Conscious Vault

10 of the biggest causes of waste for a wedding venue

Mar 11, 2023

Waste is high on the agenda for most of the hospitality industry, so we put together the 10 biggest causes of waste for a wedding venue so that you can audit and review what is going on at your venue. By thinking about the amount of waste created and calculating the impact on your profits, your efficiency and your environmental and social impact; you can make a plan that can improve your business performance – and your sustainability.


10 of the biggest causes of waste for a wedding venue

We’ve put together what we see at the top ten biggest waste streams… and we’d love to know what you think.

1. Food waste: It’s all too common that we see food waste at a wedding – preparation, service or what comes back on the plate. There can be lots of reasons for this wastage and it’s important to monitor and measure it. It’s not just the main meal either… you need to think about all food waste – arrival snacks, wedding cake and evening food too!

2. Decorations: Making a venue fit with the wedding style is important, and often that means bringing in additional decorations. Much of the time decorations are purchased by couples and they haven’t truly thought about what happens to them after the wedding.  Many items are single-use and it can lead to a significant amount of waste.

3. Paper products: From invitations to order of service, menus, and place cards, a wedding day can generate a lot of paper waste.

4. Single-use items: Disposable plates, cups, cutlery, and napkins are often used in weddings, generating a significant amount of waste.

5. Flowers: The majority of weddings feature a lot of floral arrangements, from bouquets and buttonholes to centrepieces and ceremony arrangements. It’s not uncommon to see flower arrangements used for one element of a wedding, and depending on how they are created depends on whether or not they’re easily compostable or end up in landfill.

6. Transport: Guests and vendors traveling to the wedding venue contribute to carbon emissions and waste, particularly when people travel individually.

7. Lighting: Lights need to be on when you’re on the room, but are rarely switched off a venue when you’re not in the room which can lead to avoidable extra energy consumption and waste.

8. Favours: Wedding favours that are often small, single-use, and wrapped in packaging create a lot of waste.

9. Unused items: When wedding guests don’t take home centrepieces, leftover food, or other items, these items often end up being discarded.

10. Attire: Wedding attire, particularly for brides, can be worn only once and then discarded or kept in storage indefinitely, leading to unnecessary waste.

When you look at this list you can see that there is a definite opportunity for all venues to review the amount of waste being generated from weddings, and make more conscious choices that can improve both business performance and environmental impact. Let’s take a look at some of the opportunities for reducing the amount of waste…

Related: How to make your wedding venue more sustainable


How can wedding venues reduce the amount of waste created?

Taking a holistic view of your brand, your business operations and your ethics can allow you to formulate a powerful plan for reducing waste at your wedding venue. Here is some structure to inform your waste reduction plan:

1. Food waste reduction: Opportunities to reduce waste could include partnering with caterers to plan menus that minimise food waste, donate leftovers to local charities, or offer guests the option to take home leftovers. Finding your local food bank or homeless shelter and reaching out to see if there is an opportunity to collaborate is a great place to start. Having a system at your venue that can compost leftover food is also a brilliant initiative, as seen at Sheepdrove Farm. Whether you manage the catering at your venue, or you use an external caterer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that waste is reduced. Guardians of Grub run a fantastic programme to help educate and support food service businesses. From prep to plate they also have fantastic resources that mean you can simply track and reduce the amount that is being wasted. Check out Guardians of Grub: feed the bottom line not the bin.

2. Sustainable decorations: Promoting the use of sustainable decorations, such as reusable tableware, tablecloths, and centrepieces made of reusable materials, or natural, locally sourced flowers can reduce waste and support local businesses too. The Bodleian Library in Oxford have implemented some brilliant initiatives to support local suppliers with sustainable initiatives.

3. Digital communications: As a venue reviewing your approach to paper throughout the planning and on the day of a wedding is a significant waste reduction opportunity. Points to consider include reducing paper waste by using digital communications for wedding planning and contracts. Encouraging couples to use digital invitations, order of service, and menus rather than printed options. Or promoting sustainable swaps such as using recycled or seeded paper and encourage guests to recycle or plant them after the wedding.

4. Reusable items: Investing in reusable plates, cups, cutlery, and napkins to reduce the use of single-use items is a great opportunity for overall waste reduction for wedding venues. If there are still occasions that you need to use single use items, ensure they are compostable or recyclable… and genuinely so. Do your research and only buy what you know you can dispose correctly within your waste management system.

5. Transport: Having a proactive approach to transportation can encourages couples to be more conscious when it comes to travelling to and from your venue. Helping them with the best local transport options, and including the details on your website, in your contract and FAQs could have a significant bearing on the environmental impact of weddings taking place at your venue. How about promoting car sharing? Shuttle buses? Or even bike rental services to get about your venue? All will aid the aim of reducing carbon emissions and waste from transportation.

6. Energy-efficient lighting: It’s important to invest in energy-efficient lighting, such as LEDs, and encourage guests and vendors to turn off lights and other electrical appliances when not in use to reduce the energy consumption from a wedding. You can also consider sensor or timed lighting so that it turns off when no one is the room. Having an active energy policy that is well communicated and embedded into the culture of your business is key to making this a success.

7. Eco-friendly favours: As a venue you could promote eco-friendly wedding favours, such as seed packets, reusable water bottles, or organic snacks, instead of single-use items. Working with your couples as part of the planning process to make them aware of how much waste is actually generated from discarded favours could help them to make more considered choices.

8. Donations: One thing to consider is the donation of unused items, not just leftover food, but also decorations and flowers. Local community groups, charities and schools would welcome the opportunity, and repurposing items is a key wedding trend for 2023.

9. Sustainable attire: Encourage guests and wedding parties to choose sustainable and reusable attire, such as renting formalwear or buying second hand dresses and suits is great way of encouraging waste and repurposing. If the vintage fashion vibe is not in line with your brand then why not encourage your couples to give their wedding fashion a second chance after being used as part of their celebration – either through selling their wedding clothing, or donating it. Norwich bridal shop owner Laura Bartrum encourages her brides to use her bespoke dress cleaning service “It literally restores their dress to be like new, so they could potentially sell or donate it for another bride to enjoy. Not all brides would consider a second hand dress, but they can do their bit by having another bride enjoy it as much as they did after their big day”.

By implementing some of these measures, as a wedding venue you can reduce the environmental impact, promote sustainability, and support local communities. You can also have a positive impact on your bottom line – and attract more conscious couples to your venue.

Want to get support with making your wedding venue more sustainable? Get in touch with us at the Sustainable Wedding Alliance to begin your journey…

Conscious Vault

Nature Needs Our Help: How Wedding Businesses Can Support the Restore Nature Now Movement
Nature Needs Our Help: How Wedding Businesses Can Support the Restore Nature Now Movement

Wedding businesses! Inspired by Restore Nature Now movement? Partner with conservation groups & reduce your environmental impact. Together, let's protect the UK's natural beauty. Read more

Powering Up Your Business: Why You Need Electric Vehicle Charging Points
Powering Up Your Business: Why You Need Electric Vehicle Charging Points

Electric vehicles are on the rise! UK businesses need EV charging points to attract customers & demonstrate sustainable focus. Learn how to choose the right provider. Read more

How Wedding Businesses Can Embrace Plastic Free July
How Wedding Businesses Can Embrace Plastic Free July

Wedding pros! Help conscious couples ditch plastic this July and inspire them to have sustainable, plastic free weddings. Join the Sustainable Wedding Alliance for resources, support and community. Read more

See more articles