It’s been almost five months since our wedding and I never had an opportunity to write much about it.  So much hard work was put into our DIY, eco conscious wedding, that I hate not to share those details with you. As a Master Recycler, I set out to make our wedding a green event following a few simple rules: everything had to be borrowed, used, homemade/DIY and everything had to be easily recycled or repurposed to create as little waste as possible.  By sticking to these rules, we not only had an amazing environmentally-friendly wedding, but we kept costs to a minimum as well!

Portland eco conscious wedding at Hoyt Arboretum

Picture frames were found at a local thrift store and with an inexpensive purchase of chalkboard paint from the hardware store, they were transformed into signage throughout the venue.  The leaves on the wishing tree were hand-cut from scrapbook paper (yes, this took a while) and are now in an adorable scrapbook album my mother made for us.

eco conscious wedding centerpiece alternatives

The paper pinwheels were handmade (about 80 or so not including the pinwheel garland) and are reminiscent of the pinwheels my grandmother had in the garden in her back yard.  The bottles to hold the pinwheels are repurposed soda bottles wrapped in twine and the burlap table runner are old coffee bags found from a local neighborhood coffee roaster.  The glass jars with yellow lentils were all repurposed from anything glass I could get my hands on: olive, jam and other condiment jars as well as assorted mason jars.  In lieu of flowers we opted for terrariums in antique mason jars which were made by the Salty Teacup, a wonderful boutique just a few blocks from our home.  All candles used were soy, which have less of an environmental impact than typical paraffin (paraffin is cheaper, but can leave an icky black residue on glassware and the wax is MUCH harder to remove if spilled).

eco conscious wedding local berry jam favors and chalkboard

I dedicated a couple of days and made about 8 dozen jars of homemade, organic raspberry jam from berries purchased at our local Farmers Market.  The birdcage turned card holder was borrowed from a friend (whom was also our wedding photographer).

eco conscious wedding dyed pom poms and DIY crayons

The coffee filter garland was individually hand dyed, a process I don’t know I’d do again (at least in quantities of 600!).  I laugh because at the time of making the coffee filter garland, our kitchen looked like a sweatshop with all the coffee filters hanging by string to dry.  To keep the kids occupied, a table was wrapped in kraft butcher paper and crayons were melted down (easier to use for the little kids and they don’t get lost).  The crayons were purchased dirt cheap at SCRAP (I believe $0.25 a handful).

eco conscious wedding centerpiece terrariums

More pinwheels, terrariums and yellow lentil filled glass jars.

wedding hair and jewelry

My necklace and yellow flower hair piece were made by Karen at the Salty Teacup.

floral alternative vintage brooch bouquet and boutonniere

A favorite amongst many was the vintage brooch bouquet, also made by Karen at the Salty Teacup.  I had always thought my grandparents, who played a major role in my life, would be at my wedding.  Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away a couple of years ago and my grandfather passed away just four days before the wedding.  In their honor and to make sure they were still there with me every step of the way, I was given a locket which I attached to my bouquet.  Boutonniere is also made by Karen at the Salty Teacup.

eco conscious wedding at Hoyt Arboretum in Portland

Jeff isn’t much of a suit wearing guy and neither of us wanted to shell out the money to rent (or buy) a tux.  Besides, it wasn’t that type of wedding.  Instead, he managed to find this swell suit at a vintage store.  It fit the theme, but most importantly, he can wear it again (and he already has!).  My dress was also made by Karen at the Salty Teacup.  I looked for hours at wedding dresses (primarily online) because I knew I didn’t want anything in a boutique.  Since our wedding was not a typical wedding, I didn’t want a typical dress, and it had to fit with the “reduce, reuse, recycle” theme I was going for.  The top half of the dress is made from a vintage slip I had in my closet and never wore as was the lining.  The ruffles came from a wide variety of places some of which include curtains, believe it or not!  It is truly a gorgeous dress, made with love and I couldn’t have been any happier with what Karen created!

Hoyt Arboretum wedding in Portland

A dear friend officiated our wedding (she was already ordained) and we had another friend play acoustic guitar before/after the ceremony.  One thing I didn’t want was piped music.  I don’t know why, but I wanted it mellow… and again, original.  We both wrote our own vows, Jeff’s was definitely more interesting than mine.  But then again, not just anyone can belt out “Nothing Else Matters” (Metallica).  Half of the guests were laughing while the other half didn’t know who or what he was quoting.  It was classic.

Before our first dance, I announced we would be dedicating the song and dance to my grandparents who couldn’t be there with us.  I’d have to say this was the most emotional part of the entire wedding (at least for me).  We danced to Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe” where halfway through the song, both Jeff and I started to sing which led us both to cry.  It’s such a powerful song and brings out so much energy.  The lyrics for us and given the situation could not have been more perfect.

potluck wedding buffet ideas

I lost a LOT of nights sleep trying to figure out what to do about the food and catering.  Because we had such a limited budget, something had to go.  Potlucks are no stranger to either of our families and I really love the sense of togetherness they bring.  So, after much deliberation, it was decided.  Then came the decision on what type of serving ware to use — do we rent, use compostable dishes or buy our own from second hand stores?  Being unemployed had it’s pro’s including being able to get up extra early to head to the Salvation Army on 50% off Monday’s.  When I realized I could purchase plates cheaper than I could rent them, my decision was made.  And besides, compostable dishes really don’t break down as we think they do.

eco conscious wedding with local homemade pies and reusable glassware

Neither Jeff or I care much for cake so instead we decided on pie.  I baked 7 strawberry rhubarb pies the day before the wedding (and one cherry), my sister-in-law made 8 blackberry pies and another friend made 5 apple pies using apples from her backyard. My mother-in-law had given me the rhubarb from her yard and almost all other fruit was locally sourced.

Also to cut down on waste and costs we only served beer and wine (and because we had to as liquor is not allowed to be served in park’s in Portland).  We used pint size mason jars as glasses, many of which I already had (I do a lot of preserving).  And, we even recycled the bottle caps from the bottles of beer.

All the garbage receptacles were taped off and all waste was collected in one bin, which I brought home and sorted.  Roughly 95% of waste collected could be (and was) recycled, leaving just one small grocery store bag of waste to be landfilled.  I couldn’t have been happier!

Hoyt Arboretum eco conscious wedding with Boy and Bean

Our one splurge since we opted for a potluck wedding was this phenomenal three-piece stand up band, Boy and Bean.  All other music after the ceremony and during dinner was played via my laptop (iTunes rocks!), with playlists making it SUPER easy to switch between music as needed.  A friend helped with the limited DJ’ing we had (and provided all the sound equipment).

We opted to have our wedding at a local park (Hoyt Arboretum) to take advantage of the beautiful, natural scenery which meant less decorating and more savings.  By recruiting the help of others (I still can’t thank them enough), we managed to pull of an eco-friendly, DIY wedding for just about 100 people… all for roughly $3,000!

Special thank you to all of these vendors:


6635 N Baltimore Ave., Suite 125
Portland, OR 97203
Schedule an appointment


(971) 373-6203