How to Have a Plastic-Free Wedding: 6 Tips From an Ethical Wedding Consultant

If Princess Eugenie enacted this eco-friendly trend, you can, too

Updated 10/30/18

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

Ever the modern bride, Princess Eugenie of York's royal nuptials made headlines just a few short weeks ago, not only for her stellar gown, but also for her decision to host a plastic-free wedding. If royalty can make an effort to go green and eliminate plastic, then you and your partner easily can (and should), too. And, aside from participating in the very relevant straw-swapping crusade (#SaveTheTurtles and go metal), there are many other feasible ways to make your big day plastic-free.

For couples wanting to reduce their carbon footprints (or simply hop on the anti-plastic bandwagon because it's backed by a princess), we spoke with Praise Santos, photojournalist and founder of the Ethical Weddings movement, which advises couples on ways to minimize their wedding-day impact. Here, Santos offers her insight on the environmental benefits of a plastic-free wedding, as well as easy solutions and sustainable alternatives for a more eco-friendly celebration. And, if you're not yet fully sold on decreasing your wedding-day plastic use, we encourage you to read on for a likely change in mentality.

Why Go Plastic-Free?

Santos cited data that a culmination of plastic twice (twice!) the size of Texas is currently drifting through the Pacific Ocean. Please let that sink in for a moment.

"It's our responsibility as citizens to use less and less materials that will contribute to this 'floating state,'" she says. "There's so many great alternatives out there for plastic."

How to Eliminate Plastic on Your Wedding Day

From your dress (yes, there's typically plastic involved) to your dinnerware, Santos dishes on easy ways to remove this material from your wedding.

Start With the Right Vendors

Going plastic-free starts with researching teams that can bring your vision to life. “When a couple is planning their wedding, a big thing is to ask vendors ahead of time...if they recycle or have alternatives,” says Santos. She adds that it’s also important to see if your venue offers on-site recycling bins or can provide recycling containers. A quick “eco-friendly wedding planners” Google search is a step in the right direction.

Rely on Reusable Cups and Straws During Cocktail Hour

“You have to estimate that guests will have at least two drinks per hour,” Santos says. “So, if you have 100 guests, that's already 200 drinks.” That's a lot of plasticware.

A more earth-friendly alternative that your nearest and dearest will also love? A real-life bride and close friend of Santos gave each wedding attendant their own glass cup at cocktail hour to use for the evening. Instead of a bartender, guests refilled their own glasses from premixed cocktail stations. Reusable cups, along with metal or aluminum straws, can also double as wedding favors, with plenty of post-wedding shelf life.

Shop for Eco-Friendly Wedding Ensembles

Surprise—you may not be aware that certain synthetic fabrics, like polyester, involve plastic. As with your vendors, mapping out sustainable clothing brands, especially ones that use compostable fabrics, for your wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses is key. Santos recommends Celia Grace, an ethical wedding dress brand that creates gowns from materials like pineapple fibers (who knew!?). Or, there's Reformation, whose sustainability-focused collection doesn't fall short on style and affordability. According to Santos, the brand even delivers your order in an eco-friendly garment bag.

Ditch Plastic Garment Bags

Speaking of, plastic garment bags for bridesmaid dresses will probably get tossed in the bridal suite trash can shortly after hair and makeup. Encourage your girls to bring their own reusable gown storage in order to decrease your plastic use. Or, consider giving them garment bags as bridesmaid gifts.

Store Favors in Reusable Bags

The same sentiment goes for your wedding favors, especially if you're treating guests to an edible gift. "A lot of food is bought in bulk at the grocery store in [plastic] bags," says Santos. "I know couples who have done DIY wedding food favors, and even then it’s about using compostable bags."

Rentals. Rentals. Rentals

One of the easiest solutions for swapping out plastic starts with your dinnerware. Rely on reusable rentals or, Santos suggests, look for utensils made from environmentally friendly materials, like bamboo or palm leaves.

Ultimately, if you plan to eliminate plastic at your wedding, Santos advises seeking eco-friendly safety in numbers. "Find a community of people who are in this, too, because trying to do it alone is really hard," she admits. "Whenever you're doing something that's a bit against the grain, finding other people makes a big difference." On the bright side, though, a passion for going green has been on the rise recently, so you shouldn't be too hard-strapped finding fellow plastic-free enthusiasts before your big day.

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