Many are calling this a trend but I’ve been seeing year on year steady growth in brides and grooms to be looking for more sustainable and ethical ways to host a wedding. With climate change, political unrest and of course supporting Ireland, it’s no coincidence that couples are looking to make changes where they can. It may not be 100% viable to have a 100% sustainable wedding for some but there are some pieces that you could consider to make less impact on the world but a big impact where it’s important. The key is being conscious at least.
Outside of weddings, in my day job, i’ve worked with a lot of clients on either a sustainability initiatives or social responsibility programmes and I’ve learnt so much. It doesn’t take a lot to make great change.
Photo credit: Bokeh Photography and Film
The majority of your expense will go in to the venue and there are certain ways to look at this. Firstly, many hotels that also host corporate business will have a green initiative as thats a standard requirement to bid for that business so you can be assured that there are a lot of energy saving initiatives in place. Some venues have an ethos of sustainability. An example would be Glebe Gardens in Cork. They grow all of their own foods and throughout the gardens foster an ecological / re-wilding programme. Other venues would have a hybrid approach where some food are grown on site, Virginia Park Lodge for example and others source majority of their foods & beverages locally, Station House Hotel for example. Another factor which is non-avoidable for many is if ingredients are imported from third world countries that they are within the fair trade alliance. When you are reviewing menus, you are looking for that locally grown, farm to fork call out. A tip is to look at the wording. You are looking for the name of farms within the county or within a reasonable distance. The same applies for fish. Sustainability aside, this keeps local economies in business which grows community. The key is less miles travelled in how they source plus the efforts they go to, to reduce their carbon footprint. I am seeing a lot of venues with a lot of land opt to re-wild some of the land to attract wild life back. When everything is overly manicured, there’s no habitat for wild life so whilst that may not be an issue for some, I appreciate that it can be for others. Also, some opt for full vegan weddings to again lower impact from all avenues.
In addition to the above, if you are looking for one quick win, one big way to reduce is again back to the ‘less miles travelled’ ethos and this would mean opting to ensure guests don’t have far to travel, you could have 50-70 cars on the road going to your wedding and we want to reduce emissions where we can if we want to be sustainable. If you have to travel, you could encourage car pooling too.
There are good sources and not so good sources of jewellery. Good sources will market that fact that they are ethically sourced mines with no slavery. A newer more innovative way to ethically source a diamond is the concept of lab grown. No one is getting hurt here. Some jewellers have a traditional mindset and haven’t fully bought in to the concept of lab grown but they are 100% diamonds and as they are lab grown, they can be sourced at better prices. In jewellery, it’s really all about ‘WHERE’ everything has come from. If you opt to go with a vintage antique ring, that diamond could well and truly be whats called a blood diamond as it would have been set at a time before a lot of change was driven.
Last year I had a great chat with Sharon from Frog Prince as she lives and breathes sustainability in both Frog Prince and her other company New Moon Blooms. I did not realise just how impactful the sourcing of flowers can be. Firstly, majority of flowers are imported so that will impact but it’s very important to note that for certain flowers and foliage etc, there are Irish growers here on our doorstep. It is an industry that can clock up a lot of waste and we have to remember that it’s grown and then removed from the earth. This process has to be conducted in a way that has limited impact. When working with your florist, the key is to have this conversation on how best to source as much within season, Irish grown with the least impact. I also see so many times, all of these huge floral installations and bouquets getting the day out for the wedding and then left to die the next day. Think about how you can get the most life out of it. Leave some pieces in the church, donate to guests…..reduce as much waste as you can.
A really good option is dried flowers. The Wild Bunch, Thorn & Bloom or One More Thing here in Ireland have some beautiful options.
Paper is a highly topical one as we know that tree’s may have to be cut down in the process to create paper. Majority of Irish suppliers I know work off recycled paper anyway. There is a debate that digital can be better but actually, digital servers are a huge drain on energy too. If you want to really drive down the impact. The Paper Shop also known as ‘An Soipa Paipear’ do a seed based wedding invitation and after usage, guests can plant the invitation and wild flowers will grow. Now that is a great idea.
6. The Dress:
A highly highly topical one. Majority of designers will get their gowns made in China and two things here, thats many miles travelled releasing all sorts of emissions as well as some cases have non ethical work practices. There are few things that you can do here. Firstly, work with designers that are sustainable, the likes of Grace Loves Lace, Leanne Marshall, Stella McCarthy, Vivienne Westwood and Georgia Young are a small number of many that do ethically or sustainable collections. Many designers are doing some version of a programme but it may not be apparent as they don’t always use the terminology in their marketing. If you see a designer you like, go to their website and find their sustainability mission. You could look at shopping with Barnardos Bridal Rooms, all gowns are brand new donated from designers and boutiques meaning that they reduce the possibility of ending up in land fill. You can buy second hand through charity shops or some of the online buy and sell sites. You can also look to get your gown designed by an Irish designer. Tamem Michael, Sharon Hoey, Covet etc…. there are so many amazing designers. The dresses are made here in Ireland and you can look to source fabrics with the least impact. You could also look to up-cycle a dress that was already in the family too! All of the above also applies to bridesmaids.
Again, suits comes down to where they are produced and sourced. We don’t have huge production factories here in Ireland but there are great ethical producers across Europe, mainly Italy, France and Spain. Louis Copeland for example produce in Portugal but also use Irish producers too. The same applies as above for dresses. Renting is also a great option as is charity shops.
The big thing here is the fair trade cocoa and ensuring less miles travelled for the baker. You can get deeper in to the vegan side too.
9. Make up & Hair:
The big one here is the use of products and equipment that is cruelty free. There are still some make up brands that test on animals or like dresses are produces in facilities where there are high emissions and modern day slavery. They are coming from long haul destinations too. It is hard to get the 100% perfect piece here but even just being more conscious on one of two of those areas can make a big difference.
I do love a good favour but if you are trying to be as sustainable and ethical as you can, favours can hinder your vision. The good news is that you have plenty of alternatives. Firstly, many are doing flower seeds in hemp bags as favours and I recently bought ‘bee bombs’ for my own garden. You could try that. Others are going for a miniature succulent. Probably the best way you can really help is to opt for the charity favours. So many worthy Irish charities have wedding favour options which is a donation to the value of favours made by the bride and groom in place of the favour. A card is then provided to place on the table. Pretty much every charity has an option including Barnardos, Focus Ireland, Pieta etc.
The final tip here is that while some may be a lot further along the road in their sustainability journey, it can be a daunting task to try and tackle all of this. the onus is really on the suppliers to operate as best as they can so you don’t have to stress and this is all about small steps and better choices. Do what you can, where you can. Any reduction of impact is valuable.
And finally, the big one….Confetti! If you opt to do some form of confetti, you could opt for biodegradable options, you can buy them from Etsy or RosePetal.ie. Some weddings are opting to do bubbles as an alternative
I hope this helps XX
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