HOW TO: make your wedding flowers more eco-friendly

As the floristry business gets to grips with its eco responsibilities, we learn more about the grassroots movement to put homegrown flowers at the heart of your bouquet

[Above] Get your ’maids in on the green action with Stunning Flowers’ posies (photo: Burfly Photography)

How do you ‘do your bit’? Maybe you’ve given up dairy, or now only eat meat a couple of times a week; perhaps you buy from your local zero-waste shop, or you’ve swapped fast fashion for second-hand clothes. Whatever it is, I think we’d all agree that sustainability is no longer a ‘trend’ but a way of life we all have to adopt.

Wider political and systemic change is urgently needed, of course, but we can’t leave it all for Greta Thunberg to sort out – which means we have to examine the damage weddings can do to the environ­ment. 

And nowhere is this issue more pressing than when it comes to flowers. “Thanks to bridal magazines and blogs, many more of us are aware of the floristry industry’s impact on the environment, especially through its use of floral foam,” says Ashley Bryden at Clydebank’s Fleur & Blume.

From left: Check out these pretties from Supernova Wedding Design & Flowers (photo: Craig & Eva Sanders Photography); The pampas grass and faux blossom of Supernova Wedding Design & Flowers’ arch makes this a high-impact piece with little impact on the environment (photo: smphotographyx.

Floral foam? Let Lauren Printy Currie of Days of Dahlia explain: “Floral foam, or oasis as it’s known, is the green blocks hidden at the bottom of almost all flower arrangements. It’s a type of plastic (phenolic resin, in case you’re wondering) which, despite its attractive green colour, is not biodegradable. And, when the foam is soaked to prepare it for use, microplastics pass into the water system and directly contribute to marine contamination.”

Yet, change is coming – as Ashley points out, more suppliers are opting out of oasis altogether, and the Royal Horticultural Society has vowed to ban the material from its shows from next year. As welcome as these steps are, however, there are still things to consider as you plan for your wedding. Here are just some of the ways you can get started.

The first question you’ll want to ask yourself is: do you know where your blooms have originated? “Flying flowers around the world creates a huge carbon footprint,” shares Rosie Leslie, owner of Glasgow-based Wild Rose Flowers. “And it’s unnecessary as there are plenty of sustainable alternatives.

Couples should be aware of where their blossoms come from, and aim to keep them natural and seasonal. In the colder months, varieties such as peonies and hydrangeas are flown here from South America, but there are loads of amazing substitutes you could use instead. If you’ve got your heart set on one particular bloom, why not try a faux version? These can even be mixed in with fresh flowers.”

A ceremony arch is entirely possible without costing the earth… literally. Just ask Wild Rose Flowers (photo: Valentina Weddings)

Air miles aren’t the only concern. “After mass-produced flowers are harvested they are given a cocktail of chemicals, including being dipped in glyphosate [a weedkiller, banned in some countries] to prevent propagation,” Lauren shares. “You need to know what you are handling when you’re carrying a bouquet of roses in December. It’s hard to believe just how wasteful conventional floristry is, given how beautiful and natural the results look.”

That said, in some ways the nature of weddings is actually a godsend for suppliers keen to cut waste. “Events like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day see shops ordering in vast quantities, the transportation of which contributes to a massive carbon footprint,” says Ruth Marshall, of Supernova Wedding Design and Flowers. “But we buy our flowers locally where possible and, as an event florist, we are zero-waste as everything is made to order.”

And the good news is that pursuing a more environmentally friendly big day is compatible with a lot of the trends we’re seeing cropping up across the wedding industry, such as the use of dried flowers.

“Using native foliage and grasses is definitely more sustainable as we have a wide range available here in Scotland all year round,” agrees Rosie. “Plus, drying flowers is a good way for florists to use up leftover heads as these can be mixed into things like wreaths and table arrangements in the winter months.”

From left: Just try and stop us from cheesing when we get our paws on this beauty from Fleur & Blume
(photo: John Clark Photos); A colourful creation from star florist and green crusader Days of Dahlia (photo: Caro Weiss)

On board ideologically but your bank balance is giving you second thoughts? You’ve nothing to stress about. “Pursuing sustainable practice is less expensive for sure,” confirms Ashley. “Floral foam is pricey, switching to kraft paper and cutting out cellophane and tissue paper also makes a massive saving.”

On the day itself, it’s about being smart and economical with the pieces you invest in: think reduce and recycle. Spend your money on fewer, more impactful arrangements and repurpose them throughout the day. And don’t be afraid to go faux – they are so convincing these days most people won’t be able to tell the difference.

“As a hire company, we reuse our products time and time again, which is better for the environment,” Ruth confides. “We have cherry blossom trees, a wide selection of flower walls and arches, and some stunning faux centrepiece options.”

Minimalist touches throughout the venue à la Wild Rose Flowers will create impact while keeping waste down (photo: Valentina Weddings)

Florists have told us what they know – now it’s up to you to decide how to respond. “Choose a florist who is open about their efforts to act in a sustainable way,” challenges Rosie. “It would also be good to see venues encouraging clients to seek out sustainable florists and other suppliers as well – after all, this is an issue for all industries, not just ours.”

The best thing you can do, says Ashley, is to quiz your florist on the basics. “Ask where their flowers come from – are they sustainably grown and shipped? Are biodegradable materials used? How are they packaged?”

And reducing waste isn’t just a priority before the big day – what will you do with all those beautiful blooms afterwards? Why not spread the love, Ashley suggests: “Some people like to give them to family or to nursing homes and hospitals, or to put them on a loved one’s grave.”

Or, you could make your own memento, by hanging your bouquet upside down in a warm cupboard and leaving it to dry out. That way, you’ll have it to hold forever.

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