Eco-Friendly Weddings: Decorations
Hello and welcome to the last article on our eco-friendly wedding journey!
Throughout this blog series, I have given you sustainable tips and tricks for most aspects of your wedding-planning process, but, for me, my favorite part of planning my wedding was choosing the decorations. Tying together the small details at your wedding can create a personalized and powerful experience for both you and your guests to remember forever.
Although I’m going to share many suggestions in this post, you should always do what is right for you and your wedding. You may make some great eco-friendly choices about your wedding and you may also decide to splurge on some not-so-practical items. Both are completely okay! Be kind to yourself during this process, it’s supposed to be enjoyable! What is important is that you are conscious of your decisions and you did what is realistic for you (and your partner) while prioritizing being green.
Below is the decorations checklist I typically use with my clients. It was created with all scenarios in mind, so you can have an idea of what can go on a particular table or area regardless of whether or not you choose that category to be present at your wedding. Adjust accordingly! We also use this list as the client’s packing list for the event and my, the coordinator’s, checklist for each section of the venue so I know the decor is set up exactly how the couple wants it. You do not have to have every item on this list, and often the items are rearranged a bit depending on your individual wedding.
- Guest book:
- Envelope Box with Gift and or Card Sign:
- Welcome Sign:
- Floral and Decor:
- Place cards or seating chart:
- Bar Sign:
- Cocktail Napkins:
Sweetheart Table / Head Table
- Personalized glasses:
- Wedding chair decor:
- Other decorations:
- Table marker or number holder:
- Table number:
- Cake topper:
- Cake serving set:
- Cake stand:
- Parking sign:
- Photobooth sign:
- Bathroom convenience basket items:
- Memorial Table:
Now, let’s take each section and see if there is anything we can consolidate, reuse (either at the event or later in life), or rent (instead of buy, that way it doesn’t go to waste afterward).
Welcome Table: A welcome table is usually the first thing your guests see when they arrive. It is positioned in their path on their way to the ceremony area. I like to keep this table relevant for most of the event, so, once everyone is seated, I will usually move it to the main area so it can be seen and used for the rest of the evening.
- Guest book: This doesn’t even have to be a book! There are a ton of different ways people memorialize their guests’ presence. You have to find the one that is best for you. I recommend looking on Etsy and Pinterest and trying to find something you would enjoy in the future. Do you want something that you can hang up in your house like the signed canvas in the below photo? Do you want people to write you notes in a book that you can look at for years to come? Do you want each guest to use their thumbprint and an ink pad to help create a piece of art that will go in your house? There are a lot of options here so I suggest finding what fits you and ordering early! Etsy products, in particular, can take much longer than expected and you don’t want to stress yourself out!
- Programs: As a wedding planner I can tell you that other than using your program as a fan most people will only briefly look at it before tossing it away. This is obviously not a sustainable choice. If you would like to display a timeline of the day, list of bridal and family members, or any other important information about the day; I suggest you do so one time at the welcome table. In order to make the most sustainable choice, I suggest displaying this on something reusable like glass pains or chalkboards. You can often rent these from your wedding planner or a calligrapher that will do the writing as well.
- Photos: You can decorate pretty much every space at your wedding with framed photos. On the welcome table, I suggest photos from your relationship on your engagement shoot. I also recommend you use frames you either already have in your home or wouldn’t mind using afterward or using as gifts to friends and family.
- Envelope Box with Gift and or Card Sign: These items are great to be rented because everyone needs them on their wedding day but no one has any purpose for them afterward so they are constantly resold or rented from previous events. Ask your planner or rental company what type of options they have.
- Welcome Sign: As I described in the above section on Programs, I recommend a reusable sign (glass or chalk) above a paper poster that you will have to throw away after your event. Some couples choose to make their welcome sign signed by their guests for a 2-in-1 guestbook and welcome sign option.
Photo by Dana Grant Photography
- Programs: Oftentimes programs are placed on each seat at the ceremony. Read the section above on programs for my thoughts on this tradition.
- Florals and Decor: The aisle is a great place to display decorations but remember that flowers are expensive and if you are trying to do an eco-friendly wedding you want to get the most bang out of your buck when it comes to where and how you use your flowers. Check out our blog post on sustainability and florals here. Other decor items like lanterns and glass vases with candles are great but I recommend renting not purchasing them and having a plan to reuse them at another part of the wedding after the ceremony.
- Place cards or seating chart: The most sustainable choice for having place cards or a seating chart is to have a seating chart on a reusable material. As I suggested above when talking about welcome signs, I would use something glass or chalk and I would rent it, if possible. See the below photo for a great example. If you do decide to go with place cards (you might have to, if you are doing a plated meal) then I suggest using a sustainable source and recycled paper.
- Bar Sign: A bar sign/drinks menu is a common occurrence at weddings with limited mix drinks or signature cocktails. If you are going to have a drink menu you should try to display it on reusable material or print and frame it with a frame you can use at home. Glass or chalkboards can be rented or reused, as mentioned above.
- Cocktail Napkins: Personalized cocktail napkins are a trend that is beautiful but not eco-friendly. If you want to make your wedding’s carbon footprint smaller, I would leave this decoration out and ask your catering company if they would only give out the ones they provide by request.
Photo by Dana Grant Photography
Sweetheart Table / Head Table: A sweetheart table is when the couple getting married sits in a small table for just the two of them during dinner. A head table is when the couple shares a larger table with some of their VIP’s (ie: family or bridal party). This table often has slightly different decorations than the other reception tables therefore I separate their decorations list as well.
- Personalized glasses: Depending on the couple you might decide to display personalized glasses at your dinner table either for just the couple or for the entire wedding party. I think these are great decorations that you can all re-use afterward so go for it!
- Wedding chair decor: It is common to put a Mrs. or Mr. sign on the chairs of the newlyweds and although these are cute, they are not often seen by anyone other than the couple. If you want to use them, I recommend renting them from your planner or rental company since you will have no use for them after the wedding.
- Other decorations: Flowers are a big part of the reception tables, so be sure check out our blog on the subject for more information. If you are going to also decorate the table with Mr. and Mrs.’s signs, candles, lanterns, or any other decoration, I would try and rent them over buying them and I would try to use fake candles so you don’t have to throw out the used ones after the wedding. Any decor that you can’t rent can be DIY-ed from any craft or paint materials you have lying around at home to have the most sustainable and Pinterest-trendy wedding decor yet!
Dinner Tables: The dinner tables are often the most stressed decoration piece of the wedding but they don’t have to be. Think of the guest experience and keep it simple and you can’t go wrong.
- Centerpieces: For more information on how to make sustainable floral choices check out our post on wedding florals here.
- Candles: As I have mentioned above, I would rent LED candles or oil candles that can be reused.
- Table marker or number holder: This is definitely something you can rent because you will never need 10-20 table holder numbers again.
- Table number: Depending on what type of holders are available I think your priorities should be simplicity and visibility.
- Menu: If you need a menu for your meal I suggest one framed menu per table rather than a printed version for each person. Since you might not have a reason to use 10-20 frames after your wedding, I would also suggest seeing if this is something you can rent or borrow.
- Favor: If you are going to give your guests a wedding favor it will often be put on their place setting before dinner. I hate to break it to you but if you were set on a favor they are not really eco-friendly and are usually just a waste of money. I have seen a lot of different kinds of favors and most of them go to waste. If you want your guests to have a memento from your wedding I suggest something like a photo booth where they get an activity to do during the reception and a photo with your wedding information on it to take home. Another good favor idea I have seen work is instead of one large cake the clients will do a small cake for cutting and then provide a dessert bar for their guests. You can buy personalized to-go boxes or bags (paper over plastic please) and then the guests get to take dessert home with them. If you do a dessert bar, pro tip, go for small bite-size items rather than large desserts for the night items (like donuts or large brownies). This will cut down on the waste of your guests wanting to try something but not being able to finish it all.
Photo by Coco Mckown
Cake Table: A cake table is often a small round table displaying just your wedding cake and a few decorations.
- Cake topper: A personalized cake topper is always a fun way to personalize your wedding day, but I would just consider what you will use it for after your wedding day. In the below photo we have a beautiful cake topper that the Bride and Groom used on their wedding day. After the wedding day, they cut off the stick and used it as decoration in their home.
- Cake serving set: This is mostly just a reminder to make sure you have one. Oftentimes the couple is gifted a personalized set during their engagement, but if not make sure the catering company has one you can use.
- Cake stand: Unless you plan to often serve multi tiered cakes at home, I recommend renting or borrowing a cake stand or using a simple decor piece like the below piece that can be used again.
Photo by Eleanora Barna Photography
Extra Touches: The following items are just reminders of things I like to talk to my clients about and see if they are things they plan on doing.
- Parking sign: If needed, it is usually provided by the venue.
- Photobooth sign: This is only needed if you are doing a scrapbook or some kind of other activity with your photobooth photos. Also, people like to display their wedding hashtag at the photo booth. If this is something you would like to do just try to make the sign reusable at a later time like with a chalkboard sign.
- Bathroom convenience basket items: Baskets are a completely personal choice and it depends on the venue and time of year if you think they are necessary. If so, try not to overbuy and buy things you can also use later.
- Memorial Table: Clients love to remember those who aren’t able to be at the wedding with them physically by honoring them with a memorial table. I love this idea and did one at my own wedding, as well. As I have suggested throughout this whole post, try to make conscious decisions about the number of things you buy just for this purpose. For example in the below photo, I had a client do a wedding photo display of couples in their families throughout the years. They used frames that all of the photos were already in so they have very minimal waste on this project and it gives the display such a cute and quirky character!
Photo by Studio XIII Photography
Thank you for following along with this eco-friendly wedding series!
I hope I have given you some guidance on how to create the perfect wedding for you, while we collectively try to save the world. As mentioned before, as long as you are happy with the decisions you make, your wedding day will be memorable! I wish you all the best of luck with your weddings and if you have any further questions please feel free to ask them below.
Thank you and good luck!