Real ethical weddings

Iris and Andy

Iris and Andy

The couple: Iris & Andy
Wedding date:
2 June 2006

When my partner Andy and I got engaged, we had a tough decision to make:

Where will the wedding be?
We had met on Crete, and had always dreamt of a simple wedding ceremony on a Cretan beach. Yet the practicalities of planning to descend en masse (including guests) on the island proved more than tricky.

Difficulties in completing the paperwork (with me being from the Netherlands and Andy from the UK), a mammoth carbon footprint, along with relatives unable, or unwilling to fly over for the ceremony, swayed us towards a simpler approach closer to home.

Keeping it simple

Iris & Andy's wedding

But trying to keep things simple seemed the most complicated part of organising our wedding – everyone wanted to get their 5 pennies’ worth in as to what they thought our wedding should be like, with ‘suggestions’ from family members (mums in particular) ranging from which country to have it in and which guests should be invited, to what sort of thank you notes ought to be sent out afterwards!

Choose a country…
With Andy’s family in England, my family in the Netherlands and relatives in Germany, organising our wedding was always going to be complicated – and high in CO2 emissions - at the best of times. In our opinion that only left two options: to get married in Holland, or over here in England.

The benefits of the latter would be the convenience of planning everything from home with the ability to make as many visits to venues and locations as we liked, and the possibility for all our friends to attend. However, the sheer costs of not only the ceremony but the reception in particular were daunting, and the prospect of a village hall disco unappealing.

Cloistered tranquility
Iris & Andy wedding venue

Then I remembered an old cloisters near my family home where it was possible to have a civil ceremony in a spiritual setting. The restored cloister was set right in the middle of the woods and among the trees there was also the old cloisters’ brewery that had now been converted into a hotel and restaurant.

The enclave, now a national monument, had a beautiful enclosed garden festooned with herbs that had been maintained since the time of the crusaders. The hotel and restaurant I knew served wonderful local and seasonal food, and at only a minute’s walk away. This had the added bonus of reducing carbon emissions from transport.

However, having seen the cost of venues here in Sussex, I was prepared to be put off by the quote we were about to receive from the cloisters and hotel. We were pleasantly surprised that it proved to be – at under £1000 for both ceremony and reception - only a fraction of the cost of venues here. This, and the fact that it was central to both our English as well as German family, made us finally decide to get married in my homeland.

Cutting carbon & consumption
One other stipulation for our wedding was that it had to be ‘green’. I could not stand the thought of excessive consumption and a massive ecological footprint just for one day, no matter how special the day was meant to be.

This included concerns about our wedding rings, diamonds in particular. After some researching, we decided to get plain rings from recycled gold and palladium from greenKarat, who were extremely helpful and efficient.

The guests and the gown…
So the location, the venues for the ceremony and reception, and the rings had all been decided on. That left the wedding dress, and who was to be invited (the most difficult and politically treacherous decision). I managed to find a perfect dress in the first place I looked. Because it was not officially a ‘wedding dress’ as such, I could easily wear it to any other special occasion after the wedding, allowing me to reuse the outfit rather than hiding it away at the back of a cupboard or donating it to a charity shop. Wedding ceremony venue.

Iris & Andy's wedding venue
As for the guests, the venue we had chosen was small, and we decided to only have a small number of guests for this reason. Only close relatives came from various corners of Europe to attend the ceremony.

Worried that nerves would get the better of me on the day, this proved to be a good decision as it wasn’t anywhere near as intimidating as it would have been had there been an entire hall full of people to walk past to the altar.

Having delegated flower and cake arrangements to my mother, we now had to tackle the boring bit – the paper work. Andy needed to legalise his documents in London and we needed to ‘give notice’ of our wedding in both England and Holland.

We had one weekend before the wedding where we went over to Holland to finalise any paper work and documentation, visit the venues and make all our decisions with regards to menus, decorations, music, seating etc. Although hectic, it was well worth taking care of all these things while we were there.

The day before The Day!
1st June: It was finally time to get ready for the Big Day. With car loaded up and dog in the back we headed over to Holland. We didn’t want to fly over, not entirely altruistically to save on carbon emissions, but mainly to not crease our dress and suit, and being able to take the dog. The journey went well, and was a good distraction from the wedding, which was the next day.

A wonderful wedding

Iris & Andy's wedding
The next morning the weather had turned from dull and grey to sunshine and blue skies. Andy did some sightseeing in the morning with his family while my sister and I had our hair done, my dad picked up the cake and my mum collected the flowers, all from local shops. The flowers for my hair were brought over from Andy’s mum’s cottage garden. Andy collected me at 2pm and we made our 15 minute journey by car to the hotel, where Andy’s family were already staying.


Slightly nervous, Andy and I walked together into the ceremony room where everyone else was already seated. The registrar performed the ceremony, we exchanged rings, signed the documents and before we knew it we were married!

We made our way over to the herb garden, where the guests followed us to congratulate us. We had a champagne toast, before walking over to the hotel, where we had a drink outside on the terrace before sitting down for our meal. The three course meal, which was delicious, was followed by a nightcap before everyone retired to their chambers.

The next morning we woke to another beautiful late spring morning and we all met at my mum’s house to have a traditional German brunch of cakes and fruit flans – home made by my grandmother. This was just a perfect end to what had been a wonderful wedding. I just wish I could do it all over again...

We did go to Crete in the end – but we went just the two of us on our honeymoon (off-setting our carbon emissions from our flight of course)!

Going green
We did not go into overdrive to have a green or ethical wedding, but (apart from the emissions from the flight of some of the English relatives) we feel we managed to do it with minimal cost to the environment; having a small number of people attend was part of that.

We didn’t always stick to traditions but just customised them to how we wanted it to be and it was just right for us (despite some disgruntled family members, but they got over it in the end and loved it). I think people should feel confident to do what they feel is right for them, and not be put off by expectations.

To us having a simple, ‘green’ and low-consumerist wedding, didn’t make it any less special (despite not having oodles of flowers, diamonds, bridesmaids’ outfits, etc) – in fact to us it made it more special.

I think for us, and many other people, the way to enjoy something most is to enjoy it with a healthy conscience. Having a wedding that is not only how you want it, but that is also guilt-free, is the icing on the cake. And as we all become more informed about environmental and ethical issues, I am sure this is a trend that is set to continue.

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