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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.

The Venue

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.

Stationary

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!

Save the Date

Paperless Save the Date…

Lindsay + Glen Wedding Invite

…and Paperless Invitations

 The Dress

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 : )

Wedding Dress

The dress. Not recycled, or Fairtrade, but simple nonetheless.

 The Rings

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.

Ingle & Rhode Recycled Gold and Palladium Wedding Rings

Our recycled gold (mine) and recycled palladium (Glen’s) wedding rings.

 The Flowers

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!

Jam Jar Vases Flowers from the Garden and Hessian Table Runner

Freshly picked garden flowers in jam jars. Simple but effective. Some of our guests took them home afterwards so they didn’t go to waste!

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.

Giant Protea Wedding Bouquet

This giant protea was my wedding “bouquet”, and I wrapped the stem in twine.

 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!

Bicarb and vinegar hairwashing and DIY makeup

Bicarb and vinegar hairwashing isn’t just for everyday – it’s good enough for weddings too! (My friend in the photo is also a convert)

The Decorations

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.

Jam Jar Sorting for the Wedding Flowers

Sorting and cleaning jam jars for the flowers

upcycled tin cans

I sourced these old tin cans from a local cafe, wrapped in hessian and tied with twine to make flower containers and to use for cutlery.

upcycled tin cans with hessian

The finished hessian tin cans

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:

Rustic hessian table runner with beeswax candles and jam jar flowers

Our minimal simple decorations: upcycled jam jars, flowers from the garden, a hessian runner and beeswax candles.

The Food

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!

Wedding reception menu, beeswax candles and plastic-free snacks

No sit-down meal or fiddly canapes… Big slabs of cake, and pizza for supper.

Oh, and I made sure we brought enough containers so that any leftovers could be taken home safely – no food waste here!

The Drinks

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!

Blackboard at the wedding

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. 

A Zero Waste, Low Footprint Wedding (Part One)

One of the main reasons I was absent from the blog for so long last year was that my family came over from the UK to visit, and the reason they came all this way was because they were coming to a wedding – mine! Long-time readers of the blog may remember that I got engaged last August, but blog posts about wedding preparations or wedding talk in general have been pretty non-existent. Actually, scratch that. They’ve been completely non-existent. That’s not because I’ve been busying away behind the scenes for months but decided to spare you the boring details, it’s because I actually find other things far more exciting/important than wedding planning…like plotting for a zero waste week and talking about the perils of plastic!

But there was a wedding, and it did involve some planning, so now it’s all done and dusted (is it appropriate to use that expression when talking about your wedding?!) I’d like to share it with you. Because it was important to us that we had a wedding that reflected our values and beliefs, meaning simple and meaningful and low waste, and yes, of course there was compromise!

I’m going to share in two parts. Here I’m going to talk about our ideas for a simple wedding, and what that meant for us in real life! 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.

Simple Weddings Aren’t That Simple

Our criteria was simple: somewhere with indoor and outdoor space, where we could provide our own food. Simple, no?! (Early on we thought about just doing a registry office wedding and going out for a meal for a few people straight after, but once my family said they were willing to fly to Australia to spend the day with us, we thought we should honour that and do something a little… grander.

Plus we wanted to invite our friends as well as family, and then numbers start to go up…)

The thing is, you can’t start planning a wedding until you have somewhere to hold the wedding! Everyone we knew told us about a really simple/cheap/meaningful wedding their cousin/neighbour/Auntie Susan had that was oh so perfect! Because so-and-so owned a farm with a lake and a rustic barn on the grounds, and whatstheirname is an award-winning chef, and suchandsuch is a professional florist with a background in photography and a side business in prop hire.

Great for them, but not very helpful for us.

Glen and I don’t know any farmers/professional chefs/photographers, so that ruled that out. We would have loved our wedding at a private house with a garden, but we don’t know anyone with such a place, and you can’t hire private properties like that here for weddings, it turns out.

Plus there just aren’t quaint old barns or rustic buildings available for hire, because Perth isn’t that old! Of the few halls for hire, many don’t have liquor licensing, and a dry wedding wasn’t what we were after!

After a few months we accepted that we wouldn’t be able to find a venue where we could do everything ourselves, and looked for venues which could accommodate our needs. We had a couple of misses with venues that seemed to fit the bill, until they heard it was a wedding and quadrupled the price. For exactly the same thing. Because, apparently, weddings are more demanding.

It was pretty disheartening, and we were about ready to give up when our friend suggested a local bowling club. It fitted the criteria. It still had availability. There was a park right next door where we could hold the ceremony. We booked it.

View From Edge of Mosman Park Bowling Club

This is the view from our wedding reception venue in Mosman Park…

 Our Wedding Philosophy / Making it a Simple (ish) Wedding

The first lesson was that simple doesn’t mean simple, but we also came to realise that simple doesn’t mean cheap. Actually, it would be far simpler to throw tens of thousands of dollars at a professional wedding organiser and get them to do the whole thing for you! But we didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars to throw, and even if we had, it’s not our style. No party is worth spending that much money on!

All over the internet you’ll find accounts of how people kept their wedding “simple” by devoting every Saturday for the preceding two years working on wedding stuff, or by using pebbles/rustic fabric/piles of vintage suitcases. However, I’m a great believer in the philosophy “we don’t buy things with money, we buy them with hours from our lives“.

If I wasn’t willing to spend the money, I also wasn’t willing to spend all that time hand-crafting napkins or growing succulents in order to give cute eco favours. For me, simple means no fuss – and devoting whole weekends to projects was out.

Also, just because things are vintage, rustic, or made of natural fibres, it doesn’t make a wedding simple (or keep the budget down). Scouring eBay or the vintage shops looking for finds was out (who has the time or patience? Who would set things up, style them nicely and pack them down? What do I do with it afterwards?)

Buying anything with the intention of only using it once was out. We decided if it was truly going to be a simple wedding, we needed to scrap the extra frivolities and focus on what mattered – that the people who came were comfortable, well fed and entertained, and were able to enjoy celebrating with us. No retro typewriter was going to change that, so why bother with it?!

Retro typewriters at weddings - not something we chose to do for our own!

Retro typewriters at other people’s weddings – not something we chose to do for our own!

Making it a Low Waste Wedding

Making our wedding as low-waste as possible was really important to both of us. After all, if we’re so dedicated to zero waste the rest of the time, it doesn’t make sense on the most important day of our lives to chuck our morals…in the bin, so to speak!

Firstly, we made use of what we had, and borrowed what we could to avoid buying anything new (or even second hand) – we didn’t want to be let with a heap of stuff to get rid of afterwards. If we didn’t have it, we had to decide if we actually needed it, or if we should go without. Not having something in the first place is the best way to avoid waste!

Making it a Low Footprint Wedding

It was also important to make our wedding as sustainable as possible. It needed to be a party we were comfortable with hosting! With one half of our family living in the UK and the other half in Australia, there was always going to be some flying, but we wanted to keep our wedding as local as possible for as many people as possible. Once we settled on Australia, that meant choosing somewhere in Perth rather than the countryside.

We didn’t want anyone driving long distances. We also chose to have the ceremony next to the reception so people could simply walk between them. We also wanted to use local suppliers and businesses. No drinking French champagne at a West Australian wedding, when the sparkling is just as good down under!

When It All Comes Together

In Part Two I’m going to talk about some of the things we did to make our wedding low footprint, low waste and simple. But for now I just wanted to share a few pictures and give you a snapshot of our day!

Wedding Ceremony Jabe Dodd Mosman Park Wedding Reception at Mosman Park Bowling Club Bowls at Mosman Park Wedding Reception View from Mosman Park Bowling ClubPlaying Bowls Wedding Reception at Mosman Park Bowling Club Bowling Club nighttime

As it turns out, weddings are stressful

For those of you who missed the update, my boyfriend proposed at the start of August. It was a complete surprise, but a very pleasant one. It only occurred to me some hours later that actually, after an engagement comes a wedding. It hadn’t even crossed my mind.

Some girls have dreams of their big day, and have been planning it since they were tiny; I am not one of those girls. I have actually very little idea about weddings. I’ve only been to a handful myself. Read more