SAN DIEGO — It’s easy for Gia Giambalvo and Sarah Girdzius to relive their wedding day through photos, especially since they got married where they live.
“We kept saying ‘oh, we’re going to go to the dressing room’ and we’d pass through the one door to our bedroom,” Girdzius laughed.
They opted for a small ceremony at their house, choosing to wear matching overalls they could re-wear instead of traditional attire.
“Now we wear them all the time still,” Giambalvo said. “And sometimes when we wear them I’m like ‘this is my wedding outfit.’”
Giambalvo and Girdzius are part of the growing movement of couples putting sustainability at the top of their list when planning their wedding.
According to The Knot’s 2021 Real Weddings Study, nearly 70% of couples want to have “sustainable” activities and decor. And around 52% of couples in the U.S. are still finding ways to incorporate some sustainability tactics into not only their weddings but daily life as well.
Giambalvo said they made their own boutonnieres that they now use as home décor and also created invitations that their family and friends could frame. They also used plants from around their house to help frame their ceremony location in their front yard.
“As people, we just weren’t excited about some of the stuff that can be really wasteful,” Giambalvo said. “Maybe because it’s really wasteful, but also just it wasn’t something that we were pumped to do.”
“We didn’t do it on purpose to be sustainable but we just did the things that we liked,” Girdzius said.
According to The Knot 2021 Sustainability Survey, one of the top trends of how couples are incorporating sustainability into their weddings is through decor. Fifty percent of couples upcycled items or bought secondhand decor, meanwhile 39% sought eco-friendly flowers and decor. Other ways couples have gone green include reducing food waste (46%), avoiding throwaway paper products (45%), sourcing food locally (37%), selecting eco-friendly venue locations (23%), and registering for eco-friendly gifts (17%).
Breah Anderson is the CEO at Green Field Paper Company, which has an eco-friendly and sustainable wedding invitation line. All of their paper is tree free, reinventing the tradition of creating fine paper without cutting down trees. They use 100% recycled materials like cotton and hemp and even add wild flower seeds to their paper so it can be planted back into the ground. Anderson said she’s seen many people change their buying patterns to include more sustainable options.
“We get a lot of people who do custom invitations here, a lot of wedding planners,” Anderson said. “And people realize that they do still want to have a piece of paper that commemorates their day of marriage and they’d rather have it on something sustainable and they can also plant it.”
Anderson inspects every piece of paper by hand, putting any with flaws back into the paper process to re-make it. She hopes other couples and companies are inspired to make better choices, while still getting what they want.
“It’s a great time to be sustainable and people are really looking outside the box,” she said. “People don’t care if they have to pay more money to have a really high-quality, handmade item that’s also sustainable.”
The Knot estimates there were 2.6 million weddings in 2022, with over 200 million guests and 31 million wedding professionals hired. Giambalvo and Girdzius said they will cherish their intimate, mindful day forever.
“I wouldn’t add anything. I wouldn’t have done anything different,” Giambalvo said. “I might have kept that one plant inside because it got sunburned,” she added with a laugh.
The Green Bride Guide estimates that the average wedding produces 400 pounds of garbage. With an estimated 2.5 million weddings per year, that is about one billion pounds of trash and as many emissions as approximately four people would produce in a year, in just one day.
The Knot said recycled paper continues to be a popular option for couples looking to get creative but wanting to be conscious of the environmental impact.
In 2021, The Knot designed a sustainable invitation suite with actress Jenna Dewan and, in an interview with her, she emphasized that “you can have a gorgeous wedding and feel like you’re bettering the world.”