The Canadian Wedding Industry is big business, raking in over 4 Billion dollars per year. By surveying some newlywed couples in 2013, Weddingbells Magazine found that the average cost of a wedding in Canada (including the honeymoon and with approx 150 guests) came in around $32,000. Whatever the budget plans for your big day may be, you will quickly notice that this big event can also carry a significant environmental footprint if you are not careful. The Green Bride Guide even suggests that the average wedding produces 62 tons of carbon dioxide and between 400-600 lbs of garbage! Planning your wedding also comes with a lot of expectations and opinions, so if you do want to reduce your environmental impact, it is key to set this as a lens through which you make decisions from the get go. Below you will find my story of how we greened our big day, and shared our love of community and self-sustainability with our guests – while saving some money too!

Did you do something creative and environmentally conscious for your wedding day? If so, leave it in the comment section below! 

Pedicab fixed up by our good friend Geoff meant eco-travel in style.
Photo Credit: Build Films

When my partner and I got engaged this year, we realized pretty quickly that we would have to get creative to reduce the impact of our 215 guest wedding. As we both work in the environmental sector, this was a value we really wanted to shine through. Overall, we decided to take a balanced approach, doing what we could to minimize our impact – but not driving ourselves crazy to get to carbon neutral or anything in the six months we had to plan it! There is certainly a lot more we could have done, but the choices we did make led to a wedding we felt had greater personal touch, positive community impact, and was a lot more fun!

 

 

The Ring

Finding an old ring, or buying one with re-used materials can really cut down on both the footprint and cost.

I thought about this for some time, and though I felt really guilty, realized that I really did want a diamond. Many of my friends suggested that I get Canadian Diamonds, which were from closer to home, and carry a lower environmental impact. Upon research, I saw how much destruction these jewels still have on our landscape and communities that surround the mines. So, I looked into re-use options and found a jeweller that makes everything by hand and uses re-purposed diamonds and re-purposed gold. Major score, I love my ring, and it was a fraction of the cost too! Weddingbells cites the typical cost of an engagement ring at about $4200, and $2500 for bands. whereas we got both our rings for $1500 total!

Wedding Shower

I first tried to negotiate not having one…what is wrong with non-matching plates, and 30 year old blenders anyway?! But was talked into it from my dear aunts. When I said I did not want to generate a lot of waste – they heard me. They all pulled out their old shower china, cloth napkins, and glassware and we were set. Guests were asked to be creative in wrapping their gifts with zero waste. Also we were able to make our registry have a positive impact on the community by registering with local businesses. In Winnipeg, this meant looking at Pollock’s Hardware Co-op and Happy Cooker. We also let guests know that they could create a gift (we did get some hand-made treasures!), or contribute towards one larger item we really needed – which was a couch! My bridesmaids also jumped on board and made all the decorations from re-used materials. It was so special for me that they really made an effort, and got creative with it too!

Invites

Cut down on paper, use recycled where you can, and encourage guests to use sustainable travel options.

I am very lucky to have a graphic designer as a best friend, and for her wedding gift to us she contributed the design and printing of our invitations. The invites were printed on recycled cardstock and sent in recycled envelopes. Guests were encouraged to bike, walk or bus to the ceremony and were provided information on bike parking and transit options. All of our RSVPs were done online which cut down on a lot of paper waste and extra postage too!

Venue + Food Choices

Instead of buying new or disposable. Try party rentals for plates, cutlery, chairs etc. Re-using is their business.

We decided to host our wedding in our neighbourhood, as a way to promote our local businesses and to share the community we love so much with our family and friends. We decided to get married outside in a city park, and hosted our reception at the Park Theatre (an old theatre that has been renovated as a great music and event venue!). These locations were also close together so we could reduce the travel needs of guests. Having our reception in a theatre meant that we did not need to get all of the extra table setting pieces. We did rent plates, cutlery, and dessert stands from Party Stuff in order to cut down on waste of using disposables. 

Choose local businesses for venue and food as a way to make your community thrive.
Photo Credit: Build Films

 

For food we chose a local business again, Deseo, because they were located right next door to our venue! The chef was keen to accommodate our desires for local food and a largely vegetarian meal, which cut down on the impact our menu had on the environment.

For dessert we hired a friend that was starting a catering business and was able to provide baking that included vegetarian and gluten free options. Our wedding gave her the opportunity to test the waters and her dessert was a BIG hit.

To me the best part of getting married in our ‘hood was that we got to walk home at the end of the night, hand in hand in our fancy attire. One of my most cherished memories of that day!

Flowers

My mom grew all the flowers for our wedding in her backyard and dried out some of my favourites for our bouquets. A very loving touch!

Did you know the average wedding spends $1300 on floral arrangements? If those flowers are being flown in, treated with chemicals, and packaged just for your event it can really have a negative environmental impact. We decided to spend $200, and put my mom to work growing local arrangements in her backyard! It worked out so beautifully, her neighbour helped out with watering, and we also got to have cherry tomatoes in our arrangements!

My mom also made all the bouquets and boutineers by hand – which as you can see below were gorgeous and also reminded me of our prairie home 🙂

Dried local flowers can be used too!

Decorations & Wedding Favours

Centrepieces and decor all made from re-used materials!

Everything was handmade! From our wedding canopy (which we are turning into a water fountain post wedding) to the centrepieces – all was made with re-used or re-usable materials. My husband’s parents even brought us some old wood from their lake to use.  

Wedding favours to me usually make me scratch my head and often seem the most wasteful! Why all the unnecessary packaging just to wrap some Hershey’s kisses in a box! For our wedding favours we recruited our bridesmaids and groomsmen to make incense, soap, and strawberry jam. This way guests got something meaningful and handmade as a souvenir. We also had so much fun making all of it together too!

One of my bridesmaids next to our strawberry picking harvest! We spent the afternoon in the sun making 120 jars of jam!

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I could go on, as there are so many small eco-details in the event that could be mentioned. My key advice would be that you need to have that environmental lens present from the very beginning, otherwise you start to lose track as things get hectic! I think it is important to be conscious when you are spending this large sum of money, that you have a major opportunity to make a positive impact on your local economy – so support local businesses wherever you can.

I will also say that a great little website called Pinterest became my best friend in finding creative DIY projects, as did my friends and family who are so talented and are overflowing with creative ideas!