bride and groom at their sustainable wedding surrounded by nature in the fall

Sustainability

7 High-Impact Sustainable Wedding Tips

January 5, 2023

HEY! I'M JESS
I'm your Minneapolis Wedding Photographer pumped to provide an inclusive, sustainable and SUPER FUN wedding day experience with you at the center!

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Starting your lives together is one of the most exciting and gratifying things to celebrate in life! But it can also come with a cloud of uncertainty and anxiety, especially related to climate and environmental impact. 

Well, you’re in luck! A responsible and sustainable wedding celebration is in your reach, and there are lots of people out there who want to help you! Keep reading to learn my 7 best tips for hosting a sustainable wedding, with focus on high-impact items.

I also provide awesome, Twin Cities-based sustainable wedding vendors! If you’re not in the Twin Cities area, you can still apply the tips to your area!

Together, we can make the wedding industry more sustainable, one celebration at a time! Let’s gooooo!

Here’s Where We’re Headed:

  1. Keep it local
    1. Choose a central location
    2. Local and seasonal floral
    3. Local and seasonal food
  2. Limit your guest count
  3. Refuse, reuse, recycle
  4. Manage waste responsibly
  5. Hire sustainable wedding vendors
  6. Tell your guests about your sustainable wedding
  7. Hire a sustainable wedding photographer

wedding couple walking together with a fall colored bouquet

Keep it Local

Travel is by far the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions related to events. Knowing this, keep your event as central to your guests as possible, and ask your guests to carpool when they can!

Locality also goes for your vendors and items like food and floral. Choosing local and seasonal flowers means your blooms will be the very best they can, and you’ll be supporting your local economy of growers and designers! Not to mention that Minnesota-grown flowers have a significantly smaller travel carbon footprint compared to those shipped from South America! 

Not sure where to start? Try the Twin Cities Floral Exchange Seasonal Flower Guide!

Similarly, choosing a local and seasonal menu means your food will taste better. Have you ever bitten into a strawberry in winter and just thought it was sour or bitter? Seasonal means less waste from simply gross-tasting food, and you’ll be supporting your local economy of farmers, growers, and chefs! 

What food is going to be in season on your date? Check out Chowgirls Catering’s Seasonal Food Calendar!


Wedding couple doing twirls in a field and laughing with each other

Limit your guest count

By limiting your guest count, you’re already reducing travel, so that’s huge! Beyond that, you can generally just have less stuff. Fewer invitations to print, fewer people buying one-time outfits, fewer mouths to feed, fewer tables to decorate, etc. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean your wedding will be less expensive per guest. However, you can stretch it simply because feeding 70 people is less expensive than feeding 150 people.

This tip will either reduce your budget, or help you create an even better experience for those with whom you choose to celebrate. 

Bonus: I’ve found that my couples who keep their guest lists at or less than 100 tend to have a more enjoyable and memorable day rather than having it slip right past them. 


jeweled wedding flat shoes surrounded by fall colored flowers

Refuse, Reuse, Recycle

You’re probably used to seeing “reduce, reuse, recycle.” So let’s take it a step further and go for the following attitude with your wedding:

If it’s not a “fuck yeah,” then it’s a “fuck no.”

More softly, Marie Kondo your wedding before it even begins! If you’re deciding whether or not to include an element that you found on the internet or that your friend says you MUST HAVE, take a step back and ask yourself what that thing is really contributing to your wedding. 

If it is a “fuck yeah” item, see if there is a way that you can buy it second hand, rent it, or resell it after your wedding. 

Thinking of a custom sign that says “Welcome to the wedding of Jess & Jake, May 23, 2009,” ask yourself what is going to happen to that sign after your wedding. Trash, that’s what. Even if it’s 5 years later, it will not be useful after your wedding day. Instead, consider hiring a calligrapher to make you a custom sign that can be erased and repainted for another couple!

Ask yourself:

  • Will this item add to the experience of our day, either in function or fun?
  • What will happen to this item when our day is over?
  • Is there any hidden waste, like packaging or floral foam that needs considering?

Be creative, and find ways to create a circular economy out of the items you include in your wedding day!


Groom and his groomsmen walking forward and using "finger guns" having fun in a field

Manage Waste Responsibly

Ok, so now you are only including what you actually need for your wedding day, it’s time to talk about how to manage what you are including. This is where the real work between you and your vendors comes in! 

Organic material, such as food, food products, and flowers, should be composted, either by a commercial facility, or perhaps on site if you’re getting married at a farm or winery. Why?

Sending these items to landfill, where there is no oxygen, causes the materials to break down anoxically (without oxygen). This is a process which releases methane instead of carbon dioxide. 

Methane is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide by about 80 times over 20 years. Aside from that, organic material in the landfill is now forever useless. Composting organics means they can be broken down and reused to grow more food, trees, flowers, you name it! 

How’s that for supporting the circle of life?!

After everything that can be composted is, well, composted, recycling should come next. When single-use items are necessary, opt for glass bottles and aluminum cans, which are more recyclable than plastic. 

I won’t go into too much detail here, other than to say that metal and glass can be melted down and reformed into a new product an infinite number of times without losing strength. With plastic, we are not so lucky. 

Lastly, whatever isn’t composted or recycled will be sent to landfill. The goal should be to have the absolute MINIMUM go to the landfill.

For more:

If your venue or caterer does not already have composting and recycling programs and training, encourage them to learn more by contacting WasteWise Minnesota. WasteWise can help them with funding, education, and implementation to make a more sustainable wedding industry for all!

And remember, when you are a part of helping your own venue and caterer incorporate these practices for your wedding, you are also affecting every wedding and event after yours! How awesome is that?!


beautiful fall colored wedding bouquet held by a bride in a field

Choose Sustainable Wedding Vendors

This may seem a bit obvious, but choose vendors who have built-in support for your sustainable wedding dreams. You shouldn’t need to fight your vendors to get what you know is best for you (and the planet).

Instead, search for and hire planners who will help you find awesome rentals and show you creative ways to minimize what you purchase and include in your day.

Hire a florist who doesn’t use floral foam in their practice, and who can educate you on the very best local and seasonal arrangements for your custom day!

Hire a venue and a caterer who already have robust composting and recycling programs with staff that are 100% behind the mission of reducing items going to landfill.

Red Flag: if a vendor is charging you MORE to implement sustainable practices, they do not care about sustainability the way you need them to. For example, if a bar service charges you more to have compostable single-use cups because they are more expensive to purchase, they are not factoring in the environmental cost of plastic single-use cups. Feel me on this one?

Where to start? Here are some amazing Twin Cities based vendors who can help build your sustainable wedding!

Food & Beverage

Chowgirls Catering
Common Roots Catering
GastroTruck
Root to Rise Kitchen
Amy’s Cupcake Shoppe
Sober Sallys
SK Coffee
Steady Pour

Decor & Floral

The Fond Collective
Revelyn
Boho Rental Co.
Ediflorial
Minne Floral Co.
Kindred Blooms
JNY Studios
Silk Stem Collective

Planning & Design

LUUM COLLECTIVE
Realm Planning
Kahani Events & Design
Lucent Blue Events


Rainbow themed wedding party in a formal portrait in a field

Tell your guests about your sustainable wedding

After you’ve hired the perfect team and planned the perfect day, make sure you communicate your intentions to your guests!

By doing so, you are letting them know that hosting a sustainable wedding is important to the start of your marriage, and you would like them to join in with you!

Some examples:

  • Please wear something fabulous you already have in your closet!
  • Please carpool to our wedding!
  • Please stick to our registry to minimize our wedding’s carbon footprint!

If your guests will be expected to take care of their own plates after dinner, give them a little crash course on how to manage their waste, and provide signs to help them out. 

In short, even if you plan the most sustainable wedding on the planet, uninformed guests will do what they have always done, which is likely to mismanage waste. Tough reality, but it is reality. 

I recommend communicating with your guests at least 3 times during your engagement. You can do so via your invitations, wedding website, and perhaps an email the week of your wedding. Make it fun and engaging, and really invite them to be a part of this important part of life you are building! Maybe you’ll even inspire some of them along the way!


wedding couple dancing empahtically at their wedding with purple lights shining on them

Work with a Sustainable Wedding Photographer!

Now, I know what you’re thinking…Jess! What does photography have to do with sustainability??

From the outside, not a ton. But if you take a closer look, there is always something that can be improved upon!

When you work with me, I will not only support your vision simply on moral grounds, but I will contribute to it any way I can!

In my own practices, I stay within 1 hour of the Twin Cities 95% of the time, reducing my carbon footprint from the get-go. I also drive a fully electric vehicle, so we can say goodbye to even more travel emissions!

Everything from quotes and contracts to final galleries is digital, so you can print what you want, and keep the rest safely in the cloud. 

When we do decide to print, I exclusively use White House Custom Color in Eagan, Minnesota (hey-o, local!) who practice everything from using renewable energy to power their facilities to learning more and more about recycled materials every day. I love that they offer natural options for their album covers, like linen and silk, as alternatives to leather and vegan leather (read plastic).

I also have eco-friendly print options that I offer my clients when they want to print themselves!

Lastly, I care so much about bringing sustainability to weddings that I have worked with some industry leaders to create a Sustainability Program. In this program, you can earn yourself a discount on your photography package by meeting its high-impact requirements. And, of course, I will be there with you the whole way!


Let’s Review

Using these strategies, your sustainable wedding dreams can come true! Remember, community is a HUGE part of sustainability, so bring together a community of loved ones and vendors and let’s do this!

  1. Keep it local
    1. Choose a central location
    2. Local and seasonal floral
    3. Local and seasonal food
  2. Limit your guest count
  3. Refuse, reuse, recycle
  4. Manage waste responsibly
  5. Hire sustainable wedding vendors
  6. Tell your guests about your sustainable wedding
  7. Hire a sustainable wedding photographer

Like what you see and want to learn more? I’d be honored!

Reach out here to start working on your own sustainable wedding!

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