Planning a Sustainable Wedding

Plants with names attached as wedding favors.
Weddings can be so wasteful and expensive, between flowers, formal attire, decorations, reception food, entertainment and more. There may be a way that is easier on the pocketbook and on the planet. This page discusses planning a sustainable wedding.

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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 254 Posts
January 8, 2019

My husband and I had a very fun, silly, and laid back picnic wedding. We had a very short planning period and a small budget. I met my husband while living and working in Vietnam. After moving back to the States, I quickly realized I didn't like living without him. So, I packed my bags and moved back to Vietnam and married him in Vietnam. We started the K-1 Fiancé visa process so that he could immigrate to the United States.

On a K-1 visa you must get married within 90 days of arriving in the U.S. and due to the nature of the application process, it was difficult to figure out when we would actually be able to enter the United States. Once we got assigned a visa interview appointment, we were able to set the date and hoped by that date we would be stateside and within the 90-day constrictions of the fiancé visa.

I was a bit stressful knowing we had to throw together a wedding in such a short time period. In the end, we had a wonderful day and made great memories.

This past fall (2018) marked our 10 year wedding anniversary. I had started writing this post after our wedding and never got back to it til now. I had included the prices we had paid for things back then. So, the prices may be way off from what things cost today. We did as much planning as we could while living in Vietnam. Keep in mind, if you are reading this trying to figure out how to have a cheap wedding, we were able to get many things cheaper in Vietnam such as a dress, suit, and invitations. This cut down on expenses incredibly.

Wedding Dress: $50

I had my wedding dress tailor-made when I lived in Viet Nam, which was very inexpensive. I got to pick out the fabric and then brought it to a tailor. I chose to wear an Ao Dai, which is the traditional dress of Viet Nam. Traditionally brides wear a red or pink Ao Dai on their wedding day (white Ao Dais are the school uniform for high school girls), but I chose to wear a white Ao Dai to combine our traditions. Also, my sister had always told me she kind of regretted not wearing white on her wedding day and I took this to heart. :)

I know that getting a dress made is not always practical for everyone but I also know many people have a seamstress friend they can convince to help them with their wedding dresses. There are also tons of traditional wedding dresses I ran into at thrift stores that were in great condition. Some of them were a bit outdated but there were also some modern ones too. A bride in a traditional Vietnamese ao dai.


Reception Dress: $65

I chose to go vintage for my reception dress. I had always wanted the perfect 50s dress and I figured that getting married was a great excuse to spend a little extra on something I would not usually spend so much on. I was able to find my dress at a local vintage dress store. eBay is also a great place to find vintage clothing. Just remember that sizes where different in the past and many of these clothes need some extra care. A wedding cake decorated in yellow and blue flowers.


Shoes Used with Both Dresses: $50

Dry Cleaning for Vintage Dress: $25

Suit: $100

This was also tailored in Viet Nam.

Location: $195 We rented a historic torpedo warehouse from WWII at a local state park. We also chose to have the reception in the same location. The building was open to the elements but also sheltered us enough if there had been undesirable weather. State parks are a great place to check out for a wedding location because often the rental fees are not too high. Just like any other place, it is best to book it in advance, especially if you are having a summer wedding. We booked ours about 5 months in advance and we had to change the date we were hoping for because it was already taken. A old torpedo shelter used for the wedding and reception.

The shelter reserved for the wedding.
The wedding ceremony.

Invitations and Thank You Cards: $30 for 100 of each. We were able to get our invitations hand printed for a very low price in Vietnam.

Cake: $353

I had wanted to buy a really fancy cake because I always like to look at the cake when I go to weddings. After getting quotes for the style of cake I wanted, I decided to settle on a good tasting cake instead. My family would always buy cakes for special occasions from Borracchini's, a local Italian bakery. This was my mom's favorite cake and since she had just passed away 8 months before our wedding, I wanted to do something she would have liked. Cutting the wedding cake


Food: $0

My family often has potlucks during the summer and since our wedding was right around the time we usually have our annual family and friend potluck, we decided to go ahead and make it a potluck reception. Not only would this make it cheaper but my husband, who just arrived in the United States, would have an opportunity to try a lot of different foods. A potluck table of food for the wedding.

A potluck table of food for the wedding.

Photos: $0

We chose to forgo the photographer and asked people who brought cameras to please send us their pictures, we did get photos from people but ended up not getting all photos from everyone who took some. I still feel today that maybe we should have found a way to pay for a photographer. Due to our venue not having great lighting, we go a lot of blurry dark photos.

Tables and Chairs: $0

The building we rented came with large picnic tables inside.

Music: $0 The state park did not allow loud music. We could only use a small boom box for all the music at our wedding. It wasn't ideal for the dancer in me, but we still got our groove on. We had kazoos on all our tables and everyone played the wedding march as I walked down the aisle arm and arm with my dad. When I said we had a silly wedding, I wasn't kidding.

Supplies & Decorations: $500

This included plates, napkins, table coverings, table decorations, candles, sparkling cider, contribution for officiator, stamps, photos for invites and decorations and all other expenses that sneak up on you.

We wanted to have a waste-free wedding and reception, and tried to make everything either recyclable, compostable or reusable. We had different trash cans for recycling, compost and trash. We did not have much success with this aspect of our reception. I don't think they were labeled well enough and they ended up getting contaminated. For this to have been successful, we needed much better signage, a note in the program telling people what we were trying to do, and honestly, probably have someone assigned the job of helping people figure out where things should go. I am glad we tried, but it was quite sad that after all my effort of making sure all the plates, utensils and cups were compostable to see these giant garbage bags full of them get put in the dumpster.

Decorations: cheap

We covered the tables with brown craft paper and rearranged the tables to face the altar. I handmade star-shaped crayons by melting old crayons and pouring them into a silicon mold. We scattered these on the tables and encouraged people to draw on tables.

We had paper flower making parties before the big day. We filled mason jars with the paper flowers and placed them on the tables. We bought packs of votive candles in our wedding colors at Ikea and placed those in jelly jars. My husband found a nice branch in our yard and handmade Mai flowers to make the branch look like a Mai tree, an auspicious tree in Vietnam. It turned out beautiful and we ended up using it as decor in our house after the wedding. We bought simple glass picture frames from Ikea and filled them with photos of us together and placed these on the table.

Paper flowers for wedding decorations.

A branch covered in small yellow paper flowers.
A decorated table at a wedding.
Delicate yellow paper flowers.

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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 254 Posts
July 29, 2009

I am looking for thrifty, but sustainable "green" wedding tips. Our wedding is in a month and we are trying to make it as sustainable as possible, without losing its frugality. We are having the wedding and reception at a state park.

By Stellaluna from WA


July 30, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

Any left-over food could be donated to a battered women's shelter or Ronald Mcdonald House. The flowers could be donated to a nursing home. Instead of paper napkins use cute finger towels (on the cheap at $$ stores); real dishes could be used.


Mismatched is the "in" thing now days (friends could provide), glassware also (easy enough to tote). Birdseed of course for the "send off". Congratulations and good luck!

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Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 180 Feedbacks
July 30, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

Birdseed rather than rice to throw after the departing couple. If you need to supplement the greenery around the wedding pulpit (where the bride and groom and minister stand) rent potted plants or buy potted greenery that can be replanted.
Lengths of gauze fabric can be dyed and then used as ropes or drapes to outline the festivity site if you know someone that dyes fabric. After the ceremony they can be donated to a theater group or school drama dept.

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July 31, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

You can ask guests to bring their own plates and cutlery. And for those who forget or refuse, look into Spudware which is compostable.

Use BioBags for compostable garbage. The bag breaks down too. You can compost napkins if they are paper, or use cloth.


Edible/compo stable serving bowls - hollowed out watermelons for example. This is sounding like fun!

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August 3, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

Good for you! Instead of personalized paper napkins, invest in greener momentos. For the invitations, limit the amount of stationary sent out. Use recycled paper or even send them electronically! For any receptions that involve bottles or cans, encourage recycling bins to be used. Limit the amount of flowers. If you must have some, use potted plants that can later be planted at your house. Good luck!

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August 10, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

Instead of giving your guests any wedding favors, post a sign that says "instead of donations, the bride and groom have made a donation to their favorite charities", and then list the charity or charities you donated to.

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July 29, 2009

My fiance and I are trying to plan a green, no/low-waste wedding in Sept. 2009. We are financing the wedding ourselves, and already have family and friends doing our catering, sound, and other services. We're getting vases and other items from second hand stores, growing our own flowers and doing all of our invitations, etc. online. I'm also using a dress, veil, etc. previously used by family and friends to further get away from the concept that buying things for your wedding some how makes it more meaningful.

However we still need someone to do hair and any type of second hand decorations. I am also a personal trainer, and am trading professional services in the Des Moines area (where we actually live). Any additional ideas for decorations, services, etc., people have to offer would be great. Thanks to all who are making an effort to consume and waste less.


Caeli from Madison, WI


Planning A Low Waste Wedding

See if one of your friends has applied to be a minister online. My daughter did and has performed a ceremony for some of her friends at no cost. If you don't mind having a different sort of wedding than the typical religious one, this might work for you. Good luck. (07/18/2008)

By Awana Reese

Planning A Low Waste Wedding

I saw recently on another website (I can't remember which one) that the bride-to-be found plates at IKEA for $.99 each. She bought these for all her guests as they were cheaper then renting dishes and then she had more then enough for her own continued use.

My sister cut back on flower expenses by using large clay pots of geraniums. They looked very nice, and either people can take them home, or you can keep then.


My daughter found a beautiful dress on eBay, but a friend's daughter found a better dress at Goodwill, brand new with the tags for about $30.00. No alteration were needed.

If you give favors to the guests (which I think is unnecessary, but nice), I think buying a bunch of young trees is a great idea (I've seen them sold for like $25.00 for about 30 very young trees). It depends on the variety.

I think a small wedding cake and then a sheet cake in the kitchen for slices for the guests saves a lot of money. No open bar, but maybe wine, punch, maybe kegs of beer and soft drinks. (07/18/2008)

By Janet

Planning A Low Waste Wedding

My friend and family put on a DIY wedding in a pecan orchard. She needed white lights, and asked on FreeCycle to borrow others' Christmas lights. She got a number of sets. If you can be specific about what you want, you could ask on FreeCycle or Craigslist.


Also, in Mexican tradition, guests are asked to provide certain things for the wedding, and in the wedding program they are acknowledged for them. The things they give are their presents.

Enjoy your wedding. (07/18/2008)

By Nance

Planning A Low Waste Wedding

I did my sisters revow in Tucson for 350.00. It was a May wedding, so spring colors were perfect. That was a second hand gown that I modified. I bought Dollar Tree candles for the unity, and put lace over the front with a poem from a greeting card inside, then "tacked" the edges with tiny pearlescent pins and hot glued ribbon bows to the two tapers on either side.

I made her cake topper out of twin teddies dressed up as bride and groom. For table decorations, I found some wrapping paper at a yard sale that had bells inside circles, and they were all the mint, pink, blue, yellow and lavender shades. We cut them all out just placed them "randomly" on the tables. Each table then had a candle the church had anyway and let them use.

The church also had an arbor, that I twist tied Dollar Tree flowers to. I made a pen holder by shoving a seam ripper cap into a Styrofoam dome we had cut in half, then colored that with glue glitter. The pen then had a feather hot glued to it and a ribbon over it for effect. The guest book was from a thrift shop, that I covered with fabric and lace and buttons.

I bought 8/1.00 Easter gift bags in the five colors, and matching tissue paper for wrapping gifts. I then put yellow paper in the pink bags, etc, and lined the "aisle" for her to walk down. You could do the same things only with fall colors and dollar tree foliage. I crocheted boutineer roses for the guys, and made Dollar Tree headbands and flowers for the little girls hair. It was a lovely ceremony and even with inexpensive, but good food and my singing, it was a labor of love. You will no doubt get some wonderful ideas so just have fun and enjoy yourself. (07/18/2008)

By Sandi/Poor But Proud

RE: Planning A Low Waste Wedding

Planning A Low Waste Wedding

I am planning a wedding for Oct for our daughter. This is her second marriage. I have scoured the web for ideas and came up with some really nice ones. I have done other weddings and they cost about $300 if that much. I do all the work myself.

My daughter is going to have a Vietnamese style dress (that is slit from the middle of the hip to the floor) and a halter style top with a neck band that is pointed in the back with pearls dropping from it.

I found an arch at a garage sale for a buck and it will be used for them to get married under. They are planning a sunset ceremony (you can find when the sun sets that far ahead on the web). We are going to have two wrought iron tables (white) on each side of the arch. Each table will hold a rose and as they turn around to walk back down the aisle each of them will hand the new mom (him to me and her to his mom) a rose. The cake is going to have lights around every tier. And her bouquet is wisteria with pink roses and lights in them. Her hair will be pearls twined in her hairdo. She will be barefooted and wear a barefoot sandal that I am making her.

There is so much I am going to do that it is hard to put it all in this message. We also contacted freecycle and got bells and a ring pillow which was in good shape, but I reworked it to be "theirs". The flower girl, her niece, will look just like her. Her two grown daughters will stand by her and give her away.

I am really looking forward to this wedding. Some of the things that are being done:

Glitz (07/19/2008)

By Lynn

Planning A Low Waste Wedding

If you have bridesmaids and groomsmen, the bridesmaids could wear dresses they already own (which would work especially well if they coordinated with each other in advance), and the groomsmen could wear suits, or shirts and ties, instead of tuxes.

I love the idea of a low-cost, no-waste, green wedding. I think it will bring good karma to your marriage. Good luck. (07/19/2008)

By Lori Tomlinson

Planning A Low Waste Wedding

I love the idea of green weddings. I always think it is nice to give seed packets for wedding favors. They can be bought for as little as $0.10 at Walmart and provide a nice "green" gift. Check out local thrift shops and antique stores for crystal champagne glasses for yourselves and the wedding party, candles, candle holders, and other things to complete your outfit like an antique beaded bag or jewelry.

If you don't want traditional flower bouquets why not find some pretty new or used baskets with handles and put a potted plant in each. You can buy flowering plants cheaply at your local Walmart or grocery store and they double as "green" gifts for your bridesmaids. If you do the same for yourself (and have a green thumb) you will have a a wonderful keepsake that cut flowers can't beat.

I love the idea a previous poster said about buying dishes. Even if you only did that for the head table or rehearsal dinner you could get a really neat, eclectic, mix at your local antique store or thrift shop for a very reasonable price. That would also be a great keepsake for you and your soon to be husband. Good luck with your wedding. Post your other ideas. (07/20/2008)

By tracey

Planning A Low Waste Wedding

Since your wedding is in the fall I went out and collected leaves and off of the trees. I melted canning wax and dipped leaves from many different trees and it preserved them nicely. I even did it a year in advance and they stayed. I dipped them, put them on newspaper or some type of paper, let them dry and stacked them neatly in boxes. I used pumpkins and gourds on the tables. For the entrance I got a bunch of corn stalks and tied them together with large ribbon with my colors. We even had like bales of straw with pumpkins. It was very low cost. Good luck. (07/25/2008)

Planning A Low Waste Wedding

I've been looking up different ways to make accessories for my reception, I too, will be getting married in Sept. 2009. You can buy napkin rings and hot glue flowers and ribbon on them or use wire and beads to wrap them, I plan on doing the wire and beads so that I can use them again in my wedding album and scrap booking. I love the idea earlier mentioned about flower seeds as wedding gifts, you could put them in see through bags and wrap them with ribbon.

I'm having a friend make my dress and have asked my sister-in-law "soon to be" to be my photographer. My parents have a log cabin in the mountains of NC which I will be using as the place of our reception. We're using nice glass bowls with Babies Breath, rocks, water, and a single rose as center pieces. Also check out and They have some great ideas that can be recreated for less and placed in your yard our house for decoration. (07/27/2008)

By Kristine

RE: Planning A Low Waste Wedding

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