Autumn brings with it a landscape transition as leaves fall to the ground, creating a palette of yellows, oranges and reds across the forest canopies and floor. As the season honors change in a visual way, it provides a fitting time for new beginnings through wedding celebrations. 

Table full of wedding decorations

The wedding ceremony and reception can be a celebration of both the marriage and the environment with some thoughtful attention to minimizing waste and reducing reliance on virgin materials. Here are a few ways you make a splash without the impact

Related: Where to find eco-friendly engagement and wedding rings

Two golden rings sitting on a fallen leaf

Rings

Rings are a symbol of commitment to your relationship. It can also reflect your commitment to nature and humanity. When choosing rings, look to jewelers who are transparent about their material selection and manufacturing process. Ensure your ring doesn’t contribute to the ongoing strife in mining regions that include poor working conditions and damage to the land.

White paper boxes in varying sizes

Replace paper with digital options

Although many “Save the Date” cards, invitations and thank you notes are made from eco-friendly paper, most modern guests are okay with skipping the manufactured products altogether. Sending information digitally saves the paper processing, stamps and emissions from postal delivery. If you’re still a fan of the authentic keepsake invitation, look for those made without harsh dyes and other chemicals. Send your message of planetary love with stationary made from seed paper that your guests can plant afterwards.

Wedding dress hanging on a hanger

Wedding dress

The bride wants to look amazing for her soon-to-be husband and her guests, and the dress is a big part of the equation. The truth is, though, nearly every wedding dress is worn only briefly and discarded down the road. Consider buying a secondhand dress or borrowing one from a friend or family member. 

Package wrapped in parchment

Gifts

Instead of lining up the gift table with boxes and bags, request that guests send their well wishes via gift certificates or through an experience. Websites such as Honeyfund streamline the process by allowing guests to donate to your travel fund or pay for activities such as massages, scuba lessons or eco-tours at your honeymoon destination. 

Of course, thoughtful handmade gifts are always welcome. Plus, these special gifts will likely be made from natural materials such as wood and fibers. It’s okay to mention you’re trying to be environmentally-friendly and ask that guests use paper packaging if possible when giving in-person gifts.

Decorated altar in lights and greenery

Decorations

When decorating your venue, rely on natural fall flowers such as mums, boughs of greenery, wreaths made from fall leaves and accents of hard berries and pine cones. Centerpieces can be made up of pumpkins or gourds carved out as candle holders and a colorful autumn swag to pull it all together. An even more simple centerpiece option is small potted plants. Going natural makes it easy to be low-impact and compost decorations after the event.

Look into renting chairs, tables, an arbor, tents and other equipment you only need for the day. If you’d rather, you can DIY a small wood pergola and rely on all-wood seating such as benches and picnic tables or vintage furniture set up for the event. 

Table with a decorated napkin

Food

Before the event, ask for a guest headcount, so you can make an educated guess about the amount of food you’ll need. There may be a few leftovers, but minimizing food waste saves money and keeps you from buying more than you need. 

Plan to have a mostly vegetarian or vegan menu. Minimizing meat consumption comes with a host of benefits for the planet and plant-based foods are easily composted too. Just make sure to set up clearly-labeled bins for compostable goods. 

Whether you choose to rely on a caterer, family member or potluck, make your reception as close to zero waste as possible. Skip paper, plastic, and Styrofoam in favor of real plates and silverware. Make sure to discuss your preference with food vendors well ahead of time. If they don’t provide that option, you can rent them to have available. 

A hand holding a champagne glass

Drinks

Skip the Solo cups, serve up the champagne in glassware. Beer, soda, and wine come in cans and bottles that can be recycled, so there’s no need for plastic. Be sure to provide plenty of water stations with glassware too so you can avoid single-use plastic bottles. Of course, you could always go with the classic punchbowl as an option too. 

white shoes covered by a wedding veil

Lighting

Even if your wedding starts earlier in the afternoon, it’s likely those short fall days will cast a shadow of darkness before the party is over. Decorate with LED lighting, rely on solar-powered strands and walkway lights and use candles for illumination too.

Thank you boxes

Thank you gifts

In addition to the gifts you receive as bride and groom, be thoughtful about the gifts you give to the members of your wedding party and others who helped pull together the details of your big day. Go with potted plants, even those you used as centerpieces, for a long-term remembrance of the event. Other ideas include glassware they can use at the reception and take home afterwards, or a certificate for a dinner out, a massage, pedicure or round of golf. 

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