Eco-Friendly Wedding Series No. 6: Eco-Friendly Wedding Decorations

Reader Contribution by Lindsey Siegele
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You’ve picked your perfect green venue — now what? If you’re lucky, your wedding area is so beautiful that you only need minimal decoration. If the space you have to work with is more bare, no problem. A little bit of creativity can go a long way to make your wedding decorations gorgeous and earth-friendly too.

Eco-Friendly Wedding Decorations

Challenge: Many wedding celebrations incorporate all kinds of decorative elements. From candles to flowers, some of the more common decorations are not always completely earth-friendly. Other wedding decorations, such as ribbons and picture frames, rarely get used after the big day.

Solution: Let’s split this discussion into three elements in wedding decorations: flowers, candles and everything else.

Eco-friendly wedding flowers: If your wedding is scheduled to take place in December in Michigan and you want to decorate with white roses, the odds are probably against your ability to find locally-grown flowers. A great way to plan a green wedding is sticking to what’s local and in season. If you’re having a summer wedding, you may be able to find a local florist for your bouquets and decorations. If your wedding is out of flower season, you might consider skipping flowers altogether. You could get creative and use lanterns or candles instead. There wasn’t a single flower at my wedding (aside from the beautiful fabric one I carried down the aisle), and we all survived unscathed.

Eco-friendly candles: Did you know that common candles — the ones you’ll find at large grocery stores and many fancier stores as well — may occasionally contain harmful ingredients? Most candles are made from a petroleum byproduct. Furthermore, while lead candle wicks aren’t legal to manufacture in the United States anymore, other countries still allow the production of lead-based wicks, so lead may be seeping into your surroundings without you even knowing it (read this EPA report for more information). There are still some questions about whether the unnatural chemicals that create scents in candles are dangerous when burned. In the end, we just don’t know for sure, so it may be best to avoid them.

Don’t worry, you can still incorporate candles into your décor. Alternatives to petroleum-based candles exist, including soy and beeswax options. Making sure those candles have cotton wicks will help you avoid lead. If you’re interested in scented candles, try to find a manufacturer that uses essential oils instead of chemicals.

Check out these manufacturers of natural candles: BsaB Candles, Zionsville Candle Company, Bluecorn Naturals and Beelite Candles, or find your own local manufacturer.

Everything else: A great tip for decoration shopping is this: If you’re not going to reuse it, don’t buy it.

Items such as votive holders and picture frames can be given away to guests at the end of the night for reuse, but keep in mind that if you don’t want to keep your votive holders, your guests might not either. You can go in a different direction and make centerpieces out of potted plants and then give them to your guests that live close by at the end of the night. Just make sure that those plants are local and in season.

Flea markets and secondhand shops are gold mines for decorations. My husband and I were looking for interesting glass containers for candles, but we weren’t willing to buy them new. We visited our local Goodwill and other secondhand stores until we had a nice collection of class jars, vases and candle holders. The fact that they were mismatched wasn’t a problem at all — our wedding had more character because it wasn’t perfectly streamlined.

Secondhand shops are great for other items too. Look for picture frames or lanterns. If you’re incorporating flowers into your décor, you can often buy pre-used vases. You might be surprised by the quality and selection at secondhand stores, and you won’t have to feel guilty for buying decorations that will only be used once.

After your wedding, you can give all of the decorations you’ll never use again back to thrift stores. The next bride who comes in will be thankful for your donation.

Being crafty can save you tons of money, so make anything you can by hand. We weren’t willing to pay for flowers, so I made these great Tissue Paper Pom-Poms and used them as pew decorations. They were beautiful, and we donated them to a wedding planner to use after our wedding. You can save money and the environment by making other wedding decorations too; centerpieces, table runners and aisle runners can all be handmade.

The planning is going great so far! If you’ve missed one of the previous blogs in this series, visit them below:

Lindsey Siegele is the Senior Web Editor at Ogden Publications, the parent company of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Find her on .

Photo by iStockPhoto/Scott Cramer.