Whether it’s a ‘Big Fat Greek Wedding’, or a simple, barefooted, sandy beach affair, you deserve your dream wedding. But how can you keep costs down while still keeping your ethical heart and soul?
Just like learning a couple of steps for your first dance, planning a wedding with the planet in mind might take a bit of work. But it will ensure you have a day that reflects your love for each other and commitment to your values.
1. Up-cycled Wedding Dresses
Most wedding dresses get worn only once, despite their hefty price tag. Buying a pre-loved dress will lessen the impact of the people who made your dress and the keep environmental costs down.
The Barefaced Bride is a useful website that sells pre-loved and vintage dresses at a fraction of the price. Plus they deliver throughout Australia.
Savvy Brides in Sydney sell secondhand designer gowns. You might just find a beautiful Oscar de la Renta or a classic Collette Dinnigan.
2. Wear an Australian-Made Dress
Buying an Australian-made dress means you’ll know exactly where the garment came from. You can avoid dresses made from materials with dubious sources and suspicious labour standards.
Karen Willis Holmes is an Australian designer who employs skilled, home-grown seamstresses. Our favourite is the made-to-order Theodora Dress.
3. Buy Ethical Jewellery
Workers who source the gemstones, metals and craft the jewellery deserve a fair wage and safe working conditions. Buying ethical jewellery helps make this happen, minimising negative impacts on both jewellery production on the local environment and community. Win win!
The Australian jeweller Zoe Pook crafts her jewellery from Fairtrade gold and ethically-sourced diamonds. Her beautiful range means you can be sure your jewellery desires are both beautiful and fair.
4. Buy an Antique or Vintage Ring
Avoid conflict diamonds and the wastage of precious metals and gemstones, while looking timeless and classic.
Many jewellery stores offer a selection of pre-loved jewellery. Make sure your ring comes with a valuation.
One of our favourites is this 1930s Diamond Engagement Ring from Blackheath Jewellery.
When venue hunting, think about a venue’s attitudes towards sustainability. Many venues engage in minimal or eco-friendly energy consumption and responsible waste management solutions.
Jemby Rinjah is a beautiful eco-friendly venue located in the Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney. The owners commit to energy and water-saving practices for all wedding ceremonies, and the venue’s structures are sustainable.
6. Hold the Ceremony and Reception in the Same Place
To minimise transport costs and your carbon footprint, consider holding both the ceremony and the reception at the same venue. This also makes it easier for your guests as they don’t have to organise too many transportation methods!
7. Make it Easy for your Guests to Take Public Transport
To encourage others to assist you in reducing the carbon footprint of your wedding, inspire your guests to use public transport – and make it easier for them by considering your location and providing guests with details of common routes. Tell your guests – especially those travelling from other places – how the public transport system works in your city or town and give them info about timetable apps you use.
8. And/or Organise Carshare or Busses
Recommend car share options to your guests, especially those travelling from afar. Or, organise shuttle buses that will group guests in particular areas and transport them to and from the venue.
9. Make Your Invites Eco-Friendly
Wedding invitations set the tone for your special day, giving your guests a little hint of what to look forward to on the day.
Pencil & Pine is an Australian company that matched individual style with environmental concerns. They print their invitations on recycled and natural materials, with soy and vegetable-based inks. They can also print on plantable seed paper, so your guests can grow new plants to celebrate your marriage. Pencil & Pine will even plant a new tree for each wood invitation order. Could it get any better?
10. Get Your Guests to RSVP By Email
Instead of asking your guests to RSVP via mail, which costs paper, time and money, encourage them to send you an email with their names, plus-ones and dietary requirements. This makes it easier for guests to RSVP in our technology-orientated society, and also helps you keep track of who’s coming!
11. Ask Your Guests to Donate Instead of Gift
If you want to help others on your wedding day or don’t need any more homewares, why not ask your guests to donate to your favourite charity instead of buying gifts?
Couples can set up a wedding fundraising page on Caritas – an Australian NGO – so guests can donate their money to people in need.
12. Use Recycled/Vintage Furniture
Hire your furniture from a vintage furniture company and give your ceremony a unique style whilst advocating your ethical consciousness.
Moments in Vintage is an Australian furniture rental company that caters to all styles to create timeless memories on your wedding day. They also custom-make furniture pieces with recycled timber to make sure everything on your special day is perfect.
13. Buy Seasonal Flowers
As well as often being a lot cheaper, seasonal flowers are kinder on the environment and will generally last longer. Our favourites of those in season at the moment are white freesias.
14. Or, Buy Locally-Grown Flowers
To make the flower arrangements more ethical on your big day, why not choose beautiful locally-grown flowers?
We’ve got some solutions to sourcing ethical flowers here.
15. Use Social Media
Avoid your contribution to landfills and resist the trend of providing hundreds of disposable cameras for your guests to capture the day.
Encourage your guest to upload their pictures to Instagram and Facebook using the same hashtag. #ashleyandjordan2015 or #thepotterswedding. Build an awesome zero-waste guest album!
16. Use Sustainable, Compostable Dinnerware
Ethically-sourced, compostable dinnerware simultaneously decreases wedding clean-up and reduces your carbon footprint. Biome provides beautiful and sustainable dinnerware to use on your wedding day.
17. Serve a Vegetarian/Vegan Menu
If you’re passionate about animal rights and reducing your carbon footprint, why not go meat-free? Many catering companies can organise a vegetarian/vegan menu, including Salt of the Earth, based in Sydney.
18. Or Support Local Producers for Catering
If you’d rather serve a range of dishes at your wedding, why not make sure it’s from local producers? This allows you to support local industries and is a chance to increase your and your guests’ awareness as to where your food comes from. Mondo Organics in Brisbane seeks to serve you and your guests with the best food made from local, seasonal and organic produce.
19. Serve Ethical Booze
Support local wine makers and drink ethical alcohol! Choose independent Australian-made brands or buy your supply from small independently-owned bottle shops. A few minutes of research on the vegan booze guide Barnivore will boost your animal-friendly ethical cred and make for some very happy vegan wedding guests. (You will be surprised how many of your favourite brands are vegan!). Noble Spirits is all about Fair Trade certified booze.
20. Make Your Cake Choice Organic
Take your ethical consciousness to the next level by making sure your wedding cake is organic! By ensuring your cake is organic, you are reducing both the amount of chemicals your guests are exposed to an environmental impact. Gillian Bell Cake is a Brisbane-based company that bakes artisanal wedding cakes from organic, seasonal and local produce.
21. Or Make the Cake Yourself!
If you’re feeling really confident, you can bring out your inner baker by making an organic wedding cake yourself! This ensures you know exactly what goes into the cake, to make sure it is completely ethical and kind to the environment. Check out our favourite blog, Call Me Cupcake for beautiful recipes and cake designs for your special day.
22. Donate Leftover Food
There is always leftover food at a wedding, and unfortunately, caterers will throw it out at the end of the day. To avoid wasting your food, why not donate it to a local charity and help others? Check out Give Now’s website, which lists several organisations in each state that are happy to accept your leftover wedding food.
23. Or Encourage Guests to Take Food Home
What better way than to say ‘thank you for coming to our special day’ than to invite guests to take home the leftovers to avoid wastage. This can be done by simply providing takeaway containers at the end of your meal for guests to serve themselves, or by gifting your guests ‘lolly-bags’ filled with leftover food.
24. Give Your Guests Native Seedlings
To reflect your environmental consciousness on your special day, you can give guests native seedlings to take home and plant, instead of the standard wedding bombonieres that are usually thrown away. Flourish Bomboniere is an Australian company that creates plant bombonieres for your special day, focusing on providing environmentally-friendly gifts.
25. Or Gift Your Guests the Wedding Flowers
Instead of throwing away all your beautiful wedding flowers at the end of the day, or ending up with a house that looks like a crowded florist, why not gift your flowers to your guests? This is a great way to kerb wastage and your guests will definitely appreciate the gift of custom-designed flowers.
26. Sell Your Dress
Now that your special day is over, what should you do with the dress that will probably live out the rest of its life in your closet? Instead of locking it up, you can sell your dress to make a little extra cash and ensure that it isn’t just thrown away in the future. Web sites l I Do Gowns, allows brides to sell their dresses for other brides to re-use for their special days.
27. Or Upcycle Your Dress
Alternatively, you can upcycle your dress to ensure it reaches its maximum potential! Transform it into an evening gown for fancy occasions, dye and repurpose it into a cocktail dress, cut it up to make commemorative handkerchiefs, donate it to a local theatre, or better yet, donate your dress to a charity such as Angel Gown. This is an Australian organisation that supports mothers who have lost their babies; they use donated wedding dresses to create tiny baby tutus for special needs kids and gowns for babies in intensive care units. Local charities such as The Salvation Army also accept wedding gowns for people in need.
28. Have an Ethical Honeymoon
All the months of planning are now behind you, and you get to head off to paradise with your new husband or wife! Staying at a beautiful local destination that doesn’t require air travel will gain you extra points in the environmental department, avoiding the huge carbon impact of flying to your destination. Or, if you plan to travel overseas, make sure the country you are travelling to fits with your idea of ethical responsibility, and ensure your money goes straight to the local communities by staying at a locally-owned hotel or house. Find a list of the most ethical destinations here.
Palau has been named one of the most ethical destinations of 2015.
29. Or Volunteer on your Honeymoon
Why not start your married life by giving back? Volunteering is an unforgettable experience and directly impacts the communities or environments you decide to help. Whether you want to build a school for children in Fiji, help protect the wildlife in South Africa,help empower underprivileged communities in India, or build a house for an underprivileged family ‘honeyteering’ is the answer to ensuring you make a difference on your honeymoon.
30. Encourage Others to Have an Ethical Wedding
The biggest difference you can make by having an ethical wedding is in encouraging your friends and family to do the same! Simply by making any of these practically effortless, thoughtful decisions, you’re showing your loved ones how easy it is to make their own ethical decisions. Spread the word about how you went ethical and you’ll help encourage others to join the movement!
Alysha Byrne is a law student and occasional food blogger. She is vegetarian, loves travelling and is a massive Francophile. When she’s not studying (and even when she is), you’ll find her seeking out the best coffee in Sydney.