The Ultimate Eco Wedding Checklist (Including Martha Stewart’s Vegan Recommendations)

The Ultimate Eco-Friendly Wedding Checklist

Make planning your special day a little easier with our eco-friendly wedding checklist. From flowers to favors, and everything in between, we’ve got the big stuff covered.

Your wedding day is all about you, and if that means you’ll be sharing your love of all things sustainable, then say “I do” to what (and who) you love!

Kristen Maxwell Cooper, executive editor of The Knot, shared invaluable tips with us on how to make your wedding day a little (okay, a lot) greener. Between the nuptial guru’s expert take on eco-friendly planning, our in-the-know deets on conscious ceremonies, and a bit of help from Martha Stewart, you’ll have a well-rounded guide to marrying your love for one other with your mutual love of the environment. The best part? You don’t have to sacrifice style for sustainability.

The Venue

The Ultimate Eco-Friendly Wedding Checklist

When it comes to the location, Cooper recommends outdoor venues as the ideal choice. Not only will they provide plenty of natural light, but vineyards, botanical gardens, and hilltops will offer plenty of ambiance, too. Farms and refurbished barns are also options for your wedding day and usually come with conveniences like indoor plumbing, so you don’t have to forgo the usual comforts.

Cooper also understands that outdoor ceremonies and receptions don’t work for everyone, but does believe “there are several ways you can make it green.” Holding both reception and ceremony in one place means no extra travel, which translates to fewer vehicle emissions. Plus, you can always “look for hotels that recycle and use energy-efficient appliances and biodegradable products,” and have your wedding entirely indoors. Tip: bring in some candles for less energy consumption and more ambiance.

The Invites

The Ultimate Eco-Friendly Wedding Checklist

Invitations are often the first impression that your guests will have of what’s to come on your wedding day. And if your love for the environment runs as deep as your love for your future spouse, then going the seeded paper route is one really cool (and green) option. The actual product is really beautiful, plus they send a great message — in more ways than one.

While Cooper does suggest “old school snail mail” for the wedding invites, The Knot says paperless save-the-dates are gaining in popularity. It also suggests directing guests to your wedding website for more details, reducing the need for excess inserts. And when in doubt, recommends choosing recycled paper invites that are printed with soy-based inks.

The Dress

The Ultimate Eco-Friendly Wedding Checklist

Whether it’s your “something old” in vintage form, or you prefer your dress to be off-the-rack new, there are several designers catering to your eco-friendly wedding dress needs. From fabulous collections of hand-selected pre-loved gowns, to designers who consciously construct their creations from sustainable fabrics, recycled remnants, and use admirable manufacturing and zero waste production principles, there’s a dream dress out there for you yet.

For a vintage dress, check out Sparrow Bridal Shop. For couture-style gowns, look to designer Sanyukta Shrestha. And for affordable bridal collections under $600, visit the ever-sustainable, ever-chic Reformation.

The Rings

The Ultimate Eco-Friendly Wedding Checklist
iStock/Valery Kudryavtsev

Don’t drop the ball when it comes to choosing rings. Ethical, sustainably sourced jewelry is also an important part of coming full-circle when planning an eco-friendly wedding. The destruction from gold mining, and the chaos caused by conflict diamonds in Africa should be enough to have you reconsidering popping down to your big box engagement ring superstore.

After lots of research, and an in-depth article, our four favorite conflict-free (and oftentimes charitable) engagement ring retailers are: Brilliant Earth, Fair Trade Jewellery Co., Do Amore, and Catbird Jewelry. And if none of these fit the bill, then vintage rings are the way to go!

The Food

The Ultimate Eco-Friendly Wedding Checklist

Farm-to-table is the best way to cater your wedding, and making the menu completely vegan is even better! Don’t believe us? Then take it from the “good things” expert herself, Martha Stewart, who recently released an article on how to successfully throw a vegan wedding, even when guests are expecting meat.

First and foremost, it’s your day, so it should be your way! She also suggested choosing experienced caterers that know how to dress up veggies and bring out their flavors. Adding that familiar foods are always a good idea, the article suggested items similar to what  PETA staffer and World of Vegan founder Michelle Cehn had at her vegan wedding. A buffet of “bruschetta,  stuffed mushrooms, dairy-free pesto rotini, vegetable tian, roasted petite red potatoes, vegan quiche, and artisan bread and olive oil” kept her guests very happy.

Aside from veganizing your wedding cake, think about taking it down a tier or two. Towering cakes are often for show and most wedding parties don’t put more than a small dent in them. Choose an option that fits your headcount, or go with something that offers small bites and lots of variety, like a dessert bar. Plus, you can give out any leftovers or take them home with you.  

The Favors

The Ultimate Eco-Friendly Wedding Checklist

Ditch the plastic thingamabobs and doodads for something your guests can either eat or cultivate. Cooper really likes the idea of giving “plantable favors like potted saplings, herbs or succulents,” but cautions, “if a lot of wedding guests are traveling, keep in mind that they probably won’t want to pack a pot of soil into their suitcase, so consider biodegradable seed packets if you’re committed to the plant route.”

For couples who love food, visit local small businesses to fulfill your favor needs. From gourmet coffee beans to gluten-free cupcakes, you can get as creative, or traditional, as you’d like. A more unique spin would be to make charitable donations in honor of your guests. Cooper recommends displaying “a sign letting guests know you’ve made a donation to a meaningful cause in lieu of favors, or pick a few favorites and let guests choose their favorite option.”

The Flowers

The Ultimate Eco-Friendly Wedding Checklist
iStock/ragıp ufuk vural

Your wedding checklist isn’t complete without flowers, but just because they come from the earth doesn’t mean they’re good for it. Pesticides and toxic chemicals are used on non-organic flowers, which is bad news for the environment and the people exposed to them. Not to mention, many of these flowers are actually shipped from other countries entirely. Buy organic whenever possible, and try this link to search chemical-free botanicals in your area.

Cooper’s team suggests talking to your local florist about in-season flowers, or choosing VeriFlora-certified flowers for those that aren’t in season. Aside from using potted blooms that can be taken home afterwards, it’s also been suggested that the couple use the same flowers at both the ceremony and the reception, then schedule to have a company like Rebloom or Repeat Roses pick them up and repurpose them. You can also call ahead and ask to donate the flowers to a hospital or nursing home.

The Registry

The Ultimate Eco-Friendly Wedding Checklist

When it comes to wedding checklists, most events aren’t complete without a gift registry. With the power to choose sustainably and ethically made products, you can craft a registry that reflects your tastes. Whether that means you opt for tea towels made from organic cotton, or you direct guests to donate to the charity of your choosing, there are plenty of options to please everyone. Looking for an exclusive green registry? Try Are Naturals.

Related on EcoSalon

20 Online Resources for Planning an Eco Wedding
4 Conflict-Free (and Gorgeous!) Rings: Engagement Season is Here!
6 Summer Wedding Dresses that are Absolutely Gorgeous and Eco-Friendly

Jamie Duncan

After starting out in public relations, Jamie finished college with a BFA in interior design. This combination of writing and design knowledge, coupled with her fashion and lifestyle expertise, has paved the way for an exciting freelance career. Her work has been published in magazines and online, plus she’s managed PR campaigns, and is no stranger to copywriting. Jamie’s a vegetarian and cruelty-free product fanatic. Connect with her on Twitter and check out her website to learn more.