Ethical and green wedding planning

Wedding planner: 6 - 12 months step by step


  • Rule 1

Forget any ‘rules’ of weddings! Trying to stick to convention can make things very hard and is unlikely to make you happy – do it your way.  What follows are suggestions, nothing more!


  • Get ethical

Forewarn your nearest and dearest of your intentions for an ethical celebration.  Explain what this means and why it's important to you – get them on side from the start.


  • DIY weddings 

Do a quick skills survey – ask friends and family: could dad make the cake? could gran do the flowers? Get people involved – and don’t forget your own talents too!


  • Something borrowed... 

Do an inventory of any wedding paraphernalia you already own (or can borrow) to see where you can make cuts on cash and consumption. Wear your mum’s wedding dress? Use ribbon from a friend’s wedding?


  • Question time

The more questions you can ask suppliers the better. Even if they aren’t doing all they could be now, they may well do in the future if enough people ask them why not!


  • Engagement ring

If an engagement ring hasn’t presented itself yet, but is desired (!), have a think about your options. If you’re going for a diamond, ask the supplier if they can show it’s conflict free, and what they know about the social and environmental conditions in which it was obtained.  Read more in A girl's best friend?

Or think about an antique ring, one passed down through the family, or crafted by a friend or even yourselves at one of the ring workshops around the country.

If you want to cut out mining all together, there are beautiful wooden rings to choose from too.


  • Bride on a budget

Decide a budget and who’s paying for what – and stick to it!


  • Green wedding planner

If you’re hiring a wedding planner, get them on board now and make sure they’re sympathetic to your ethical wedding plans, lots are these days.


  • Save the date

Formal weddings can be paper heavy so relax yours and save some trees by getting people to save the date by email, phone or in person. 


  • Ceremony & celebration

Do you want a church or civil ceremony? If church, think about getting a reception venue as close to the church as possible. If civil, can you have ceremony and reception in the same venue to save all that travelling about?

Meet with your registrar or vicar to get all the legal arrangements sorted out early on.

Also start to think about what type of ceremony you want. It should reflect who you are, your values and your beliefs. Explore the options – this is the most important part of your day.

Of course even if your ceremony and reception venues are close, your guests will still have to travel to get to you so try to find somewhere near public transport and where they can stay overnight.

Remember to ask your venue lots of questions about where their food comes from (if they cater too), what they do to be eco-friendly from using a renewable energy supplier to recycling, and the social side of things, supporting a charity, using fair trade products and so on.


  • Wedding breakfast

If you’re hiring a caterer, ask them how much of their food is sourced locally, how much is organic, whether they can supply fair trade products such as tea and coffee, and how they deal with leftover food. Make sure you get chance to sample their menu before you book and check their vegetarian options are up-to-scratch if you’re not going totally veggie. Maybe they have links with a local vineyard too for some biodynamic bubbly…!


  • Bottoms up

Talking of bubbly, it’s probably a good idea to think about what you’ll be drinking early on. Check with your venue if you can bring your own drinks in which case you can go for local, organic or fair trade wine, real ales from a local brewery, or cider – a must if you’re in the west country! For soft drinks, try organic fruit juices and make sure there’s a jug of tap water on each table. If you have to go with your venue’s drink list, see what you can persuade them to stock that stays within your ethics and your budget!


  • Who’s with you?

Choose your wedding party wisely. Bridesmaids who understand where you’re coming from, groomsmen who’ll be supportive.

Get them excited about a green wedding and involve them in decisions and they’ll make sure you don’t carry the wedding planning burden alone.

Involve other friends and family members in the service by asking them to do a reading, sing or play. They’ll be thrilled to be asked and will feel more a part of your day. 


  • Who's on the guest list?

Who’s going to come? Get a rough idea now so you can choose a venue to fit.

Keep it small and personal and it’s easier to keep it green simply by virtue of not shifting all those guests around the country.

But it’s your day and they’re your friends and family – if you have a lot that’s not your fault! Besides this will probably be the biggest party you ever throw and is one of the few times that you're actually able to get everyone together. Make sure the people you want to celebrate with are there and you can cut the carbon in other ways.

And more guests might mean raising more money for charity through a charity gift list, or more people made aware of green issues by attending your green wedding…who knows?


  • Fine feathers

Fair trade fabrics, charity shop chic, vintage bride or a bespoke eco-style creation? Time to start trying on dresses…

If it is bespoke you’re after, commission sooner rather than later to give you plenty of room for adjustments before the walk down the aisle.

It’s also not too soon to start thinking shoes (you need to make sure they go with your outfit). Comfy but beautiful and ethically made, there’s the challenge! 


  • Flower arranging

If flowers are part of your plan, get thinking now. To grow them yourself, you’ll probably need to get digging a year in advance. If a local farmer’s going to grow them for you, they’ll need plenty of notice too. But if you opt for pot plants, unusual arrangements of fruit or perhaps just a single fair trade flower stem, you’ve got a bit more time to think about this one.

For the bridal bouquet you could pick flowers from your garden on the day, carry fabric flowers, a pretty delicate bag, a single stem, whatever you’re comfortable with. Don't feel you have to carry anything at all. 


  • Photographic evidence

It's so important to get this one right as a bad photographer can ruin your day! Go on word-of-mouth recommendation or try one of the photographers in the Ethical Weddings directory, knowing they share your aims for an ethical wedding.  Make sure you see examples of their previous work.

Remember too that most people have digital cameras now meaning the days of disposables on tables should be in the past saving you money and all that plastic from going to landfill!


  • Entertain me

Best to book a band now if that’s your plan. Go local if possible, acoustic options such as a ceilidh are always popular or maybe your band’s amps work on peddle power! Alternatively, you could get all your musical friends to bring an instrument and have a jamming session on the night!

Back to the wedding planner