6 Tips for Throwing a Plastic-Free Wedding

An ethical wedding consultant weighs in.

Handmade blue and white ceramic dinnerware

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

Whether you prioritize sustainability in your everyday life or simply want to reduce the amount of waste that results from your wedding, you may be looking for ways to be more eco-friendly on your big day. One of the most impactful changes you can make is eliminating single-use plastic from your celebration. Princess Eugenie of York's royal nuptials made headlines in 2018 for it being a plastic-free wedding, and more and more couples have made the same decision.

Aside from obvious things like opting for paper straws, there are many feasible ways you can throw an awesome wedding sans plastic. To help couples who want to reduce their carbon footprints, we spoke with ethical wedding consultant Praise Santos. Here, Santos offers insight on the environmental benefits of a plastic-free wedding, plus easy solutions and sustainable alternatives for a more eco-friendly celebration.

Meet the Expert

Photojournalist and wedding photographer Praise Santos is the owner of ComePlum Photography and the founder of Ethical Weddings, a service that helps couples throw more sustainable celebrations.

Whether you have your heart set on going plastic-free or aren't yet fully sold, read on for six ultra-attainable ways to reduce your plastic use and be more environmentally friendly on your wedding day.

Why Go Plastic-Free?

Santos cited data that shows a culmination of plastic twice (twice!) the size of Texas, known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, 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 are so many great alternatives out there for plastic." Your wedding is supposed to be a magical day, but knowing you're contributing to pollution can be kind of a buzzkill. By opting for plastic alternatives, you'll feel good about your celebration, and the Earth will be better off, too.

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 guest 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.

Consider offering guests reusable cups with metal or aluminum straws as wedding welcome gifts that they can use throughout the event. They'll have plenty of post-wedding shelf life, too.

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 gown brand that creates dresses 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 their plastic use.

Give each member of your wedding party their own reusable garment bag (personalized for a fun touch) as a creative and sustainable bridesmaid gift.

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. You can also be more sustainable by opting for rented decor.

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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