We have asked Hannah of Green Soul Weddings to join us again to give you some implementable tips to make your wedding more sustainable! Today we are talking all things floral for your wedding day.
It is fair to say that flowers are a pretty big deal at weddings and it is estimated that 7-10% of wedding budgets are spent on florals. Making careful consumer choices can have a powerful impact on the sustainability and footprint of your celebration, and eco-friendly wedding florals are a great way to make a big visual statement whilst keeping your environmental impact down. Here I provide 11 ideas that consider various aspects of wedding florals, from where they grow, to how they’re prepared, and what happens to them afterwards.
Go Foam Free
Floral foam, otherwise well known by its main brand name Oasis, is a material used by florists to assist with holding the structure of floral displays and maintaining a source of water to prolong the life of cut flowers. For decades this foam has been seen by many as an essential tool of the trade, however there has been a big rise recently in the use of alternative floristry methods and foam free options, and for good reason!
Not only is floral foam a single use block of microplastics, but research published in 2019 showed that all aquatic organisms tested within the study had consumed the toxic chemicals that floral foam leaches into the water system as it breaks down. These chemicals induce harmful levels of stress in the animals that consume it (RMIT University), plus the material has been known for a long time to be an irritant to the florists regularly handling it, overall making it an all round unpleasant as well as wasteful material.
Being a fantastically creative bunch there are now whole networks of florists collaborating on new and ingenious techniques that are kinder to our planet, all in an effort to abandon this toxic substance and find a suitable alternative that ensures the same quality and longevity of their displays. We are lucky to have many such florists in our local area and choosing to go foam free for your wedding flowers can make a huge impact on the volume of waste generated from your celebration. If you are looking to make just one big sustainable choice for your wedding to reduce your waste, this would be my top recommendation!
Choose Locally Grown
Another thing we are blessed to have in ample supply in our area of the UK are fantastic flower farms full of beautiful British blooms. Choosing to support local and shop local is ideal to reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding, and supporting a local florist is a great place to start, but do you know where your flowers themselves started their life? Many of the flowers you find in the supermarket or in your local florists’ shop will have been purchased wholesale and flown in from abroad, meaning they have many air miles before they even reach your local area!
With some fantastic flower farms right on our doorstep, many of the gorgeous flowers available from British flower farms are bursting with more colour, scent, and interesting varieties, making them the ideal choice for your sustainable wedding. Some flower farms provide to local florists, others allow you to buy a bucket of blooms to DIY your own flowers, and others, such as Flowers at 58, are run by florists who not only lovingly grow their own blooms but will then craft these into beautiful bouquets and floral installations for you. These beautiful flowers had to travel all of 6 miles from the soil to the wedding, how fantastic is that!
Regardless of where you choose to source your flowers from, seasonality has a role to play. If you choose to support local growers you should expect to be limited by the seasonal availability at the time of year you have chosen to get married. If you are not restricting it to British grown blooms then be aware that flowers that are out of season are likely to be harder to source and therefore more expensive, regardless of where they are being flown in from. As such, thinking seasonally is a great starting place for your wedding florals, and discussions with your florist can really help here. Across the seasons there are so many great floral and foliage options ready to be used for a spectacular display, it just requires you to be open minded and trust your florists’ guidance. Alternatively, if your favourite flower is an absolute must-have check out the faux and paper floral ideas below!
Another great option for eco-friendly floristry is to make the most of the flora and fauna naturally occurring around you by foraging for it. Foraging is the art of collecting and utilising wild flowers, foliage and textural materials in floral designs, and this can be a great way of bringing a rugged sense of nature and the natural seasons into your wedding décor. There are many rules that govern what you can and can’t do whilst foraging, so seeking a florist who can help you to unravel the rules is advisable, such as Wild Rosamund. This method can be a budget savvy way of embracing nature, using what it has on offer, and leaving enough behind for the continued enjoyment of everyone else.
Opt for Organic/Fairtrade
As part of this pick and mix of sustainable wedding flower suggestions, ensuring the florals used are organic can be a great choice either on its own or in addition to the other ideas given here. One beauty of using locally grown flowers is you are often able to visit the farm for yourself, seeing the space and talking to the growers about their processes and the growing journey your flowers have been on. Alternatively, if locally grown flowers aren’t for you then why not ensure that your flowers are organic and/or fairtrade, from trusted suppliers that grow in a safe, ethical way that promotes biodiversity.
An alternative option to cut flowers is to make the most of potted flowers; still rooted and growing, potted plants are able to continue their life long after your wedding making them the ultimate zero waste option. Potted plants work brilliantly as centrepieces and aisle décor and can combine to make fantastic installations for ceremonies, reception entrances and other spaces that need that perfect finishing touch. From poinsettia to cyclamen, cactus, herbs, spring bulbs, and lavender, potted plants can be included in any season and with careful consideration over the chosen pots/vessels can work for any wedding style too.
Make the most of Dried Florals
What sustainable floristry list would be complete without a mention of the fantastic world of dried flowers and foliage! By embracing the details and textures of dried florals these can create such a striking look and work well across many different wedding styles and in many places throughout a wedding … think centrepieces, bouquets, ceremony backdrops, place setting accents, or even show stopping cakescapes like this one!
With dried florals you also have the added benefit that they will last forever, making it so easy to preserve some physical reminders of your day such as your bouquet or table centrepieces. In addition, why not ask your florist if they will come and disassemble any items or installations you do not want to keep from the celebration, as they will then be able to reuse as much of this as possible for the ultimate eco-friendly wedding loop!
Reuse and Repurpose
Whilst there is a common conception in all areas of life that sustainable options cost more, there’s many ways in which a sustainable approach to weddings can actually cost less. One budget savvy and planet friendly way of approaching your florals is to maximise their use as much as possible across your wedding. For many couples, their ceremony may be at one venue or in one particular room whereas their reception is in another, meaning the beautiful elements from the ceremony only get 1 hour of glory unless they are moved and utilised elsewhere.
Discussing the repurposing of your florals across the day with your florist means you get the very most you can out of the flowers whilst reducing the waste. Ceremony backdrops or installations can be fantastic moved as a whole to form the cake backdrop or a backdrop for the top table, or could be carefully designed in such a way that they can be disassembled into your table centrepieces. Likewise, any urns or aisle décor can be fantastic reused later as a finishing touch to your guest book table or bar, and your bouquets can become floral accents too for everyone to get a closer look at once you no longer want to carry it. Planning ahead and clear communication with your florist can ensure that you get the most from the minimum in a beautiful and eco-conscious way.
Consider Faux Flowers
We all have our personal preferences and favourites, including when it comes to choosing flowers, so if you are getting married at a time in which your favourite flower is not in season one great alternative is to choose faux flowers. For example, peonies are a firm wedding favourite with their beautiful shades and blousy delicate blooms, but they are only in season and at their best for 2 short months in the UK, and even then they can be a little temperamental! Faux flowers provide you complete choice of flower types all year round, reassurance about how they will look in advance of your wedding morning, and we have seen a large amount of progress in the quality and realistic aesthetic of faux flowers in recent years.
Whilst their manufacturing and materials may not be particularly eco-friendly, they live on beyond your special day and can feature in your home decor forever, or if you have a local faux florist who hires them you can be sure they will provide that finishing touch to many more celebrations to come!
Handmade Paper Flowers
Sharing the same benefits as faux flowers, paper flowers are another beautiful option for weddings. Whilst the words might initially conjure up thoughts of the tissue paper flowers you made in your primary school days, the world of paper flowers is a stunning artform with flowers varying from those it is hard to tell apart from the real thing, to those deliberately designed as a more stylised version. Bedford based paper artist Arlo Arts creates both types of paper flowers, from delicate and realistic blooms and foliage to more stylised flowers from decorative papers, books pages or even comic books. Taking care to minimise waste in the production process, these lifelong blooms are just another sustainable option you could consider.
Sharing is caring
Whilst some of these suggestions involve flowers that last well beyond your wedding day, any use of cut flowers inevitably culminates in the flowers perishing. With the power of flowers to bring so much beauty to a wedding, and so much joy to their beholder, have you also considered whether your florals could brighten someone else’s day after your own? Regifting your wedding flowers can be such a feel good thing to do as well as maximising the life of your flowers before they head to the compost pile. Why not discuss with your florist or wedding planner if they can assist with the sharing of your flowers after your event; gifting small bunches to your guests to take home; brightening a local care home or hospital with bouquets; or drying the petals for reuse as confetti all helps to ensure your florals are appreciated and enjoyed as much as possible.