Real ethical weddings

Faye and David's low carbon wedding

A low carbon wedding

The couple: Faye and David
Wedding date: 10 April 2011
Venue and location: Folly farm, Pensford nr Bristol
Approx budget: £7,000

There is no dispute that planning a wedding is not only an incredibly daunting, all-consuming task, but also expensive and not particularly environmentally sound.

Green credentials can get tossed out of the window as brides insist on the specific details that will make their dream wedding. 

Roses are grown commercially in the Channel Islands for import, caterers often use vegetables and fruit flown in from all over the world and dresses can be ordered from the States to save those precious pennies.

The miles travelled by all these components that make up your day could send your carbon balance staggeringly out of kilter - add to that a honeymoon flight somewhere fabulous and you would be paying back that carbon offset for years to come.

A debt-free wedding

Faye and David's low carbon wedding - swings

For me, it was just as important not to start our married life crippled by the guilt of a collective carbon debt for our dream wedding as it was not to start it massively in financial debt for the same reason.

So the objective was:

  • plan and orchestrate the dream wedding
  • source everything locally, within 20 miles where possible
  • do not compromise at all on the details

Easy?

Not really, but if you are willing to look a little harder, do a fair amount of walking and knocking on doors then the perfect green wedding is more than achievable.

I have learned a great deal, met some of the most incredibly generous and kind people, boosted the local economy into the bargain and gathered some friends for life in the process. When people hear that you are determined to 'keep it local' you would be amazed at how helpful these locals will be.

I share here my top tips and things to look out for, including the people who helped me along the way (I say "I" rather than "We" as we all know it's the bride who does most of the planning!). The list is not exhaustive but I hope it's a pretty good place to start.

Take control

Folly Farm

The most important thing to consider here is the venue - if you have a wedding package you will have no say in where the food, flowers or even DJ hails from so be creative.

There are many mansion estates in the West Country but there is also increasingly a huge number of converted farms and less traditional venues to consider, which can be a great deal more flexible. Town halls, farms and simple fields will allow a little more breathing space.

Our personal venue of choice was Folly Farm part of The Avon Wildlife Trust. Each and every penny spent hiring the venue goes straight back into the charity itself.

People stayed in rooms where the toilets were flushed with rain water and massive solar panels kept the centre supplied with a huge chunk of their daily electricity needs.

As an added bonus we rented the place for a week so people could make the most of the beautiful grounds and wildlife.

Folly Farm was perfect and was made even better by the rental of a couple of giant tipis.

Tipis

These were sourced from a very local supplier (on a farm five minutes down the road) called Tipi Events that managed to house the additional numbers we had at the wedding not usually accommodated by the farm buildings themselves.

Tipis look and feel a great deal more environmentally sound than their plastic alternatives.

Be flexible

But don't compromise.

Seasonal wedding bouquet

We didn't want flowers flown in from abroad and wanted to focus on what would be growing in the woods and grounds around the wedding venue.

Now this is a little more tricky as we were at the mercy of the British weather, but a Bristol specialist called Bella Fifi Flowers was on hand to save the day.

Bella Fifi are amazingly creative and advised us to go for an overall theme and concept that meant we could mix and match the flowers, depending on what sprang up in time.

It did mean we had a month of bated breath just before the wedding when snow ground the country to a halt but the end result was tremendous - they managed to integrate blossoms, herbs and foliage to ensure the bouquets matched the environment and our colour scheme.

Be creative

Why limit yourself to flowers and traditional centrepieces?

It can be costly and environmentally unsustainable, after all only so many flowers grow in your garden, sweets made locally are a great idea, as are goldfish bowls and local pebbles or sand.

Eco-friendly wedding centrepieces

We luckily had an extremely creative best woman to make our centrepieces.  She chose woven bracken, moulded to look like birds nests with amazing birds created from scraps of material she had in the house, topped up with fabric remnants from shops.  She decorated them with fairy lights and the results were stunning.

The wood was sourced from the field behind our house and the fairy lights gathered from friends after Christmas.

Be resourceful

Recycled jar lanterns

You don't have to spend a fortune on outdoor lighting.  We set up a task force to collect old, clear jars - after a bit of a clean up and wire fastenings they created beautiful lights to hang in the trees in and around the venue.

We used hessian from the garden centre as table runners, which we will in turn use in the garden, and made bunting from scraps of fabric we found around the house.

Get friendly with the people on your doorstep

Everything we chose had to be sourced in such a small area but that being said we live in the West Country and anything is possible with such great produce on your doorstep.

West Country cheese

We were lucky enough to have an amazing butcher and locally reared pigs.

Make sure if you do choose a local butcher that the meat is also local not simply shipped in from the other side of the country.

For a real West Country theme we added a cheese and cider course, with cheese coming from the Somerset Cheese Company and cider from the world renowned Rodge Wilkins down in Mudgely.

Think laterally

Faye's locally-made wedding dress

Ladies often covet top designers in London and Paris for the big, dream dress.

They then end up buying a gown from the off-the-peg range of their favourite designer, which is not only overpriced but also means wearing exactly the same dress as hundreds of other brides.

I opted to have mine made by a specialist in corsetry based in sunny Bristol, wedding dresses being something she dabbles in as a perfect sideline.

Right on my doorstep, so travel to and from her studio was limited, Gilly Woo created the dream dress for me, entirely on budget, a one-off, bespoke gown that is incomparable to the off-the-peg range I was contemplating before we met.

Use local artists and makers

Every town no matter how big or small will have a number of local people who design and make things: pots, jewellery, paintings, clothes and so on. 

Rather than scrabbling around for wedding gifts on Ebay, buy people gifts from the local talent and add something personal to your wedding.

We were lucky enough to stumble across a girl who makes and designs handbags, perfect for bridesmaid gifts, and wallets for the boys: Ben's Sister.  Her work is amazing, all handmade and we were able to pick and choose the linings and colours to match the wedding.

Ben's Sister was a perfect fit for us, again based on our doorstep so meetings were an easy and green process to manage.

A green wedding is possible

And easy and affordable - it just takes imagination, a little creativity and thought. Good luck!

What next?