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How To Plan An Eco-Friendly Wedding

“I’m only getting married once” you whisper to yourself as you hit ‘buy’ on another Shein haul. But perhaps your mind says this should be the last one? Let’s explore how to have a sustainable, earth-friendly, eco-conscious wedding – without costing the Earth, both literally and figuratively, and letting you plan with a clean conscience.

Plastic and Throw-Away Items

First of all, we’re going to look at plastic, and things that will get thrown away after the wedding. As you already know, by reducing these items and replacing them with more sustainable options, your wedding will immediately have a lighter environmental impact.


So, what are these items, and more importantly, what can be used instead?

Artificial confetti, garlands and flowers

Yes, I know, they’re super popular, and so much cheaper than using real flowers. But I’m going to let you in on a secret here: They make your wedding look cheap. I know, darling, that’s a harsh thing to say, but nevertheless the truth – and spoken by someone who has followed orders and set up hundreds of weddings using faux flowers, artificial (yes, that means plastic) garlands and separated and sprinkled “silk” faux petals (yes, that is also code for plastic). Trust me, it doesn’t look good, it doesn’t feel good, and it certainly does nothing for our planet.


So what do we replace them with? Garlands and faux flowers are most often used on tables and to dress up other parts of your venue, like guest book table, cake table, arches and windowsills. Replacing them with real, seasonal foliage will instantly glow-up your spaces.


There are incredible florists out there, working with British and home-grown blooms only, such as Sarah Harper Flowers and Howe Farm Flowers.


But if we’re thinking along the vein of keeping cost down, then I would suggest buying herbs – or planting from seed, as they’re easy – salvaging or charity-shop finding pots and planters, and fill your tables and surfaces with an eclectic mix of texture, colour and greenery to replace the faux stuff.


In summer, make the most of your own or parents’ garden, or local flower farms, and use reliable cut flowers like sweetpeas and dhalias to fill jars and bud vases to dot around with candles in varying heights (if venue allows) and set it all off with gorgeous glassware.


In winter, lean into the candles and glassware even more, and use seasonal evergreens to intersperse among the glass.


For your confetti, I see it as a scale of less to more biodegradable. Naturally, the faux silk petals are the worst. They’re plastic, and they’ll end up in the bin afterwards. Avoid at all cost. Next up, we’ve got the so-called ‘biodegradable’ paper confetti. Sadly, I’ve seen this stuff hang around on the ground for months, and causing further problems with clogged up drains and blowing into grazing fields, where the animals have proceeded to eat it. So again, not ideal, but better than the faux petals (and I’m fully aware that most photographers push hard for this type of confetti!). Moving onto real petals, especially native lavender and hydrangeas, are fully biodegradable, and don’t cause any further issues. You can of course go one step further and throw seeds, which the birds will love and help hoover up afterwards, but a rather tough job for the photographer to capture, and not all that comfortable when it’s stuck in your hair, dress and suit afterwards either!

Flip-flops, foam glow sticks and favours

There was a time when every couple felt that a basket of flip-flops, or slippers, was a must for the evening reception. Complete with a cute sign saying ‘for your dancing feet’. And in the last couple of years, a whole load of foam glow sticks for the dance floor.


And while I hate to break it to you, the reality is that a very small handful of people will actually appreciate and use these items. Instead, the glow sticks will be picked up for a song, and then they’ll end up littered around your venue, with small batteries popping out of them like alkaline confetti, to join the flip-flops that have already been displaced and discarded on the floor. So, save yourself the money, and save the planet, by avoiding purchasing this type of throw-away plastic altogether.


I’m afraid my crusade against plastic doesn’t stop there. Let’s talk favours. A traditional wedding item, for sure, and something that can feel lovely to give to people, and help personalise your day. But things that seem like an excellent idea when you’re sat at home on the sofa, can end up feeling differently on the wedding day. Key rings, book marks, badges, mini alcohol bottles, cellophane-wrapped sweets, bottle-openers, candles… the list goes on, and it breaks my heart when I see half of these thoughtful, thought-out items get left behind. And eventually end up in the bin. So let 2024 and beyond be the year that normalises no favours, saving more money; or choose to focus on edible items in recyclable materials (hello Ladurée macarons in their beautiful card box homes, or wildflower seeds in pretty paper sleeves).


Next, let’s explore what is actually worth buying, and what’s better to hire.

Hiring vs Buying

You’ve seen the beautiful hire collections favoured by wedding planners, and scrolled through to select stunning patterned plates, the perfect charger plate, the elegant crystal glasses and the gold cutlery. You request a quote – and nearly fall off your chair at the total. Meanwhile, a girl on TikTok is showing another #weddinghack and what she bought at IKEA for only £2.  Two pounds?! That versus the quote you just received? IKEA wins. It seems like a no-brainer, right?


Well. This requires some thinking. Money is motivation. So let’s start there. Hiring luxe items (like, ahem, Duchess & Butler) uplevels your wedding instantly. But there is a price tag attached to the looks. Let’s just say IKEA does not do Duchess & Butler. Equally, IKEA prices everything for home-use, so most items come in sets – which often includes plates or cutlery that you don’t need. That means that perhaps the cost per plate is lower, but you’re also paying for unnecessary plates.

The other problem with IKEA and its ilk, is the packaging, and the no-return once opened. A mountain of plastic and cardboard is accumulated when unboxing items… and then you’re lumped with a whole load of dinnerware afterwards that you will never need again, requiring cleaning, storing and, maybe, if you have the energy and you’re lucky, selling for perhaps half price.


The mere thought of standing for an entire day washing glasses and plates the day after my wedding, potentially nursing a mild hangover, makes me break out in a cold sweat. An unattractive picture, I know, and that’s not what you’re interested in hearing about – you want solutions!


So here is my solution: Find a local hire company. There are hundreds out there. In Oxfordshire, my favourite is Chipping Norton Event Hire. As a matter of comparison, their Champagne saucers (used for a Champagne tower or Espresso Martinis) are £0.30 each. IKEA’s cheapest Champagne saucers are £2 each. Based on, let’s say, 120 guests, you’ve saved yourself £204. With the added bonus of saving the planet from further plastic and packaging, further throw-away homeware; and saving yourself the hassle of cleaning, storing and re-selling. Now who’s winning, TikTok girl?

The hiring principle can be applied to many other instances too… Remember this - when Shein is whispering its siren call with bargain basement price hurricane vases and LED candles - that buying these items adds to the maelstrom of mass-produced cheap items flown in from China, where sustainable factory practices and fair labour wages are virtually non-existent, and leads you sitting with a whole load of rubbish and random wedding items cluttering up your home afterwards. They’ll be a happy reminder of an amazing day in the weeks after your wedding, however, they quickly turn into an annoyance and headache a few months later. But I’ll stop the preaching and let you think for yourself from here!

Dresses and Outfits

Remember the ‘I’m only getting married once’ thought? This is when I’d like you to really lean into that thought. You ARE only getting married once. If you’re a bride and reading this, then please don’t hold back when you’re choosing your dress. Think carefully, think long, and think beyond the price tag.


What do I mean by that? Well, perhaps it’s easier if I flip it: What I DON’T want you to do is skip along to the nearest Wed2B shop. While the £800 price tag (pardon me, £799) might seem crazy to ignore, let’s stop and think about this for a second. You only get married once, so this is when quality should mean everything. It’s a major purchase, a major experience, so please do your research carefully.


Britain is blessed with incredible wedding dress designers, such as Halfpenny London, Jenny Packham, Suzanne Neville, Phillipa Lepley, Temperley London… the list goes on. And they’ve got solid sustainability practices in place. Their consciousness goes beyond the design being British. But yes, it all comes with a price tag to match. If the £3000+ mark is out of reach, then don’t give up. There are still beautiful, sustainable dresses for you.


First of all, you can consider sample dresses. These are dresses that have been used in the boutiques to show off the various styles, that then get sold ‘off the rack’ when they’re not needed anymore. You can scoop up incredible designer dresses with a major discount this way.


Another way of getting your hands on an incredible dress, at an incredible price, is to visit Brides do Good. The exquisite gowns are donated by brands and individuals, and the money they get from selling these dresses (at half of their RRP) go to charitable causes. I can only encourage you to read more, and browse the beautiful gallery of dresses!


If you would still like that incredible boutique experience, then I can also warmly recommend that you visit a boutique like Love and Loved Bridal, that only stock eco-conscious, sustainable dresses. Alternatively, if you’re an online shopping wiz, you’ve got fabulous and fun British options like Catherine Deane.


And finally, I could not write about a sustainable wedding without mentioning buying pre-loved. You’ve got the power of Vinted at your fingertips, and fabulous Temperley London, Emilia Wickstead and Jenny Packham dresses all pop up regularly there! Not to mention Manolo Blahnik shoes. If you’ve stumbled across my social media channels, you’ll also know that I’m a big fan of the second dress – let your personality shine – and buying pre-loved here might just save your sanity and your budget!


My final tip would be to also have a snoop at Recycle My Wedding – Rock My Wedding’s sister. The décor on sale can be a little pricey, but the dresses are excellent! (And did you know your wedding will have a higher chance of being featured on Rock My Wedding if your dress or items are available on Recycle My Wedding afterwards?)


Finally, let’s look at food and drinks.

Food and Catering Choices

Weddings require fabulous feasts and plenty of drinks – key elements to a fantastic celebration! But a little thought here goes a long way.


Firstly, check where and how your shortlisted caterers source their meat and other key ingredients. Not only will it determine the quality of their ingredients, it says a lot about their environmental impact too. It can also be worth snooping a little, and see if they recycle, and double checking that they prepare all their food from scratch.


If your favourite caterer is bound to certain suppliers, and you’re not sure of their welfare standards, could you amend the menu, and make it vegetarian?

Pearl-edged plate with vegetarian menu surrounded by potted herbs on table


Secondly, while food vans often seem like a great option, particularly at night, beware of all the receptables! Seeing hundreds of Styrofoam containers scattered about don’t really add to the aesthetics, just to landfill. A quick check on this – and planning on how to handle the rubbish afterwards – will make for a smoother experience all around.


This also applies if you’ve got a marquee or tipi at home: Make a plan for how you’re going to take care of rubbish and recycling throughout the wedding day, and afterwards!


Now let me wrap this all up for you.

Top Tips for Planning an Eco-friendly Wedding

As promised, here are my top tips for planning an eco-friendly wedding:


🌍 Avoid plastic and throw-away items. You don’t need silk petals, faux garlands, flip-flops and foam glow sticks to have an awesome wedding

🌍 Replace faux flowers with the real deal (herbs, wildflowers, cut flowers or hedgerow-foraged foliage)

🌍 Consider hiring the majority of your items instead of buying

🌍 Be savvy: Favour sustainable, eco-conscious, British designs; and consider buying pre-loved

🌍 Consider your caterers, menu and how to handle rubbish


Is there anything you feel I’ve missed? Please send your thoughts my way!


Warmest wishes,



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