How to Plan an Eco-Friendly Wedding in Kansas

Dyck Arboretum, Sculpture by Conrad Snider

Many of the folks who plan weddings in our prairie garden are concerned with reducing the ecological footprint of their big day, an effort I applaud and encourage. For an organization like ours, “going green” is more than a catch phrase or marketing gimmick. Each decision to create more joy and beauty with less waste is a decision to “use [the land] with love and respect.”

And yet, I realize that planning an eco-friendly wedding can be a daunting endeavor. Luckily, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel – here are six ways our 2015 weddings succeeded in treading lightly on their wedding day:

1. Reduce consumption of disposable goods.

I get it. Disposables save a lot of time and energy – they are lighter for carrying in to the venue and they don’t require washing at the end of the night. However, using your grandma’s vintage china – even just for the head table – adds a pop of color and style, especially if you want the vintage look.  If you can’t afford to rent fancy china, or don’t have the crew to clean it up later, consider at least using SOME real dishes and cloth napkins. For the rest, make sure whatever disposables you use can be rinsed and recycled. (Or even better, go bio-compostable / biodegradable.)

Eco-friendly wedding Dyck Arboretum


2. Repurpose found items for decorations.

Kelsey and Ben, who were married here in early June, get the prize for most creative collection of repurposed items. For tableware, they mismatched vintage china and glassware, giving their “English tea luncheon” an eclectic, elegant look. In addition, they made fewer flowers go further with their test tube centerpieces – huge impact with relatively few cut flowers. Go a step further and pick the flowers yourself from your mom’s or grandmother’s garden, or from a roadside ditch! (See next tip for more on this!)

Eco-friendly wedding Dyck Arboretum


In September, Anna and Justin used a very creative selection of items from home on their tablescapes, including various jars, tins, spools of thread, old medicine bottles and vases. These, combined with burlap and a bright cobalt blue piece of fabric for a table runner, tied everything together very nicely.

Eco-friendly wedding Dyck Arboretum


3. Use alternatives to hot house flowers.

If you have several guests or members of the wedding party coming early to help out, put them to work the day before the wedding and have a flower-picking party! Abi and David did this in August and the results were simple, but stunning. Do some research to find out what wildflowers typically bloom in the roadsides or in your friends’ gardens during the month of your wedding (or visit our Pinterest boards to see what blooms here) and plan your color scheme accordingly. Be flexible and open to using what you can find – and be sure to ask permission before you pick!

Eco-friendly wedding Dyck Arboretum

Also, consider using fabric and/or wooden flowers, like Leah did this past October. If you want to keep your bouquet, this is a great way to ensure that your “roses” will be as good as new at your 25th anniversary!

Eco-friendly wedding Dyck Arboretum

4. Minimize travel.

Several of the weddings held here this year had fewer than fifty guests attending and many more had fewer than one hundred guests. In my experience, these are some of the most joy-filled celebrations we’ve had here at the Arboretum.

There are two steps in minimizing the amount of miles traveled to your wedding. First, choose a venue that is as close as possible to the majority of your family and friends. Then – and this is the hard part – edit that guest list down as much as you can. It will be challenging, but if you can keep your numbers down, you’ll be decreasing the size of your wedding’s carbon footprint enormously and you’ll help your overall budget as well. Most importantly, you’ll decrease your stress on the day of the wedding! (Many of our couples have a wedding in Kansas and then travel to another location later in the year for a second reception.)

Eco-friendly wedding Dyck Arboretum


5. Plant a tree.

One traditional element of a wedding ceremony is the lighting of a unity candle. With our Kansas winds, this can often prove challenging for an outdoor wedding. Often, we like to suggest a “unity plant” as an alternative. It fits with the mission of the arboretum, and after you add water and soil to your plant during your ceremony, you can either take it to your new home and plant it there, or – if you aren’t settled yet – you may donate it back to the arboretum and we will plant it here on our grounds.

Eco-friendly wedding Dyck Arboretum


6. Support a venue with a mission you can believe in.

Choosing a venue is one of the first and most important decisions in the wedding planning process. It is also one of the best opportunities to make a positive impact with your eco-friendly wedding. There are so many unexpected venue choices to consider, such as a national park in your area, or a local farm operation, or a small, non-profit, prairie garden. 😉 Do you see where I’m going with this? When you choose a venue both for its beauty and for its broader ecological purpose, you aren’t just paying for a rental space, you are supporting the mission of that organization.

Every time I introduce a new couple to the Arboretum, I always share with them our mission, which is to promote, through education and stewardship, the conservation and use of plants native and adaptable to Kansas. In a nutshell, we are about connecting people with the prairie in every way possible. Every couple that chooses the Dyck Arboretum as their wedding venue is contributing to this mission and leaving a piece of their story with the wider Arboretum community. For that, we are exceedingly grateful.

Remembering Our 2014 Prairie Garden Weddings

As Arboretum Rentals Manager I am privileged to work with our couples and families who choose this prairie garden as the location for their wedding celebrations. This year I have been particularly amazed at the ways in which each couple, with the help of talented friends and family members, dressed up the gardens and buildings to personalize their big day.




As we draw close to the end of a great year at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains, I wanted to thank all of the couples who made this prairie garden their own for a day.  I also want to highlight some of my favorite ideas and decoration themes from the past year.  May all of these couples and families have a wonderful holiday season, remembering the loveliness of their special day and making new memories during this wonderful time of year!

For those of you planning or dreaming of a prairie garden wedding in the future, find more ideas and photos from real weddings at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains, visit our Facebook and Pinterest pages, or take advantage of the vast wedding planning resources available at and



Ashli & Tim • 5.24.14

  • Colors and theme: mint, peach/coral, white roses, baby’s breath, old books and sheet music, burlap
  • Decoration idea: Drapery hung with command strips along the full wall of windows in the Prairie Pavilion gave an elegant, at home feeling to the reception hall.
  • Favorite vendor: Sweet B. Revival out of Wichita did the flowers, including an arch hung from the willow branch at the ceremony site.  We Love This Vendor! So easy to work with and her arrangements are spot on!





Lena & Anthony • 5.31.14

  • Colors and theme: Lavender and white with orange accents, lavender, baby’s breath, gaillardia, lace and lavender tulle
  • Decoration idea: Hang string lights across the center of the ceiling to create a “canopy” effect and add a little drama to the reception hall.

 May31.2014 Lena&Anthony (12) Adjusted

May31.2014 Lena&Anthony (8) Adjusted



Andrea & Matthew • 6.7.14

  • Colors and theme: Royal blue, white and lavender, floating candles in mason jars with submerged flowers
  • Decoration idea: Throw lavender buds instead of rice or birdseed. It fits perfectly with the prairie garden setting and is an organic material that requires no clean-up.




Erika & Joe • 6.14.14

  • Colors and theme: Blue, green and cream, “Love Birds” theme
  • Decoration idea: This couple really chose and theme and stuck with it – birds as the cake topper, birdcage for collecting cards, feathers in the decorations and birds nests in the centerpiece displays.
  • Favorite vendor again: Sweet B. Revival!!


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Christa & Ryan • 8.16.14

  • Colors and theme: Black, white with pink accents, rustic, aged-wood accents
  • Decoration idea: To create an altar at the outdoor ceremony site, this couple made a platform from old pallet wood and placed potted plants on pedestals on either side of the platform.  In addition, they used a pallet for a sign at the entrance to the seating area to direct guests.
  • Highlight: This couple was also engaged at the arboretum on the previous Christmas Eve! They marked the proposal site with a sign to share their story with guests.






Lindsay & Ryan • 9.20.14

  • Colors and theme: Eclectic fall color theme using natural elements including coffee, kernel corn, rust and orange colored berries with foliage
  • Decoration idea: Have an artistic friend paint an old, unwanted headboard for signage
  • Highlight: If you have a gifted carpenter in the family, like the father of this groom, homemade garden benches to be sold or given away as gifts really add a fall tone to the outdoor ceremony seating


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Nicole & Daniel • 11.1.14

  • Colors and theme: Bright orange, blue, yellow, rust; burlap and iconic Kansas accents of yarrow, wheat and milo
  • Decoration idea: We saw mason jars all year long, but they fit ESPECIALLY well with this fall wedding decoration theme, wrapped in burlap and blue raffia and filled with wheat, milo and some pops of yellow from purchased flowers. GREAT DIY centerpieces!




Cheers to a wonderful new year of weddings in 2015!