Our Simple, Sustainable Wedding (Part 2)
In my last post I talked about our ideas for a simple eco-friendly wedding, and what that meant for us in real life when we got married in November! Here in Part Two I’m going to talk in more detail about the things we did to try to keep within our simple / low waste / sustainable living philosophy.
Our Wedding Philosophy
Our wedding philosophy was pretty straightforward – keep things simple! Do I need it? Can I borrow it? Can I hire it? Can I do without it? – Only after these four questions came the question – should I buy it?
Some things (like food!) we had to buy. Where we could, we used what we had. The venue had furniture, so we made use of it – why go to the trouble of hiring different furniture when there is some already there? We kept decorations to a minimum. We had very few preconceived ideas of how we’d like things to be, so this made it easier.
We chose the bowling club because it meant people could be outside (and the view is stunning) and the bowls was a great way to keep people entertained. We wanted an informal space where people could spend time with the people they knew (no rigid seating plans required!) and get to know others freely.
We didn’t bother with stationary – it seemed like a waste of resources. Invitations and envelopes and stamps, plus all that hand-writing (not to mention the time to to craft handmade cards)? No thanks.
Everyone has email these days, so we sent our invitations electronically (my delightful and talented sister designed them for us). We sent them via emails for those whose email addresses we had, Facebook for those that didn’t, and we printed two copies for the two people who didn’t have email addresses.
Simple, easy, quick. Job done!
Ever since I was small, I never saw the point in traditional wedding dresses. I could never get my head around the idea of spending so much money on a dress you wear once. I’m not sure what horrified me more – the cost or the wastefulness! I definitely wasn’t one of those girls who dreamed about a princess wedding and a big fluffy meringue dress.
I had three ideas regarding dresses. Option 1 – find a second-hand wedding dress from a charity shop / eBay / vintage shop. Option 2 – find a sustainable eco wedding dress (a new dress but made with vintage or Fairtrade fabric). Option 3 – find a non-wedding dress that I was happy to get married in, but would also wear again.
Option 1 sounds like the most obvious sustainable choice. It also sounds like a lot of work… trawling around charity shops searching for wedding dresses in my size was not something that appealed to me. Dress shopping felt like a chore – I just didn’t want to spend that much time on it.
The shop I found in London specializing in sustainable wedding dresses cancelled the appointment i made a few months prior because they decided not to open on that day after all. Charming. That was my one and only flirtation with dress appointment booking.
I settled for the third option. I didn’t really have the time or inclination time to look for second-hand dresses. Instead, my sister and I spent a couple of hours in London looking in shops for a dress that I liked, fitted and I could wear again, and I bought my favourite. Yes, it was new. Yes, it was more than I intended to spend. No, it wasn’t vintage or sustainable. But I felt comfortable in it. I’ve already worn it for a second time. It’s off the shelf so it will be easy to sell for someone else to enjoy. Plus it only took 2 hours of my life to find it : )
Our rings are made with recycled metal. I found an ethical jewellers in London called Ingle & Rhode, who specialize in Fairtrade and recycled metal wedding and engagement rings, and conflict-free gemstones. We both have plain metal bands: mine is gold and Glen’s is palladium with a brushed border. Simple and ethical.
I didn’t want to buy flowers that had been flown from interstate or overseas, and I didn’t want flowers that were grown artificially in hothouses either. I just wanted some colour. The solution? Glen’s mum and aunt raided their gardens for everything they could find, my boss donated a whole heap of flowers from her garden too and we arranged them in old jam jars. There was no colour scheme to worry about – whatever was growing in gardens on the day would do!
I wasn’t going to bother with a bouquet, but a friend pointed out that it’s good to have something to hold. I do have a tendency to flail my arms about the place, so I relented. She suggested a single giant protea. As fate would have it, Glen and I stayed in an airbnb place before the wedding, and in a vase in the kitchen were 6 giant proteas! So I borrowed one and wrapped the stem in twine. You are meant to have something borrowed at your wedding, aren’t you?!
Total flowers spend: Zero.
Hair and Makeup
There was never any doubt I’d do these myself. I washed my hair with my usual bicarb and vinegar method. I made do with the make-up I already had – it’s not something I wear often, so most of it is pretty old, but it was good enough!
The bowling club where we held the wedding reception was a dated building with a beautiful view. It looked like a bowling club. The simplest thing was to accept that it looked like a bowling club. Spending thousands of dollars on silks to drape about the place wouldn’t have changed the fact it was a bowling club.
So we accepted it for what it was, and didn’t worry about trying to transform it. We did do a few things to brighten it up, though.
A friend of mine was making white lacy bunting out of old tablecloths and curtains for her own wedding and kindly lent it to me for the day to hang about the place.
I used jam jars to put the flowers in – some from home, many more borrowed. I also used some old tins (fished out of the recycling bins at a local cafe – with permission!) that I wrapped in hessian ribbon and wrapped in twine. Some were used inside for flowers and others for cutlery.
One of the things I did buy was hessian. It was the most natural, undyed fabric I could find, and I thought I’d be able to use it afterwards – or compost it at least! As well as wrapping the tins, I bought two 6m lengths to use as table runners. My plan is to cut this up and sew two together to make place mats to use at home.
The other thing I bought was beeswax candles, made in Australia by a company called Queen B. The bowling club only had fluoro tube lights, which aren’t the most atmospheric! I didn’t want to buy string fairy lights. I found some zero-waste inspired beeswax candles in tiny glass jars that can be refilled with wax and reused again and again. They weren’t cheap, but they were sustainable, plastic-free, natural, reusable, locally produced…how could I use anything else?!
We hired tablecloths and tea cups to put pistachio nuts in. The end result:
One of the first things we decided on was hiring a pizza oven. After all, who doesn’t like pizza?! I wanted cake first (it’s all about priorities) so we decided on cake at 4pm and pizza at 6pm. The savoury bits were added after a friend suggested that not everybody would want cake at 4pm (Really?! Is that true?! Surely not!). We didn’t bother with a wedding cake -far better to have normal cake that everyone wants to eat!
All the food was made by local businesses; our friend made the Indian treats as a wedding gift. Sadly we didn’t get a photo as it was all demolished by the time we got to the reception after the family shots – but at least it meant everything was delicious!
Oh, and I made sure we brought enough containers so that any leftovers could be taken home safely – no food waste here!
To avoid packaging waste, we only served tap beer and cider (no bottles or cans). Wine was served in bottles (we made sure all the wine was produced in Western Australia), and soft drinks were served in jugs. No straws or other plastic in sight! We also had tea (loose leaf English breakfast in tea pots) and coffee. Plus we had a compost bin for the used tea leaves and coffee grounds!
When Everything Comes Together
Keeping things simple meant that the lead up to the wedding was pretty relaxed. People kept saying to us: “oh, you must be so busy!” We’d feel slightly worried, and ask each other: “Busy doing what, exactly?!” But there wasn’t lots to do. We booked the venue, bought outfits, found catering, sent out invites… and got on with our lives. There was no stress – what was there to be stressed about?
It wasn’t the greenest wedding ever. It wasn’t the cheapest wedding ever. It wasn’t the simplest wedding ever. It was, however, everything we could have hoped for (I won’t say everything I dreamed of, because I’ve never dreamed about my wedding – I’m just not that sort of girl!). We weren’t trying to prove anything, after all.
We were just trying to celebrate our day in a way that reflected who we are – and that’s what we did.
Disclaimer: I loved the Queen B zero waste beeswax candles so much that I am now (since 2018) a proud affiliate. This means that if you click the link and choose to make a purchase, I may be compensated at no extra expense to you. I would never recommend a product I didn’t believe in or think that you, my readers, would appreciate.
Sounds like a very relaxing day indeed! I like your dress very much. Although I think wedding dresses can be very beautiful, just like you I could not imagine spending a lot of money on it. So instead, I reused a quite expensive nice dress that I bought for and wore at someone’s else wedding. After we got married, I took the dress to a local tailor who made the dress a lot shorter. Now it’s more like a cocktail dress, about the same length as your beautiful dress. I already used it on a friend’s wedding and will do again in the summer. I also love your bouquet! It is simple, but beautiful. My husband and I don’t care about rings, so we don’t have any :)
Thanks Annemieke! I only looked at short dresses (they suit me better, they cost less – less fabric, plus they are far more practical – I’m not very ladylike). I just wanted a dress from a nice shop, it didn’t have to be white but that was what was “in” so white it was! It looks far more like a wedding dress than I intended, but I like it. I love that you’ve been able to wear your dress again : )
Thanks – I’m glad I bothered in the end. Proteas are beautiful flowers, but slightly odd, so I felt like we were well suited!
I didn’t bother with an engagement ring, but I like the idea of a wedding band. Just something simple though – no need for diamonds, whether fairly mined or not!!!
Lindsay, reading your account of your wedding felt like I was reading the story of how I would have gotten married, if I had gotten married. :-) I considered it and was even engaged, but I was adamant I would not wear a diamond ring, wear an expensive wedding dress or in any way spend a fortune on the big day. Growing up by a lake we did talk about a beach wedding which was perfect because it meant I could be barefooted. :-)
Your dress is lovely as are every one of your decorations.
That made me smile…and is possibly true, although I’d expect you’d have sewn your own wedding dress! No doubt out of some vintage fabric you’d saved ; )
I was always adamant I wouldn’t wear a big fluffy wedding dress – even when I was a kid! And spend a fortune – no way!
You’d have loved the bunting I think. I should try to get a picture of it before I hand it back. It was all old table cloths and net curtains, and it was perfect! Plus I love that I was able to borrow it, and now it goes to anther wedding – the sharing economy : )
Nope, my sewing skills are way too basic to have sewn a dress for a wedding. I would have worn a pair of jeans and a tank, of course being on the beach a swim suit would have been part of the ensemble. :-)
That bunting sounds lovely. I hope you do get a picture of it before you return it.
What a gorgeous wedding, and I can’t believe how creative you and your family were to achieve the low waste, low footprint approach.
Everything is just so beautiful but the giant Protea – perfect :).
Congratulations and Happy New Year. Keep up the blogging, you inspire and encourage me with each post.
Thanks Felicity! I didn’t really feel creative at the time. People would ask what I was doing about certain things, and I’d be like, oh I wasn’t going to bother with that, and they’d just stare blankly and think I was crazy. Like not getting flowers. About a week before I wondered about going and buying some, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it – the waste! The carbon footprint!
The protea was beautiful. It was still slightly closed and then it opened fully when I was wrapping the twine around, about an hour before the wedding ceremony. It felt kinda symbolic!
Thanks so much for your comment, it’s always nice to hear that you like to hear what I have to say!
Oh wow, that is so similar to how we did things (no printed invitations, not a proper wedding dress, no dress code, no presents, no expensive decorations! I wish we had thought of pizza though!), amazing, it looks like a wonderful day and you kept it simple. Its great that you’ve shared all the details, people need to know that its possible to get married and not be “busy” or spend heaps. Yay! It makes me so happy to read this post!
Mmm pizza – that’s the first thing we thought of! Sounds like your day was just the kind of day I’d have liked ; ) I can’t imagine how people manage in those proper wedding dresses – so impractical! Who wants to have to rely on other people helping you to the bathroom, or having the risk of tripping over it and falling flat on your face (or putting your shoes through it)? Not me!
I’m glad you found the post interesting : ) I really wanted to share how we planned our day, but I’m very conscious that wedding talk can be a bit tedious! But yes, people should know that if you don’t have colour-coordinated wedding guests or individually wrapped sugared almonds the world won’t end!
Well, I’ve never heard of Protea flowers before and I must say I think it’s both elegant and striking. The whole thing looks beautiful. I really wish I’d discovered minimalism a few years earlier- I would have had a slightly different wedding and I would have lived quite differently in my little flat. Ah well…
They are very intriguing flowers, definitely! Thanks very much! I think we all wish we’d discovered minimalism a few years earlier. Don’t have regrets – all those choices you made back then led to where you are now. I’m sure the lessons from the past helped shape your journey. It’s easy to say, if I knew then what I know now…but the thing is, you didn’t! : )
Lovely! Thanks for sharing how to celebrate responsibly and be true to your values.
Thanks Sandy, glad you approve! : )
It looks like you had a beautiful day!! Love the tin cans you were able to re purpose!
Thanks Elizabeth! I was tempted to keep them afterwards, but seriously, I already have too much stuff and I just don’t need them. If I change my mind I’m sure there will be plenty more to be rescued from recycling…
Wow! I really really like your Idea of a ethical and sustainable Wedding. And as you can see, nobody had to miss something. Your Decoartion was absolutely beautiful, also your dress and just everything. The main thing is that YOU and you´re Husband had a wonderful Day. It´s not just about Presents. I really like the Sentence “We request your presence not your presents”
Just yesterday we were together with friends and talked about Wedding, stag night and stuff. And most of us really aren´t excited about the waste of Celebrations like this, because apparently it always has to be more and more and bigger and bigger. And the Reason why you got married, gets lost. So, even if i don´t plan to get married, but if (because you never know), i would plan it as simple as i can and put the Money in my Honeymoon.
Keep it up!
Greetings from Misseshippie.
Thanks for your lovely comment Misses Hippie ; ) You’re absolutely right, it’s about the day – having a great time with each other, with friends and with family – not about how much stuff we get!
We didn’t bother with hen or stag “do”s; they aren’t our thing at all – especially all the “novelty” stuff or “hilarious” pranks. No thank you!
We had a great day on the day itself – and looking at the calendar I’ve just realised it’s our 6-month anniversary today! How fitting that you wrote this comment today!
Great article Lindsay! Same level of stress brews up in Indian weddings. And there are meaningless interpretation, misinterpretations, anxieties and what not. What would people say, and stuff. Your way, I could instantly connect to: just bothering about things that really matter! :)
Thanks Harshad! I think it’s very easy to lose sight of what it’s all meant to be about. Keep things simple, I say! : )
Lindsay, it is a fantastic post. We are going to get married next year and here in Ireland you need to start organising it two years before (minimum) which is crazy, cos we just want a simple get together with friends and family and that’s it.
I really enjoyed reading about your day and in my head I have something similar about ours. It is going to be in an adventure park with Hog roast, self service salad bar, cake table (eat what you want), no dress code, no traditional dress (I don’t wear high heals, so a long skirt and a top).
But now I am full of ideas inspires by you eg: no paper invites, recycled ring (my granny gave me her mum’s wedding ring that I could make into my own), no paper napkins or cans of drinks….
This is great, I feel so happy now, that weddings dont have to be so wasteful :D
Thank you so much! Good luck with your planning – 2 years is a long time! Your plans sound great – at least 2 years gives you enough time to think through exactly what you’d like!
My brother got married last year and whilst he’s not into zero waste, he did a few things that I thought were good ideas. He got a keg of ale from a local brewery for his wedding (you can return the keg) – that might be another option to keep things low waste. Ale isn’t so much a thing here in Australia but maybe in Ireland? He also made paper flowers and pom poms to avoid fresh flowers – depending on the month and what is growing that could work too.
Good luck and let me know how it all goes! : )
Hi Lindsay, I’m new on your blog.
Thanks for sharing your great ideas, in this case lovely ideas for any kind of big party.
My and my partner have everything we need for our party, except of the location! :-D and that’s what you really need, right! :-D
I have a question for you: what do you do with presents? I read you wrote “we request your presence, not your presents”. This is also what I think and say to my guests, every time! But some of them like to bring something anyway and, almost all the time, it’s something I don’t need/don’t like/have no idea where to put it :-( How to deal with that? Sometimes I donate the items and just hope that guest will never ask or notice about the absence of the object at home. Sometimes I try to return it back but they insist to substitute it with something else (with similar low price) so that I cannot really tell my desire or need of something fair+sustainable+vegan.