Real ethical weddings

Caitlin & Brian's green wedding

Caitlin & Brian

The couple: Caitlin and Brian
Wedding date: June 24, 2007
Location: Hilltop, Spring Green, Wisconsin. The venue is a hundred-year old farmstead that was renovated by a student of Frank Llyod Wright. We had our ceremony under a towering Catalpa tree, dinner under a garden canopy, and dancing and dessert in a barn renovated to an open pavillion.
Approx budget: $8,000 USD

What inspired you to have an ethical & green wedding?
We live most of our lives with attention to ethics and environmental impact. Brian is actually the director of fundraising for an environmental non-profit, Clean Wisconsin.

We aren't religious and we had been together nearly ten years before we tied the knot, so we spent a lot of time figuring out what getting married would mean to us.

We've always been pretty revolted by the overspending and consumerism we see associated with weddings, and we wanted our day to stay focused on affirming our commitment with a larger circle of friends and family.

"Easy green" could have just been a barbecue wedding for us! However, we also knew that a certain amount of formality would be important to a lot of our family for them to feel we were taking it seriously. So we wanted to make green, ethical choices that represented us and our values and went well with our families.

Green wedding preparations

What was the most difficult part about organising an ethical & green wedding?
Accommodating the mainstream interests and expectations of our families, and sourcing some of the things we wanted to find at a price we could afford. I had a really hard time finding even things I thought would be easy, like recycled invitations.

Making my own dress was an undertaking, too. Although I was thrilled with the dress, I really would have started it a LOT earlier if I had to do it again. We hemmed it the day of the wedding!

Also, part of being ethical for us was being honest. I don't believe in a god, and my husband doesn't believe in a personal god. We didn't want to offend our religious family members, but we also didn't want to lie while we took our vows.

It was a challenge writing a meaningful ceremony that we thought would still please everyone.

Green wedding dance

What was the most fun bit?
Our ceremony was a really good time - really heartfelt, warm, and fun, with lots of participation from our guests. Up until about two weeks before the actual day, I had a pretty good time with the planning. I like to organize things.

Another really fun thing we did: we put a short love letter from a writer, artist, politician, etc. at every place setting for dinner. The guests had a really good time reading them and sharing them. It was a great icebreaker, and really fun to research ahead of time!

How did it go on the day?
It went quite well. For the most part, all of our green choices played really well. Even our vegan Thai catering went over well with almost everyone. I actually had a hard time convincing one cousin that he wasn't eating chicken!

Green wedding goodbye
What would be your 5 top tips for brides and grooms planning an ethical & green wedding?

  • If you want to stay sane, and not have meltdowns about flower arrangements and chair ribbons, keep telling yourself, "It's just one day. Is it worth this much anxiety?" If something isn't working, stay focused on the real commitment you are making.
  • I want to recommend the wonderful Damascus steel rings we had made as another greener option than gold or platinum. We had ours made by this artist for a very reasonable price, and he was kind and accommodating.
  • Use potted plants. It really looks nice, and then they can go in the garden, and it's so much less expensive and so much more eco-friendly than cut flowers.
  • Buy or make a dress you will use again or at least resell.
  • Don't get obsessed with ethical purity. Do what you can, but don't make yourself miserable. Weddings are about celebration and love, not self-denial.