9 Totally Manageable Ways to Have a More Sustainable Wedding

Going eco-friendly doesn't mean you have to sacrifice style.

A Maggpie Rentals vintage furniture lounge | M2 Photography

While a big blowout wedding is always a night to remember, the waste generated by a one-time-only affair is something we often forget. “I love a beautifully decorated celebration, but the amount of food and decor that often goes into the landfill is outrageous,” says Juliet Pennay, owner of Mount Airy-based eco-friendly event planning company Gleam Sustainable Events.

RELATED: 9 Eco-Friendly Philly Wedding Vendors to Make Your Big Day a Little Greener

Thankfully, plenty of Philly wedding pros are already one step ahead of the issue and are greening their companies to reduce environmental impact, which means that going eco-chic doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to sacrifice style. Here, Pennay shares how — and why — to do it right.

Pick your venue carefully.

According to Pennay, lot of venues can be a lose-lose combo: They’re lax about recycling but have strict policies on donating food. Look for places that either allow outside catering or have LEED certification. (To be certified, companies must meet certain standards in everything from access to quality transit to water-use reduction.) “Check out the Philadelphia Center for Architecture + Design, the Barnes Foundation, Kimpton Hotels, and the Quaker Friends Center to start,” says Pennay. “For other venues, ask specifically about their recycling and composting practices, water usage policies, and what they do with food waste. Venues that have green practices are happy to talk about them.”

Take charge of food waste.

“Try to build a low-impact menu by offering local, in-season fare. Avoid meat where possible to keep your carbon footprint low,” suggests Pennay. Keep in mind, though, that food grown locally on small-lot farms can be expensive, and prepare to budget accordingly.” The next step: Cut down on quantity. “On average, caterers prepare 10 percent more food than is actually necessary. If you’re comfortable asking them not to do this, you can,” she adds.

Once your meal plan is complete, you’ll want to find ways to sustainably handle any leftovers. Work with Grad Hospital-based FoodConnect to repackage and distribute any unserved portions to nonprofit organizations in need, then connect your caterer with Plymouth Meeting-based Back to Earth Compost Crew to pick up the rest of the edibles — starting around $75, this service alone can potentially cut down on pounds of food waste. Finally, if you’ll have bins located anywhere at your venue (like, say, by the dessert table), Pennay suggests designating a couple of floaters to help monitor what goes into Recycle, Compost and Landfill.

Recycle your florals.

“Floral recycling isn’t exactly the right nomenclature — it’s really floral repurposing,” says Pennay, who notes that this is one of the easiest ways to see money spent on flowers stretch while doing something good for your community. “Once you’ve ordered your flowers, call Forget Me Knot Flowers out of Haddonfield. They’ll pick up your flowers from your event, redesign them into new bouquets, then deliver them to places like the local Ronald McDonald House, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or an assisted living facility, to brighten someone’s day.”

If you really want a sustainable gold star, ask for seasonal, locally grown blooms in your arrangements wherever possible, or work with florists like Vault + Vine and Jig-Bee Flowers, who prioritize this practice.

Know you’re already doing some things right.

Good news! Furniture and dishware rentals are something you’re likely already planning on, and they’re also already the most sustainable option for an event. “They’re a huge eco-friendly win, since they’re reused over time rather than bought once and discarded,” says Pennay, who recommends A to Z Party Rental and Maggpie Rentals.

Think twice before you DIY.

“Doing it yourself is generally wasteful and involves single-use paper products you toss later,” says Pennay. (We’ll note it can also be costly and time-consuming.) Instead, she suggests purchasing decorative items you can later integrate into your home. They’ll be a sweet reminder of the day, and they’ll cut down on waste.

Don’t hurt yourself trying.

It’s often unrealistic — and can just be plain exhausting — to plan a fully eco-first wedding. Pick your priorities, and focus on those. “Each couple has to make it their own,” says Pennay. “They might really focus on food recycling, or go big with florals and decor.” Finally, remember that every little bit makes a difference — and is miles better than doing nothing at all.

Originally published as “How Do I Have a More Sustainable Wedding?” in the Winter/Spring 2019 issue of Philadelphia Wedding.

Get more great content from Philadelphia Wedding: 

Getting married? Start and end your wedding planning journey with Philadelphia Weddings' guide to the best wedding vendors in the city.