Frugal and Eco-Friendly Wedding Ideas

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Once upon a time, a wedding was synonymous with expensive venues, caterers, decor, and entertainment. These days, a bit of creativity combined with frugal, eco-friendly wedding ideas offer as much elegance and fairytale flare as the splurge-level nuptials.

It isn’t the dazzling display of extravagance that makes a wedding grand. The ideal wedding is one that makes guests feel as though they are attending an extended family gathering.  As you plan your wedding, think of your favorite family gatherings and the details that made them memorable.

Years ago, when I traded my briefcase for an apron, I supplemented our income by growing cut flowers.  Selling garden bouquets at the local farmers market acquainted me with the world of wedding planning.  Often, brides-to-be would meander through the market and fall in love with the simplicity of fresh flowers in an antique vessel or vintage mason jar.

Through the years, I discovered that many brides (not to mention parents of the bride) desire an intimate, low-budget affair. The trick is to avoid the mesmerizing Siren song of wedding vendors who lure brides and parents into wedding bankruptcy.The trick is to avoid the mesmerizing Siren song of wedding vendors who lure brides and parents into wedding bankruptcy. Click To Tweet

Attain the ideal wedding that is a magical mix of frugal and Eco-Friendly

Establish a Budget for Your Wedding (and stick to it)

The national average cost of a wedding day in 2016 shot up to $35,329.  Make it a personal challenge to defy this average.  The median household income in the US for 2017 was $56,515 so Americans spend slightly less on a one-day event than the median American household earns in one year.  If you are fortunate enough to have the means to pay that much on your, plan a frugal wedding and then donate the balance of your wedding budget to a ministry or charity.

Select a Frugal, Local Venue

The venue is perhaps the most crucial decision in the wedding planning process. The capacity of the site will most likely determine the size of your wedding. Wedding reception activities will also depend on the type and size of venue you chose.

Many townships offer a list of businesses and facilities that are willing to host a wedding for a reasonable fee. If you are a city dweller and want that rustic, romantic setting, take an afternoon drive to a rural area and visit a local business to inquire about prospective sites.  Chances are the owner of the business harbors a wealth of information about residents who may be willing to host your event.

Remember this, when exploring possible venues, tuck the phrase of Henry David Thoreau in your purse or pocket, “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.” You are hosting a profoundly personal and unforgettable day; you are not trying to land your wedding between the glossy pages of Town and Country.

Affordable Local Venue Options:

local, historical spots (think well-manicured yards).

State Parks

Local Farms (which often include barns) and vineyards

Small Town Cafes


Local Arts Council Site (often revitalized historic buildings or homes)

Arboretums or Botanical Gardens

Local Museums (not always a bargain, but worth investigating)

Culinary Schools

The practice here is to reach into your frugal pocket and create an elegant, memorable event.

How to Secure That Spectacular Wedding Venue When It Seems Impossible

Offer to Landscape, Perform Routine Maintenance or Upgrades to the Venue Site

Look this might sound crazy, but stop and consider this suggestion. My family owns a farm, and farms require massive amounts of maintenance. Don’t underestimate the practical ways to put your talents and time to use.  Often, the small, low-key venues, like local museums, arboretums operate on a tight fiscal budget.  Perhaps you could offer to maintain the landscape for six months or make interior repairs or upgrades in exchange for a reduction in the rental fee.  It’s worth asking!

Go Local For Flowers, Feast, and Festivities

Once you secure your venue, support the local economy and save money at the same time.

So you’ve selected and secured the local venue.  Now the frugal fun begins. You are planning one of the most important celebrations of your life, so make it elegant and economical.   You can accomplish both by hiring local entrepreneurs, farmers, and businesses to help you pull off a flawless wedding day.

It’s easier to gain credible references from local businesses.  Once you establish a working relationship with a local business/vendor, ask about a local bakery, florist, etc.  More than likely, a reference received face to face from your local contact will be honest and accurate. A recommendation from a member of the local community trumps any on-line survey or rating.  There is an advantage to dialoguing with someone rather than trying to read between the lines of a sanitized recommendation via email or, worse, a text.

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Flowers and Food

Visit local farmers markets for possible vendors for flowers and food.  Often, cut flower farmers will allow you to cut your flowers to save on labor fees. If the grower does not have all of the varieties that you are looking for, then visit a warehouse club to supplement the types that you need. On our farm, we host a cut-and-come-again cut flower service. We provide the buckets and the cutting supplies (and a quick demo on the proper way to cut flowers).

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Visit the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers for a list of growers in your area.

If you contact a local flower grower early enough in the growing season, they will often grow specific flowers for your event. Of course,  it depends on the variety of flowers and the growing zone.

Local produce farmers will often do the same.  With enough notice, they will grow specific varieties of produce for your big day. Check the local bakeries as well. I used a small bakery near our hometown, and they were able to provide numerous options for the cupcakes we wanted for our daughter’s wedding.

Visit the USDA website for a list of farmers markets in your area.

If you plan to provide guests with a favor, consider jams and jellies made from fruit that you picked in season. Fruit farms offer a discounted price on bruised or blemished fruit. Take advantage of that discount and buy in quantity. Invite a small group of friends over for the afternoon and make jam.

When you plan your favors, give serious consideration to gifts that have a practical use.

Here are some ideas for frugal, eco-friendly wedding favors:

Packets of flower seeds encased in a personalized vintage envelope

Mini Beeswax candles or honey sticks

Recipe cards of your wedding menu

Petite basket of seasonal fruit

Mini Potted herbs or plants

Handcrafted soap, lotion, or lip balm

A membership to an eco-friendly on-line shopping site like Grove Collaborative (I am a member of Grove and absolutely love it!)

Your local farmer’s market serves as a great resource for many of these products.

Frugal and Eco-Friendly

A frugal and eco-friendly wedding requires the bride and groom to think outside of the typical wedding planning box. Support the local economy by purchasing flowers, foods, and favors from area farmers and specialty growers.

Paste this quote from Elise Boulding in your wedding planner, “Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.”  

What are your thoughts about other frugal, eco-friendly wedding ideas?

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1 Comment

  1. Giuseppina Milardo on December 12, 2019 at 8:46 pm
    very interesting topic, great post.

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