Bride and groom holding hands in the golden hour with lake wanaka and the mountains in the background

Sustainable Celebrations: How to Plan a Wedding with Purpose

Wedding Planning

Kirsty Ussher

April 9, 2024

Sustainable Celebrations – Beyond Going Green.

When we talk about sustainable celebrations, it’s easy to focus solely on eco-friendly elements like recycled paper invitations and biodegradable confetti. While these choices certainly play a role, sustainability stretches its wings further. It embraces longevity and responsible practices that not only benefit the planet but also give your local community and your wallet a high-five.

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in the wedding industry towards more mindful spending and eco-conscious decisions. Couples are realizing that sustainability goes beyond environmental concerns; it also includes fiscal prudence and supporting local businesses. By embracing sustainability in your wedding planning, you can create a celebration that’s not only kind to the planet but also gentle on your wallet.

Here are my top tips for crafting sustainable celebrations, delving into how it intertwines with financial sensibility to create weddings that are as responsible as they are rewarding.

Venue Selection – Keeping it Local

When it comes to planning a sustainable celebration, choosing the right venue is key. Opting for a local hall, sports club, or community building can offer numerous benefits for eco-conscious couples.

First and foremost, local community venues come with lower rental fees compared to traditional wedding venues, allowing you to allocate more of your budget towards other priorities like food and decor. Additionally, hosting your celebration in a local venue reduces transportation emissions and supports businesses in your community.

Many local community buildings also come equipped with basic amenities like tables, chairs, and kitchen facilities, reducing the need for additional rentals and minimizing resource waste. Furthermore, these venues typically offer more flexibility in terms of customization, allowing you to personalize your celebration without the constraints of traditional venues. Giving you a completely blank canvas!

Need more help with venue selection? Check out my free downloadable Venue Checklist to help you get started.

Food – Think Local, Eat Fresh

Now, let’s talk about everyone’s favorite part of the wedding – the food! When it comes to sustainable celebrations, prioritizing local ingredients is key. Not only does it support your community, but it also reduces your event’s carbon footprint. Talk about a win for your taste buds and the planet!

Opting for local suppliers means fresher, more flavorful food with fewer chemicals and pesticides. It’s a win-win for your palate, your health and the environment! But hey, we get it – balancing sustainability with your budget can be tricky. That’s why we’re here with some savvy tips to help you dine in style without breaking the bank.

Be sure to choose a caterer who already works with local producers and suppliers. If you can’t find one, consider reaching out to nearby farms and farmers’ markets to source fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and other culinary delights. Many producers are eager to partner with couples planning eco-conscious weddings. Opt for seasonal ingredients to keep costs in check and support local farmers. Look for local favourites to add to your menu, such as a late night snack of Sanga’s Pies or Jimmy’s Pies if you’re getting married in Central Otago. And don’t be afraid to negotiate with local suppliers to find cost-effective solutions that align with your sustainability goals.

Food – Waste Not, Want Not

Did you know that 10% of your delicious wedding food will end up in the bin! But fear not, we’ve got some tricks up our sleeves to help you minimize waste and maximize enjoyment. 

When it comes to reducing food waste, thoughtful planning is key. Work closely with your caterer to determine portion sizes and meal styles that minimize leftovers. Buffet and banquet style meals typically result in a high proportion of waste. Whereas, plated or walk + fork styles keep portions regulated and often result in a clean plate. 

Next, let’s tackle that cake dilemma – the top culprit of food waste at a wedding. Yep, that beautiful cake you splurged hundreds of dollars on. Instead of going big and risking waste, why not opt for cupcakes? They’re cute, they’re delicious, and they’re way easier to portion out for your guests. And if you’re a die-hard wedding cake fan, don’t worry – you can still have your cake and eat it too (pun intended). Just go for a smaller cake and supplement with other treats, like the mouth-watering donuts from our pals at White Rabbit Cakes. And be sure to choose a baker who aligns with your values, like our friend Aimee at Willow Cakes.

Finally, consider donating excess food to local charities or arranging for composting services to ensure that any scraps are put to good use. And don’t forget to communicate your waste reduction goals with your vendors to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Drinks – Sip Sustainably

First off, consider serving drinks in bulk. Think about buying beer kegs from local breweries or hiring trucks with taps and barrels. Not only does this cut down on packaging waste – just imagine all those cans and bottles you’re saving – but it also adds a touch of authenticity to your celebration. Picture your guests enjoying craft beers poured fresh from the tap or signature cocktails mixed on-site from a vintage caravan like Frankie The Nomad. It’s an experience they won’t forget, and it significantly reduces the carbon footprint of your event.

But that’s not all. Serving drinks in bulk is also a fantastic way to support local businesses and keep your money in the community. Here in Wanaka, NZ, for example, we’re lucky to have a number of craft beer breweries in the region that offer kegs, mobile bars, and even tap-trucks for weddings. Take a look at Wanaka Beerworks truck hire. You might even have the chance to create your very own special wedding brew with a local brewer – talk about a unique touch!

Drinks – Reuse and Recycle

Now, let’s talk about reusing when it comes to sustainable celebrations. Instead of disposable cups that end up in the trash after a single use, always opt for glassware. Not only does it elevate the aesthetic of your wedding, but it’s also a sustainable choice. You’ll find many hire companies with a range of glassware to choose from, so you don’t have to buy them.

Another option is to scour local second-hand shops for an eclectic mix of glassware. Not only does it create an interesting aesthetic, but it’s also a great talking point for your guests. And at the end of the wedding, you can keep the ones you love and return the rest back into the community via the second-hand shops.

But wait, there’s more! A fun strategy to consider is providing each guest with a personalized glass or mug that doubles as a wedding favor. These can be used throughout the event, reducing the need for multiple cups per person. Plus, guests can take them home as a cherished keepsake, ensuring that your wedding memories live on long after the celebration ends. And here’s another opportunity to source from a local artisan or producer – keeping it in the community and lowering your carbon footprint even further.

Finally, let’s talk about recycling. Proper waste management is key to minimizing the environmental impact of your wedding drinks service. Make sure to have clearly labeled recycling bins available for guests to separate materials like plastic, paper, and glass. Work closely with your catering services or venue staff to ensure that everything is recycled properly. By taking these steps, you can ensure that as much waste as possible is diverted from landfills and given a new life through recycling.

Design + Styling – Embracing Vintage and DIY

When it comes to decor and styling, embracing vintage and DIY elements is a sustainable and budget-friendly option.

Scouring thrift stores, flea markets, and online marketplaces for second-hand decor pieces adds character to your celebration while reducing waste. Repurposing items like vases, candleholders, and signage not only minimizes resource consumption but also adds a unique touch to your wedding decor. And remember to take them back to the stores after your sustainable celebrations to keep that reuse ethos alive and well.

Engaging friends and family members with creative talents can further enhance the sustainability of your celebration. From crafting DIY centerpieces to creating custom wedding favors, involving loved ones in the planning process fosters a sense of community and reduces the need for mass-produced items.

Stationery + Signage – Going Digital and Eco-Friendly

Stationery and signage are essential elements of wedding planning. But let’s face it, at the end of the night, there’s often a mountain of paper waste left behind as guests leave their name cards and menus untouched. It’s a situation that not only saddens me but also challenges me to find innovative solutions. 

Seed paper is an innovative option that provides your guests with a unique keepsake that can be planted after use. This eco-friendly alternative not only eliminates the need for additional favors but also promotes sustainability by encouraging your guests to grow flowers or herbs from the paper. Try printing your menus, place names or invitations in this way.

Try sourcing vendors who reuse or recycle other signage as part of their process. The materials often used in large signage have an infinite life, so why not keep reusing them. You can also consider having a feature sign from your wedding and turning it into a piece of art for your home. Or alternatively, hire your signage from a from a local vendor like Wanaka Wedding Hire.

Another option is to print one large menu sign or table menus instead of individual menus. This can significantly reduce waste. Particularly if your guest list is above 100. And don’t forget to tell your vendors to recycle at the end of the night!

It just takes a little thought and a focus on the value of sustainability to come up with innovative solutions to these problems. If you need more help, get a wedding planner on board early on – you won’t regret it.

Attire – Sustainable Style

Want to strut down the aisle in style while giving Mother Earth a high-five? Then consider renting or hiring outfits for your bridal party! By opting for rental options, you’re not just saying “I do” to your partner, but also to reducing waste and cutting down on the environmental footprint of producing new clothing. Plus, let’s talk about options – these rental companies have everything, from chic dresses to dapper suits, ensuring you and your crew slay the wedding game without adding to textile waste. Take a look at Nemo Bridal in Queenstown for some inspiration.

Another option is to put your magpie tendencies to good use and start searching through all those online groups offering up pre-loved wedding dresses. Snagging second-hand dresses and suits isn’t just about reducing waste – it’s about giving those gorgeous garments a second chance to shine! With a plethora of online platforms offering a smorgasbord of gently used wedding attire, you’ll be spoilt for choice. So, let’s add some vintage flair to your wedding day and show the world that sustainable celebrations never go out of style!

And if you truly have your heart set on getting your dream dress made, be sure to search out dressmakers with an ethical approach. A sustainable-savvy dressmaker will prioritize using eco-friendly and organic fabrics in their designs while ensuring fair labour practices throughout their supply chain. They will also employ techniques like zero-waste pattern cutting and offer repair services to extend the lifespan of their garments, promoting a circular fashion economy. Make your choice even more sustainable by finding a local business who can meet your needs and align with your vision.

Crafting Your Sustainable Celebration

In wrapping up, let’s toast to the magic of sustainable celebrations that not only dance lightly on the planet but also keep those purse strings happy! Planning a wedding that’s as eco-friendly as it is budget-friendly is like unlocking a treasure trove of local charm and old-school flair. From scouting out funky community halls to indulging in seasonal delights from nearby farms, every decision adds a sprinkle of sustainability and a dash of savings to the mix. 

Plus, by staying local and connecting with the community, you can unlock even more benefits in the long term. Supporting local businesses fosters stronger relationships within the community, creates opportunities for future collaborations, and contributes to the overall well-being of the local economy. Thus, sustainability emerges as a guiding ethos for crafting weddings that are not only socially and ethically responsible but also financially rewarding.

So, let’s raise a glass to love, laughter, and keeping it green without breaking the bank! With a pinch of creativity and a dash of thriftiness, you can craft a wedding that sparkles with joy while leaving behind just a whisper of an environmental footprint and a wallet that’s still happily plump.

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