We Reduced the Carbon Footprint of Our Wedding: A Case Study

Alice and Nathan were planning to get married in December 2007 but the ceremony was postponed until June 2008. “We hadn’t fallen out,” laughs Alice, “we decided to wait another six months so that we could reduce the carbon footprint of our wedding day and have as close to a carbon neutral wedding as possible,” she explains.

Both Alice and Nathan work in carbon neutral companies and are passionate about the environment. Initially, they were swept along by their parents and friends who assumed they would be having a traditional wedding with all the trimmings. “We just went along with it, keeping everyone happy, but then I read an article that said that the average traditional wedding produces around 15 tons of carbon dioxide – and I was horrified,” says Nathan.

Wedding Plans are Changed

One of the first things that the couple did was to change their mind about the date. “In December, we were going to have the reception at a local hotel – we would have needed heating and to hire more space. We chose to opt for six months later – when hopefully the weather would be warmer, the day was longer and we could instantly reduce the amount of heating and lighting that we used,” says Alice.

They then went through everything that was going to be used on the day, from the wedding invitations to the dress, the food and the flowers, to see how they could be more environmentally friendly. “I have a friend who works for a carbon neutral consultancy, advising people in business about becoming carbon neutral and he helped us a lot by estimating the carbon footprint of what we were proposing to do and suggesting how we could make further changes,” says Nathan.

Choosing Ethical Suppliers

All of the invitations, place cards and paper decorations were sourced from completely recycled paper and printed locally and picked up by Nathan on his way home from work. Alice’s wedding dress was handmade using silk from the UK rather than the Far East – to save on air miles – and she is made sure her bridesmaids all had off-the-peg dresses that are also British made.

The wedding reception was held in a marquee and the food sourced from local Somerset suppliers, with lots of fresh food and seasonal specialities. One indulgence that Alice really enjoyed – despite the dangers to the wedding dress – was the fair-trade chocolate fountain that was arranged after dinner, with organic marshmallows and fresh strawberries for dipping.

A Smaller Guest List

The number of people who attended the wedding was kept down to 60, to minimise the impact of their travel. “We also had a coach to take people from the church to the reception – everyone left their car at the country park and this saved 30-odd cars going the 10 miles to the church and back,” says Alice.

Fresh Flowers

A wedding in June meant that local flowers were abundant, reducing the need to source flowers from abroad and Alice and Nathan instructed a local florist to choose flowers that were in season and that went well together, rather than specifying individual types that could be difficult to get hold of. The couple also shared the flowers with the three other couples who were getting married in the same church on the same day – which saved cost as well as carbon.

A Big Sacrifice

The final icing on the cake, so to speak, was the decision by Alice and Nathan to ask for money instead of wedding presents. “Not for ourselves – now we know how much people have donated, we are going to invest in a carbon offset projects in India. We are still choosing, but it will be one that is going to benefit local people and that will have a humanitarian component, as well as offsetting the amount of carbon emissions we produced on our big day,” says Nathan.

Both are agreed that the planning process and the moves they made to reduce the carbon footprint of their wedding were that difficult – both think they have actually been quite fun and very rewarding. “We had a fabulous day – it was warm and sunny and just perfect. And we could enjoy the fact that we weren’t harming the global environment by doing it all,” says Alice.