When my boyfriend proposed to me after many years together, there was no question of an elopement. We knew that we wanted to make our vows in front of all our friends and family and celebrate our commitment with a party.
We also knew that we wanted the wedding to reflect our values. Sure, I wanted to wear a beautiful dress and we were keen to treat our guests to a good time. But we didn’t want our wedding to cost the earth – either literally or figuratively. With some of our friends and family out of work as a result of the recession, it didn’t seem in keeping with the times to spend too much money.
Getting married is an expression of hope for the future. So what would it say about us and our relationship if we planned our wedding without any regard for the future of our planet?
That said, our wedding was not deep green. We didn’t take our guests camping like this bride and there were certainly compromises along the way. (I wish I’d had these nine eco wedding tips or 20 online resources for an eco-wedding at my fingertips!) I just used my own creativity and common sense to lighten the load. I hope that my experiences and ideas might inspire and inform other brides (and grooms).
My Green Wedding
We are from Australia but we have been living in Europe for the past five years. Sydney is almost exactly half a world from London so realistically this means air travel. It made no sense to expect our friends and family to come to us – we would have to go to them. So at least we were talking about flights for two people, not dozens. To further cut down on flying, we timed the wedding to coincide with my grandmother’s 80th birthday and my cousin’s wedding, both occasions that I wanted to be home for. We also decided to honeymoon in Australia. No hardship there – we spent two glorious weeks on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland.
Since we were on the other side of the world we did most of our research on venues and caterers online. Google and email were invaluable tools, though we did have family on hand to check things out in person when needed. We wanted our money to help support the local community so we avoided big hotels and wedding venues from the outset.
We were married in a church and for me one advantage with this was that the hire fee went to upkeep of a beautiful old building (St. Mary’s in East Balmain) as well as community charity work. If we had decided on a civil ceremony, we probably would have hired a celebrant to marry us in a garden ceremony and paid hire fees to a public park instead.
Our reception was in a sailing club, which meant our hire fees helped to fund community sport. It also meant we had the benefit of a hall right on Sydney Harbour for a modest sum and had the freedom to call in our own decorators, caterers and entertainers.
We chose the caterer partly on the proposed menu and prices but also because they were easy to deal with via email. We investigated organic food for the reception but it still carries quite a premium in Australia – the cost is up to 50% higher - and we couldn’t afford it for 110 people. Instead we asked the caterers to serve local, seasonal food. The menu was planned with this in mind and we gave the caterers license to change it in the last few days depending on what was available. Reducing food miles has an obvious environmental benefit but local seasonal food also tends to be better and cheaper.
We served two vegetarian side dishes and a choice of a vegetarian or meat main course. Although the meat and eggs were not organic, they were at least free range. The wine and beer were from Australia and we served jugs of tap water with lime and mint rather than bottled water. My mother made the wedding cake and knowing her, it was probably mostly organic. I’m not sure about that – what I do know is that it was delicious.
One of my cousins is a florist and she did a wonderful job with the flowers. This part of the wedding probably had quite a large environmental footprint but we made sure they weren’t wasted – we reused the flowers from the church at the reception and we made sure that all the table flowers went home with guests at the end of the night.
The club didn’t have recycling facilities but we made sure that relatives and the caterers between them took away empty bottles for recycling rather than putting them in the bin.
We had a live band (a wonderful group called Blue Trip) rather than a DJ or an iPod playlist. We made that choice obviously because we like live music and thought our guests would enjoy it – but also because we want to support the arts and to help people to make a living from art and music.
In the sequel I’ll talk about finding the dress and men’s wear, the rings and invitations and gifts. Stay tuned for next week!