By Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Department of Public Works

Photo of a wedding dress

More people get engaged around the holidays than any other time of year. With January nearly over, many couples have already begun planning their upcoming nuptials.

Planning a wedding is no easy job, even when you have help. Sadly, while juggling all of those details and logistics, we tend to overlook the massive amount of waste weddings generate. According to, "The Green Bride Guide," by Kate Harrison, the average wedding produces 400 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of carbon dioxide.

We reached out to Reverend Laura C. Cannon, owner of the Maryland-based company, Ceremony Officiants, who has officiated weddings across the region for the last fifteen years. She suggests couples think outside the box to reduce waste when planning their ceremony and reception. "We need to start looking at traditional wedding elements from a more environmentally conscious lens,” she said. “While menu cards on the place settings and paper programs for the ceremony are traditional, they are also highly wasteful. Opt for a more eco-friendly approach and ditch the paper altogether, or consider writing the menu and ceremony program on something reusable, such as a mirror or chalkboard."

Baltimore County Bureau of Solid Waste Management Communications Specialist Richard Keller is pastor at Christ United Methodist Church of Baltimore County. He has married a number of couples in his 18 years as a pastor and gave us some excellent tips to help reduce wedding waste. “Weddings offer great opportunities for recycling and waste prevention,” he said. “You can do invitations online. If you are printing a program, it can be printed on recycled paper (containing at least 30 percent post-consumer waste). If you are having a reception, consider reusable dishes and drinkware, napkins with recycled content and recycling containers for any aluminum cans and plastic bottles. Ask for tickets to a museum, theatre, sporting event or similar experience instead of more kitchen equipment. Be creative in thinking about ways to recycle and prevent waste.”

Photo of a wedding table setting with flowers

Making sustainability and waste prevention part of your wedding plan can seem like a daunting task, but we have you covered with even more tips to help green your big day.

  • If you use a wedding planner, consider hiring one who specializes in sustainable weddings.
  • Talk to all prospective vendors about their sustainability practices before hiring them.
  • Select a foam-free florist. Opt for native, seasonal flowers. Use potted blooms where possible. Give centerpieces as favors.
  • If the wedding party has bouquets, set the head table with empty vases. When the party is seated at the reception, the bouquets can placed in the vases.
  • Refuse single-use: make sure your vendors do not use single-use plastics.
  • Select a caterer that offers local food sourcing and has practices in place to prevent food waste. If you and your loved ones are preparing the food, choose locally sourced ingredients and use a meal planning tool to help you determine just how much food to make. Make arrangements for leftover food to be donated to a local charity or shelter.
  • Choose a venue that is LEED certified.
  • Look for venues with built-in décor, such as gardens, historic architecture and fine art.
  • Decorate with vintage pieces, natural materials or reused/upcycled decorations.
  • Choose reusable linens and tableware.
  • Use solar lights or candles or LED lighting if needed.
  • Choose low- or zero-waste wedding favors, such as soaps, succulents or chocolate.
  • Choose Maryland-made products.
  • Try to have your ceremony and reception at the same place or very close by. Arrange shuttles and carpools for your guests if needed. 
  • Green your registry: ask for experiences, charitable donations and other sustainable gifts.
  • Have a vintage wedding gown, tuxedo or suit tailored instead of buying one new.
  • Rent tuxedos, suits and other wedding attire.
  • Considering a destination wedding? Make sure it doesn’t leave a huge carbon footprint.  

Find additional green wedding ideas on Brides.com, and visit our website to learn more about waste prevention