What You Need to Know About Eco-Friendly and Low Waste Wedding Venues BEFORE You Select a Venue

Flowers near my ceremony spot

If you’re ready to start looking at wedding venues, consider eco-friendly practices and more sustainable options as part of your search.

Wedding venues can be resource intensive and create excessive waste, such as:

  • High energy use for heating or cooling

Many venues advertise their environmental initiatives on their website or through marketing materials. That said, it is hard to find spaces that are doing everything possible to reduce their environmental footprint. Even so, some venues are flexible and willing to arrange special requests (like composting) or allow a more sustainable vendor without additional fees.

Waterfall near my ceremony spot

Tips for selecting eco-friendly wedding venues:

Location & Transportation

1. Select a location that is centralized to your guests. For example, if you have many guests flying in for your wedding, host your wedding near the airport or within the city where the airport is located.

2. Select a location with public transit available. Having a bus line or metro line near your wedding venue can reduce the fossil fuels used. It can also save your guests money — no need to pay for parking or a ridesharing when public transportation is convenient.

3. Consider hosting your ceremony and reception in the same space. This will reduce the miles and fossil fuels guests use moving between locations.

4. Consider hosting your ceremony and/or reception outdoors. This option will reduce heating/cooling energy use, while bringing nature into your wedding celebration.

Energy

5. If you decide to do an indoor ceremony and/or reception, consider selecting a LEED certified building. LEED certified buildings promote: high insulation standards, efficient heating/cooling, low-energy lighting and appliances, efficient water use, and more. Use this website to search for green buildings near you!

6. Consider the season and common temperatures. If you get married in the fall or spring, you may be able to reduce heating/cooling energy use.

7. Consider your wedding time and the natural light available. If you get married in the afternoon or early evening, you may be able to reduce lighting energy use.

8. Ask potential venues if they have renewable energy on-site or if they opt into renewable energy through their energy bills.

Waste

9. Ask potential venues if they have compost and recycling available. If they don’t, ask if they’d be willing to arrange it for your event.

  • If your potential venue will not arrange compost/recycling, ask if you can manage it yourself.

10. Ask potential venues if they have a Zero Waste Program. For example, a park district near me requires reusable or compostable dinnerware, cups, cutlery, and napkins for all events. This is an easy way to ensure plastic and single-use items don’t crop up at your event.

Partnerships

I recommend looking up sustainable and eco-friendly vendors prior to venue selection. If, for example, you find an amazing sustainable caterer, you can look for them on a venue’s preferred vendor list or estimate costs if they are not on the preferred vendor list. Alternatively, your favorite vendor may provide a list of venues they partner with. Doing this research beforehand will help you make an informed decision!

11. Ask potential venues if they have a preferred vendor list.

  • If so, look for eco-friendly vendors on that list. For example, if the venue partners with at least one organic catering company, this could make your vendor search more straightforward. Near me, Chowgirls Catering is a common preferred vendor for venues; they specialize in local and organic food, while reducing food waste overall.

Venues that allow you to bring in any vendor can be great; this will allow you to source the sustainable food, drinks, flowers, etc. of your choosing and generally increase flexibility.

Decor

12. Select a venue that is naturally beautiful without décor. This will save transportation miles for your wedding rentals. It will also save you some cash!

13. Ask potential venues if any décor comes with the space (e.g. chairs, lighting, etc.). If you like the in-house décor, this will save transportation miles for your wedding rentals. It may also save you some cash!

My ceremony spot

My Story

My ceremony was at a city park. The location was centralized, close to the airport, and accessible by public bus and metro line. My ceremony space didn’t allow rentals, which meant the impact to the natural area was quite minimal, without rental trucks coming in and out. My friends and family managed all waste streams; we were able to produce only compost (food waste) and recycling (sparkling juice bottles and dessert packaging). I borrowed cutlery, thrifted plates and napkins, and rented glasses. Additionally, there was no electricity available on-site so the only electricity we used was through a portable speaker.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I canceled my indoor reception. The venue I selected was absolutely perfect for our (<60) guest count and it would have supported a local, woman-owned business. Although my reception space had a preferred vendor list, they did not charge a fee for other vendors. I had arranged to compost myself (recycling was already available) with the venue. I also arranged all vintage dinnerware, cutlery, and napkins through my catering company. My catering company focused on local, organic, and fair trade food, with an emphasis on reducing food waste. My coffee vendor agreed to only use vegan milk and all of their coffee was locally roasted. Between my venue, my catering company, and the coffee vendor, no other rentals were needed — as my catering company already sourced vintage dinnerware.

Like this post?
Check out the other posts in my sustainable wedding series such as Read This Before You Purchase Engagement/Wedding Rings, Zero Waste & Sustainable Engagement/Wedding Rings, Read This Before You Purchase Wedding Invites, Save the Dates, RSVP Cards, and Thank You Notes, Eco-Friendly & Low Waste Wedding Invites, Save the Dates, RSVP Cards, & Thank You Notes, and How To Create a Low-Waste and Sustainable Wedding Registry.

All photos by Jen Montgomery Photography.

None of the links in this post are affiliate links; I have received no incentive to include brands or companies in this post.

Emily Reimer is a reader, writer, advocate, environmentalist, and vegan. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies and is working on a Masters in Public Health.

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