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Weddings on the bay
Eco-friendly ideas

Our environment is a fragile entity not to be taken for granted. At Tampa Bay Watch, our mission is dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Tampa Bay estuary through scientific and educational programs. We encourage our staff, volunteers, members, and guests to take strides to lessen the impact on the environment and to leave the earth a better place. Thank you for allowing us the highest honor of being part of your special day.

There are many ways to have your dream wedding in an eco-friendly way. By adopting a few of these ideas, or creating your own, every effort you make to reduce environmental impact goes a long way to making the planet a better place. We’re honored to offer a few suggestions of ways to make your wedding eco-friendly.

Eco-friendly tips

Consider the three R’S:

Reduce: Decrease the amount of waste from food, paper, flowers, and decorations.

Reuse: Opt for multiple-use items, or find previously-used wedding items. Remember, this will be the first time your guests will see any of your decorations!

Recycle: Choose items that can be recycled and provide a proper, well-marked location for recycling. (Be sure to find a venue that has a recycling program!)



  • Choose a single location for both ceremony and reception. Reducing travel between venues cuts down on fossil fuel consumption and emissions.
  • Choose a venue with a purpose and a naturally beautiful setting. A marine center, a botanical garden, or an art museum, for example.
  • Choose a location central to most guests; this cuts down on travel and adds convenience to your big day.



  • Use recycled or seeded paper printed with soy-based inks.
  • Instead of inserts, consider an RSVP post card. (No envelope needed, and it saves on postage, as well!)
  • List your map and directions on a website page or send via electronic media, rather than printing it.


Flowers and decorations

  • Use in-season, native flowers for your geographic area.
  • Reuse ceremony flowers in the reception hall.
  • Have bouquets and centerpieces re-purposed into new arrangements, and donate them to an assisted living facility, hospital, or hospice center.
  • Use your personal collections to decorate the reception hall. This makes it your special day, and very personal to you!
  • Use tablecloths and napkins made from sustainable materials like silk, hemp, and cotton.
  • Keep the lighting dim (or even off) and use candles as a light source for added ambience.



  • Go digital. Ask your photographer to create a disk of your event.
  • Some photographers have photos available on their website so all guests can see them and order their own prints.
  • Check to see if your photographer prints on recycled paper.


Food and beverage

  • Use reuseable serviceware. If using disposable items, opt for biodegradable or items made from sustainable materials like bamboo.
  • Serve small food items in edible vessels (e.g.; hollowed-out fruits, vegetables, or breads).
  • Serve local, in-season foods.
  • Check to see if leftovers can be donated to a homeless shelter or to your local fire/ police department.
  • Go online to verify beverage quantites, or ask an experienced bartender.
  • Find beverages local to your area. (Microbrews are increasing in popularity.)



  • Encourage guests to carpool or take a beach shuttle.
  • If it’s a destination wedding for several of your guests, provide a mass-transit “party bus.” This is also a good way to prevent drinking and driving.


  • Give your guests edible favors instead of trinkets they might throw away (e.g.; honey or jam from a local farmer’s market). Buying local supports small businesses and promotes a strong local economy.
  • Give guests potted plants or seed packets to plant in their yard. (More plants native to your area are a great boost to the environment.)
  • Instead of giving party favors, make a donation on behalf of your guests to Tampa Bay Watch, a favorite charity, or another nonprofit organization.

Email Jon Ziegler with questions about weddings at Tampa Bay Watch: