Weddings are wasteful. At the end of the night, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up in the garbage: programs, escort cards, table numbers, floral arrangements, paper napkins, plastic cups, uneaten food, half-eaten cake, unfinished drinks. The list goes on.
While it’s probably impossible to have a zero-waste wedding, it’s definitely possible to cut way down on the waste. Sustainability is a growing trend in weddings, especially among more environmentally conscious young Millennials and Gen Z-ers. Here are some ways that you can reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding from a paper goods and stationery standpoint.
One of the first things you will do after getting engaged is send save-the-dates to your family and friends (once you’ve secured a venue and date, of course). Save-the-dates are often something fun, like a refrigerator magnet, but they can easily be sent digitally. Paperless Post is a great option for sending pretty invites and announcements without using any paper.
If you want to get a little fancier and include envelope liners and digital calligraphy, you’ll have to purchase “coins” to redeem on those features, but it’s still significantly less expensive than sending paper announcements.
I love paper wedding invitations. I love the heavier-weight paper, the embossing, the size, the detail. And I love receiving a hand-calligraphed wedding invitation in the mail. It announces itself as something special.
But wedding invitations are paper-intensive. There’s the outer envelope, the inner envelope, the invitation, the response card, the response card envelope, perhaps a map or directions insert, and maybe a brunch invitation. It’s a lot!
You can, of course, send an electronic wedding invitation just as easily as you can send an electronic save-the-date. If you’re not (pardon the pun) wedded to tradition, you may want to go that route. Again, sites like Paperless Post make it easy to extend invitations and track RSVPs.
You could also take a hybrid approach by sending a paper invitation but collecting RSVPs online via your wedding website. (See this post about why you need a wedding website.) This cuts down on paper usage because you don’t need to print and mail a paper response card with envelope. (It has the added advantages of saving you money and being faster than guests mailing back their responses.)
If you want to send paper invitations but still be environmentally friendly, you can have them printed on recycled paper, or biodegradable paper. Some companies will even print your wedding invitations on seed paper, which is exactly what it sounds like: paper with seeds embedded in it. The paper is plantable, and maybe your guests will get some pretty wildflowers out of it! Paper Culture plants a tree after every order.
One potential downside to sending electronic invitations is that older guests may not have email addresses or internet access and may not be able to receive or respond to a digital invitation But this likely will affect only a small number of your guests, so you can find ways to work around that minor difficulty.
There are several wedding stationery items that can be presented as signs instead of as individual cards, namely, programs and escort cards.
Ceremony programs are a way to let guests know who’s in the wedding and roughly what will take place during the ceremony. Usually these are printed as individual cards or booklets and placed on each seat before the ceremony begins. It gives guests something to look at while they wait for the ceremony to begin.
But the information can just as easily be conveyed with a large sign on an easel displayed near the back of the ceremony site, where guests will see it as they walk in. Etsy is full of templates for ceremony program signage; you just have to find a printer who can print a large-format sign for you.
Individual, tented escort cards make a beautiful display. But if sustainability is your goal, then a large seating chart is the way to go. Again, Etsy has approximately 1 million seating chart templates for download.
The job of escort cards or a seating chart is to tell guests which table they’re sitting at, but not which seats is theirs. Even if you’re not assigning seats, table assignments are still highly recommended. Guests will be more comfortable if they know they have a specific place to go, rather than trying to find someone to sit with (and having flashbacks to stressful middle school cafeteria situations).
If your guest list is 250 or less, you can break out the seating chart by table. Table 1: list of names. Table 2: list of names. Etc. But if you have more than 250 guests, it can be difficult to scan the entire seating chart for one name. In that case, I recommend making the seating chart alphabetical. A—B: list of names with table numbers next to the names. C—D: list of names with table numbers. You get the idea. This makes it so much easier for guests to find their table.
And while we’re on the subject of assigned tables, keep in mind that your tables don’t have to be numbered. They could be named instead, which would eliminate the need for paper table numbers. Possibilities include naming tables after wine varietals, or books from classic literature, or favorite movies.
The item for which the table is named could be the “table number.” A bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon would be placed in the middle of the table, instead of a number 2 in a stand. This idea works better for smaller weddings with 10 or fewer tables; otherwise, it turns into a scavenger hunt, with guests wandering all over the place trying to find the table that has their book (or whatever) on it. But it’s a fun way to cut down on paper while also injecting some of your and your fiancé(e)’s personalities into your wedding.
Next week: sustainable floral and decor ideas
TL;DR here’s a video link
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