Sustainable Wedding 101

Since Tim and I are conservationists, our goal is to educate people about the things we can do on a daily basis to make the planet a healthier place for all living things. Although we try our hardest to live a minimalist lifestyle, we are far from perfect; but we don’t try to teach perfection, we teach people to strive to do the best they can, where they can. We don’t want to judge or shame people and we certainly don’t want others to shame themselves. We hope people are inspired by our failures and success stories and as a result, make the tough decisions to change habits and behaviors to contribute to the greater good; If we all did our part, our communities would be healthier. And if each community did their part, the country would be healthier (you get the picture).

We were excited to share our 200 sq. ft tiny house on wheels with our guests.

But living sustainably also means considering how our traditions and special events could be more eco-friendly. So when Tim proposed, I did a lot of research in hopes to get clever, yet affordable ways to create a sustainable wedding; I was left with articles stating, “Eco-Friendly Wedding,” lists on Pinterest that had paper businesses bragging about their recycled and recyclable paper for invites to personal blogs about how to use living plants instead of wasteful, fresh-cut flowers. The internet-machine left me with very little options; Apparently the 50 billion dollar American wedding industry doesn’t want to leave women with any fishy ideas on how find alternative and affordable sustainable options for our weddings.

We took the little ideas we found but decided to go the extra mile. We hope some of these ideas work for you or better yet, challenge you to do even better than us with your wedding day.

The Ring

The ring has never been as big of deal to me as the proposal. The only guidelines I had for Tim were to make it special and not to give me a diamond. Of course Tim went the extra mile:

“I’ve always known that Steph wanted something other than a diamond, which opened the flood gates and made it almost impossible to choose the right ring. So I didn’t – I chose five rings. 1. A toy compass ring (because she is a world traveler with a terrible sense of direction) 2. A ring stamped with a world map (because she means the world to me, and what good is a compass without a map?) 3. a raw, un-cut amethyst (her birthstone, and because everyone said I should get her a big ole’ rock) And, an opal, found in Lightning Ridge, Australia with a recycled metal band (her favorite stone, done sustainably.)” – Tim

The Wedding Dress

Dress– Although I had day dreamed about a wedding dresses here and there but had never been pulled to a single-style or so I thought. A week after getting engaged my friend Shannon sent me a link stating, “Top ten sustainable wedding dress options of 2018.” I opened it up and fell in love with one instantly. The only problem was, it was no longer available. Tim looked at it and said, “babe, you own that dress but a shorter version; remember, it’s the dress from our first date. Steph! You could wear that dress!” That dress hardly fit me on our first date 5 years ago so I did some alterations here and there and poof! I had the dress.

Our first date in Omaha, Nebraska in 2013.
The same dress (plus a few upgrades), 2018.

“Shop local to support local businesses and decrease your wedding footprint.”

When we started researching, Tim discovered a group called the Colorado High Country Conservation Center. He figured they would know a things or two about sustainable businesses in the Lake Dillon area. After a quick call to discuss our sustainable goals for our wedding, Tim was emailed a list of options to choose from.

Ceremony & Reception Set-Up

Local rentals- We rented the essentials like a tent, tables, chairs, table clothes, and tent heaters from Tents and Events in Silverthorne, Colorado.

Flowers & Bouquet

Local Flowers & Living Plants – The flowers on the tables in my hair, and on my bouquet were all local flowers from local companies like, Alpine Earth Center in Silverthorne, Colorado.

Handmade bouquet- Our friends at Window to the Wild handmade my feather bouquet, boutonnière, and corsages with real feathers shed from their rescued birds and local flowers.

Bouquet designed with local flowers and bird feathers from Window to the Wild's Co-Founder, Lindsey McNeny.

Borrow from the Best in the Biz

Borrow – We scored an amazing wedding planner with our dear friend, Luann, who provided us with mason jars, lanterns, blue ribbon, candles, lights, and twinkle lights to avoid buying anything new. Luann also collected local pine browse and cones that were dispersed throughout the reception tent which gave it an authentic look and a wonderful smell.

The most sustainable chapel around...
Oh yeah, that's a mason jar filled with flowers from right outside the tent.
Full of real, local nature, yo.

Food & Beverages

One Mug– To avoid washing dishes and wasteful, single-use cups everyone got 1 mug to use on all beverages for the whole night. We scoured friend’s cupboards and the shelves of thrift shops to find fun, clever, and quirky images that left our guests feeling joyful and nostalgic.

Local beer kegs instead of individual bottles of beer – A half-barrel (a full keg) holds 15.5 gallons of beer which is equivalent to 165 bottles of 12 oz. beers; Do the math and see it is the more affordable and sustainable option. We chose New Belgium Beer because they are a local Colorado beer company and they pride themselves in being one of the most sustainable beer companies around. We also chose Coors Light because it is a nostalgic beer for most midwestern folk and tastes great with tomato juice (“red beer”). And did you know Coors created the first recyclable can!?

Local Winery with a twist– Luann found us a local winery that would allow us to buy 10 cases of different wines to the wedding and whatever we didn’t drink could be returned for a full refund! Booyah! And of course all of the wine bottles were recycled.

On the Menu- We wanted to make it easy and simple so we chose a meal that everyone loves! We chose a local company that only used sustainably sourced or local ingredients and could cater to our vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free friends. We gave them a month heads-up and put the final order in the morning of the wedding when we knew our final head count. It was sooooo convenient! If we needed more, we would have hot pizza at the tent within 30 mins. The best part was, all the leftovers were eaten by dinner the next day so nothing was wasted.

Leaf Plates– Again, we didn’t want to do the dishes or recycle plates so we offered compostable/biodegradable leaf plates & napkins. The leaves were picked off the ground, processed, and guaranteed to compost within 60 days.

Limited Single-Use plastics- We were strict to our rule of no plastic bottles, straws, utensils, plates, cups, or straws. The only plastic I saw was a few containers or food storage for our snacks were in plastic BUT it was bought in bulk and recyclable.

Limited palm oil-  In my travels around Borneo, I witnessed the harm caused by un-sustainable palm oil industries. It is an oil that is in everything from our snacks to our cleaning supplies. It flooded the market when it became a cheaper oil than the rest causing many companies to switch from other oils. The problem is, this oil was not harvested sustainably and many disregarded the lives of the workers and the wildlife that called the land, home.

A small assortment of thrift-shop mugs for our guests to choose from.
Who needs cutlery when you can use your hands?
Just got done recycling our wine bottles and cardboard from bulk purchases. Not. Even. Hard
Here is the vast majority of the waste from our wedding!

Bonus Tips!

1.The carbon emissions from your guest’s travel (or your honeymoon) to and from the wedding can be offset by planting trees through the National Forest Foundation’s Carbon Capital Fund.

2. Say “no thank you,” to gifts OR be VERY specific on what you actually need.  Politely request your guests to shop local or purchase a sustainable gift with no wasteful packaging.

3.Avoid any paper invites or thank you’s by creating a fantastic wedding websites like the, The Knot, which can provide paperless options for everything but also guest lists, budget, wedding info, and your registry.  To see how we set up our wedding (along with the cabin, our engagement story, and much more visit: Davison/Arne Wedding