It’s easy to get overwhelmed planning your wedding. But it can also be an exciting opportunity to share the spotlight on causes that are important to you. Terms like “socially-conscious, eco-friendly, green, sustainable and socially responsible” are just some of the latest wedding trends gaining popularity. And rightly so! More and more couples are opting to downsize and do some extra good on their special day. Not only does this approach save you time and money, but you can also reap the rewards of knowing you made a positive impact on the environment and the world around you. What’s more, you and your guests can indulge in the festivities while also doing good by the end of the night.
In fact, the Sitti team has seen its fair share of sustainable weddings recently! Just a couple weeks ago, our Digital Marketing Manager, Nadia Eltayeb, was her sister Nadine’s Maid of Honor in a multi-day affair with family and close friends all gathered together. In some ways, it was very different compared to our co-creator Jackie Sofia’s wedding. Jackie and her husband held a backyard ceremony in the early days of the pandemic, with only a few friends and immediate family Zooming in, while her Mom officiated. However, both weddings had their own unique approaches to being sustainable. So, we thought we’d get their take on what tips they’d give a bride-to-be in planning a sustainable wedding.
Venue and Guest List: As a result of Covid restrictions, couples have been forced to cut down their guest list. However, some couples have decided to voluntarily keep their weddings small to encourage a more intimate setting. With fewer guests comes lesser demands for space and consumption of resources like energy, air conditioning, décor and overall waste which is great for the environment and your wallet.
In addition, outdoor venues can help reduce your carbon footprint and reduce the need for decorations that usually get trashed by the end of the night. As Maid-of-Honor and one of the main organizers for her sister’s wedding, Nadia was happy to plan an outdoor wedding. “It helped us to cut back on some of the energy and lighting costs, and we used the greenery around us as built in decor!”
Keep it Local and as Waste-Free as Possible: Talk to your caterer about where your food is coming from. Buying locally sourced foods reduces CO2 emissions as the distance travelled from the farm to the consumer will be significantly less. Also, buying from local farmers will help support their livelihoods so they are less likely to sell their land to developers. “My Dad made his famous eggplant parmesan with eggplant from their garden, as our wedding meal. And I made our wedding cake from scratch, with a cake-topper that was originally my Mom and Dad’s when they were married 40 years ago.”
Avoid providing bottled waters to reduce plastic use, as most guests will not discard them properly. Ensure the venue offers pitchers of waters for your guests, or you can provide boxed waters that are often biodegradable and recyclable.
Maybe avoid offering utensils, cups or plates made of plastic to reduce waste. Ensure the venue has their own reusable cutlery and dishware. You can also provide paper straws or metal straws at the tables. When it comes to serving the cake, use 100% paper plates that can be used for compost afterwards. Be cautious of paper plates lined with a plastic surface or coating, as these are not recyclable. “Before our wedding got knocked down from 150 guests to two (my Mom and my Dad), we were planning to use these compostable plates made from banana leaves! It sounds a little strange, but they were actually more beautiful to us than regular paper plates anyway.”
Flowers and Centerpieces: Flowers can be expensive, but they are certainly an important visual component to your wedding. Renting centerpieces can be a great alternative to reduce unnecessary waste. However, if you prefer to have your own centerpieces, try choosing ones that include lots of flowers and glass vases that guests can take home and reuse. If a family member or friend has a particularly lush garden, and your wedding is small, why not build your own bouquet? When Jackie got married in her parents’ backyard, it was the height of spring. “Huge white and pink peonies were blooming everywhere in the end of May. My Mom is a devoted gardener and there was no sense in paying for a bouquet when I could just walk out the back door. I used the time to meditate, while I strolled through the garden and picked flowers before my wedding. I made my bouquet, my husband’s boutonniere, one for my Dad and a corsage for my Mom. It was a small yet meaningful gesture.”
Support Sustainable Businesses and Causes That Resonate: When purchasing anything for your wedding, support small businesses that work towards a greater cause. With proceeds going to local charities or providing jobs to those who need and deserve them the most, it is a great way to make a social impact even when the celebrations are over.
Sign up for a cause or a charity that resonates with you. You can inform your guests by including a brief insert along with the invitations discussing the cause and how to donate, or create a Gofundme account for them to donate directly.
While planning her sister’s bridal shower, Nadia opted for Sitti soap bars as gifts, with a custom tag and ribbon. “We decided to choose Sitti for the bridal shower because we fell in love with the cause- helping refugees create sustainable income is something we wanted to be a part of. We also thought that every woman would love to have an all-natural soap bar, especially one that was so beautifully packaged.”
The Big Takeaway: Maybe Less is More
Over-the-top weddings may still make an appearance now and then. And we understand that for some brides, their wedding has looked a certain way in their heads since they were children. (And why give up your childhood fantasy now?) However, as the world wakes up to a planet in crisis with urgent concerns of climate change and political turmoil in so many parts of the world, incorporating these small changes for a more sustainable wedding can make a big difference.
Want to incorporate a sustainable touch into your upcoming wedding? Get in touch!
About the Author: Mariam Tokhy is a Contributing Writer for Sitti Social Enterprise. She is a graduate of York University majoring in English literature and broadcast journalism from Seneca College. She is passionate about various social causes that advocate for the protection of human rights, the environment and wildlife conservation.