Something old, something new, something borrowed, something green? With the state of the planet on so many people's minds, it's not surprising...

Share story

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something green? With the state of the planet on so many people’s minds, it’s not surprising that more couples are considering ways to make their wedding day more environmentally conscious.

But that doesn’t have to mean a hemp gown or vegan dinner. Now, brides and grooms can pick elements that work with their own style and the tone of their wedding.

“Every single choice, from the type of invitations you send to the flowers in your bouquet, can be Earth-friendly but very romantic and dreamy, too,” says Debi Lilly, of A Perfect Event in Chicago.

Here are a few of what we think are the best ideas on Earth for protecting the Earth.


Exchange vows outdoors, in the morning or afternoon. The sun replaces electric light, and if you choose a temperate time of year, you may also avoid the need for air-conditioning or heating.

At an evening wedding, consider keeping artificial light to a minimum. Instead, use softly glowing soy or beeswax candles, which, unlike those made of paraffin wax, come from renewable sources.


An intimate event requires fewer resources almost across the board. But even if you can’t cut your guest list, there are ways to reduce your consumption. Lilly suggests a cocktail reception, where revelers mix while nibbling hors d’oeuvres.

Since not everyone will sit down to eat at once, you can use fewer, smaller tables. The result: not as many tablecloths to launder, and more-compact, less-wasteful centerpieces. Your guests may have more fun, too.

“I can’t tell you how popular this style of reception is,” Lilly says. “It’s such a high-energy party.”


It’s still not easy to find a huge selection of nice invitations printed on recycled paper, especially formal ones. But there are other ways to save trees, says Emily Anderson, author of “Eco-Chic Weddings” (Hatherleigh Press, 2007).

When you register, make a note asking that gifts not be wrapped. Cut down on the unwanted catalogs and credit-card solicitations by asking the stores you register with not to share your address.


Before her wedding, Denver bride Kim McLawhorn compensated for her guests’ expected fuel consumption by using Mapquest to determine about how many miles each person would be traveling. Then she bought carbon offsets from NativeEnergy, a Vermont company that uses these proceeds to fund cleaner, renewable-energy projects, such as wind farms.


Food and flowers grown nearby require less transportation — and thus fuel — and as a bonus are generally fresher. Use local vendors for other wedding services such as videography and music.


Skip the throwaway tchotchkes in lieu of a donation in guests’ names to an organization such as the World Wildlife Fund. Or, if you’d like your guests to go home with a small keepsake, try tiny potted herbs, tree seedlings in biodegradable containers or edible gifts such as fair-trade coffee or organic chocolate.


Yes, you should ask your caterer to separate bottles and cans at the reception and to ferry the leftover food to a shelter. But there are so many other unexpected — and beautiful — ways to reuse items, says Anderson. You can wear your mother’s gown or a vintage dress, and you can repurpose your flowers.

Add some foliage to your ceremony arrangements for the reception, and consider donating your blooms. For example, an organization in New York City and Los Angeles called will pick up your arrangements for a small contribution and deliver them to the sick and elderly.

Besides the feel-good bonus of re-gifting beautiful flowers and benefiting the environment, you may get a tax write-off. Check for similar charities in your area or call a nursing home for suggestions on how to donate.