One of the highlights of my honeymoon was sharing with my husband the dozens of Jordan almonds—one of our wedding favors—left behind on tables at our reception. At the end of the evening, my mother-in-law gathered the extras into a shopping bag and handed them to us. We snacked on them for the duration of an eight-hour drive and a week spent on the Carolina coast.
They were delicious, and even now the taste transports me directly back to those sweet first days of marriage. Yet as I untied each ribbon, pulled apart each tulle circle, and methodically moved them aside to unwrap another, I vaguely wondered how long it had taken to assemble each favor and how long our guests considered the packaging before throwing it away. I felt bad about what seemed like unnecessary waste.
Weddings unavoidably require consumption—which, in the name of hospitality and service, is not fundamentally bad. Beauty, feasting, and refinement have their place and can draw our senses to the invisible realities of the sacrament. It’s an excess of these matters that can unintentionally cause waste. As I look back on my wedding, I can clearly see elements that might have been stewarded more responsibly.
If sustainability and intention matter to you in a similar way, here, my suggestions for planning a lower-waste celebration and choosing details versatile enough to be reused—by you or another bride. As a disclaimer, be assured I make these suggestions not from a moral high ground (see the almond-eating above), but simply from a place of insight I’ve gained over time.
Buy items secondhand, and plan to resell them when possible.
Purchasing secondhand décor and apparel extends the life of items already produced and circulated. It’s not infrequent to find even wedding gowns that have never been worn, after another bride has reconsidered the purchase! When you’re ready, consider re-selling your gently used items; here, our curation of the best organizations for selling or donating your dress, including several distinctively Catholic resources.
Choose versatile items that can be reused for the everyday.
I loved the satin sandals, dyed green, that I wore with my gown. Yet even having had them dyed, the material and style of the shoes very much conveyed “wedding,” and I only re-wore them once before donating them. In hindsight, I wish I’d chosen something more adaptable.
Versatility can be a great guide as you shop: consider what types of accessories you’d enjoy wearing to elevate your everyday outfits or on your honeymoon, a tie your groomsmen can wear again, and signs, vases, or frames you’d be glad to display in your home.
Consider digital over paper materials.
Invitation suites and wedding programs become keepsakes for generations and take on precious meaning in print. For other correspondence, however, consider using digital tools to reduce excess paper. You might include online RSVP instructions in your mailed invitations, for instance, and use electronic cards for matters like wedding party asks, showers, and the rehearsal dinner.
Plan ahead for donating leftovers, and consider serving the Church.
Before the big day, discuss with your fiancé and families what you’d like to do with food, flowers, cake, and any other perishables left over. Contact your diocese’s Catholic Charities for information on food donations in service to those who go without, or contact local religious communities to inquire if and how they accept donations.
I treasure the memory of driving with my best friend after a wedding to drop off her bridesmaid bouquet at the cloistered community of which her sister is a member. Flowers to elevate the chapels of our sisters and brothers in religious life are a beautiful gift!
Have lower amounts of consumption and waste been on your mind as you plan your wedding? Share your experiences and additional tips with other brides in the comments and on our social media.