Real ethical weddings

Niki and Andy - A sustainably stylish celebration

A sustainably stylish celebration

The couple: Niki & Andy Clarke
Wedding date: 4 November 2006
Venue and location: Local church, then Leasowe Castle Hotel (via the beach for photos), the Wirral

What inspired you to have an ethical wedding?

It was mostly the thought that a lot of aspects of a wedding are for one day only and we couldn’t stand the idea of all that waste. By really focussing on what was important we cut out waste and saved ourselves money.  Getting friends and family involved in the planning also made the day more personal and kept things local.

What was the most difficult part about organising an ethical or green wedding?

As we were planning it 4 years ago (doesn’t time fly!) there was very little information around about ethical weddings, eco suppliers or fair trade sources. If we were doing it now it would take half the time!

We had friends and family helping with things such as the cake, flowers, favours and so on, so there was a lot of coordinating to be done – much of it by phone since I was living in London and the wedding was to be at my parents' home on the Wirral. 

There was a certain amount of compromise too as limited time and money meant some aspects were less ‘eco’ than I’d have hoped, but we did use local produce and services, incorporated homemade, and reused and reduced wherever possible - all part of ethical living.

What was the most fun bit?

Real ethical wedding - Niki's bouquet

Coming up with the ideas and styling. I did lots of browsing magazines (passed down from previous brides!) and the web to get ideas for how the day would look.

We have some very talented friends and family, so getting them involved was a great way to help them feel part of the occasion and save us money without compromising on style.

Green-fingered friends made plant favours, florist friends created gorgeous bouquets and arrangements, cook friends baked delicious cakes! 

It helps that Andy and I are both fairly creative and like getting stuck in so we made the invitations and bridesmaids dresses ourselves.  Seeing it all come together in the run-up to the big day was so exciting.

To make it a personal occasion rather than just fitting a ’wedding’ mould we incorporated ideas such as wearing a necklace which had been in Andy’s family and carrying a bag that had been used by brides down my family line. Our wedding rings were made by melting down a ring from each family to create new ones the right size for us – part of our two families that we will wear every day for the rest of our lives.

We also did a marriage course one weekend with other couples, spending time preparing for marriage, not just the wedding. It was amazing to spend time focussing on our relationship and chatting about things we might not have thought to discuss ourselves – we found out a lot about each other that weekend!

How did it go on the day?

Real ethical wedding - Niki and Andy's fireworks

The day was incredible. It went so fast.  Despite it being November it was beautifully sunny, if a bit breezy. A few small things may not have gone exactly to plan – but nobody noticed and they were not important in the big scheme of things.

It was lovely to have so many people join us for tea and cake straight after the wedding, as we couldn’t invite everyone to the more formal reception. Friends were not only involved in the planning but also on the day – a string quartet made up of various friends played for the ceremony, the Mothers' Union from my church kindly volunteered to serve for the tea and cake party, and gallantly did all the washing up afterwards. 

We had some personal photos taken on the beach between the wedding and reception which gave us time to process the day and be together – the sunset was beautiful.

Top tips for an ethical and green wedding

  • Take time out with your H2B in the run-up to chill out and not talk about the wedding. This is a day celebrating the start of a marriage, not just a one-day-wedding and so you need time to focus on that part of it. Go for picnics, walks in the country, days when it is just the two of you reminding each other why you are doing this.
  • Concentrate on what is most important to you. It may not be possible to have everything eco/ethical, but if you decide at the beginning what matters most, then focus on those things and don’t let the little things worry you.
  • Allocate a go-to person in advance, best man is a good bet, who has all the details and knows what needs doing when. Give him a crib sheet if necessary. The bride is easy to spot in her white dress so if suppliers are looking for someone to ask they head straight for her. Point them straight away to the person you have allocated so you can concentrate on enjoying the day.
  • Use foliage and berries for an autumn floral display to create striking volume and colour as they are in abundance. Fewer actual flowers means fewer air miles, and saves money.
  • Use a wedding website to help plan the wedding and communicate it to your guests. They can RSVP online and you can keep track of all your planning in one place.

Wedding Notebook
Niki founded and runs the online wedding planner Wedding Notebook