How to have an eco-friendly wedding in Toronto
Weddings produce a lot of waste. They are big, expensive parties with a lot of things that serve a one-day purpose. I love -love- the industry I’m in, but the amount of waste can really get to me.
I’ve been fortunate to work with mindful clients (and vendors) who keep waste-reduction in mind, and I always strive to keep it at top of mind with my clients going. With that in mind, here are a few tips on how to have a more eco-friendly wedding without going full granola.
Consider reducing how much ‘extra’ you want on your day. Sure, having a sign that says “welcome to our wedding” or “bathrooms this way” is cute...but people see it for 10 seconds, then it goes in the garbage. There are no must-have things on your wedding day, so really take time to think about what you want to spend money/resources on. Let’s be real: the only thing you need to get married is 2 people, a marriage license, and someone legal to sign it. Everything else is a luxury.
The internet is a wonderful place and, love it or hate it, Facebook Marketplace is a goldmine for people selling off wedding decor. Before spending $x (and emissions) on shipping a bunch of candle holders off Amazon, reach out to your local Facebook wedding group to see if anyone is selling exactly what you’re looking for. Trends stick around for a few years, so I guarantee you’ll be able to find bud vases, antique jars, doughnut walls, and pretty much everything else that were used only once. It usually saves you money, too!
(In Toronto, I recommend GTA Wedding Buy & Sell, or the Palz Wedding Zone pages. Email me for an invite to either if you can’t find them!)
I keep seeing people online who want to buy charger plates. Like, I get it: charger plates are expensive (usually $4 a pop) and buying them can be cheaper...but then you have 150 charger plates in your life that you need to clean, store, and try to sell afterwards. Same goes with vases, linens, glassware...unless you’re starting your own rental company afterwards, look into renting these items. Sure it may cost a bit more, but they drop it off, pick it up, clean it, and store it. You’re not paying $4 for just the plate, you’re paying $4 for someone else to deal with it before and after your wedding, AND it’s one more thing that won’t end up in a landfill, in your storage locker, or at Value Village.
This one really gets me. Signage is a great way to personalize your wedding, but it's usually forgotten pretty quickly; welcome signs, table numbers, menus, name cards...they're all one-use pieces of paper (or heavier material) that often can’t be used again. Consider a few alternatives:
Name Cards: if you need to put people in specific seats, think about name cards that can be recycled or taken home. Uncoated paper that can be recycled, hire a calligrapher that can write on leaves, personalized favours (with stamped on names)...get creative.
Seating Charts: hard to get around this one, but stick to paper that can be recycled, or a substance that can be reused, like window panes, chalkboards, or my favourite: photos of you + guest! Print a photo off, throw their table number on it, and tell them to take their photo home. Seating Chart + Favour = done. Write a thank-you note on the back of it and bam! Your thank-you cards are taken care of too.
This is a tough one because each venue or caterer has different policies, and food waste is a huge issue that’s hard to avoid. A few tips:
See if you can put any leftover food out during the late-night snack. Drunk people love bread, y’know?
Ask your caterer if you can take food home. If you can, get takeout containers for guests! Sure, it may not be the most glamorous thing ever, but having the option as people leave could be great. When all else fails, I’ve wrapped cookies up in garbage bags for hungry brides and grooms.
Ask your caterer to help you with how much food you need. There is no need to guess when you have a professional in your corner! Get their help on appetizer numbers, give them accurate guest counts, etc.
Just don’t do them. Please. You’ll end up with a bunch of jam jars people didn’t take home, which means you have wasted money, resources, and now have to figure out where to store them. Even tiny boxes of truffles at each place means you're throwing away 100+ tiny boxes (which likely can't be recycled because they have food on them). Save yourself $500+ and commit to sending a thank-you note after the wedding.
It's hard to have a wedding without some impact on the environment, and it's really easy to get caught up in wanting a ton of single-use things. As with every decision you make during planning, be sure to stop and say "Do I want this because it represents me, my partner, and our love story? Or do I want it because everyone else is doing it and someone told me I had to?" An eco check-in is a great thing to keep at the back of your mind.