games are so popular for summer weddings, but we couldn’t guarantee the weather in October, and we didn’t have any outdoor space. If you don’t want to use games you already have because you're worried about pieces going missing, or sticky cards that’s completely understandable - so did we! I scaled the charity games once again for small games such as packs of cards, boggle, and dominoes and we now have them in our games cupboard!
The people who make large events possible, the vendors! I booked most of the vendors in the very early stages of our wedding planning. We were very limited by our budget and couldn’t be too picky, but we got so lucky!
Both the caterers and bar had reusable equipment; everything was washable! This was something that we weren’t bothered about in the early stages as we were just trying to keep the cost down and assumed this service would cost more, especially as we were having a buffet style wedding breakfast. I dread to think of the waste we would have had to deal with had this not been the case.
Our dessert table was a bring-and-share style which really helped to keep costs down. Before the wedding I coordinated with some of our baker guests asking them to make something to share. This helped to control how much we had so there wouldn’t be too much waste.
A stash of Tupperware just in case there are leftovers are a must. This meant there were still some things fresh enough to eat when we got back from our honeymoon.
What I didn’t want, however, were the desserts being displayed in the tubs they were brought in, so, once again, we raided friends and family cupboards and topped up with some charity shop finds, and the extra ones we have are now beautiful to use for my own baking!
For the future
There are many things we bought or made for our wedding keeping in mind how we could reuse or repurpose them after the day.
As an alternative to a wedding guest book, we borrowed an idea from a friends’ wedding; blow up a picture from your engagement session, or just a favourite picture of you as a couple, pop it in a frame with a mount and get your guests to sign the mount. We now have our frame hanging in our living room with our friends’ and families’ words on display.
With weddings, there are often so many small bits that get forgotten or not much thought goes in to. We had to provide our own knife to cut the cake, and my parents bought one for us that was engraved with our names and wedding date; we now use this as a cake knife, not put in the loft and not seen for 20 years, just use it!
Wedding photography by Colin Sherlock