Once upon a time I got married to a crazy Australian and we had a beautiful wedding. This was before I ever heard of Zero Waste, but looking back, I realize that our wedding was pretty enviro friendly! Our budget was less than 10,000$ and we managed to get just under that. I thought it might be worth writing out some tips on how to have a green wedding on a tight budget.
Here are my top 10 tips:
- Keep it small
- Become the queen (or king) of DIY
- Enlist friends and family to give you HELP instead of GIFTS
- Buy secondhand
- Borrow what you can
- Use/repurpose what you already have
- Sell what you don’t need afterwards
- Repurpose items into your post wedding life
- Think outside the box. It’s OK to do things a little differently!
- Stay true to yourself and what You want. It’s your day.
If you want to know more about what made our big day green and easy on the wallet, read on!
Keep it small
This was easy for us! Since my husband was fresh off the boat, everyone he knew lived on the other side of the planet and couldn’t come to the wedding haha! We had 35 people, including us! The beauty of a small wedding was that we were surrounded by those who were closest to us. It was really intimate. It also gave us a huge variety of venues to chose from, instead of just reception halls. The small guest list ensured our waste was minimal, it saved us a lot of money and allowed us to do many things ourselves. It is a lot easier to make 5 centre pieces than 30!
Choose a great venue
We rented a beautiful log chalet that was located on a private lake. Cheshire Lodge was spectacular and really made our green theme come to life! It also allowed our guests to spend the night, so we didn’t have to worry about anyone driving home that night. This was the biggest chunk of our budget. Cost: 1650$/night + 200$ cleaning fee, with 2 night minimum. Total: 3500$
Our invitations were very simple and were printed on card paper that could easily be recycled. We used vistaprint.ca, it was very affordable, customizable and we were very happy with the quality. Because we only invited close friends and family, we were able to hand deliver most of them, saving on costs and avoiding any extra transmissions and fuel consumption from the postal service. Our friend used their invitation to make us a beautiful shadow box, which we have hanging on our wall! We asked our friends to rsvp by phone or email. If you want to avoid paper all together, send out an e-invite. Or make your own pulp paper from scrap paper, you can even embed some seeds into it and encourage your guests to plant it! Our Cost: 37$
I found my dress on super clearance at an outlet store, but you can easily find a dress secondhand or even rent one! Maybe you are super lucky and a family member has one to pass on! You could have altered into a fabulous dress that suits your style and give it a new life. Honestly, isn’t it a bit crazy to buy a brand new dress that is thousands of dollars, and only wear it for one day?? I borrowed the bird cage veil from my sister, my ring has a blue diamond and my shoes were new (wedding shower gift from my friends!). I bought my bridesmaids their dresses from a local boutique, Boutique 1861. Their dresses are so pretty and very reasonably priced. 1861 https://1861.ca/collections/robes Cost: 45$ for my dress and 25$ for the alterations. The bridesmaids dresses were 60$ each and my daughter’s dress and headband was a christmas gift.
We did very simple bouquets that we put together ourselves. Ordered the flowers in bulk from Costco, they were delivered in a cardboard box. I ignored all those gorgeous exotic flowers and went with carnations, a very inexpensive, hardy flower. I wrapped ribbon around the stems to make myself and my bridesmaids each a small bouquet. I put whatever extra flowers I had in mason jars to add a pop of colour here and there. You could also forgo flowers all together. Some great ideas are bouquets made from vintage broaches or even paper flowers! My little flower girl waved a wand, which is now part of her dress up box. Cost: 100$
Since it was such a small wedding, we were able to have it catered buffet style and could save any leftovers. People could take what they wanted and what they liked, which translates into less food waste. I made sure to bring plenty of containers to save the leftovers for the next day and told my guests to do the same! I’ve been to so many weddings that had so many courses. I would be so stuffed after the cocktail hour that I could barely could finish any of the main meals! Such a terrible waste. Cost: 28$/person for the meal, 65$ for grill rental +25$ insurance, a cook and a server who were paid 30$ each per hour. Plus tax. It made for a total cost of about 1700$
My mom and I actually made all the food for the cocktail hour. We kept it pretty low key so that people would still have room for dinner. We had a tasty Mexican bean salad, all bulk friendly, package free ingredients, quinoa salad, fruit skewers on bamboo sticks, cheese platter, water melon, dips and crackers etc… One regret is that I had disposable cutlery, plates, napkins and cups *cringe* at the cocktail hour. I rented tables, plates, glasses, silverware and tablecloths for the dinner. If I could have a do-over I would rent more so we could avoid anything disposable. We bought all our own alcohol and had a self serve bar. For all the rental items it came to about 300$, alcohol was 600$ and food for the cocktail/dessert was about 200$
For dessert, my sister made our wedding cake and I made a paper cake topper. We also had homemade cupcakes and a “cookies and milk” bar. My sisters were big drinkers of those bottled starbucks frappachino drinks. They saved the glass bottles for me, I removed the labels (Oh that was a pain!) and then I filled them with chocolate milk, yum! As a wedding gift, I asked my friends to bake cookies, so we had an awesome cookie selection!
We gave away little boxes of sunflower seeds. I loved getting pictures afterwards of their little sunflowers growing! It was super inexpensive and I think our guest were pretty happy with them, some even asked if we had any extras to bring home for their kids! The seed boxes were from Target, only 1$ each! I add personalized sticker on them (ordered from vistaprint.ca) Cost:50$ Other great favour ideas: Donation to your favourite charity, little buri palm fans, potted herbs or succulents, maple syrup, honey or jam in glass jars, mason jar mugs with hot chocolate mix in it, or dry ingredients from your fav cookie recipe… so many possibilities!
Our venue was a gorgeous log chalet, so it didn’t need much decor. I brought my christmas lights and strung them on the balconies, it looked so pretty at night. I used panels of sheer curtains to hang behind the dessert and drink table. I put them up with thumbtacks. Later they went right back up on my curtain rod at home, the thumbtacks back in our office drawer. Cost: ZERO!
I made tissue paper pom poms and had paper lanterns, strung on twine and hung from the ceiling. It looked very pretty and, best of all, no plastic and all recyclable materials. And yes, in case you are wondering, I am that person meticulously refolding all the tissue paper at every birthday and christmas, it can be reused people! Cost: ZERO + 20$ for the lanterns, but I sold them afterwards. Check out this tutorial to make tissue paper pom poms. http://www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/handmade/how-to-make-tissue-pom-poms
All our banners were made from cardboard from old cereal boxes, ribbon and clothes pegs. Cost: ZERO
Our wedding signs were made with scrap wood scavenged from the curb on garbage day. I aged it with tea and steel wool in vinegar, they turned out amazing! I already had paint in our wedding colours in my art box. I was even able to sell the signs afterwards. Made for free and then made a profit, double win! Cost: ZERO
For the centre pieces, I collected (ok hoarded for years) wine and liquor bottles, took off the labels (ughhhhh more labels to remove, so annoying!) spray painted them gold and stuck candles in them. They were super pretty and after the wedding I sold them for 80$! I had hoped to display them on a slab of wood, but that turned out to be harder than I thought. Cutting wooden slabs straight and level was impossible with the tools that we had and there was no way I was paying 20$/slab of wood from the craft store. So instead I found found pretty pastel metal doily-like “plates” at Ikea and put them on that. I used a bunch on our food table as well. They were actually meant to put under potted plants, but no one needed to know that. I sold most of them afterwards but kept some, I use them to display food when I host parties! Cost: 40$ for the plates and spray paint
I made tiki lamps out of wine bottles to light the grounds outside, and filled them with citronella oil to keep the mosquitos. Cost: 10$ for the wicks. I found a big bottle of citronella at my parents house, so that was free.
The start of the aisle was marked with two milk jugs filled with sticks. I already had these in my house as decor, why buy something new when we have houses filled with stuff already?! The aisle was lined with wood stumps that I found at the venue. I placed a mason jars with leftover flowers on each stump (and of course I still use the mason jars!). Cost: ZERO
We got married under a mosquito net that we pimped up using strands of pearls and flowers from my sisters wedding. That mosquito net now hangs in my family room and is used for my children’s reading nook. Cost: 20$
Our guest book was actually a Jenga game that I painted to match our colour scheme. Each guest wrote out their well wishes on a block. Now when we play the game, we get to read all their lovely advice and comments. So much better than a book that nobody ever looks at! Cost: 20$
One of the most important Rs is RE-USE, so I LOVE that most these items still have a useful purpose in our day to day lives or could be sold after our big day was over.
Sticking with our green theme, my husband and I planted a little tree at the ceremony to represent our union and commitment to each other (well technically we nurtured a potted plant by adding water and dirt to it haha). We still have the plant today and I am happy to report that it is alive and well! We have even had to re-pot it a few times! Cost: 15$
We did not have a gift registry, the last thing we needed was a bunch of useless china or more towels, so we asked for NO gifts. For people who insisted, we asked that they help with the wedding. We were doing everything ourselves, so we had people to help with the setup, the post wedding cleanup, one friend took charge of making of the music playlists, some baked for our cookies and milk bar, one filmed the ceremony, others brought food for breakfast the next day (we had the chalet for the weekend, so everyone was invited to spend the night)…Most people preferred to give us money and a card. We had a little glass greenhouse (Ikea) and our guests put their cards in there. Cost: 20$
Dance floor and Extra activities
Our venue had a lovely huge veranda and a huge green space, so we used that as the dance floors. As it grew dark, we got a bonfire going and roasted marshmallows and hot dogs as a midnight snack. We also had fireworks, which my husband and his friends had a great time setting up and setting off. Seriously, I think this was his favourite part of the wedding, nothing says “I love you” like playing with explosives right?! It wasn’t totally zero waste, but it gave a special touch to our very relaxed, low key wedding. It was the first time my daughter saw fireworks (she was 8 months old) and I will never forget the look of pure amazement on her face. Cost of fireworks: 150$
Photographers, wedding bands, my husband’s outfit, jars to put the cookies in, wedding license, legal fees…all those costs add up alarmingly fast. At the end of the day we came in at just under 10,000$. It sounds like a lot, but I don’t know how we could have cut anymore costs and still have the day we wanted. Our memories will last a lifetime!
So there you have it, how to have a green wedding on a tight budget! Did you have a green wedding?