As mine and Jez‘s big day approaches and most of the preparations in place I thought I would steal a little time to reflect and share my experience in planning our eco and ethical wedding.
Right from the start we wanted our wedding to reflect our everyday values and beliefs, how we live and work. Although we didn’t tell anyone until the summer, our plans started last spring, looking for all of the main wedding necessities – a place to have the ceremony, a place to celebrate and someone to provide food.
Ceremonies & Celebrations
Finding a place to have the ceremony was easy, neither of us wanted to get married in church and the cost of using a hotel or other licenced venue ruled that out immediately. So, register office it was to be. We didn’t choose the one in Nottingham city as it isn’t very pretty and would be further for our families to travel so we chose one in a nearby town which has a walled garden and is just as easy to get to via public transport.
Looking for a place to celebrate and a caterer went hand in hand because of course the venue needed the facilities to prepare and serve food and the caterer had to be happy working in the chosen venue. It took me a little while to catch on to the idea of having a celebration in a village hall, I don’t know why but I think I originally got the idea from an Ethical Weddings blog post. I had spend days and days scouring the internet for a suitable place in Nottinghamshire, again hotels were just too expensive and many places wanted to provide their own food but I was determined to find an ethical caterer of our own.
Luckily after the great realisation that a village hall would be just right for us, I narrowed it down to two possibilities, visited them both and chose one immediately, a charity run hall not far from the register office. In-between times I was glued to my computer searching for a suitable caterer and in Nottinghamshire that isn’t easy. I think in total I found 3 caterers that could provide local, organic and fair trade food but when I called Cate from C8TER I need look no further. Right from the start Cate reassured me with her friendly, professional and flexible approach and her attention to detail. She’s knowledgable about sourcing local and organic food and after sampling her cooking I’m really looking forward to the meal on the day!
Luckily, finding a dress happened quite quickly, although I expected it to be difficult. In fact initially I didn’t see myself with a traditional wedding dress and thought I would buy a pretty organic cotton dress or something similar. However, wedding fever soon took over and I got carried away with the idea of having a bridal gown. At this point I can’t say too much as Jez hasn’t seen the dress and I don’t want to give anything away.
Once I knew I was going to get a wedding dress I also knew where I wanted to buy it – Oxfam Bridal. So, last July my mum and I excitedly set off to Leicester where the nearest Oxfam Bridal store is. Unfortuntaly I didn’t find the dress for me on that first trip but I was heartened and encouraged by how nicely they had set up that separate part of the shop and the variety of gowns. The next nearest Oxfam Bridal shop is in Bradford and that shopping trip was the ultimate in making the most of public transport – All tied in with a business meeting and a visit to see some friends I managed to get from Bradford train station to the Oxfam store, pick a dress, try it on, buy it and get back on the train all in about 30 minutes! I was so pleased that I’d found something that was just right and was really impressed with the choice and facilities in the Oxfam shop. The staff there were excited and fussy which made it even more special.
I realise that for some people the thought of buying their bridal gown from a charity shop sounds terrible but its probably the single item that I’m most pleased with and I’m so happy that I did manage to find it at Oxfam.
Bouquets and Posies
I had a mixed experience trying to find a suitable florist for my bouquet. Initially I was going plant some tulip bulbs in the garden, ask our families to do the same and make my own bunch of flowers nearer to the time. Then I came to my senses and realised I know absolutely nothing about keeping or arranging flowers once they’ve been plucked from the ground and decided to seek professional advice.
I spoke to a few different florists, some of whom were sympathetic to the idea of having a green and ethical wedding and others who just looked baffled when I asked about locally sourced flowers. I’m not picky, I think all flowers are beautiful and so I wasn’t going to dictate exactly the type of flower I wanted as long as it was grown as nearby as possible and were roughly in the colours I wanted. I chose a florist called The Rose Bower in the end because they were the most helpful and were willing to find out what seasonal, locally grown flowers would be available at this time of year before I’d even decided to use them. I can’t wait to see mine and Beth’s (my bridesmaid, niece & guest GGG editor) tulip bouquets when I go to collect them on the morning and they will have only travelled from the next county, Lincolnshire.
Invitations & Decorations
After organising the food and venues the rest of the planning was quite easy. I love making things and wanted something individual, so I decided from the start that I would make the invitations, menus, favours, name places and decorations myself.
The village hall is quite typical in that it really needs a lick of paint and looks quite grubby in daylight but I like a challenge and so last September Jez, his mum, my parents and I went off armed with notepads and tape measures to figure out how we could transform it into a beautiful place to celebrate. From then on I spent months finding large pieces of fabric and sheets to drape around the room, some from charity shops and some from ebay. I also bought some pink, yellow, green and white cotton to make my own bunting. I have metres and metres of the stuff and my friends at our craft group, Stitched Up, found it quite amusing that this cotton bunting never seemed to end!
I love bunting, it always seems to cheer me up. I’ve even had a small piece hanging up in the house for a few weeks.
Because the venue is near to a maypole (which I used to run around and around when I was little) we’ve ended up with a maypole theme and the spring colours lemon, pink and green. So, I was very lucky when I asked my graphic designer friend if she could design me a motif for invites, menus etc using that theme. What she came up with was beautiful and I just what I wanted. I bought all of the recycled card, paper and envelopes I needed from Eco Craft who delivered it very quickly.
We asked our guests to RSVP via a website we’d built. The website also provides details of transport, directions, local hotels and so on to save from using up any more paper than necessary.
Tables, Favours & Name Cards
Aside from card for invites and menus I bought some lovely recycled paper which has confetti embedded in it. From this I made little origami boxes (which I talked about in my ‘Origami Genius!’ post) and will put in each of them a bulb from my Dad’s garden – these are our guests’ favours.
The name places are hand made, natural fruit lollipops with no artificial colours or flavours from sweetstall.com and I have added little labels to each one for our guests with a little picture. Jez and I have a house rabbit so our labels have loved-up bunnies on them, ahhhh. The others have butterflies, hearts and flowers.
Also, to decorate the tables we painted some plant pots white and decorated them with our colours and theme and soon I will be planting in them primroses or another spring flower which have been grown by a gardener just a few miles down the road.
The day before the wedding myself, Jez and an army of sisters and nieces and my mum and dad will spend the day putting all of these decorations together, hopefully creating a lovely room for eating, drinking and dancing.
Cake, Wine & Water
One of the nicest things about planning a wedding is that people really want to help and be involved. Jez’s mum is brilliant at making and decorating cakes and there was no question that she would be making ours. We decided to go for a traditional fruit cake (with organic ingredients) as well as Fairtrade chocolate cupcakes. Jez’s mum and I spent a lovely weekend making all of the little white sugar flowers for the main cake and hearts and butterflies for the cupcakes.
Guests will will take home slices of cake in pretty white recycled card boxes from The Tiny Box Company. Rachel at The Tiny Box Company was so obliging, helping me to choose the right size box and keep within my budget – This was the very last thing I bought and so I didn’t want to spend too much. It was a very speedy delivery too so I didn’t need to worry about any last minute hitches.
The bubbly and wine is all organic and Fairtrade and one of the types we have chosen is an English wine from Pennard Organic Vineyard.
I’m also extremely happy that we even managed to find eco friendly bottled water thanks to our Green Guy Gareth’s post ‘Bottled Water: Environmental Disaster?‘ . In that article Gareth mentions Belu Water, a carbon neutral company whose profits go towards clean water projects. So, I contacted Belu who very helpfully found me a local supplier, Lee & Fletcher, who delivered the water to my door in just a couple of days!
The rings are the last thing I’m going to talk about although I’m sure I must have forgotten something. I’ll probably give an update afterwards anyway so I can show pictures of the decorated venue and my dress, which won’t be a secret by then.
Looking for rings was quite a strange experience. We wanted to get antique or second hand rings because that is the greenest option available – I always work on that principle and used it throughout the wedding planning. I guess we were a little niaive thinking that we’d be able to pop into one of the many antique shops in Nottinghamshire, pick up two gold wedding bands and be on our way. Apparently this isn’t the case.
After going into a few shops, looking at every other type of antique ring but finding no wedding rings one lady told me that they just don’t sell them because people are too superstitious to buy them. She said that if a wedding band was brought to the shop it just got sent for scrap! What a waste! I was so disappointed. However, the internet is a fantastic thing and after a quick search I not only found John Clive Jewellers but two perfect second hand rings in exactly the right size!
When I look back I’m proud of what we’ve achieved. Not everything is 100% green, we’re having a fancy car to take us to the register office and a disco in the evening but all-in-all I think we’ve done really well.
I’ll be in touch again at the end of April to let you know how it all went!