Planning a spring or summer wedding? You don’t have to sacrifice personal style to throw a party with a conscience. Sarah Heeringa finds there are lots of on-trend ways to add meaningful eco touches to your big day
By Sarah Heeringa
1. Less rustic chic, more old-world charm
If you’ve been to any weddings recently (or dallied on Pinterest), you’ll know the rustic-chic look is huge. This style – all homemade bunting, doilies, mason jars and woodland creatures – has lots of cost-effective ways you (or your gran) can get busy. “It’s an approach well suited to recession budgets. For example, cakes are iced with butter-ruffle icing rather than the more formal fondant flowers you’d need a professional to create,” says Rachel Ramsay, features editor of New Zealand Weddings magazine. “But now the economy’s back on the up, people are ready for an update.”
The emerging look is old-world opulence. It’s still DIY friendly and has fabulous op-shopping potential, but the effect is more refined. “Fewer tea lights in mason jars and more collections of mismatched vintage brass candlesticks,” suggests Rachel.
2. Fabulous frock options
Modern weddings are big business; the average spend on a Kiwi wedding and honeymoon is $38,000, according to the September 2013 New Zealand Weddings reader survey. Considering how much you’re likely to spend on your dress, it seems nuts to wear it once before it’s dry-cleaned with nasty chemicals, wrapped in plastic and consigned to storage.
Designer Elizabeth Soljak from A La Robe (www.alarobe.com) says there’s a better way. A La Robe specialises in vintage-inspired bridal designs with an indie boho style. Elizabeth’s creations are designed using layered pieces, so they can easily be shortened or worn again a different way, and the silk, lace and thread used is all dyeable. “I’m highly against dry-cleaning, so we also offer a hand-washing service,” she says.
It’s also worth checking for any fabulous frocks tucked away in your mother or grandmother’s wardrobe, or buying a dress secondhand. Adding vintage fabrics, lace or beading to your ensemble makes for extra character.
3. Shop for keeps
Avoid waste and unnecessary cost by shopping with an eye on the future. “Forget the old-school rule that says everything needs to be matchy-matchy,” says Rachel. Let your bridesmaid’s individual personalities shine by having each one pick a cocktail-length dress that suits their body shape, but perhaps all in the same fabric or colour, and they’ll use it again. Or personalise their look with quirky accessories.
Not likely to wear those white high heels again? Buy a pair you can transform with shoe dye – or pick a bright pair to add a pop of colour to your outfit. The same goes for suits; now might be a good time for your man to invest in some quality threads.
4. Go for gold – Fairtrade gold that is …
Gold and diamonds are associated with the world of luxury, love and purity – but the realities of the precious metal industry can be far from such ideals. Corruption, armed conflicts, systemic environmental destruction and pollution, human rights abuses, child labour and smuggling continue to blight the jewellery supply chain today. Real change will only happen through initiatives at industry level (such as the Kimberley Process, which tries to combat ‘blood diamonds’) and when consumers choose ethical jewellery.
The Fairtrade Gold standard, launched in 2011, provides the first third-party independent certification for gold, and new opportunities for millions of impoverished artisanal miners. “Buying Fairtrade Gold makes a real difference to the lives of small-scale miners, their families and communities,” says UK campaigner Greg Valerio. (For more of Greg’s story, go to www.good.net.nz/gold)
Fairtrade International also promotes Fairtrade Gold through a scheme for bespoke jewellers. Interested jewellers can find out more at [email protected]
Kiwis are tying the knot later in life. In 1971 the median marriage age was 23.5 for men and 21.2 for women. Today, it’s 32.4 for men and 30.4 for women. – Statistics New Zealand
5. … or use old gold
Another eco-jewellery idea is to opt for the vintage variety, using existing precious metals and stones rather than mining more from the ground. There’s also something special about jewellery that’s passed down for generations through family members, even if the tradition starts with you.
An antique ring could come from various sources. You can pick up beauties at antique and estate jewellery dealers, such as auction house Webb’s. You might also have a ring crafted from, say, a vintage brooch or bracelet that’s lost gems or become damaged.
Ashley Hilton Jewellery hand-crafts pieces using ethically sourced New Zealand materials and low-tech work practices. Hearts & Arrows is a unique online diamond jewellery store with a passion for quality craftsmanship, ethical sourcing, and innovation.
6. Work with nature
When it comes to catering, we all know about choosing local, eating in season and going organic where possible. The same principles apply to flowers; ask your florist for local, seasonal blooms to avoid ones that have been grown in environmentally dubious conditions overseas, air-freighted and treated with herbicides at the border. Rachel suggests decorating tables with moss, lush ferns or other greenery you can replant afterwards. A company such as Church Confetti (www.churchconfetti.co.nz) supplies paper cones to fill with freeze-dried rose petals in a range of colours, as well as paper wedding favours with imbedded seeds.
Forget fussy bouquets – go for the “eclectic, gathered, wild” style advocated by London florist-to-the-stars Vic Brotherson. “Wedding flowers should be an individual signature – a layering of seasonality, favourite flowers and family traditions that capture moments and memories,” says Vic in her book Vintage Wedding Flowers.
7. Consider your virtual options
Have your eco-chic invites printed on recycled or FSC-certified notepaper or postcards, but avoid the hassle and expense of RSVP cards by having guests call, text or email you to confirm their attendance. Set up a Facebook group or wedding website to help guests to carpool to the proceedings.
Paperless Wedding (www.nz.paperlesswedding.com) sell online invites and save-the-dates, which are emailed to your guests. They’ll also design you a website to match. New Zealand Weddings (www.newzealandweddings.co.nz) also offers loads of online inspiration and DIY tips.
For smart-phone enthusiasts, appy couple (www.appycouple.com) allows you to create and publish your own mobile wedding app – it coordinates your guest list, reminders, RSVPs, guest photos, travel details and even virtual toasts from those absent friends