Choosing Sustainable Wedding Venues

If you haven’t jumped on the sustainability train for your wedding, now is the time! And we’re here to help!

We started the conversation about sustainable weddings to kick off this very important topic. And in our last blog we discussed rethinking travel for a sustainable destination wedding.

So if you haven’t checked those two posts yet, please do!

Today I want to continue our conversation and talk about choosing sustainable wedding venues.

Because choosing your wedding venue is a biggie!

It’s a big task and a big decision. We all know this.

Because your wedding venue affects your wedding date, guest count, budget, time, design and decor, vendors you can bring in, and more.

And choosing your wedding venue will not only affect these other wedding decisions, but many times will dictate what those decisions are.

So choosing the right wedding venue is always really important.

But when we’re talking about sustainability and creating a sustainable destination wedding, your venue will also play a big part in that.

Choosing a sustainable wedding venue (or a wedding venue working on sustainability) will make a major difference in the climate impact of your wedding.

Because the more sustainable your wedding venue is, the more sustainable your wedding will already be!

And this is all without you needing to do anything else besides choosing a sustainable wedding venue.

So let’s dive into different aspects of sustainable wedding venues and what you should be looking for.

What To Look For In Sustainable Wedding Venues

Glamping wedding venue UnderCanvas
(Photo credit: Jerry Yoon Photographers)

While this list isn’t all inclusive and there are lots more than can be done beyond this, below are some big areas to keep an eye out for.

When you’re shopping for wedding venues, keeping these aspects in mind will help you to choose a more sustainable wedding venue.

And the more a venue has in place, the better.

But don’t discount those who are in the process of working on their sustainability efforts.

Because change doesn’t happen overnight.

There are lots of variables and factors at play for any business to be simultaneously sustainable, economically viable and sensitive to their community.

This is one of the many reasons why going green and sustainability is a complex subject. And why it takes time to make those adjustments.

But intention is key and being in the process of working towards a fully sustainable venue counts for A LOT.

So just keep that in mind as this goes for everything we’re going to talk about today (and in the future).

And also by asking these questions you’ll also be showing venues who are not sustainable what is important to you.

This can be a good push for them to take steps to become more sustainable. And that helps everyone!

Green Energy and Energy Efficiency

Clear wedding reception tent with glowing bistro lights at a destination wedding in Hawaii by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: Christie Pham Photography)

If you follow climate science and the data, one of the big (if not the biggest) areas we need to tackle to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions is energy.

Energy in the sense of what we use it for (e.g. heating, cooling, lighting, etc…), how efficiently we use it and where it’s coming from (renewable resources vs. fossil fuels).

Now of course some of those things a wedding venue doesn’t always have full control over.

But what they do have control over is their own property and how they operate.

Sustainable wedding venues who have have done the work to make their property more energy efficient not only helps the planet, but helps your wedding too.

Because that means the energy used for your wedding (think catering, lighting, DJ, photobooth, etc…) is also more efficient and sustainable.

Here are some questions to ask:

– Does the venue generate its own energy (like through solar power) or get their energy from renewable resources? (This means their sources of power and in turn yours are coming from renewable resources)

– Do they have motion activated lighting? (This helps with energy efficiency)

– Do they use LED lights? (This helps with energy efficiency)

– Are they LEED certified (or working towards it)? (Read more here)

– If they have a kitchen onsite, do they have energy efficient and electric appliances? (This helps with energy efficiency and a focus on electricity vs. gas)

– Do you need generators to power things onsite or can everything be done using the current power the venue has? (Generators use gas or diesel so using electricity is better)

– Do they have good insulation and energy efficient heating and cooling? (Good insulation = less energy needed for heating and cooling)

If all of their answers are a yes, that’s grew news! But they might not all be.

Either way, it will start the conversation and you’ll learn what they are doing in these areas. And that will help you to compare options and make a more informed decision.

Food Supply and Use

Agriculture is another big area we need to tackle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And that means what is farmed, how it’s farmed, where it comes from and more.

This plays a huge part in your wedding because your meal is a big part of your celebration.

And how a venue handles their food, the supply, the menus, the surplus and the waste will in turn affect your wedding emissions.

Now not all venues also handle food and beverages, but many do, especially if you’re thinking about a hotel or resort venue.

However, even if you aren’t using a venue for catering, these questions are still good to ask an independent caterer. Because you want your caterer (whomever they are) to also be sustainable.

Here are some questions to ask:

– Do they source their products from local/regional farms? (Fresher food, less refrigeration, less transportation and supporting local farmers)

– Do they offer plant forward menus? (Plant based or plant forward menus reduces emissions by a lot)

– Do they offer seasonal menus based on local produce and proteins? (Utilizing items in abundance means less waste and local means less transportation)

– Do they offer oat milk instead of cow milk? (Oats are much more sustainable)

– Do they use as much of the products as possible in their menus? (Utilizing root to stem means less ends up being discarded)

– Do they focus on pre-ordering food so that there isn’t a lot of excess (i.e a focus on plated meals vs buffet)? (Portion control reduces waste)

– When there is excess good food, do they have a process to donate the food to an organization? (So that the food doesn’t get wasted AND helps those in need)

– Do they compost any food waste that needs to be thrown out? (Composting is better than landfill)

Waste Management

First course farm to table plated salad and mis-matched printed napkins for a wedding in Stanley Idaho
(Photo credit: Christine Marie Photo)

Like many things when it comes to sustainability, if you can eliminate the need from the start, then you don’t even have to worry about how to make it sustainable. (We’ll return to this idea many times in the future)

So with that in mind, it’s always better to eliminate the need for waste before creating it.

It’s why many of the questions in the food section above are about not creating excess food waste.

But inevitably there will be some waste.

How your wedding venue handles their waste and in turn your wedding waste and guest’s waste will play a big part in how sustainable your wedding is.

Here are some questions to ask:

– Do they recycle and compost and have bins to help guests (and their staff) do so easily? (This means less goes to the landfill)

– Do they provide reusable tableware (e.g. plates, flatware, glassware, coffee cups, etc…) instead of disposable options? (Less waste)

– If they use some disposable serviceware, are they certified compostable? (Compostable is better than landfill)

– Do they provide condiments in refillable containers instead of single serve options? (Less production and less waste)

– If they’re a hotel, have they done away with individual toiletries? (Less production and less waste)

Water Conservation

Celestial glamping wedding design with blue glassware, painted rock seating cards, black plates, bronze flatware and printed table runner
(Photo credit: Jerry Yoon Photographers)

Water doesn’t always get talked about as much as some of these other elements, but it’s an important sustainability aspect to consider.

Coming from California, we know about drought. But depending on where you’re from that might not be something that’s discussed a lot.

With climate change and more drought in our future, our water resources are becoming scarce.

So working with a wedding venue with water conservation efforts in place is a great thing.

It also means that by choosing a wedding venue that cares about water conservation, your wedding will also not inadvertently waste water.

Here are some questions to ask:

– Do they have water refill stations instead of bottled water? (Less production and less waste of both bottles and water)

– If they are a hotel, do they have a no towel refresh service option? (Less water and less energy)

– Do they have a way of utilizing grey water in order to use less fresh water? (Less water)

Sustainable Vendor Resources

Colorful wildflower bridal bouquet for a Yosemite destination wedding by destination wedding planner, Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: Mary Meck Weddings)

Sustainable wedding venues have an ethos. They have a philosophy and a passion to do their part to care for our planet and the future.

Companies like this will also be looking to work with wedding vendors with a similar ethos.

Because we all need to be doing our part, even if we’re still a work in progress.

And doing it as a team where we all have the same values means that planning a sustainable wedding is everyone’s goal.

So, a wedding venue that has intentionally put together a vendor list that focuses on sustainable practices, is a great indicator that they really mean what they say.

That they aren’t greenwashing, but truly want to do their part.

The great benefit of this is that it will make planning your wedding easier and help you to achieve a sustainable wedding easily.

Outside of asking if they have a sustainable vendor list, also make sure you ask when it was revised and how they create their vendor list (if it’s paid or not).

Sustainable Wedding Venue Decisions

Wedding guests enjoying cocktails at a wine country wedding at Calistoga Ranch by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: Kate Webber)

We talked about the different aspects to look for in a sustainable wedding venue, but the reality is not all places have venues that are sustainable. Or even many sustainable wedding venue options.

There are definitely parts of the country and world where sustainability may not even really be a topic of discussion.

Composting? What’s composting?

I do also want to acknowledge that there are of course other variables at play as well in your venue decision. For example, whether the venue has availability, if they can fit your guest count, is the right style, has a good reputation and service, is LGTBQ friendly, etc…

Sometimes not all those things align with a venue that is sustainable.

This is yet another reason why this subject is complicated.

There are so many elements at play and unless all venues are sustainable (I hope so one day!), it can be hard to make a decision if the other items don’t align.

So if one of these instances is the case, there are some decisions you can consciously make when choosing a wedding venue that will make your wedding more sustainable, even if the wedding venue is not.

Keep in mind these are also decisions you can make even if the wedding venue you choose is sustainable.

And by making them you can in turn make your wedding even more sustainable!

A sunset beach wedding ceremony with alternative seating at the Chileno Bay Resort in Cabo Mexico
(Photo credit: Dennis Berti)

Have your events at the same venue

We talked in a previous post about how reducing travel to your wedding can make a huge impact on your wedding emissions.

In that same vein, reducing travel within your wedding will help too.

So, choose a venue where you can do everything onsite.

Certainly your ceremony and reception, but potentially also your welcome dinner, day after brunch, after party and other events.

And if you have a lot of out of town guests, picking a hotel or resort is a great option.

That way it’s not only where your wedding is held, but where everyone is staying.

It makes it easy for guests and requires no travel beyond your own two feet!

Which is sustainability at it’s best!

And if you can do a resort wedding buyout, that can be even better because you can control the food, beverage and experience even more (and maybe even get the hotel to adopt some sustainable practices).

Choose a venue that has items in house

The more a venue can provide for you, the less you’ll need to bring in. I’m talking tables, chairs, tableware, linen, lighting, audio/visual equipment, etc…

This not only helps you from a planning perspective, but also means that less rentals and trucking is needed.

It also helps your budget!

But, I also know that not all in house venue items are great.

In some cases, what they have is ugly. But in most cases, it’s just boring.

And mainly because it’s just simple and classic. Like a plain white plate or plain white linen.

It works well for the wedding venue because it can go with any event. So it makes sense from a sustainability standpoint (which is a good thing!).

But from an aesthetic standpoint, not so much.

So I understand why many people would have an urge not to use what the venue has and bring in something completely different.

As a designer, I promise you, I get that completely!

But I challenge you to consider using what they have and if you need more, add to it instead of replacing it.

So instead of bringing in new plates, rent a charger or a printed napkin instead to give it some pop. Rent one special glass or add a few lanterns to the string lights to create a more custom look without totally bringing in all different stuff.

It will not only reduce your costs, but the transportation needed. And that will make your wedding more sustainable.

Choose a venue that has an aesthetic you love

In a similar vein to the last tip, choosing a venue with an aesthetic you like is more sustainable than choosing a venue you have to transform.

Because the more you have to change, the more you have to bring in.

And that will not only add to your budget, but will result in more rentals and more trucking.

Which also means you should avoid choosing a venue that’s a blank slate.

Because blank slate venues, while great for their transformability, means you need to bring in a lot to transform it.

And that’s costly in so many ways, including to the environment.

Choosing a wedding venue that has a backdrop and style you like already, will make your wedding more sustainable from the get go.

Because you can utilize the existing decor and add to it, or in some cases not need to do much at all.

The less the stuff you need, the more sustainable your wedding can be.

Which is a great lead in to our last tip…

Choose an outdoor venue in temperate weather

One of the best things about an selecting an outdoor wedding venue means you can capitalize on the natural decor the venue has. Like the previous tip, this means less stuff you’ll need to bring in to decorate.

But I’m going to take this one step further and suggest that you choose an outdoor wedding venue in temperate weather.

Because not only will you be outside and can utilize the natural decor, you won’t need heating or cooling.

Eliminating your heating and cooling needs means less energy needed and that reduces your emissions.

It’s a great way to make your wedding more sustainable without having to change much besides your date.

And if you want to go even one step further, have your wedding during the day.

I know a day wedding isn’t a popular choice, but an outdoor wedding during day also means you won’t need lighting.

And once again, that means less energy needed, which means less emissions!

Choosing a wedding venue is a big decision that affects so many other things, including the environment.

So choosing sustainable wedding venues can help with reducing your climate impact in a big way.

And not only are you making a great decision for your wedding and the environment, but you’re also supporting a business that’s doing good work.

Don’t ever forget that you have purchasing power!

So, put that to good use!

Utilizing the tips we shared will help you in your discussions with wedding venues and will give you a lot of good information.

And from there you can make the decisions to help create your sustainable wedding.

And of course, we can help you find sustainable wedding venues too! Please contact us, we’d love to talk to you about your sustainable wedding.

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