Your wedding day should leave a lasting impression on you and your guests, but that doesn’t mean it has to make a big impact on the Earth. According to a recent survey by Brides.com, 51 percent of brides and newlyweds across the U.S. were interested in hosting an eco-friendly wedding.

“In our day-to-day life, those of us who care about the environment often feel stumped about how to make a big meaningful change. However, when it comes time for the biggest party most of us will host in our lifetimes, we have total control,” says Cecil Hynds-Riddle, director of events for Prickly Pear Events in Chicago. “So couples these days want to seize the opportunity to express their eco-friendly values, make a meaningful impact and set out on a greener lifestyle together.”

The average wedding produces 400 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of carbon dioxide, so any way to cut those numbers is a positive step. But what does it actually mean to host a green wedding?

“Today's eco-friendly wedding aims to reduce impact on the environment while creating an event that is beautiful and memorable,” says Shelby Benny Reynolds, founder and creative director of Shine Event Design. “Eco-couples today don't need to compromise. They can elect to positively impact the earth, and educate their guests if desired, through their celebration.”

Here are a few expert tips for planning a modern, sustainable wedding without sacrificing elegance.

1. Send Digital Invitations

One of the simplest ways to go green is to swap out paper invitations for e-vites. Or, if you don’t want to totally skip out on printed stationery, consider using recycled paper. Another good compromise: “mail a Save the Date, which is limits the amount of paper and ink used, and then send your invitations via electronic mail,” suggests Benny Reynolds.

2. Decorate With Local and Organic Flowers

Exotic or out-of-season blooms need to be shipped across the country, which burns fossil fuels. To keep your carbon footprint small, choose local wildflowers or native plants to build your bouquet, boutonnieres and other arrangements.

You can take the good one step further by reusing flowers from the ceremony at the reception or donating them to a local nursing home or hospital, suggests Jennifer Tan, co-creator of Tan Weddings and Events.

3. Seal It With a Vintage Ring

“Gold and diamonds have all sorts of ethical implications, including environmental ones, so using vintage rings or reclaimed metal or rings made from sustainable materials is one way you can contribute to a better world,” says Lisa Gordon, owner of Lisa Gordon Events in Chicago.

4. Offer a Green Menu

One of the biggest contributors to wedding waste is the catering. Talk to your caterer about how to avoid single-use plastic or paper products or create a vegetarian menu since meat is a big carbon contributor. And don’t forget about composting, advises Hynds-Riddle. “Your green caterer or venue may already compost and recycle, but many local composting services have reasonable rates for private events.”

5. Give Back With Your Registry

Everyone loves to receive gifts, but they also create a lot of waste from packaging and use a ton of resources during production. Plus, “many couples already have an established home before their wedding day and choose not to create a registry,” says Benny Reynolds. “However, this can present a great opportunity to steer guests towards donating via the many great online services to an eco-friendly nonprofit.”

6. Partner With an Eco-friendly Planner

“The easiest way to plan a green wedding is to hire a wedding planner who has expertise in this area. It's a new field, and sometimes a little guidance is very helpful,” says Gordon. “There are a lot of wedding vendors who are doing their best to green the industry, like the Green Wedding Alliance in Chicago for example, and we are all interested in helping our clients have green, elegant, beautiful, fun, and even traditional weddings.”

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