Eco-Friendly Weddings in Southern California

By Alexandra Dennis

Hi to all the earth-loving couples out there! Excited to be getting married but worried about all the environmental damage you’ve seen at other weddings? We totally get it. At Pop the Champagne, we love weddings but don’t love all the waste we see pile up at the end of the night. That’s why we’ve rounded up some LA-area wedding vendors that prioritize sustainability in their work, so if you’re looking for sustainable vendors you can rest assured that you’re in good hands. If you have your vendors hired, we’ve included some tips on what to ask them to see how they can help you incorporate sustainability too! Because your wedding should be about the life you want to create together, so you shouldn’t have to sacrifice sustainability to have the wedding of your dreams.

Catering

Catering can be one of the most wasteful parts of weddings, since often a ton of food gets thrown away at the end of the night and meat-heavy meals have a high carbon footprint. Don’t worry though, there are lots of ways to reduce your impact! For example, Pink Salt Cuisine offers exclusively plant-based menus and mostly seasonal and local sourcing (within a 250-mile radius). The Truck Stop also has got you covered with traditional wedding catering, plus 4 food trucks – the perfect option for cocktail hour or late-night snacking. All their food is organic, and the sustainability doesn’t stop there; they fuel their trucks with vegetable oil, use solar power in their kitchen, and more. If that’s not enough, both Pink Salt Cuisine and The Truck Stop can help you compost and find partners to donate food at the end of the night so you can feel good about diverting waste and helping those in need when the party’s over.

A group of people sitting at a table with a plate of food Description automatically generated

Photo courtesy of The Truck Stop

Thinking about a specific caterer or have to use in-house catering at your venue? Here are some questions to ask caters about sustainability before you sign the contract:

– Can we focus on local, organic and/or seasonal ingredients?

– Do you offer many plant-based options?

– Would you allow us to donate food at the end of the night, and do you have any partners who can help us with this? Some caterers get concerned about liability with donation food and won’t allow you to donate, so this question is especially important.

– Would you be able to work with a composting company to make sure any leftover food that has already been served can get disposed of properly?

– Could you help us source rentals or offer truly biodegradable disposables (plates, utensils, drinkware, straws, etc.)?

Waste Diversion (Food Donations, Floral Donations, Composting, Recycling, Etc.)

One great way to reduce waste and feel good about helping the community near your venue is to donate food. Unfortunately, some caterers are hesitant to donate because they worry about liability. However, The Good Samaritan Act protects those who donate food as long as it is good quality and labeled correctly, so this shouldn’t be an issue. To donate your food, Nancy of Food Cycle LA recommends planning ahead by contacting your chosen non-profit in advance to arrange a pickup. Also confirm where you can store the food for the night (the venue, a friend’s house, etc.), since it is often hard for organizations to pick-up donations late on a weekend. Finally, talk with your caterer and ask them to follow safe food and labeling guidelines when handling food to donate (you can reach out to Food Cycle LA for more info on this). I know it sounds a bit complicated, but the little bit of preparation is completely worth the impact on your community. Caterers that are already well-versed and comfortable with food donations can make this process easier, so it’s important to check with caterers about this before contracting them if donating food is a priority for you.

A close up of a tree Description automatically generated

Photo courtesy of Compostable LA

Once food has been served to a guest or put out for family style or buffet serving, it can’t be donated, so it’s time to compost with Compostable LA! They will tell your caterer what food can and can’t be composted based on the menu and provide all compost bins for the wedding day. They have averaged 65 pounds of waste diverted from landfill per wedding and donate a portion of their proceeds to LA Compost to increase composting accessibility to the community at-large. Compostable LA makes event composting easy, so you can take one more thing off your plate.

Beyond composting, there are tons more ways to reduce waste at your events. Some great options are to donate florals and food to local organizations, recycle properly, and choose rentals instead of disposables. Zero Waste Co is a one-stop-shop for all these needs, with a goal of diverting at least 90% waste from landfill at each event. They offer tabletop rentals for smaller events and drop off the rentals without the plastic packaging that so many rental companies use. Zero Waste Co can also provide an attendant to bus, compost, and organize food/floral/décor donations, making the process easier on you and your event team!

Bar

Your bar may not seem like a hotspot for waste, but there’s still plenty to improve. Prioritizing organic and sustainable ingredients in garnishes, mixers, and the alcohol itself, plus composting waste, avoiding plastic straws, and using rental glasses instead of plastic cups are all great ways to reduce waste during your cocktail hour and beyond.

Austeriti approaches sustainability by exclusively pouring sustainable spirits and contributing to “1% for the Planet”. In their words, sustainable spirits “came from a company that either runs their distillery on green energy (solar, wind, etc.), composts their waste to be used again in their soils, is certified organic, donates to environmental non-profits, hires local farmers, and much more.” They also aim to always use organic fruits, juices, and herbs from local farms and even make their own club soda with a SodaStream.

Similarly, The Natural Mixologist has what I am calling a “use every part of the fruit” philosophy to their bar offerings. For example, they will use cherry or peach pits to make intensely flavored syrups instead of just throwing them away and extend the useable season of fruits like persimmons by drying out slices for garnishes. They also have great connections to locally made spirits companies, like The Spirit Guide who make vodka and gin from rejected juice clementines, so they can help you make every bar element as sustainable as possible.

Last but not least, Spirit Guides sources almost all fresh, local, and organic produce, and are working to increase the percentage of their spirits from local or sustainable distilleries, currently at 20% and growing. Their bar menus are tasty and often produced with fun fanfare for your guests, so their sustainable initiatives are the icing on the cake!

A vase of flowers on a table Description automatically generated

Photo courtesy of Spirit Guides

Do you like the sound of these vendors but have to use your venue’s in-house bar or have a specific bar company in mind? Then here are some questions to ask those companies about sustainability:

– Can you source from sustainably and/or locally made spirits, wine, and beer brands?

– Can you source local, organic, and seasonal garnishes, mixers, and herbs?

– Can you help me source rental and/or compostable options glasses, straws, and other items? As a note, be cautious of “compostable” cups, since few facilities accept them and they aren’t recyclable.

– Will you compost the veggies, fruits, and herbs used in your prep and onsite?

Floral

Floral is a super important vendor to consider if you want to prioritize sustainability. We are lucky to be in warm Southern California where we usually have lots of local floral available. However, if you want specific flowers or work with a florist that doesn’t prioritize sustainability, the flowers you get may have been grown with lots of pesticides and flown across the globe, creating a big carbon footprint. Plus, the green floral foam that many florists use cannot be reused and is made of toxic chemicals like formaldehyde. Not to worry though, these florists can help!

 

Photo by Aurelia D’Amore Photography, provided courtesy of Winston and Main.

Jess, the founder of Fibers and Florals, uses 99% seasonal and local (CA, Mexico, and Oregon) flowers and credits her “strong line of communication with my vendors and farmers” for helping her make local choices. She doesn’t use floral foam and can help you give your flowers a second life by donating them to organizations like Casa de Zulma, “the first bridging house in LA for Trans women transitioning out of homelessness and abuse.” She even asks that no one on her team bring single-use plastics onsite!

unnamed (1)

Photo courtesy of Winston and Main

Tabitha of Winston and Main also credits her relationship with wholesalers and local farmers in helping her source sustainably, and even grows some of her own flowers – talk about local! Plus, if you want to donate the flowers afterwards, Tabitha can bring them back to her studio so volunteers can pick-up the next day! This is ideal because weekend night pickups are often hard to find volunteers for and this process gives the team time to create smaller arrangements and reclaim reusable flowers.

Flowers by Lady Buggs generally uses 60-75% local flowers, but if you are interested, she loves an opportunity to go one step further. For example, one of her current event projects will feature native grasses and plants from a local nursery, which will be planted after the wedding. She also gives flowers in good shape a second life by reusing them in other arrangements and photoshoots!

Photo courtesy of Nature Rules Co

Jaynie of Nature Rules also uses 90% local and seasonal product, but focuses on using flowers and foliage that will be ok out of water for a few hours so no water sources are needed in the installation. Unlike some other florists, she gives your flowers a second life post-event by drying them to use at future events (dried floral is incredibly popular right now) or turn into art!

Finally, just like us all, wedding vendors are in all different stages of their sustainability journey. J Flowers is one florist transitioning to being floral foam-free and more sustainably focused. Their first step was to use chicken wire more often instead of floral foam and working to source more locally from Grace Rose Farms and local Ventura County farms. So if you’re also trying to incorporate sustainability more and more into your life, why not work with a florist who’s doing the same thing?

If you love these ideas but already have a different company in mind, here are some questions to ask your florist before you sign on the dotted line:

– Where do your flowers usually come from?

– Can you take my floral ideas and show me similar flowers that will be seasonal locally at that time of year?

– Can you avoid using floral foam in our design?

– Can you make bouquets for my guests to take home or help me donate my flowers to a worthy organization at the end of the night?

– How do you dispose of foliage at the end of the night?

Paper Goods

Paper goods are one of my favorite fun ways to show guests, even before they arrive at your wedding, that sustainability is going to be a cornerstone of your celebration and marriage. My current obsession is seed paper “save the dates” and invites, which guests can plant to enjoy beautiful flowers or herbs, but there are lots of other ways paper goods can be sustainable too.

A picture containing paper Description automatically generated

Photo courtesy of Poppy and Birch

One sustainable LA stationer is Poppy and Birch. The owner, Collette, offers invites made of seed paper, treeless paper materials like cotton and hemp, and 100% post-consumer recycled paper, so you can choose which sustainable option works best for you. She also uses local printers and inks that can later be composted for digitally printed items. So if you want really gorgeous, unique invites that you can feel good about, hit up Poppy and Birch!

Already have someone in mind? Here are some questions to ask your stationer:

– Do you offer eco-friendly paper options (seed paper, treeless paper, or post-consumer recycled paper)?

– Do you use low-impact dyes in the printing process?

– Do you partner with local printers?

– How will you ship my items?

Linens

Linens make a really fun and unique way to sustainably tie together your design. Hannah at Golden Heron has taken the approach of sustainably hand-dying fabric for her linens. She specified, “the materials we use to dye generally come from one of two places; either they are ethically foraged, meaning the plant is either invasive or care was taken to make sure the plant will continue to thrive after being harvested from, or are collected plant waste from the floral and food industries.” She offers ethically produced silk linens, plus cotton options to make her runners and napkins more financially accessible. With both rental and purchase options available, sourcing from Golden Heron is a win-win for your home and event!

A dining table Description automatically generated

Photo by Lindsey and Yoni, provided courtesy of Atelier Saucier

Atelier Saucier approaches sustainability by only using deadstock fabrics in their linens. Deadstock means the fabric is left over from the fashion and textile industries and would otherwise be thrown away. They use small batch methods and specific cutting patterns to minimize waste. They currently offer lots of rental and purchase options, plus they can customize with embroidery and special sizes. From start to finish, Atelier Saucier’s products and delivery makes the world a little less trashy and a little more fun.

Have something specific in mind? Ask your potential linen company these questions:

– What materials do you make your linens out of? Are they deadstock fabric or made from sustainable/natural materials?

– How do you source your fabrics? Where is it made, and does it come from a fair-trade source?

– How do you manufacture your linens and what do you do with excess fabric?

– What dyes do you use? Are they environmentally friendly and non-toxic?

– Do you treat your linens with any stain-resistant or other chemicals?

Attire

According to Business Insider, “the fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined” and is the world’s second-largest consumer of water, so your wedding attire is a great place to be mindful about your impact. The most sustainable option is to buy second-hand, but if you want something new, here are some options to feel good about. All 3 of these companies also stepped up during the COVID-19 outbreak to make and distribute masks for first responders and citizens, so you can feel even better supporting them knowing they really care about helping our communities.

A girl sitting on a chair Description automatically generated

Reformation’s Hestia Dress

If you are looking for a modern wedding dress, Reformation, the popular sustainable clothing brand, also makes bridal gowns and bridesmaids outfits! Each dress’s description page includes information on what sustainable materials were used and how much water, CO2 emissions, and waste were saved in its product lifecycle compared to most clothes bought in the US. I love this because it means you can see the direct environmental impact you have by choosing that dress. Sustainability and transparency are at the core of everything they do, so you can feel good about conserving and look amazing too!

A group of people posing for the camera Description automatically generated

Photo by A sea of Love, provided courtesy of Camas Lilly Co

If you are looking for matching “getting ready” robes for you and your bridesmaids, look no further. Camas Lilly Co makes “getting ready” robes from deadstock and vintage fabrics that would have otherwise been thrown out. All robes are produced locally to LA and the leftover fabric scraps are made into scrunches or stuffing for pet beds! The cherry on the top? All pet bed proceeds are donated to local pet rescue groups like Cat Adoption Tails in Pasadena, so you can feel extra warm and fuzzy about buying from Camas Lilly Co!

A group of people walking on a city street Description automatically generated

Photo courtesy of Pocket Square Clothing

Don’t worry my suit-wearing friends, I didn’t forget about you! If you are looking for a custom suit and/or accessories for your wedding and want to rock out in sustainable style, Pocket Square Clothing has you covered. They use over 80% vintage or reclaimed fabrics to make their custom suits and leftover fabrics are made into pocket squares and ties. They also prioritize local production because it lets them support the LA economy and local craftsman while managing the product from start to finish to ensure top quality. Check out Pocket Square Clothing and see if you fall as in love with their designs as I have!

Want something different? Ask your wedding attire vendors these questions to see if they align with your values:

– Who made this garment and were they paid a living wage?

– Where was the fabric produced and outfit manufactured?

– What materials are used in this product? Are they sustainable and/or treated with harsh chemicals?

– Was this made in a sustainable setting (a factory with low-impact heating, water reclaiming systems, etc.)?

– What happens to deadstock fabric produced by the clothing manufacturing?

Beauty

A person holding a bottle of wine on a table Description automatically generated

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Casciano

In the beauty world, sustainability has become popular in the form of “clean” products, which Rebecca Casciano specializes in. She prioritizes using clean products because they are “better for our skin, health and planet” and “bring more peace of mind.” When sourcing makeup, she first confirms that it has simple, plant-based ingredients, and then checks the packaging to see if it is made from recycled or plant-based materials or has refillable options. She even uses vegan makeup brushes and biodegradable disposables like cleansing wipes and cotton swabs when needed. With Rebecca’s an intentional approach to makeup, you’ll know you’re in good hands and can feel beautiful, confident, and at-ease on your wedding day.

Have someone in mind already? Ask your potential hair or makeup artist these questions:

– What products do you use? What are the main ingredients, and are there any ingredients you avoid?

– How are the products you use generally packaged? Do you prioritize refillable and otherwise sustainable packaging?

– Do you use disposables such as wipes, cotton swabs, and tissues? If so, do you prioritize biodegradable and otherwise eco-friendly versions?

Photography

A picture containing person, woman, man, standing Description automatically generated

Photo by Crystal Lily Photography

You may not expect photography to have much room for sustainability (this was my initial thought too), but Crystal Lily Photography will prove you wrong! Crystal reduces shipping emissions and waste in her business by sending all documents digitally and ordering wedding albums in quarterly batches instead of lots of one-offs. This year, she has also partnered with One Tree Planted to plant a tree for each printed products she sells! Although photographers may be generally less wasteful than many other vendor categories, hiring vendors like Crystal Lily Photography is still a great way to put the cherry on top of a sustainable wedding!

If you already have a photographer but to be intentional about your work together, ask them these questions:

– Where are you based? Is it local to my venue or will you have to fly/drive a long distance?

– Do you shoot with film or digital cameras?

– What physical items/documents will you be sending me? Can we make them digital instead?

– How are your albums and prints sourced? Do you partner with local printers and/or offer products made of recycled materials?

– Do you support any sustainability-focused organizations?

Final thoughts:

I am so glad that in LA we can find sustainable vendors in most wedding categories. Plus, at the end of the day all wedding vendors want to cater to your needs and bring your vision to life, so if you clearly communicate that sustainability is a priority it can help your vendors incorporate eco-friendly solutions into their work for you, even if it isn’t already their focus. Just be upfront about what sustainability means to you in each vendor category. For example, are you looking for 100% local and organic flowers or mostly local flowers but 1 special imported bloom? Do you want to avoid plastic straws and cups or serve exclusively sustainable liquor and mixers? Wherever your priorities lie, this clarity will help your vendors quote you accurately and present you with a proposal that fits your vision.

Also ask vendors, “do you incorporate sustainability in administrative or other parts of your business/personal life?” No vendor is perfect and it may not make a big impact on your event’s environmental footprint if they use recycled paper in the office or compost their food waste at home, but their answers can shed light on whether they really care about the environment. If it’s a personal priority, they are more likely to be excited and accommodating about incorporating green elements into your wedding, so use this question to make sure they’re a good fit and share your values.

Also, with all vendors, ask yourself, “Do I trust this person? Will/do they have open dialogue for aiding me in executing my vision for my dream day? Do they openly recommend other vendors and have tips and tricks for going about my wedding so that I can be more sustainable?” Jess of Fibers and Florals recommended this question when talking to florists, but I think it applies to all vendors because, as she puts it, “if you feel like you can’t ask questions regarding the florists’ practices before and after the event on their views/practices on sustainability, they aren’t a good fit. Fear has no place in the wedding planning process.” At the end of the day, you want to work with someone who gets you, so use this question as a “vibe check” to make sure you’re on the same page before booking.

Finally, remember that you don’t have to do it all! As Sarah from Camas Lilly Co says, “Most couples have a budget, and shopping sustainably can seem expensive or daunting. Even the purchase of a ‘small’ detail, be locally made pocket square or vintage headpiece is a step towards bringing sustainability to one of the most important days of your life.” Don’t sweat it if your budget or vision doesn’t allow for 100% sustainability – very few do. Whatever elements you do incorporate will still make a difference. So have fun, use these tips to make your wedding a little greener in ways that work for you, and plan away!

One thought on “Eco-Friendly Weddings in Southern California

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s