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I distinctly remember the moment I realized how much potential waste was leftover after a wedding. It was a mix of seeing so many favors leftover combined with watching piles and piles of decorations being thrown in the trash when it came time to break everything down. Though that was years ago, it’s always stayed with me as a shocking moment of realization. And as I work towards more and more sustainable and eco-friendly choices in my personal life, I see how much of that can also be applied to weddings!

You’ve likely seen the scores of lists out there that discuss making sure to hire locally, reuse or borrow items, regift things after the wedding, and compost anything possible after that point. But, there may be other ideas you haven’t come across. I have three things to remember when it comes to sustainable wedding planning! 

couple laughs during portraits in Atlanta backyard1) Planning from the ground up

The easiest way to start when it comes to sustainability in your wedding, and honestly the way I always recommend people plan weddings, is to start from the ground up. What are the base things that are important to you? What do you HAVE to have to make a wedding? {Pro tip: It’s not much.}

Past that, start adding in things that you don’t have to have, but that you’d really love to have. This will change depending on who you two are as people and what kind of wedding you’d like to plan. Then you can add in any other bits that would be nice to have on top of these core pieces.

When you plan from the ground up with no expectations of filling out Martha Stewart’s big wedding planning book or following Miss Manner’s etiquette guide {who even asked them}, there’s so much more flexibility and customization possible. This naturally means getting rid of things that aren’t important to you anyway, and would be therefore wasted.

One of my favorite inventions of the wedding planning resource the Bridechilla Podcast is the “FUCK IT BUCKET (FIB) Where you put traditions, wedding tasks, pressure and unfinished DIY projects that you thought were important but are actually not. Throwing these things in the fuck it bucket is both empowering and fun. Try it. You’ll never look back.” Start from scratch, throw everything else in!

bridal portraits in the mountains with ATL wedding photographer Raven Shutley Studiosintimate wedding day photographed by Atlanta wedding photographer Raven Shutley Studios2) Renting vs buying

At the end of the event comes the moment when you look around at all the leftover stuff and go “great, now what do I do with all this?” One of the GREATEST benefits to hiring a professional decor and planning team is that you don’t have to worry about that! These teams have either rented all of these items from their amazing network or have purchased them and will reuse them on other events.

And if you’re doing a lot of the decor and planning yourself {or have a close friend helping you in that department} the same options are available to you. Think there’s not a vendor out there who rents what you’re looking for? Wrong! You’d be shocked at what you can rent! Renting means you’re not stuck with unwanted items after the wedding. And, it’ll also very likely save you money, which is always ideal.

This also goes for your wedding clothes. This may sound sacrilegious but you could TOTALLY rent or borrow your wedding clothes. That goes for suits, dresses, or whatever else you’re dreaming of wearing! You could also sell or donate your clothes after the event, if you don’t already have plans for them.

couple elopes in local Atlanta GA parkgroom pours champagne for Atlanta wedding reception3) Double-duty items

One of my favorite bits of advice is making the items you DO choose work harder! Make sure that each of the things you’re intentionally choosing can give as much as possible. Before the wedding day, you can combine all of your Save the Dates, invites, and information into one single piece! Resulting in fewer things your guests have to keep up with and less waste. Or move everything online and send digital invitations, even easier.

You could combine drinkware and wedding favors. Think reusable cups or glasses that your guests can use throughout the night and then take home and continue using. Or, if your crowd would appreciate this kind of favor, something like tiny potted plants that work as decor, favors, and placecards/a seating chart.

Sustainable Wedding Planning tips from ATL wedding photographer Raven Shutley StudiosSeriously, give it a second life.

When it comes to wedding decor, everything from your ceremony can gain a second life as reception decorations, and this includes the seating. {Either your planner/venue could handle moving the seating. Or you could ask everyone to bring their ceremony seat with them to the reception.} You could even use fresh herbs in your centerpieces/florals and encourage the guests to use them during their meal: boom, edible decor!

How about skipping the day-of paper goods entirely and use a single cafe-style board for your program, menu, or any other announcements and information that you want everyone to have. Or, if you do end up going with paper menus or programs, consider combining them into one document, printing them on recycled or seeded paper, and maybe making them pull double-duty as a hand fan or similar favor.

And lastly, if you love the idea of little favors for everyone, opt for edible ones! People will always appreciate a snack post-wedding, especially when they’ve danced their butts off all night. And if not edible, make sure they’re useful.

couple elopes on Mount ArabiaSustainable Wedding Planning tips from GA wedding photographer Raven Shutley Studios

For even more ideas on sustainability in wedding planning, check out the Green Wedding Guild!

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