Planning a Green Frugal Wedding – Dishware

Dishes | Source: Emily Carlin on FlickrThe wedding planning continues! Most people book a ‘wedding venue’ and with that, they get all the little details taken care of for them, including all the dishware and glasses that the guests use over the course of the night. But when you’re trying to be frugal in planning a wedding, you have to do all the little things yourself – including buying or renting dishes. Based on the experience we’ve had with this, you can save a lot of money here depending on the decisions you make – paper, plastic or china; rent or buy; one of everything for everyone or get lots of extras. All these decisions can represent vastly different price points, and each decision has an underlying environmental impact to keep in mind.

To Go Disposable or Not?

Depending on how “fancy” you want the wedding to be, this may not even be something worth your consideration. Disposable dinnerware (paper or plastic) doesn’t exactly scream ‘formal evening’. Personally, for example, it wouldn’t bother me to have paper dishes if they were biodegradable and compostable. I would never buy traditional plastic or paper dinnerware, but a lot of green companies are now producing disposable dinnerware that is low-impact to the environment. It is often made of corn or some other biological ingredient, and can degrade in a compost in under a month. I don’t think it would be that out of place in the green, frugal wedding that we’re planning. But my fiancee has vetoed that idea – real, china dinnerware is on the agenda. And anyways, after looking into the costs, responsible disposable dinnerware isn’t that much cheaper than renting real dinnerware anyways.

For example, 100 biodegradable plates from Grassroots, a great Environmental Products store, would cost $26. To rent 100 china dishes would cost $40. Similarly, 100 biodegradable cups would cost $30, versus $55 dollars to rent 100 glass cups. In favour of disposable dinnerware is the fact that it’s much easier to transport to the event, and at the end of the event, clean-up is a breeze. With renting dishes, clean-up can be easy as well as many rental companies will not require you to clean the dishes prior to returning them. But if anything breaks, you are responsible for the cost.

To Buy or to Rent?

The cost of renting dishes seemed kind of pricey to me, so I decided to look into the cost of just outright buying the dishes for the event. I found that for plates, bowls and glasses, it was indeed cheaper to rent, even when compared to buying the cheapest of the cheap stuff at Ikea. But, in the case of cutlery, it is actually cheaper to go to a store and buy all the cutlery. Here are the numbers. To rent cutlery, a fork, knife and spoon cost $0.50 each. For 100 sets of cutlery, that represents a cost of $150. By comparison, Ikea sells a 16 piece cutlery set (4 each of forks, knifes, spoons and teaspoons) for $4.99 – which adds up to a total cost of only $125 for 100 sets of cutlery, and you get teaspoons too! That begs the question, what am I going to do with 100 sets of cutlery after the event – well, we’ll probably keep some of it since we could use some new cutlery, and then we can sell the rest on Craigslist or Kijiji and try to recoup some of our money.

What About Linens?

We’re all civilised people here, and we’re environmentally friendly, so no paper napkins or plastic tablecloths are in store for us! We could go to Grassroots and buy 600 recycled paper napkins for $16. But if we’re going all out on the dishware, might as well go with linens for the napkins and tablecloths too. But renting linen napkins and tablecloths is expensive! Renting one linen napkin costs $0.65! And to rent a tablecloth costs $6-20. This is one place where you can really be creative. If you have some sewing skills, head down to a fabric store and buy whatever pattern you want in bulk. Then sew together some napkins and tablecloths as needed. This will surely save some money, plus you can go beyond just basic white and opt for a fun pattern instead.

At the end of the day, depending on the choices you make, for a 100 person wedding, the dishware and linens bill could swing between $100 and upwards of $500 or more. If you’re on a tight monthly budget, this is a situation where you have to make some difficult choices about just what your priorities are, and what you’re willing to spend money on. Renting dishware is great because it saves a lot of paper/plastic waste from hitting a landfill, but on the flipside, its a lot bulkier and can be more difficult to transport depending on where your wedding is. If you’re going the disposable route, make responsible choices and buy products that have used recycled materials and that can degrade in a short time. But most of all, remember that once the wedding is done, no one is going to remember whether they ate their meal on a ceramic or paper plate – they are going to remember the smile on your face when you say ‘I Do!”.

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11 thoughts on “Planning a Green Frugal Wedding – Dishware

  1. I agree. We seem to pay attention to the small details that no one else ever notices. I went through similar quandaries with my wedding.

    I would say to avoid renting too. Apart from the reasons you mention, there would be a heck of a lot of water used to wash all of those dishes. Like you say though, make sure the disposable option you choose is actually green.

    • Well considering how much water probably goes into the manufacturing of the disposable dishware, I’m not too worried about the water for renting the dishes. Actually, given that the price difference is so slim between renting and disposable, I think that’s an upgrade worth the money.

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  6. I can’t believe that buying the supplies is cheaper… but it makes sense. then I suppose donating supplies is tax write off…. I’m kinda glad I eloped!

  7. We kept everything minimal and self-done at our wedding. We had a 5K run in the sister-in-law’s neighborhood, then had the ceremony right in the driveway with a garage band in the garage! No silverware needed since we just had appetizer/snack foods out on a picnic table. Oh, and cupcakes rather than a $1000 wedding cake. Very low-key and not for everyone, but we saved a lot of money and everyone had fun since it was more of a party. In fact, one dating couple had too much champagne and got engaged there!

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