Real ethical weddings

Caroline's ethical wedding

Caroline & Matthew

The couple: Caroline & Matthew
Wedding date: 7 June 2008
Venue and location: Abington Avenue United Reformed Church then Hinwick House, Northampton
Budget: £10,000

What inspired you to have an ethical wedding?
It has always been really important to me to try to live my life as ethically and ecologically as possible. I work for an overseas development agency (Christian Aid) so both my personal and professional life are very much focused on trying to make the world a more just and equal place.

I didn't for one moment expect that my wedding day would be any different. When it is such an important part of the way you live your life it is natural that your wedding day will reflect those beliefs and values.

In my opinion you cannot celebrate something as profoundly special as the love between two people while exploiting those on the other side of the world. From the day I got engaged I knew I would do as much as I could to make our day ethical.

What has been the most difficult bit so far?

Caroline's ethical wedding

I guess the hardest thing for me has been trying to walk the fine line between tradition and being the eco warrior I want to be!

There have been a number of steps I've taken which have felt good and have been relatively easy. Asking the caterer to provide fairtrade tea and coffee was great. It shows them there is a real desire from their customers for fairtrade products.

Having my dress made by my Mum has been incredibly special and I know that it hasn't come from an overcrowded dangerous sweatshop. But there have been some slightly more tough decisions. Do I walk to the church instead of taking a bridal car? Do we invite people by e-mail and save the paper we'd have used on handmade invitations? Do we stay in the UK for our honeymoon instead of jetting off to a sunkissed beach? It is something that I have really wrestled with.

What has been the most fun bit?

Caroline's ethical wedding

We have really enjoyed thinking creatively about our wedding and getting our families and friends involved with our big day. Not only has it helped make the day more ethical and eco-friendly and kept the cost down; but it has also been a great way to get to know people better and spend some quality time together.

I have loved every minute of designing my bridal gown with my Mum, making all the favours and table decorations, selecting the flowers for 2 very talented friends to make up into bouquets and choosing our fairtrade wedding rings. It has been a real homemade affair and it has been so much fun.

What are your 5 top tips for brides and grooms planning an ethical wedding?

  • Don't be afraid to ask. We knew we wanted fairtrade wine and tea and coffee at our wedding breakfast and after discussing this with the caterers they were more than happy to organise this for us. Since then we have learnt that the company have moved exclusively to fairtrade tea and coffee for all their events and have said we have given them ‘food for thought in one or two other areas.' It is really encouraging to know we made a difference!
  • Encourage your guests to think about their own carbon footprint too. We asked our guests to car share or take public transport where possible and recycle wedding stationery they were not keeping as a memento
  • Seek advice on websites like www.ethicalweddings.com. There are lots of top tips on there and people who are happy to help you try and find what you're looking for. There's no point reinventing the wheel (especially when you're short of time) so use them as a valuable resource!
  • Consider an ethical wedding list. We were setting up home together so we needed the toaster and the kettle! We chose John Lewis (who have a good reputation) for our main list and then supplemented it with an alternative list of ethical and eco-friendly items from other websites.
  • Use biodegradable or reusable table decorations and favours. It cuts down on waste and guests seem to really appreciate the personal and creative touch!

It's not always easy to go for the ethical option but with a bit of creative thinking and time you usually find what you're after.

I really wanted a fairtrade tiara but couldn't find one anywhere. Eventually I had one handmade by a local artist in the town where I live. It took a bit more time than just buying one off the internet but it was really worth it and within budget too!

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