Destination weddings may seem like an appealing alternative to a big wedding — once you’re at your venue, the smaller guest list that most destination nuptials have means less food and fewer favors. But the carbon cost of putting a group of your nearest and dearest on a plane to get to the wedding can be enormous. In fact, avoiding one roundtrip transatlantic flight a year can save 1.6 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per person.
Nowadays families are spread out all over the country and even the world. And some may find it harder to travel than others. Pick a city where most of your guests are located or a central travel hub that’s easy to get to for most of your guests to reduce the total amount of plane and car travel.
One of the easiest things you can do while planning your wedding is choosing to have both your ceremony and reception at the same location. It’s less coordinating for you beforehand, and you don’t have to deal with transportation headaches on your big day. It also cuts the carbon costs of your guests driving from the ceremony to the reception.
Coordinate transportation if there’s a central location a portion of guests are coming from, like a hotel. One shuttle bus has fewer carbon emissions than everyone travelling separately in cars and can act as a designated driver for the group afterward. Bonus points if you can use a shuttle service that has hybrid vehicles.
One shuttle bus can replace up to 15 cars and produces less than a third of the emissions.
There are so many options for having your wedding outdoors: state or national parks, gardens, beaches or a clearing in the forest. Often these locations are cheaper than the average venue, and sometimes only a small permit fee is required. Outdoor venues already have lighting taken care of and depending on your season and location, you may not have to worry about energy used for heating or cooling. The scenery can replace decorations.
Just make sure to follow the “leave no trace” rule and pack out anything you do bring in. And since Mother Nature can be a tad unpredictable, it’s not a bad idea to have a backup plan for inclement weather. It may be as simple as renting a tent or seeing if there is a visitors’ center available to use if needed. Always make sure to check with whoever manages the area to find out if there are any restrictions or limitations.
Almost any place can become a wedding venue if you’re willing to work for it, but that work may include everything from providing generators and port-a-potties, depending on your location. The benefit of choosing a venue that already has dedicated services for weddings means you don’t need to rent additional supplies like tables, chairs and linens. This eliminates the transportation costs and coordination needed for those rentals.
Established venues also know what the typical needs are for a wedding, like food prep space for catering, how to manage crowds for serving meals, and the appropriate amount of food and supplies needed for your guest count.
Choose a nonprofit owned venue like a historical site, nature center, museum or park whose rental fees go toward supporting their mission. If you’d like to go further, you can also let your guests know why you chose the venue, why it means so much to you and how they can make a donation.
Look for venues that are LEED-certified and have strong sustainability policies, such as responsible waste management and renewable energy use.
One study found that on average, green buildings use 26% less energy, emit 33% less carbon dioxide, use 30% less indoor water and send 50-75% less waste to landfills and incinerators.
“I chose to have my wedding at the [Los Angeles] River Center — a focal point for the renewal of the Los Angeles River. They have a garden that created a beautiful backdrop and reduced the number of floral arrangements or decorations purchased for the reception. I felt good supporting the River Center and celebrating in a space that is all about the revitalization of the river.”
“We chose an established wedding venue for our ceremony and reception. In most cases, these places will have equipment and supplies that are reusable, such as tablecloths, napkins, dishes, glasses, silverware, etc. Instead of buying them for yourself and either throwing them away or letting them sit forever, these items will be washed and reused time and time again, eliminating a large amount of potential waste. Kegs instead of bottles and cans, worked well for waste-reduction too.”
“It was important to us when choosing a ceremony location that we could capture the beauty of the place we lived. Typical wedding venues weren't the aesthetic we were looking for, plus we had a very small number of guests. Saguaro National Park provided a beautiful backdrop for the ceremony and we didn't need to spend extra money to decorate!”
“We had our wedding outside at a local bird sanctuary. There was no fee to host the wedding there since we weren’t using any of their facilities, but we gave them a donation to support their conservation efforts. They even let us borrow their center’s reusable chairs for the ceremony.”
“My fiancée and I live across the country from our families and most of our friends. Even though it would be easier for us to have the wedding where we currently live, we decided it would be better to have our wedding where most of our guests are and save them the travel.”
"We chose a venue near Chicago since, as an airline hub, it would be an easier destination for many of my friends overseas and a shorter commute for my fiancée’s family in the Midwest."