5 Sustainable, Eco-Friendly Wedding Ideas

This blog was originally created by Sonia Dong.

Here are some easy tips to incorporate eco-friendly wedding ideas into your big day! If you read our 2020 Wedding Trend Report, you'll see that sustainable weddings are a trend that Henkaa is here for and we hope to see it stay. 

Because when you look at the numbers, it's pretty staggering the amount of waste that comes out of one day:

Average Wedding Waste Production Stats

Source: Botanical PaperWorks

But don't despair, I'm here to tell you that implementing a few eco-friendly wedding ideas is easier than you think - you don't have to make it 100% sustainable; if all weddings incorporated one sustainable element, it would make a much bigger difference than if only a handful of people made their weddings completely green! The following graphic sums up this idea really well:

Ecolateral - Small Conscious Choices

Source: Ecolateral Stores

Henkaa’s Top 5 Eco-friendly Wedding Ideas

Here are 5 tips you can use to bring sustainable elements into your wedding - and I'm the case study! You see, over 10 years ago, I planned my dual-culture Chinese-Vietnamese wedding with over 250 guests. I wanted to make sure that I upheld some cultural traditions while also infusing my personality and sustainable values into the event. Here's what I did, and some additional options you can look into, because the good news is, 10 years on, there are so many more great options to choose from!

1. Eco-Friendly Wedding Invitations

Sonia Dong used a Winnipeg-based Canadian company called Botanical PaperWorks for her invitations, made from sustainable seed paper.

Photographer: Dave Biesse

I must confess, I love paper, beautiful stationery, pretty fonts and designs. To marry that love and my desire for a sustainable paper option, I bought seed paper from Winnipeg-based Canadian company Botanical PaperWorks for my invitations.  

If you want to go completely paperless, there are also many beautiful e-invitation options, like Paperless Post or Minted.

2. Sustainable Wedding Flowers

Sonia Dong's bouquet made by Toronto florist, Sarah Nixon from My Luscious Backyard.

Photographer: Dave Biesse

I wanted fresh flowers on my cake and I needed to make sure they were pesticide-free. I found a local Toronto florist, Sarah Nixon from My Luscious Backyard, who educated me about what flowers would be in season for my wedding in late July, and that would fit in with my colour palette of blue and yellow. Sarah has a cut flower garden at her own home and also grows flowers in neighbourhood backyards. Through this micro-farming model, she's able to partner with people to create beautiful, working gardens that she tends to for them, and she can use the lovely organic flowers for weddings and other events for her clients. 

Sonia Dong's wedding cake featured fresh backyard-grown flowers from Toronto florist, Sarah Nixon from My Luscious Backyard

Photographer: Dave Biesse

Sarah proposed dahlias as the main focus for my bouquets - as it happened, that year was very cool so the crop wasn't as plentiful, but she surprised me with other flowers to round out my needs. It was an amazing experience - just letting nature take its course and trusting that the flowers were going to be the ones that were meant to be.

3. Eco-Friendly Wedding Reception Food

Sonia Dong's centre pieces featured floating candles and fresh floral.

Photographer: Dave Biesse

There are many eco-friendly wedding ideas available now to choose more sustainable, local and/or organic food for your reception. In my case, I needed to balance tradition and modern values. If you've ever been to a traditional Asian wedding, you know that the food is more than plentiful! I grew up going to 10-course Chinese banquets. But how can I make this extravagant feast just a little more eco-friendly? 

Well, when looking at food, there's a consideration of where it comes from and how it's grown or raised, but food waste is also a big concern. Our banquet didn't tackle the first issue (if someone decides to open a Chinese restaurant with local/ethically sourced ingredients, I'm there!) but we did tackle the second. We made sure that the banquet was served family-style - much less wasteful than serving per plate because people can eat as much or little as they want, depending on the dish. I also got approval from our caterer to bring in reusable Tupperware take-away containers for guests to take leftovers home. This may sound strange, but it is not an uncommon practice - Asians love their food, and they don't want to waste it either! 

4. Environmentally-Friendly Wedding Favours

Sonia Dong chose to gift small jars of honey from Clovermead, a farm in Southern Ontario as wedding favours instead of something that could potentially get thrown out.

Photographer: Dave Biesse

Put up your hand if you've gone to a wedding and brought home a trinket that you'll never use! We didn't want to do this, so we said thanks to our wedding guests with small jars of honey from Clovermead, a farm in Southern Ontario. If you want to forgo the physical gift altogether, you can choose one or a few charities to donate to in lieu, which is also a great idea!

5. Sustainable Wedding Attire

Sonia Dong and husband Khiem pose for portrait photos on the day of their wedding.

Photographer: Dave Biesse

Finding eco-friendly wedding attire ideas that are locally and/or ethically made and that aren’t one-time use can go a long way to reducing fashion waste. There are also lots of options that fit into the 3R's for wedding attire - check out wedding forums and Facebook groups for ideas!

If you're buying new, try to find attire that can be worn again after the wedding. You might have read about Henkaa Founder, Jo's first Henkaa convertible dress, which she wore to my wedding as a guest. I went to multiple stores to find the "right" dress to fit all my bridesmaids' different shapes, sizes and style preferences, and finally settled on something that not everyone was completely happy with, but it was the best option at the time. We went through multiple fittings and alterations which took up a lot of time too - things that I wouldn't have had to worry about if I'd had our Made in Canada, size-flexible convertible dresses as an option. If I'd gotten married only a year later I would have been able to get convertible bridesmaid dresses for my bridesmaids and they would have been able to wear them to countless other events afterwards!

Post-wedding, think about donating your outfits to a good cause. It took me a long time to finally part with my dress, but I'm never going to wear it again and I have lovely pictures to remember it by. If you're in Toronto and your dress is under 5 years old, consider The Bride's Project, where all profits go to cancer charities. Since mine is more than 5 years old, I'll be donating it to Ballroom Beauty Recycled, a non-profit with a big goal to create a women's shelter in the Kawartha Lakes area of Ontario.

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I hope you liked my eco-friendly wedding ideas and that my story will help inspire you to incorporate sustainability into your wedding in a shape and form that fits your needs and personal aesthetic.

And if you've incorporated eco-friendly elements into your wedding, we'd love to hear your tips too. Tell us in the comments!

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