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Using the 5 R's for eco-friendly weddings

Eco-friendly weddings: Incorporating the 5 R’s

We all know reduce, reuse & recycle – but did you know there are actually 2 more? refuse & repurpose. We often incorporate these R’s into our daily lives but there are tons of ways we can use them when wedding planning as well.  So today I’m going to go through the 5 R’s and give tons of examples on how you can bring them into your wedding planning or decor. Not only will focusing on thexcxxm create a more eco-friendly wedding that’s good for the planet, but it will also save you money too!



Refuse is the first R and is often the hardest to accomplish when wedding planning. When you start wedding planning, it’s easy to get sucked into the bubble of must-haves, inspiration photos & possibilities. It happened to me too! But all these wedding trends can also kill your wedding budget. So when starting to plan your wedding, my advice is to make a list of everything that is important to you BEFORE you start researching. Refer back to this list every time a new want comes along and see if it falls into those important categories.

Refuse the pull to buying more, purchasing add-ons & upgrades and refuse the trap that many couples fall into that they must have the perfect Pinterest wedding. Maybe those upgrades are worth it or maybe those extra flower arrangements will make your sweetheart table perfect and that’s great. Say yes to those. But refuse the extra, the excess and the unnecessary.



There are many ways to reduce when it comes to wedding planning that will help your bank account and the planet. Pick the ones that make sense and work for you.

  • Food choices – Reducing the number of food options will often help eliminate food waste. When you have 4 meal choices, caterers have to bring extras of all of them in case a guest lets the kitchen know of an allergy. Buffets with multiple choices are the worst offenders for food waste.
  • Travel – This can mean so many things! Reducing the distance guests have to travel between ceremony, reception and hotel. Or it could mean reducing the amount of travel your vendors have to take to get to your wedding. What about food travel? Choosing local, seasonal food sources instead of imported items like citrus & avocados are a key.
  • Lighting – reduce lighting by having your ceremony outdoors or in a venue with lots of natural light

    Outdoor wedding - eco-friendly weddings

  • Guest List – reducing your guest list typically also makes your wedding more eco-friendly. You’ll need less of everything, a smaller venue and less
  • Paper – reducing the amount of paper you send out or have at your wedding is another way to create a more eco-friendly wedding. You could go completely paperless for your invites, or just have one card printed on recyclable paper. This would be instead of an RSVP card and a map etc. Choosing to use chalkboards, mirrors & other upcycled items for signage is a great alternative to printing signage on foam core that will get thrown out.



Social media has made reusing wedding items a whole lot easier! Here are some great ways to make sure your wedding items get used again and again

  • Facebook – local wedding Facebook groups are a fantastic way to reuse wedding decor & dresses. Couples sell off their wedding decor to other engaged couples. Selling your items on Facebook afterward is always a great way to save some money too
  • Rentals – Rentals are a great way to ensure wedding items will get used again and again after your wedding. There are many wedding decor rental and event supply rental stores to rent things like linens, dinnerware, arches, centrepieces, seating charts, vases & more. Check out my list of wedding decor rentals here.

    sweetheart harvest table

  • The Dress – sell your dress online or donate it to The Bride’s Project, a second hand dress store in Toronto. They donate all their profits from the sales of the dresses to cancer charities.
  • Secondhand stores – these stores are fantastic for finding many things that can be repurposed (see below). You’ll have to spend time going from store to store and coming back for new inventory often, but it can help keep items out of landfill and save you tons of money
  • Decor – reuse the decor from your ceremony in your reception. Things like flower arrangements, lanterns, welcome signage, signing table decor can all be moved by your day-of coordinator during your cocktail hour. This will save you some money too!
  • Flowers – dry your wedding bouquet to keep it or get the flowers pressed into art. For all the other flowers see if you can partner with a retirement home, hospice or hospital that will reuse the flowers to brighten up their patients’/residents’ days. I have a partnership here in Hamilton with a local retirement home to take any flowers over to them that couples don’t want to keep.

    dried wedding bouquet - eco-friendly wedding



There are so many items that you might have at home or that you could find at a second hand store that can be repurposed into something else and might make great decor for your wedding. Here are some ideas.

  • Old Doors – I used old doors myself at my own wedding for our ceremony backdrop. I have a blog post on how I made them here.

    repurposed wedding backdrop - eco-friendly wedding

  • Window frames – You can use old window frames and turn them into a seating chart by either adding string and clothes pegs or by attaching chalkboard and writing out your seating chart
  • Picture frames – picture frames are SO versatile and can be spray painted and used as table numbers, bar menus, signage, seating chart, itinerary etc.

    repurposed frames - eco-friendly weddings

  • Duvet Cover & fabric – A weird one I know, but you can actually use bed sheets as table cloths for cake tables sweetheart tables or to make bunting banners
  • Wine bottles – keep them clear or spray paint and cluster them together for some great bud vases. You can also use them to make table numbers

    repurposed wine bottles - eco-friendly wedding

  • Candle holders, glass jars – second hand stores are FULL of these. Cluster them together with single flowers in them and candles surrounding for a super simple centrepiece
  • Mirrors – turn a mirror into a welcome sign or some other form of signage

    mirror wedding sign - eco-friendly wedding

  • Wine corks – we saved all our wine corks and used them to hold each placecard at the dinner tables

    repurposed corks wedding decor

  • Wooden crates – paint them out or leave them rustic – these are great to create vignettes & different levels of decor.

    wooden crate party decor


For the items that cannot be reused by someone else after your wedding or repurposed you should look at using items that are recyclable. This starts with talking to your venue, caterer and other venues to find out how they dispose of things. Do they recycle items that can be? Ensure any paper products used at your wedding like menus or place cards are recycled afterwards. Talk to your month-of coordinator to let them know you are interested in creating an eco-friendly wedding and that recycling is important to you. Ensure all beer bottles and cans are recycled properly – hopefully by going back to the beer store which is how they are best recycled.

Phew! That was a long one! But as you can see there are SO many ways to have a more eco-friendly wedding. You don’t have to use all of these tips, but even just incorporating a few will help decrease your carbon footprint!

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