Someone close to you is getting married, and you have the honour of planning the bridal shower. Yeah! Or is it? You really want it to be special, but cringe at the idea of having to chuck bags and bags full of waste at the end of the day, never mind the single-use plastic utensils and décor that usually take centre stage at such events. We also cringe at the idea, so let us help you with a few suggestions so that you can attempt to host a zero waste bridal shower.
Here we go!
If the crowd will allow, consider sending out digital invitations, as well as making use of digital channels to send out reminders, the gift registry and any other arrangements. There are numerous apps and programs that you can use for this if you are not deft enough to design and distribute by yourself. Look at evite.com, sendo and paperlesspost.com for digital solutions.
2. Recycled paper, or growing paper
If you have to use paper, use recycled or a product like Growing Paper – their paper is handmade and contain seeds so you plant the paper afterwards. At least it is not ending up on the landfill. For recycled paper, have a look at Papersmith. They have an extensive range of earth-friendly paper, including rock paper!
3. Have a mindful registry
Encourage the couple to list only items that they need, or really want. And even then, find the most earth-friendly option. Where possible, and if acceptable to the couple, you can suggest gentle pre-loved items, or even ask for digital gift cards, money, or even experiences to be gifted instead of things the couple will never use, end up having doubles (or more) or throw away. For more zero waste gift ideas, read my post on eco-friendly gifting here and zero waste kitchen ideas here. Also, zero waste easy swaps for incase you would like to gift some of these essentials.
4. Ask for unwrapped gifts, or give alternative solutions
If there are physical items on the registry, and if you know there will be guests who will insist on giving the bride something, ask them to rather not wrap the gifts. If that feels too impersonal, you can suggest alternatives, such as the Japanese art of cloth wrapping called Furoshiki – guests can wrap gifts in kitchen towels, blankets, handkerchiefs, serviettes or other pieces of material. Guests can also use containers such as baskets (just skip the cellophane), cast-iron pots etc.
5. Skip re-usable, use the real deal or if not possible, go for compostable
For the cutlery, crockery, serving ware and glassware, as far as possible stick to actual plates, knives, glasses, etc. If you do not have enough, you can ask a few select guests to bring some with or even hire in. if none of these is an option, and you have to make use of disposables, then at least by disposables that are compostable. They are not that more expensive, and you get an amazing variety. Green Home started this particular movement in South Africa, go check them out.
6. Think about the décor, and use what you already have
You do not need tons of décor. Use what you have, and be smart about it. For the most part, you will need a table cloth or runner (depending on the type of table. For beautiful wooden tables nothing is necessary), a centrepiece and maybe something to complete each place setting. If you are using actual plates and cutlery and glasses, you are already 20 steps closer to making the event look stylish, chic and expensive, without any décor! Keep all your glass bottles and use them as vases, cut and paint the cardboard inner found in toilet rolls to make centrepieces or napkin rings, use framed photographs as part of the theme, basically, anything can work if you do it with flair, stick with a theme and have a bit of fun.
7. Go back to nature
If possible, have the event outdoors. Although not necessarily a cost-saving option, it does help to elevate the mood. People feel happier when outside. You can consider a picnic or a high tea under the trees. There can be a cost-saving element if you consider you do not have to have lighting, aircon or fans, and that if you have a picnic there is also no extra costs for tables and chairs. If you can’t have it outside, then bring outside in by including a lot of plants, natural light and a cool breeze.
8. Stick with a theme
Pick a theme, and then start asking around if people maybe have things that will fit into the theme, that you can borrow for the event. Great themes to consider include Gatsby (think feathers and pearls), breakfast at Tiffany’s (lots of baby blue and more feathers and pearls), Alice in Wonderland (miss-match teacups, funny signs, and bright colours), and rustic (tin cans, veld flowers, burlap and succulents).
9. Plant-based eats and treats
Although the jury is still out whether veganism or even vegetarianism is actually better for the planet or not, you can still do your part to decrease the consumption of meat. For the bridal shower, serve plant-based, or at least vegetarian eats and treats. Think quiche, gourmet salads, pasta bakes, or even sandwiches. For a more out-there shower, you can even do pizzas! Be creative and have fun when designing the menu.
10. Cloth is the answer
Do not even consider paper serviettes or those horrible vinyl/plastic table cloths. Not only do they look tacky, but they are also super wasteful. Use cloth table cloths, serviettes and runners. If you do not have your own, and you cannot borrow from someone you know, then hire them in. It costs a fraction of the cost (unless you can make it yourself) and you are helping to extend the useful life of these items.
11. The flower question
The environmentally-friendly option would be to choose bulbs, succulents or other clippings that will grow again if you place them in water or plant them. The next best thing would be to use branches and soft twigs to braid wreaths and other décor pieces such as napkin rings or even placemats. If you really want to have flowers, then gift them afterwards. Either the guests can take them home, or drop them off at your local nursing home, hospital or other institution where some happiness and sunshine will be much appreciated.
For wines and sparkling wines, choose organic earth-friendly brands. In South Africa, we are blessed with a large selection of wonderful wines, made intentionally and ethically. For any other drinks, steer clear of anything in plastic – glass is best. And skip the straws! Even paper ones are wasteful.
Although none of these tips is ground-breaking, most people will not even consider that there might be an alternative to their habitual bad practices. Just remember, for some of the guests it might sound foreign – they either have no knowledge about how damaging their consumption patterns are or in some sad cases, they simply do not care. So approach the whole situation delicately and gently. Explain where necessary, but for the most part, do not make a scene. Give the arrangements through as if it is the most natural thing in the world, and hopefully, the guests will fall in line.
If you have any other ideas, tips or solutions, please share!