Choosing Sustainable Wedding Vendors (Part 1)

Welcome to the sustainability party! We’re talking all about sustainable weddings and how to create one.

Sustainability is a complicated and heavy subject that isn’t easy to to wrap your head around, let alone know what you can do.

But it matters! And everything we do will collectively make a difference (one way or the other).

So, not to put pressure on you… but the decisions you make for your wedding do have an impact.

An impact on your community, the destination location, and the world.

So, we’re trying to help you make more sustainable decisions.

Because knowledge is power! And with knowledge, it’s easier to make the more sustainable choice.

And while you don’t need to be perfect, doing something is better than doing nothing.

Because if every couple made at least a few sustainable choices, it collectively helps the world.

So, if you’re joining us for the first time, check out our previous blogs first on sustainable weddings (and why it’s complicated), rethinking travel and choosing sustainable wedding venues.

They’ll get you started and give you some big ways to help make your wedding more sustainable.

Today, we’re talking about wedding vendors. This is the team you bring in to help make your wedding happen.

They are important! Because who you choose will make a difference in your climate impact (for better or for worse).

What to Look For In Sustainable Wedding Vendors

Corn on the cob at a wedding in Stanley, Idaho
(Photo credit: Christine Marie Photo)

When it comes to wedding vendors and how sustainable they are, much of what you’ll be assessing are their processes.

The question is, do they operate in a sustainable way?

Because similarly to sustainable wedding venues, if the vendor is sustainable in their practices, then that in turn means that by using them, your wedding is also more sustainable.

And this is without you needing to do anything but choosing sustainable wedding vendors.

Before we dive into what to look for, I think it’s important to reiterate that intention is important.

Yes, the more sustainable a vendor is, the better.

But vendors working on their sustainability, even if not quite perfect, are also worthy.

Just like for you as a couple getting married, imperfect, but making an effort matters.

And your purchasing power matters.

By choosing sustainable wedding vendors you are not only making your wedding more sustainable, but supporting businesses that are working on sustainability as well.

Which just helps to push the efforts forward, faster.

A Sustainable Philosophy

Locally grown wildflowers create a fun and natural looking ceremony aisle for a Stanley Idaho wedding
(Photo credit: Christine Marie Photo)

The first place to look to see if a wedding vendor is sustainable is their website.

The question is, do they talk about sustainability?

It could be listed in their about page when they talk about why they do what they do or what’s important to them.

It could be on their services page and how they work.

Or it could be on their blog sharing tips or talking about a sustainable wedding they did.

It doesn’t really matter where it is, the question is, do they mention it at all?

Because if they do, that means it’s important.

That sustainability is something they want talk about, work on and help their clients with.

And the more they talk about it, the more they’re likely doing to be a sustainable business.

Now of course greenwashing is a thing and that’s a subject we’ll save to talk about in another post. But I do find that in the event and wedding industry, most companies who talk about it are actually making the effort.

Because it’s either talked about or it isn’t.

And you’re looking for vendors who are talking about it and working on it. So, as you’re doing your research, keep an eye out for this as a good indicator.

A Sustainable Supply Chain

Inventive tomato salad part of French wedding meal at a destination wedding in Paris by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events

Every vendor has supplies of some sort.

There is sound equipment for a DJ or flowers for a floral designer. There is paper for a stationery designer or ingredients for a caterer. Alcohol for a bartender or furniture for a rental company.

The question is, where do they source their supplies?

One of the biggest ways a vendor can be sustainable is with their supply chain. The products they choose to use and who they get it from makes a difference.

Because just like how you have purchasing power, so do they. And on a even bigger scale!

Because they’re buying in bulk or utilizing the same supplier many times for all their events.

And by partnering with suppliers who are sustainable and ethical in their business (and their own operations and supply chains), the wedding vendor’s business is in turn more sustainable, which means your wedding is too.

It’s big snowball effect.

So asking vendors about their supply chain, will give you insight into their sustainability efforts.

You’re looking for a company who has thought about it and can answer the question sharing the decisions they’ve made and what they’re working towards.

Generally, the shorter the supply chain, the more sustainable it is. Supplies being made closer to home will have a shorter distance to travel. And certain supples in and of itself are more energy efficient and/or made more sustainably.

By the way, if you find that they’re not sure how to answer the question, it likely means they haven’t given a lot of thought to sustainability.

But I do also want to point out that this is a complex and complicated issue.

It’s not always easy to find a supplier who is sustainable and ethical, makes what you need at the quality you need it, is reliable AND is at a price point that works for the business.

Because wedding vendors are still businesses that need to support people and families.

In addition, sometimes that supplier or product doesn’t exist yet or exists but not in a feasible way.

Having a 100% sustainable supply chain is hard. So, once again, imperfect is better than nothing.

Sustainable Operations

Supply chains are a part of operations. But operations goes beyond the supplies itself. It’s really about how the company works.

The question is, does the vendor work sustainably?

And I think there are multiple aspects of this.

First, we’re talking about how they do what they do.

And if the steps and processes they use to create their work are sustainable.

Some of that is physical, like making meal, putting together a centerpiece or cleaning linen.

Some of that is prep, like gathering songs, creating a schedule or talking through the plan with a team.

And some of that is ongoing, like editing, storing and deleting images, charging batteries or maintaining products.

So, what you’re looking for is a company whose tasks, steps and processes are as sustainable as possible.

Now this is a lot as most businesses will have many tasks, steps and processes. And in some cases, big teams as well.

Likely not every process will be sustainable, but you’re looking for a company who is intentional and working to be as sustainable as they can be. And can share what they’re doing to be sustainable.

Second, is communication.

And digital communication specifically is what we’re talking about.

And I don’t just mean communicating through email (because everyone does that already).

I’m talking about marketing materials, proposals, contracts and payments. I’m talking about client gifts and planning worksheets and day of documents. And I’m also talking about meetings and note taking.

While going digital can seem like an effort to cut costs, it also is more sustainable. And many times, more efficient.

There’s much less waste (if any) and zero shipping and transportation energy usage.

Companies who have gone digital for many, if not all their communication with both clients and internally is what you’re looking for.

But, sometimes you do need to print some materials. And sometimes you do need to meet in person to be most productive or efficient.

If so, then sustainable wedding vendors will be operating in a way that thinks through the most eco-friendly way to do that.

A Sustainable Brick and Mortar

Bride getting ready at her glamping tent at Under Canvas Lake Powell
(Photo credit: Jerry Yoon Photographers)

Not all vendors own a brick and mortar store, warehouse or studio for their wedding business.

But every business does need somewhere to physically work. Whether they’re renting a space, sharing a space or working from home.

The question is, is a vendor’s physical location as sustainable as possible?

And there are a few different areas in particular that help to create a more sustainable physical location.

Energy efficiency is the first.

You’re looking for a company that is using LED lightbulbs, motion activated lighting, and energy efficient electric appliances.

Utilizing green energy is another.

If it’s an option (which it isn’t always), utilizing energy that is generated by the building (like through solar power) or getting energy from renewable resources, is ideal.

Water conservation is another area.

Supplying water refill stations and reusable water bottles is a simple way to be more sustainable. But also utilizing water efficient appliances for cleaning or reusing grey water are other ways to conserve.

Waste management is the last area.

Utilizing ways to reduce waste comes first, because if you can eliminate the waste, that’s the best way to go.

Then comes reusing items as much as possible, which might require repairing as needed. This also plays into supply chains as well and purchasing a better made product that will last longer.

And finally recycling and composting anything left over so that landfill waste is as little as possible.

So, what you’re looking for in a wedding vendor are efforts in these areas to make their brick and mortar (whatever that looks like) as sustainable as possible. We go more in depth on some of these items in our post on sustainable wedding venues.

It’s also important to note that while all of these areas pertain to a physical location, many of them also play a part in the wedding day operations as well like energy efficiency, water conservation and waste management.

As you can see many of these areas work together!

So sustainable wedding vendors will have efficiencies and practices that cross many of these areas.

A Sustainable Approach to Travel

Wedding vendors carpooling in a golf cart at an Autocamp Yosemite wedding
(Photo credit: Zha Zha Photography)

Now we can’t talk about sustainability and not talk about travel and transportation. Especially when it comes to destination weddings.

But the question is, how does a vendor handle travel and transportation sustainably?

We covered a lot of this in our post on rethinking travel for a sustainable destination wedding.

But when it comes to wedding vendors specifically, there are really 3 areas to think about.

#1 – Distance to the wedding

It’s not always possible for lots of reasons, but if there’s a good vendor option in the area, going with them will reduce the travel and transportation costs.

And I’m not just talking the actual money needed to bring them to the wedding, but the climate impact.

Going with a local vendor will keep the travel impact to a minimum because the distance is shorter.

And the closer the vendor is to the wedding location, the better.

And this particularly applies to bigger teams with more trucking and equipment and thus higher energy costs (e.g. caterers, rentals, lighting, dj, band).

But, if you must bring someone in from father way that does have a bigger team or more equipment, see if you can rent equipment or source support staff locally. That way who and what they’re bringing in can be kept to a minimum.

#2 – Transportation

Unless a vendor is literally onsite at the venue, all vendors will need to travel in some shape or form to get to your wedding. For most, this will be by car. Some will be by airplane and car.

What you’re looking for is a company who tries to reduce their transportation impact as much as possible.

Efficiency is first.

So, packing so that the least amount of trucks/vehicles are needed (this also plays into products and supply chain). But also having checks in place so that additional trucking or trips aren’t needed.

Carpooling is second.

Whether it’s a big or small team, carpooling will reduce emissions.

Type of transportation utilized is third.

Direct flights produce less emissions. Smaller cars are more gas efficient than larger ones. Electric or hybrid cars are more sustainable than gas fueled ones. And travel by train or public transportation if possible, is the best choice.

A wedding vendor who makes sustainable choices in transportation means your wedding’s climate impact is less as well.

#3 – Carbon Offsets

While carbon offsets or carbon balancing schemes are not new, they’re not talked about much in the wedding industry. You hear about them more when it comes to airlines and travel.

Offsets provide companies and individuals a way to offset the emissions produced from their travel, by investing in the planet.

So a vendor pays to plant trees or support conservation and clean energy projects that will offset their emissions.

Sounds like a great idea, right? It is and it isn’t. And it’s complicated.

I’ll be talking more about this in a future post, but for now, it is a way for wedding vendors to reduce their travel impact in conjunction with other measures (in conjunction is a key point here).

As you’re talking with wedding vendors this is an area worth discussing in addition to the others.

On a side note, offsets are also a way for you, as the couple, to reduce the impact of travel not only for vendors, but for yourselves and guests as well.

Bride and groom walking at their wedding amoungst the palm trees at a private estate wedding in Hawaii at Lanikuhonua by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: What a Day! Photography)

So we talked through what you should be looking for in sustainable wedding vendors in a general sense.

What I shared applies to all vendors, but not necessarily in the same ways.

Every wedding vendor category is different and obviously, every wedding vendor is different as well.

So, next time we’ll get into both vendor specific practices and decisions you can make with these vendors to have a more sustainable wedding.

That way when you’re planning your wedding you can both understand the aspects that apply to everyone and also what matters specifically for each vendor category.

Until then, you can use this info to start looking into and finding sustainable wedding vendors.

If you have any questions, want to learn more or want some help planning your sustainable destination wedding, please reach out.

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