Real ethical weddings
A vegan wedding
The couple: Katherine and Michael
Wedding date: 2 October 2009
Venue: Liverpool Town Hall
Approx budget: £4000
Why an ethical wedding?
We are both vegans who try our best to live an ethical life in terms of supporting environmental charities, wildlife conservation schemes, animal rights, fair trade produce, recycling and so on.
We wanted a wedding that would be different, memorable and reflect our values as people, and we wanted to save money by not buying into all the needless excesses that "traditional" weddings involve.
The most difficult bit?
We didn't really encounter any major difficulties and it seemed to run very smoothly.
We were helped by the fact that the lovely wedding co-ordinator at the Town Hall was vegan herself so able to advise their chef about what "nibbles" to prepare for our small buffet immediately after the ceremony.
Where to wed
The location of our wedding was important to us and we were happy to be able to choose both a wedding and a reception venue in Liverpool city centre.
When sending out our invitations - by email of course (a PDF document is ideal as any less tech-savvy relatives or friends can't accidentally delete it, it looks smart and saves trees although if anyone does want to print it out they can do so easily) - we included information about public transport links and the possibility of walking from the Town Hall to the restaurant after the ceremony, and encouraged people not to drive.
A South American vegan feast
We held our reception at a wonderful Chilean restaurant owned by an old family friend who has been cooking me fabulous vegan South American food for years and is very familiar with what makes a top-class vegan meal, so I guess the reception may have been a little more difficult if we hadn't had our good friend Julio to hand!
Love is all we need
Like most couples getting married these days, we already lived together (having previously each owned our own house) and had everything we could need and more - often in duplicate - so we said on our invitations that we didn't want any presents but if anyone wanted to give a gift could we ask them to donate to a charity; we suggested three that we support and agree with.
A wear-again wedding dress
Rather than pay huge sums of money for a big white creation that would be worn only once I had a local seamstress make me a blue evening dress to get married in.
It had to be all in vegan fabrics of course (no silkworms were boiled alive to make me look pretty!) which took some explaining to the dressmaker.
However, once she understood what I wanted she found me beautiful cotton-based satiny materials and created a fabulous gown which cost I think about a fifth of what the average white wedding dress retails for.
On the day the gown drew a lot of admiring comments. And it will be reworn at every party I attend from now on!
Finding vegan wedding shoes (that were high enough so that my 5ft 1" self could stand next to my gorgeous 6ft husband without looking too short, but that I could also salsa dance in!) was a little more of a challenge but eventually Dune in Liverpool One came up trumps with some fabulous cream satin, killer-heeled, ankle-strapped shoes from their standard wedding range - that were entirely free from leather or suede.
The best bits
It was fabulous to see how much our friends and (most of) our family enjoyed the experience of a really unusual meal, trying food that many of them would never usually think of eating.
It was amazing to have such an individual and unique wedding and lovely to hear the positive feedback from our friends and family - some of whom had had reservations previously - about how much they had enjoyed our "funky" and "alternative" wedding. Or in the words of my friend Dave "the most kick-ass ceremony I have ever been to".
However, the most fun of all came from our decision to save money on unnecessary fussy extras, which gave us a little spare cash to spend on a few private salsa lessons with a family friend - who also happens to be a dance teacher. Our nightly salsa practice for our first dance in the run-up to our wedding turned out to be one of the best bits of our preparation!
How did it go on the day?
It was perfect!
We stayed in a hotel the night before and in the morning (after waiting in the rain for the Liverpool FC shop to open at 9.30am in order to buy a garden gnome in Liverpool home kit - full details on request!) Michael went to the reception venue to help set up the tables while I visited the hairdresser. We then went for lunch together at the bar where we had our very first date 18 months earlier.
At 2pm we met all our guests in another local bar for pre-wedding drinks and then all walked together to Liverpool Town Hall for our 4.30pm wedding which was wonderful.
The reception venue was again close enough to walk to (although a combination of rain and crazy-high killer heels on most of the ladies meant a convoy of taxis were used!) and our vegan Chilean reception meal was delicious.
Then it was time for the first dance and to let the drinking commence....
Top tips for an ethical and green wedding
- Keep it simple
You do not need all the rubbish people say you need. For example, embossed invitations, favours on tables, buttonhole flowers, a huge cake, even bridesmaids - no one will notice the absence of these things and you will save yourself and the planet a fortune!
- DIY DJ
Instead of a DJ we bought a £25 ipod which we filled with our favourite songs and plugged into the music system in the restaurant function room - it worked fantastically and we now have a lovely musical memento of our special day.
- Wear-again wedding dress
To brides-to-be reading this I would definitely recommend choosing a dress you can wear again - it's lovely to be individual and different (who wants to look like every other bride anyway?), people will remember your wedding forever and you will have such joy from wearing your dress again to a party or someone else's happy wedding rather than it lying unused in a box in your attic.
- Preparation is key
I think a big reason our wedding was so chilled was because we were both comfortable and relaxed. We had stayed together the night before and were able to enjoy going through everything together - practising our vows, our speeches, trying on the rings (which proved useful as we discovered that night I couldn't fit Michael's ring onto his finger so we were able to warn the registrar that he would have to put his wedding ring on himself).
We spent the morning together sharing our feelings and excitement and when we walked together down the aisle we knew we had done all we could to make our day perfect!
- Be true to your principles
You may have to remind your parents that you love them and are grateful for their input but that ultimately it is your day (they had theirs!) and your decisions as a couple are final. If you're vegan, this is particularly important for the food. However much people might say they don't like or won't enjoy a vegan meal ignore them - they will love it when it is served!
Do not give in to any pressure from family members telling you to offer a 'choice' to meat-eating relatives - say it's an opportunity for them to try out something new and at the end of the day you're paying for it and are not prepared to put your money towards supporting cruelty or the destruction of the planet
- To give or not to give
Let people know if you don't want or need any presents. Encourage people who want to give a gift to mark the occasion by donating to a charity you support.
- ENJOY IT!
Remember it's your day, totally special and unique, and I think ours meant all the more to us for being as individual and reflective of our lives and beliefs as we could make it!