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Waste-free Weddings (Updated)

By: Bryan Madera

Editor: Anna Oposa and Gab Paloma

Graphic Design by: Gab Paloma

Originally posted on 5 June 2018 | Updated on 14 February 2021


Love in the time of Corona looks different. Weddings are smaller and more intimate than usual, and many safety protocols are (rightfully) in place. We reviewed and updated our Waste-Free Weddings guide so you can shellebrate safely and still be able to say “I do” in the best way by minimizing the environmental impact of your wedding with these tips!


Before joining Save Philippine Seas, I worked as a wedding organizer for over a hundred weddings in Boracay. While weddings are full of love and happiness, I observed that they also generate a lot of waste -- especially destination weddings.

Fortunately, weddings are planned months in advance, which means couples and their coordinators and stylists can find alternative suppliers and materials to make the celebration more eco-friendly.

Say “I do” to minimizing your wedding’s environmental

impact with these 18 tips:

1. Offer reusable masks as an optional giveaway. Having reusable/cloth masks on standby can serve as a useful souvenir at your celebration.

2. Set up sanitizing stations for guests at the wedding venue and reception. Having bulk containers for hand sanitizers can also allow guests to refill their own personal containers during the event.

3. Encourage guests to bring their own beverage containers/water bottles. This can help reduce unnecessary waste and risk of transmission.

4. Create a wedding registry. List things you think you’ll need for your married life. Having a wedding registry means guests won’t bring gifts to your destination wedding, saving you and your guests luggage space. It will also avoid duplication of presents, and thus decrease waste and clutter.

5. Go digital and paperless. Wedding invites, escort cards, labels, menus, and drinks lists are thrown away after the reception. Send your invitation and RSVP via email, Facebook, or a messaging app. Use chalkboards for table assignments, menus, and drinks lists.

6. Rent decorations instead of buying. Rent the candle holders, lamps, frames, boards, and the ceremony veil and cord. Inquire with your stylist and coordinators what the rentable options are for your theme.

If you must buy, choose decorations you can use again in other events, like a family dinner, anniversary, baptism, or items you can use to decorate your home.

7. If your wedding requires an overnight trip for some guests, include an eco-friendly packing list in your invites. Remind guests to bring reef-friendly sunscreen and reusable items such as bottles, shopping bags, utensils, and food containers for take-aways. Instead of using sachets for personal care items, ask them to transfer their current personal care products into smaller reusable bottles/containers.

8. Choose useful and package-free giveaways. Give something that will be of use to avoid waste and clutter. (That means no figurines/calendars/frames with the wedding date or couple’s names or photo on it!) Ask your suppliers to find plastic-free or packaging-free options.

For beach weddings, examples of useful items would be reef-friendly sunblock, reusable tote bags, DEET-free insect repellent, and reusable straws that may be used for the cocktails and reception.

You may also purchase products from local artisans to bring income to the local community and cut cost on shipping items.

Another option is to donate your giveaway budget to a non-profit (like, ahem, SPS), school, or cause.

9. Travel in groups to reduce vehicles on the road. Schedule group transfers when traveling in a group or use public transportation when traveling alone.

10. Stay in hotels that integrate eco-friendly practices. If your chosen hotel/resort needs improvement on sustainability, write a letter requesting for the replacement or removal of single-use items. For example, bottled water can be replaced with pitchers of filtered water, and personal care items in sachets or small bottles can be removed. You can also request for beddings and towels to be replaced after three or four days.

11. Choose sustainable and traceable seafood. Avoid species of seafood that are unsustainably caught/farmed, not in season, or the population is already vulnerable to extinction (that means shark's fin soup is a big no-no!). Ask your caterer how and where the seafood was sourced.

12. Go for local organizers, artists, and suppliers. Local partners (e.g., coordinators, videographers, photographers, band) will not only cut costs in transportation and accommodations, but will also cut your wedding’s carbon footprint significantly.

13. Remove rice, poppers, glitter, fireworks, balloons, lanterns, and confetti from your celebration. Throwing rice is wasteful, while poppers, glitter, and confetti are single-use items. Use bubbles or bells for entrances and recessionals.

Fireworks may look magical, but are expensive, cause air pollution, and disappear from our sight within minutes. But guess what? Some of the toxins never actually decompose or disintegrate.

Balloons and lanterns seem Instagrammable, but once the photo is snapped and gravity does its job, they fall to our seas and streets and can injure or kill animals.

14. Don’t use shells, corals, sea stars, sand, and pebbles as souvenirs or decor. Each one has a role in the ecosystem. They help stabilize beaches and anchor seagrass; provide a habitat for creatures like hermit crabs and fish; and provide nutrients for other organisms. Go for ceramic replicas to complete the look of your motif.

15. Provide water stations instead of bottled water, and remove plastic cups and straws from the bar. Guests can use glasses, and differently-abled guests may request for straws.

16. Consider donating wedding funds or spare giveaways for a cause. Donate your giveaway budget to non-profits (like Save Philippine Seas!), schools, or for families and individuals affected by typhoons. A couple once donated part of their wedding gifts to SPS, which we used to purchase snorkeling equipment for our education programs!

17. Choose seasonal flowers and foliage. Pick plants and foliage grown locally or flowers in bloom. Potted plants (instead of cut flowers) last longer and can function as centerpieces and giveaways. Another alternative to consider is dried leaves or foliage. Consult with your florist or a horticulturist what local and seasonal options go with your theme. Sourcing local plants supports livelihood of local farmers and enterprises. You can also donate flowers to the church after.

18. Choose ethically sourced, conflict-free wedding rings. Use recycled metals or lab-grown gems, purchase antique rings so you don’t need to make new ones, or explore the use of another type of material, like wood.

These are just eighteen tips to get started! To help you better prepare for your Big Day, we also prepared a wedding checklist for you! Download a detailed copy of this checklist below.

2021 Eco-friendly Wedding Checklist
Download DOCX • 67KB

You can also send us a message or email us if you have other zero-waste practices to share for weddings and events!

We wish you salty kisses and best fishes!


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