What to Keep, Toss and Donate After Your Wedding

Written by Marissa Hermanson

Itís no secret that wedding celebrations can have a negative effect on the environment. From food and floral arrangements to the invitations, much waste is created leading up to and during the big day. To keep Mother Nature on your side, you can reuse, recycle and donate your wedding gear to make sure nothing goes to waste.

Flowers and Centerpieces

Ask your floral designer whether they have any plans to repurpose flowers after your big day. If they donít, consider donating bouquets and reception centerpieces to nursing homes and hospitals, where they will lift spirits. If youíre getting married in a church or synagogue, you may be able to leave your flowers in place for other parishioners to enjoy. Wedding blooms can also be delivered to schools and community art centers to be used for arts and crafts.

Or, in lieu of flower arrangements, opt for potted plants and herbs as reception centerpieces. Guests can take home as favors to plant and remember your special dayóand you wonít have to worry about repurposing them.

Leftover Food and Wedding Cake

The week of your wedding, give your caterer a final guest count to ensure that they prepare an appropriate amount of food and not an excess. If you do end up with leftovers from your cocktail hour and reception, donate the dishes to a local homeless shelter. Or, ask your venue if staff (or even your guests) are allowed to take home leftovers.

Make sure you take home a few slices of wedding cake and freeze them so you have them on hand to celebrate your first year of marriage.

Wedding and Bridesmaid Dresses

The likelihood of you wearing your wedding dress after you tie the knot is slim. Consider re-imagining the dress by having a seamstress tailor it into a short sundress or have it dyed another color so you can get more use out of it.

If you are looking to sell your wedding dress, consign it at local bridal boutique, or sell it online on wedding dress resale sites likes Nearly Newlywed or Still White. For bridesmaids dresses, Bridesmaid Trade is an online marketplace where bridesmaids can buy and sell gently used gowns. You can also consider consigning your wedding jewelry and accessories.

Paper Products

Print paper products like ceremony programs, menus, place cards and table numbers on recyclable paper or biodegradable seed paper. If you are using a local stationer, request that your wedding suite is printed on eco-friendly paper with nontoxic ink. Or, if you are designing the stationery yourself through an e-retailer, websites like Paper Culture print on post-consumer waste and wood alternatives, while also planting a tree with every order they receive.

Alternatively, you can find stationary companies like Green Field Paper that use sustainable materials such as hemp, plantable seed paper, earth pigments and soy ink. This ensures your paper products have a useful life beyond your wedding day.

Reception Decor

To avoid purchasing reception decor and supplies such as linens, china, candles and vases, hire an event rental company to handle all the frills. You wonít have to worry about ending up with an excess that needs to be donated or repurposed after the party.


Marissa Hermanson is a lifestyle and wedding writer who enjoys sharing sustainable ideas to carry through the big day and beyond. She currently writes for Larson Jewelers, an online jeweler offering unique wedding bands for men and women.†


Chad A
Chad A13 days ago

Thank you.

Emma L
Emma L26 days ago


Naomi D
Naomi D29 days ago

Women spend too much on the wedding and not enough on the marrage.

Naomi D
Naomi D29 days ago

I like the idea about taking home a few slices of wedding cake and freeze them so you have them on hand to celebrate your first year of marriage.

Ingrid A
Ingrid Aabout a month ago

thanks for posting

Ruth S
Ruth Sabout a month ago


John W
John Wabout a month ago


Caitlin L
Caitlin L1 months ago

thank you

Magdalen B
Magdalen B1 months ago

There are schemes where donated wedding dresses can be turned into burial gowns for dead babies.

Amanda M
Amanda M2 months ago

Christine D, when my husband and I got married, it didn't even cost us TEN GRAND! We hired a local historic tour train (actual old railroad in the area; we were their first wedding package deal) that took everyone to a community park along the tracks where the ceremony was held, then we all got back on the train and it continued its run with the wedding party moving up and down the train visiting with the guests-sort of a reverse receiving line. My mom made my dress (she had a cow when she saw that wedding gowns are made of polyester and insisted it had to be silk), the bridesmaids' dresses were from the formal section at JC Penney, the groomsmen wore suits, and my husband wore his dress uniform (volunteer firefighter). We had a Wiccan handfasting ceremony performed by a Unitarian Universalist minister (despite attempts by my mom to override that, as she was VERY hostile towards my religious beliefs at the time), and the ceremony was performed in the local park mentioned above. The reception was held at the AMVETS club where my husband and his mom were members, the flowers were from my parents' yard (except for the bride's side bouquets; those were from a local florist that doesn't even exist anymore), my parents and I made the food, the cake was made by a friend of my MIL's, the invitations and napkins were from a local ARC printing business, and the utensils and dishes were from a local party-supply outlet (fancy plastic, but it looked te