How to make your “white wedding” a “Green”?
To many suppliers, weddings are a commercial dream but a rocky road for the environmentalist to travel. So when I got engaged in January this year I decided that I wanted to do my bit towards making my white wedding tinged with green; only tinged, because there have been some compromises along the way. As a general point, just because it’s a tradition, that doesn’t mean that you have to do it that way. We arranged our wedding our way, and not always sticking to convention.
There are quite a lot of sources out there to guide you through the minefield of weddings to help create a green wedding. Look at the National Friends of the Earth forums and websites such as www.eco-wedding.com which are full of useful advice. Other wedding websites such as www.confetti.com have forums where you can pick up second hand items.
So here are a few of my ideas:Invitations and stationery
One idea I considered was rather than sending out formal invitations was to send out an email to everyone referring them to a website. I know that quite a few people have had success in doing this. However, time constraints and a majority of elderly guests who wouldn’t know how to get to a website meant that it was better to send out invitations. I ended up doing the design myself and buying recycled card to make them from. There are a lot of suppliers out there for recycled goods including the Friends of the Earth shop at the warehouse. My favourites were a craft card supplier www.eco-craft.co.uk and recycled product supplier www.recycled-paper.co.uk. I printed on the invitations, ‘printed on recycled paper’: no point in going to all this effort and no one realising the effort you have put in!
I also minimised our enclosed items by combining items such as the list of hotels and directions on one double sided page of recycled paper. As we were giving people options for food I also enclosed an RSVP postcard so people could just send back the card in the post with no need for an envelope. Despite this effort some guests, still preferred an envelope: obviously they didn’t want the postman to know what they were eating at our wedding.
I tried to continue the theme on our invitations throughout the wedding. I decided as we were having a civil ceremony an Order of Service wasn’t necessary and would be a waste of paper so just put a few posters up around the venue telling people the estimated times for events.
There is an astounding amount of choice when it comes to wedding dresses, from the sublime to the ridiculous. The most ethical and economical option is of course be to source a second hand or remade dress. Zero impact on the environment. No, its not boring, and yes you can have loads of fun doing it! Check out vintage and retro shops, such as those found in the Custard Factory and Oxfam Shops that specialise in wedding dresses. There are now also a lot of dresses made from fair-trade and cruelty free products and of course you or a relative with a sewing machine might exercise their skills. I had a wedding bag and a bolero jacket made by my mum, which I am already lining up to be used at other weddings I attend!
My cousin when she had her two piece wedding dress made for her requested that they make a shorter skirt as well as the long skirt so she could wear it to functions afterwards. When I saw her at my wedding she told me that she had just retired the outfit last year- a good eight years of wear! So try and get something that you can either wear again or alter and wear again.
For the bridesmaids, I tried to choose something they could wear afterwards for parties. As for the groom, he got a new suit that he can hopefully wear again at other weddings and formal affairs or special days at work.
My mother and I decided that we would do our own flower decorations (although we weren’t brave enough to go as far as the bouquets!) The difficulties of ordering locally grown, seasonal flowers for your wedding cannot be underestimated. Some flowers clock up energy-guzzling carbon miles to reach the wedding reception. Ask the local florist about local growers and find out what is in season. The Flowers and Plants Association website www.flowers.org.uk gives advice on what is in season. We went to the Birmingham flower market and could see exactly where the flowers had come from and got lots of advice.
For the vases, we had used olive jars I had collected over the few months up to my wedding. Just a few bits of decoration to the jar and no one noticed the difference. For ours we used raffia and some ivy leaves. This also meant that when I was offering the decorations to the guests to take home as a little present I didn’t have to worry about them returning the valuable vase, although I suppose I could start worrying about if they would deliver it safely to the bottle bank after use!!
And cut flowers are not the only option. You can think about buying plants and then they can be kept as a reminder of the day. We got a pair of olive trees from the Birmingham market as decoration for the day and some daffodils in pots. Even better with pots you can send your guests home with them as a reminder of the day. Also think about growing some of the decorations and flowers in your garden. I spoke to one person who grew hanging baskets for her daughter’s wedding. For my main table decoration and decoration for the cake, my mum also picked some wild flowers from the garden- some forget-me-nots, apple blossom and cowslips and all the greenery. Its all about thinking outside the box.
Confetti can also be considered when talking flowers, now there is a great choice of dried and fresh petals that can be used. There are quite a few suppliers out there, Shropshire petals can do them in most colours and will mix them for you see www.shropshirepetals.co.uk. We had dried rose petals and felt much happier in the knowledge that they would decompose slowly rather than end up in a soggy mess.
Food and Drink
When it came to food the hotel already had a policy of sourcing the food locally, so that fitted in nicely. So make sure that you ask the venue to source locally and organically. Also think simple – what do you love – Lancashire hot pot? Paella? Cream teas? What about elegant cucumber sandwiches and Pimm’s? One of my parent’s friends had a picnic in the local park. Obviously what you do depends on the number of guests you have – but however you choose to cater, don’t be put off by tradition.
Also, think locally when it comes to wines. There is a lot more choice when it comes to English wine. We requested a wine that was made locally, the Three Choirs sparkling wine which was almost in the same county as my wedding – how was that for food, well wine miles!! And the hotel did it for the same price as the Italian sparkling that was offered in the package. For more information on English wine go to www.english-wine.com.
Venue and transportation
The best thing about having it in one venue is that it avoids the need to travel to and from places. We chose a hotel where we had both the ceremony and reception. This meant that we didn’t have the transportation issues how to get everyone from one location to another. Although, my green tinge to my wedding fades when it comes to transportation as my husband’s family came from far and wide, from all five continents, (I try not to think about the environmental footprint created by our wedding) but they did hire a coach from London to our venue so at least minimised the footprint after arriving in the UK. There are other ways of travelling as well such as a horse and carriage or as at one wedding I went to, walk from the Church to the reception in a procession in a carnival like manner. This was a lively and cheery way to get from one to the other.
Wedding list and favours
For our wedding list we decided on having cash presents as we already have a home together and have all we need. We are hoping to use this money to put towards our next home, a much more helpful present from all our guests. Another idea is that many charities such as Oxfam or the Good Gifts catalogue have schemes set up for a wedding list. And as for favours, I was trying to come up with something useful or original such as wild flower seeds, very nice idea so that all the guests can plant the seeds as a memory of the day. However in the end my husband who is from a different tradition didn’t understand the requirement of favours and so decided not to go down this commercial route of more wastage created by weddings.
Share your photographs with your friends. Set up a website where everyone can upload their photographs and video clips and with our new world wide family this helps keeps us all in touch. Finally, make sure that those who were unable to attend get a piece of wedding cake. In our case, the cake was made locally by a farmer’s wife who also runs a catering business. A superb work of culinary art delivered in time despite the lambing season