Real ethical weddings
A raw green wedding
The couple: Denise and Mark Duffield-Thomas
Wedding date: 15 August 2009 and 29 August 2009
Venue: Ufton Court, Berkshire and Toowoon Bay Surf Club, Australia
Why an ethical wedding?
We aren't big consumers in our personal lives, so we didn't want a wedding that created a huge carbon footprint.
We're mindful of most of the issues, and it seemed natural to us to question a lot of the traditional aspects of weddings that create so much unnecessary waste and expenditure.
What was the most difficult bit?
The biggest difficulty was that most of my family live in Australia, but we live in London and most of our friends live here too. A way around all our family flying over here is that we have two weddings – one in the UK and one in Australia. That obviously increased the budget and our carbon footprint!
What were the best bits?
My engagement ring came from Gray's Antique Market in Bond St, and it's a beautiful 1920s platinum ring.
Mark bought me some antique pearls from the same place as a wedding present and Mark's ring was found in an antique store as well – a very romantic platinum band with engraved flowers all around it.
My wedding ring is a 1930s platinum eternity band from a second hand dealer in Portobello Market, and I found my rhinestone earrings in another shop in the market. We got all of our rings engraved with our wedding and engagement dates, but we just loved that they were pre-loved – we think it's incredibly romantic and also we're thrilled with the classic designs.
The best presents EVER
Because we were travelling through Asia on the way to our Australian wedding, we asked our guests to buy us intangible presents. They could choose to buy us a vegan dinner on our trip, an experience like a yoga class, or they could donate to a local project, like an orphanage in Bali. One friend even bought us a gift voucher to Kiva – so we could lend to an entrepreneur in a developing country.
On our honeymoon we stayed in small eco resorts, family run hotels, yoga retreats and an awesome hotel in Singapore that served salads for breakfast. Part of our honeymoon was even spent doing a fasting retreat in a yoga centre!
The lovely venue
We found a gorgeous old Tudor house and barn which is run by an education trust that puts on gardening workshops for children and young offenders.
We got married in the barn and then because of our beautiful summer's day we had most of the afternoon reception outdoors, in the Tudor garden and orchards, playing cricket and having picnics on the grass.
We hardly needed any decorations because the barn already had fairy lights and a huge vaulted wooden ceiling. Outside there were lovely fruit orchards and hedges, so we just got a few flowers to decorate tables for the evening.
Our venue in Australia was the local surf club, so we got “married” again on the beach - no decorations needed. We just used green apples in fish bowls with some green foliage on the tables with a few flowers.
A summer picnic
During the day, the vegans and raw foodists had fresh fruit and raw vegan chocolate brownies, made by Charlie's Raw Treats.
We found a local brewery, which supplied biodegradable cases of beer as well as zero-carbon water from Belu (we couldn't have tap water at the venue). Everything else was recycled afterwards.
In the evening, while the carnivores had locally-grown lamb and vegetables, the veggies, vegans and raw foodists had a fabulous creation of raw lasagne (from a Russell James recipe), and then a specially made dessert of raw chocolate brownie, raw lemon cheesecake and berries.
A nice side effect
Although we were both interested in green issues before we got married, going on a raw vegan diet had a welcome side effect for both of us. I lost over 7kgs (two dress sizes) just by cutting out dairy and meat, and Mark lost a bunch of weight too. By the time the wedding came around, we felt so much healthier and had so much more energy while we were travelling on our honeymoon.
I know it doesn't sound very eco but I had more than one dress... hear me out! I got a big traditional dress second-hand off EBay, and a slinkier dress to wear later and to take to Australia.
Both of these dresses have been sold again to Ebay, so hopefully someone else will wear them and love them too.
I made my own headpiece, and found an antique paper umbrella from Greenwich markets.
We recycled the bridesmaids' dresses from the first wedding for the second one in the UK. Thank god they worked on all four girls!
How did it go on the day?
It was just such a chilled day, and it was so fab having my mum, little brother and uncle over from Australia. Thank god the weather was good. It's always a gamble in the UK, even in summer. We were panicking because we didn't really have a plan B – we would have all had to be jammed into the barn.
The sun meant that we could play around in the sunshine, and everyone was relaxed and happy. The live local jazz band really added to the day too.
The venue provided an archery range, we had giant Jenga, and a big cricket game broke out between the Aussies and the Brits. All in all, it wasn't the most expensive or complicated wedding - but it was truly spectacular!
Getting married on the beach at the Australian wedding was amazing, we could even see whales on the horizon. The funniest thing was at the end of the night - we reused the apple decorations to play a game with all the guests.
Top tips for an ethical and green wedding
- Don't beat yourself up Some things will feel easy to make eco – and others will feel hard. Do the best you can do, but don't worry if you don't get absolutely everything right. I felt like I had to compromise on some things to keep my groom happy, but I was happy with most of the actions we took.
- Minimise the unimportant Ignore the things like party favours on tables (nobody will miss them) or cake boxes (we had just ten just in case). If you are printing programmes or menus, not everyone needs a copy. As long as there is good food and drink – people don't care about anything else!
- Go secondhand There are so many gorgeous wedding dresses on EBay that have been worn only for a couple of days. You can find bridesmaids dresses, shoes, and all sorts of decorations that other more zealous brides feel like they couldn't do without. You can benefit! Secondhand jewellery is also extremely romantic and if you go for a classic design, it will look brand new.
- Don't be afraid to ask! When we first met our caterer, both of us were carnivores – by the time our taste testing rolled around Mark was mostly vegetarian and I was a raw vegan foodist! I was embarrassed at first to ask to change the menu to include a raw option – even though we were paying for it (and I used to be an event planner!). The caterer was totally fine with it, and very intrigued about making a raw lasagne.
- Finally - make it fun and totally YOUR DAY Don't worry about what everyone else thinks you "should" have - and make it as personal as you want. There aren't any rules anymore!
Denise is the creator of Raw Brides - a website for women who want to look fabulous for their big day and beyond by eating a natural, whole foods diet and changing their mindset about how they feel about their bodies. You can find out more and also download a free ebook from www.rawbrides.com