When I turned forty, I wanted to celebrate with my nearest and dearest. But I didn’t want to just “chuck a party” with a whole stack of booze and booze-soaking food and…wastage. I wanted it to matter and, so I put it together as sustainably as I could possibly make it. I bought nothing new, used produce that was going to be thrown out and kept as many ingredients as possible within a 100-200km radius of the event.

Recently I read about three couples who did similar, for their weddings. Waste free! This stuff gets me excited.

Kat and Michael's homemade Tasmanian wedding - see below.
Kat and Michael’s homemade Tasmanian wedding – see below.

And so below, a list of ways to have a waste-free wedding. If you have a wedding on your radar, that is.

1. For the wedding meal, team up with an organisation that creates meals from food past its “sell by” date that grocery stores and bakeries would have otherwise thrown away.

2. At the end of the event, encourage guests to take home any leftovers.

3. Find your wedding dress on online classifieds website (like Gumtree) for $105. You might have to get a few alterations made, but the previous owner will be glad the dress is going to be used again.

4. Get your wedding rings made from reused metals.

5. Or buy your rings on Etsy. 

6. To save paper, send out your “save-the-date” notes via email.

7. Get your invitations made from recycled paper.

8. Hire recycled tables and chairs for the reception.

9. If you’re on a farm-style property, ask them if you can use their wine barrels as bar tables.

10. Aussie couple Kat Kleu and Michael Malon (see feature image) made home-brewed beer for their reception.

11. Get eco-friendly confetti made from flower petals.

12. Collect jars and save them to use for flower and greenery vases.

13. Forage for greenery from a local farm.

14. Use solar-powered fairy lights. 

15. Instead of a regular gift registry, sign up for an online registry which donates money to a charity 0r a research centre etc, for every gift purchased.

And I add a few tips, from my fortieth party. They apply to weddings, too!

16. Avoid disposables. I used a tablewear hire company that wash everything in bulk and cloth napkins.

17. Give your leftovers to guests. Provide containers for this purpose.

18. Don’t use bottled water. I used SodaStream instead. It takes 3 seconds to create chilled bubbly water by the litre.

19. Buy loaves of bread and cut as you need it, rather than bread rolls for everyone (which only half the room eat).

If you’re not getting married, but do want to host a sustainable, waste free dinner party, here’s what I did for my fortieth.

Do you have any more tips to add to the above?

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Angelika

    Hi Sarah, what a wonderful article, thank you so much for the tips. I took your advice from your 40th birthday party article. I married earlier this year and I felt the same way about preserving and saving on the day.
    We held our reception at a restaurant that catered the full restaurant menu without extra charge for the “wedding reception factor”. Meaning, we ate local, seasonal and without the waste of over catering. We decided we didn’t want a wedding cake, for the sake of the cheesy photo (that’s a few hundred dollars saved right there). The restaurant menu had dessert, so it was still an option to those who wished to have something sweet/or savoury, but without any cake wastage.
    At the end of the night, I donated all my flower centre pieces to the restaurant, they were so thrilled and the florist loved the extra promotion. My husband and I loved planning it and its unique, sustainable take on a wedding reception.

  • Heidi

    Interesting post… regarding posts 4 & 5 on wedding rings… the most sustainable is surely to buy rings from a local estate auction house – they were already made and no longer being used, so this is the ultimate in recycling/ no waste. They frequently come up at auction and are a very inexpensive way to purchase a ring. Otherwise a local jeweller is better to purchase from than one at a distance on Etsy. Similarly, jam jars may give a suitably home spun and twee aesthetic beloved of Pinterest, but you can always hire vases from a local hire company instead. They’re not expensive to hire, and the company already owns them so they’d be sitting idle if you weren’t using them anyway. They then go back to the source so you’re not then having to find things to do with 100 jam jars… there seems to be some confusion with waste free and cheap/ inexpensive in some of these bullet points.

  • MJM

    When I married 11 years ago I wanted to keep it simple and affordable. We decided to have our ceremony in the front garden of our home, and the reception in the back yard. Because of space constraints, this immediately dictated no more than 50 guests. My mum made my wedding dress. In the spring before the wedding we planted my front garden full full of flowering plants, so the only flowers I needed for the wedding was my bridal bouquet. In the weeks leading up to the wedding my mother and I did all the cooking for the wedding and froze it in labelled packages. On the day of the wedding we hired two local catering students to re-heat and serve the food, using platters we purchased at the local op-shop. I also made my own wedding cakes (yes 2 – my husbands favourite carrot cake for him and profiteroles for me) which served as deserts. We hired a marquee and all of our cutlery, crockery and linens. My fathers friend brewed up his homemade rum and other spirits for the event, so the only alcohol purchased was beer and wine. The day after the wedding guests who had travelled for the event were invited back for lunch before they departed and we served up any leftover food. Total cost of the wedding was under $5000, and was as waste free and unpretentious as I could get it, and I received so many compliments from guests who enjoyed a wedding with a difference.

  • Anna G

    Great list, although flower petals for confetti? This sounds wasteful to me….forgo confetti?!