After the Simchah: Leftovers and Cleaning Up

Once the lovebirds are a couple or the bar/bat mitzvah an adult in the eyes of the Jewish community, the event begins to wind down.

Donating leftover food

Many food banks and organizations would gladly accept extra food to feed those in need. Organizations to contact in advance to arrange for donations of leftover food include:
Composting food waste
Households in many Bay Area cities have curbside compost bin pickup. If you do not, do you have a compost bin or pile, or know someone who’ll be attending your wedding who does? Plan ahead to keep organic waste out of the landfill by arranging in advance with your caterer to separate food waste from trash and recyclables into a large jug with a tight lid, and send the compost home with someone who will use it to enrich their garden.

Strive for a zero waste event from the start!
Plan to use as much non-disposable dinnerware as possible (plates, glasses, utensils, etc.) and then augment with compostable serving pieces (some items available at Smart & Final, lots available on the web at or Create signage to let guests know where to put what. If you tell caterers in advance about your plans, you may find them to be very open and supportive to using compostable disposables. Glassware and other non-disposable dinnerware can also be rented to reduce what you need to dispose of. You can use garbage cans you have, or buy cardboard receptacles, widely available at office supply stores, and line them with compostable ‘garbage’ bags (e.g. Biobag), then recyclables including the cardboard receptacles can go directly into the recycling bin; everything compostable can go into a compost bin, or call your local waste management facility to inquire about where you can bring materials that will go to a commercial composter.  

Recycling cans and bottles
If the venue you use does not offer recycling, someone you know can easily leave cans, glass bottles, and paper for curbside pickup at home. Put clearly marked recycling receptacles right where guests will be needing them (paper recycling for the paper programs at the end of the ceremony, and any bottles and cans collected near the bar where they’re being distributed).

Even wine corks can be recycled into cork tiles! Find a California location to drop them off at, or mail them to Wine Cork Recycling, Yemm & Hart Ltd., 610 S. Chamber Dr., Fredericktown, MO, 63645. Learn more at

Donating clothing from the special day
Consider donating used bridal gowns to the “Brides Against Breast Cancer” program of the Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation, The Foundation accepts used gowns, veils, and slips from 1995 to the present. Each gown is resold nationally through touring sales. The funds raised allow Making Memories to grant final wishes for people suffering from terminal breast cancer. Mail your gown, together with a self-addressed stamped envelope, and an optional $10 donation for processing, to: Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation, 12708 SE Stephens St., Portland, OR, 97233.

Donate your wedding gown, bridesmaid dresses, shoes, and accessories to The Cinderella Project,, a Los Angeles-based organization that was created in 1999 to help deserving inner-city girls look and feel like princesses by providing them with beautiful new or almost new formal dresses, shoes, accessories and jewelry. Some of these special events include proms, graduations, weddings, quinceaneras, and other formal occasions.  

In the Bay Area, donate used women’s formal gowns or party dresses (other than bridal gowns) to The Princess Project,, where they will be shared with young women attending prom who would not otherwise be able to afford prom dresses.

Donate women's professional attire and accessories to one of these organizations providing
professional clothing and ongoing career education to low-income women seeking employment:

Flower Arrangements

Why not recycle flowers used for your event into potpourri for your wedding party, or bring arrangements to a local hospital, the Jewish Home for the Aging, or an elder care facility in your neighborhood. You might even consider planning in advance to offer your flower arrangements to another couple whose ceremony is after yours but may not be able to afford arrangements. A rabbi or other clergy member may be able help with this.

The Flower Power Foundation,, accepts donated flowers, which volunteers then re-assemble and give to elderly, sick and terminally ill individuals in Los Angeles and New York. Email for more information.

Repurpose Giftwrap
Save the elegant gift wrap from your wedding or other special occasion to use to line kitchen or dresser drawers and shelves, decorate greeting cards and thank you notes, embellish photo albums or as matting for framed photos, or shred it for use as decorative packing material.

Dropping off packing peanuts from gifts for reuse
If you end up receiving gifts packed in those pesky polystyrene packing peanuts, drop them off at any Mailboxes Etc., (800.789.4623), which will happily accept them for reuse in their packages.

Consider having all proofs sent digitally. This will minimize the use of toxic chemicals and paper in developing, and you can be sure that the only prints made are the ones you want.

Thank-you notes
Look for thank-you notes whose paper and printing reflect the Jewish principle of bal tashchit/not wasting. Find greener notecards in the National Green Pages™ at See Paper and Printing for environmental and social considerations for choosing notes.
“In the program for our wedding...we let people know that we’d be taking the floral centerpieces to the nursing home just down the road at the end of the day, and invited them to come along. In some rooms, the residents were asleep; we imagined them waking up to flowers, a surprise from a stranger. But mostly we preferred to deliver them in person. That way, we could meet the residents, receive their greeting, allow them what was obviously the pleasure of wishing us ‘mazel tov!,’ and brighten their day for a moment just by being a happy couple in full wedding regalia, surrounded by children. The faces of the residents — too seldom at this point in their lives seeing two beloveds dance together — rewarded us with their genuine pleasure and appreciation.”
—Rabbi Sue Fendrick,
Have suggestions? Real-life stories using these or other ideas? Please share them with us for future versions of the Guide!