Gallery: GREEN WEDDING GUIDE: Gifts & Favors


Welcome back to Inhabitat’s Green Wedding Guide! So far in this summer series we’ve covered eco-friendly jewelry, locations, invitations and now we’re bringing you our tips and suggestions for eco-friendly gift giving. Favors, gifts and registries are sometimes thought of as the bane of a green wedding. It can get overwhelming to plan details of sustainability into an eco-friendly wedding — let alone find meaningful gifts that aren’t a load of eco-guilt. Some fight the gift giving, but giving and receiving is fun, and there are many easy ways to make wedding gift exchanges more environmentally friendly.


Registries are a delicate topic and difficult for many couples to discuss and decide upon. These days most couples have everything they “need,” not to mention it feels weird to ask your guests for gifts as a requirement of their attendance. But every smart eco couple should definitely create a registry — otherwise you’ll end up with a slew of bowls, platters, and scary expensive blown glass vases that you don’t need or want. This is your chance to get the good Calphalon pans you’ve dreamed about that will last you forever. You can also ask for practical stuff like tools, camping gear, rugs, a composter – just make sure you ask for quality products that will last — and are made from eco-friendly materials. You could also register at green design retailers like Re:Modern, Branch, GreenDepot, even Target has a lot eco-friendly items now. Another popular registry is to ask for donations for a bigger item – like a home or a honeymoon. If you are picking and choosing gifts from all over or are asking for donations, you can also use MyRegistry.


When you ask friends to be a bridesmaid or groomsman, you may be asking them to travel, pay out-of-pocket expenses and give up a weekend. Sure they want to do it because they love you, but don’t forget to thank them in some way. Attendant gifts should be meaningful, but you don’t necessarily have to give them jewelry or engraved pocketknives. If you want to get them something, choose well-built things that will last, made from local companies, and/or eco-friendly materials. You can also treat them to a night out, a show, massage, spa treatments, baseball games, or even their flights or lodging for the wedding. Be thoughtful and don’t skimp on these items, after all they are your best friends.


And finally we conclude with favors for your wedding guests. Every bride feels it necessary to give something to her guests – a small treat to show her appreciation. Favors do not need be large and extravagant. In fact, they should be small enough to carry home at the end of the evening or packable and non-perishable, especially for a destination wedding. Is there a great candy shop in your home town, an organic honey, or a specialty salt? Local handmade products or delicacies make great gifts. How about something that everyone needs and will actually use? We love these “All the Better to Kiss You With” organic lip balms in vintage tins, and your guests will certainly remember and appreciate this little favor when each time they soothe their chapped lips. Potted flowers used as table decorations also make lovely favors, and less for you to deal with the day after. Tree seedlings are a nice idea that encourage people to plant a tree, and also a special way to commemorate your marriage. Two good suppliers of tree seedlings are Arbor Day Foundation and Tree In A Box.


Both Matt and I balked at the idea of a registry. Since we already live in such a tiny cabin, we really don’t have room for anything else, not to mention we don’t need anything else. Sure we wanted things like a new saute pan and a table saw, but need it – no.  Since we didn’t want to get lots of unnecessary gifts like coffee makers, china or crystal, we asked our guests to donate to our dream home. To help people grasp the idea behind it, we registered with and created fake items, like a bedspread or a tree with a price associated with it, so people could write us a check and say, “Here’s money so you can plant a tree when you build your house.” Naturally, we’ll be saving that money in the highest interest CD we can find until the day comes to build our new home. Many of our family and friends were more than generous, but I’d have to say my favorite gift was a family treasure – the last painting my great Aunt ever painted. Now that is something I will treasure forever.

Coming up with a gift that appeals to all of your bridesmaids is like finding a needle in a haystack. Mine are all so different, so I had to find a gift that was customizable for all 4 girls. I found the perfect gift after searching for purses made from upcycled leather. The bags made by FoundByNicki are so amazingly beautiful and unique – each one handcrafted from old leather jackets, skirts and upholstery material. In fact, I also bought 4 clutches to give as gifts for some wonderful ladies who threw Matt and I a “Stock The Bar” wedding shower. Matt, on the other hand, wasn’t as lucky to find wonderful handmade, upcycled items for his groomsmen. After much debate we decided on sturdy weatherproof binoculars, which we knew the boys would use and have forever.

As for the favors, I will admit, we may have gone a little overboard. Since it was a destination wedding, my mom and I decided that each couple needed a welcome bag with goodies inside. The bags were printed on fair-trade organic cotton with our wedding logo by Say It Green, inside there were a custom printed reusable steel water bottle, organic lip balm made by Bubble & Bee (local Salt Lake company), a packet with details for the weekend, and snacks for hiking. On top of that, guests got to take home our table centerpieces, which were lovely potted flowers in terra cotta pots we got from thrift stores and friends.


Like many brides I had mixed feelings about creating a registry, but I knew that if I didn’t create one, I would end up with all sorts of stuff that I didn’t need and didn’t want. So I created a registry online with eco design retailer Branch, and picked out some things that I knew we would need, like bamboo bowls and cutting boards. Since my hubby and I didn’t really need too many physical goods, we also provided an alternative to giving “things” through a donation section on our registry. We picked our favorite four charitable organizations and encouraged those guests who were interested to donate money to charity instead.

I have been to my fair share of weddings where favors have tended to be somewhat unnecessary and useless tchotchkes, (which is just a waste of money and time, not to mention resources), so I decided that if we were going to have favors at our wedding, I wanted them to be something that people could actually use. My clever eco wedding planner Nelle Johnston, came up with a fabulous idea to make place-cards for guests that doubled as luggage tags – made from recycled computer chips! Who can’t use a sturdy and elegant luggage-tag, right?

We also decorated tables with small potted orchids, bouquets from the wedding ceremony, and small stalks of bamboo, and encouraged guests to take home the living foliage at the end of the night. I saw lots of guests walking off with the potted plants, (some with several pots) and it made me happy to see that the people who wanted the plants REALLY wanted them — and I knew they would treasure them and take care of them. Of course, this is also much less taxing on the environment as well: to have everything get reused and nothing go to landfill. It also made our lives easier in terms of cleaning up decorations at the end of the night –there wasn’t a lot to clean up, because our guests cleared everything out for us!


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  1. Elizabeth Nichols September 14, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    You’ll also find “green” items at large department stores. I found many items and listed them on my wedding registry. Since you put together your own registry you will have a little more control of the gifts you will receive.

  2. hteague September 25, 2009 at 10:55 am

    What a wonderful article on eco-friendly wedding favors & gifts! It’s exciting to see more eco-chic choices available to “green” brides. In the spirit of using our business to affect positive social change, we were also inspired to offer a fair trade artisan gift gallery for wedding and bridal party gifts.

    I have spent countless hours “hand-picking” eco-friendly wedding specialties to provide a convenient, online eco-wedding boutique for environmentally conscious couples planning a gorgeous and green wedding. Whenever possible, we work with suppliers who share our commitment to environmental and social responsibility. For more green wedding ideas, visit

  3. GoodFibers September 19, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Thank you for a great article on wedding gifts and favors. Good Fibers specializes in bath towels, linens and bedding made from organic cotton and bamboo. We have a gift registry available on-line and give the option of having gifts tied with a ribbon, wrapped in a towel and a card with the givers name. All items will then be placed in a large basket that can be used for storage later. Thus avoiding all the waste associated with wrapping and the extra boxes. Thia also condenses shipping and the environmental impact of transporting the gifts. We also provides couples with a list of the gifts purchased and the purchaser to help tracking and making thank yous easy and organized. If we all make changes in the small things it can add up to big environmental benefits. Thank you again for your article

  4. ecolectic events September 19, 2009 at 1:40 am

    In addition to gifts and favors, there are eco-friendly items available for every facet of your wedding. This earth friendly event shop offers everything from centerpieces to place card holders, favors and paper products. If you are looking for a unique and environmentally conscious decor items for your wedding, please check it out!

  5. Say it Green July 24, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Hi Bridgette – thanks for mentioning us in your post. If you readers want to know more about what it means to buy a bag or shirt that is organic and fair trade, they can visit our site to learn more.

    Essentially, it takes about 0.3 lbs of chemical fertilizer and toxic pesticides to make a conventional cotton bag or shirt. Additionally, that cotton bag or shirt is typically manufactured in sweat shops where poor workers are paid depressed wages.

    At Say it Green!, we *only* offer bags and garments that are 100% organic (no toxic pesticides) and fair labor/fair trade (workers are paid a fair wage and have a range of rights protected). We do this because we wouldn’t feel good about offering our products in any other way. At the site (which is entirely wind-powered), you will see that we have a range of organic, fair labor/fair trade products available that you can personalize with your own designs, digital pictures, and text.

    That is the short version. To learn more, please check out our site and click on the “Organic” and “About Us” tabs.


    Co-Founder, Say it Green!

  6. sellingboe July 20, 2009 at 3:19 pm


    This is Scott Ellingboe , co-founder and CEO of The Honeymoon, the first of the online honeymoon registry companies out there and one of the companies that began the whole ‘alternative registry’ concept. As so many couples are getting married later in life, alternative registries that deviate from the traditional offerings of decades past have continued to grow in popularity. Many of us have a balanced approach to business and want to give back in a variety of ways. I applaud all of the companies that do.

    Thank you.

    Scott Ellingboe Honeymoon Registry

  7. bswarner July 20, 2009 at 1:14 am

    Hi, This is Brandon Warner, President of Traveler’s Joy honeymoon registry. I thought I’d mention some of the initiatives we are taking at Traveler’s Joy to help our Members learn about the environmental impact of traveling (specifically the honeymoon of course!).

    We recently partnered with NativeEnergy Travel Offsets to make it as easy as possible for our Members to calculate and purchase offsets for their honeymoon travel. In fact, the banner/link we have is smack in the middle of our Member’s account page. With this launch, we also created a specific ‘CO2 Offset’ item that our Members can register for and help pay for the offsets purchased through NativeEnergy.

    Finally, we love the IDo Foundation and our partnership with them helps our Members give to their favorite non-profit. We encourage all of our Members to sign up with them and the best part is that the donation comes from us – not our Members – so they get to keep those dollars for that extra pina colada on the beach :)

    Best Regards,
    Brandon Warner
    President & Co-founder
    Traveler’s Joy Honeymoon Registry
    Traveler’s Joy, Inc.

  8. bswarner July 19, 2009 at 7:53 am

    Thank you for mentioning the benefits of a honeymoon registry and describing the attributes behind this increasingly mainstream registry option for engaged couples.

    It is great to see how popular the honeymoon registry is becoming. When Traveler’s Joy first started accepting Members over four years ago, we realized there was a large number of engaged couples that were not satisfied with the diversity of the traditional wedding registry market. Since then, the honeymoon registry has become a mainstream option for brides and grooms and the industry has experienced significant growth.

    We are proud to have helped thousands of couples travel to destinations they may never have considered – a great feeling for everyone at Traveler’s Joy.

    I encourage you to contact us with any questions about our service. Most importantly, enjoy your honeymoon!

    Best Regards,

    Brandon Warner
    President & Co-founder
    Traveler’s Joy Honeymoon Registry
    Traveler’s Joy, Inc.

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