When it comes to making a wedding more sustainable, many brides and grooms know the basics: don’t buy more than is needed; shop local*; avoid items only intended for single use; ditch the plastic; cut down on the meat. All of these things are relevant on a daily basis too. But it can be hard to stick to principles when there are multiple decisions to be made, budgets to be considered and the relentless marketing churn of the wedding industry to navigate.
So, we’ve come up with some thoughtful tips for ensuring your wedding doesn’t cause harm. Yes, we know these lists are ten a penny. Which is why we’ve made this as constructive and practically useful (as well as chic and laid-back) as possible. And, because we’re big on spreading the (real) good word, we’ve added an extra element – by ensuring that our recommendations include charities and social enterprise that support vulnerable people at the same time as being stylish, reliable and eco conscious (just as we are here at Aerende). From ethical flowers to environmentally friendly dresses, all of these items have a positive impact on humans as well as the planet.
*All of the recommendations in this post are for UK companies
1. The flowers
Blooms shipped from abroad create carbon emissions and are often grown by people exposed to dangerous chemicals. Plus, they require tonnes of packaging to protect fragile petals. Local flowers, grown without artificial chemicals have more character as well as being safer for humans, bees and the planet. We love Organic Blooms in Bristol, not just because its flowers are Soil Association-certified organic but because it teaches adults with learning disabilities in the art of horticulture. Its wedding bouquets are some of the loveliest we’ve seen.
A quick scroll through the Instagram of Luminary Bakery (below, left) tells you plenty about their enviable skills creating beautiful cake creations - often in simple shapes topped with fresh fruits or natural foliage. Another plus is that it supports vulnerable women in London, providing employment, skills and a nurturing community environment.
3. The Venues
Outdoor vibes and a reclaimed look? Check out Skip Garden Café (where Aerende founder Emily held her 40th) which grows its own organic food and teaches others from local schools and community groups how to do the same. We also like the beautiful Refettorio Felix (below, right) in Earl’s Court (where you’ll spot Aerende napkins made for the venue in 2018 on our refugee sewing programme). It has an inclusive approach to feeding the community and using surplus food supplied by the Felix Project. House of St Barnabas in Soho has elegant wood-panelled rooms and provides employment for people who have experienced homelessness. From a sustainability perspective, Petersham Nurseries in Richmond ticks many boxes - natural materials, heritage architecture and a little-known commitment to supporting small local businesses – as well as being utterly beautiful. Because we know London, this is where we feel comfortable making recommendations, but we’d love to hear your suggestions for venues around the country…
4. The food
Narrow down a crowded playing field of event caterers by choosing one that supports people into work, as well as reducing waste and using seasonal ingredients. Our friends at Fat Macy’s have a friendly and flexible approach and great social credentials – they train and employ staff who are in temporary accommodation and each event helps them save for a housing deposit. No wonder they call it catering with a conscience (best for smaller weddings).
The closer to home any alcohol is sourced from, the fewer airmiles you rack up in the cause of lubrication. Aerende founder Emily chose Chapel Down for her big day back in 2007 but would today be looking at Forty Hall (below, right), a London vineyard that offers ecotherapy – opportunities for people with mental health needs or long-term conditions to improve their health and wellbeing through gentle outdoor activity. Not a wine person? The Travelling Gin Company (London; below, left) and Living The Cream (Lincolnshire) both offer something fun and earth-friendly with their pedal bike cocktail bars. And, we're big fans of Seedlip, a sophisticated non-alcoholic mixer that's excellent for creating all sorts of celebratory mixes that won't leave you with a hangover.
For British-made rings, our friends at Studio 306 support people living with and recovering from mental health illnesses and take commissions to bring your jewellery visions to life. We're big fans of London jeweller Marcia Vidal who sells rings ready made and to order and donates a portion of profits to Help Refugees, as well as the simple, elegant and earth-friendly recycled gold bands made by Ara The Altar (below) who is based in Manchester.
7. The Gift List
Not all gift registries are created equal. Aerende offers the only sustainable gift list in the UK, with all products handmade (for reduced emissions) by people facing barriers to employment (for maximum positive impact). Our products are designed to bring a lifetime of joy and happiness and to ensure guests can really make their gift giving count..
8. The Dress/The Suit
Second-hand dresses are a great way to be sustainable and save money. Brides Do Good (which has a shop in Bicester Village) takes the feel-good one step further by donating proceeds from its pre-loved designer gowns to charities helping to eradicate child marriage. If you must go new, look for brands such as Mother of Pearl (below, left) which makes dresses to order (rather than mass manufacturing) from organic fabrics. And remember that weddings aren’t just about dresses. We’ve struggled to find a truly ethical/social enterprise suit maker, but love the classic, casual jackets and trousers by Community Clothing (below, right) , a fashion brand with the aim of creating jobs and reviving manufacturing in Blackburn that also creates pleasingly unisex styles in classic shapes that can be worn again and again.
If the overwhelm is real, organisations such as Luminosa (below) or Arbre et Riviere will help take charge of the big stuff so you can look after the details. Happily, they both have strong eco credentials and can suggest anything from sustainable venues to natural confetti.
10. The Honeymoon Hotel
Luckily, UK-based brides and grooms are spoilt for choice when it comes to lovely places to have a staycation honeymoon. We love The Pig (below) for its welcoming and thoughtfully designed properties around the UK, though check out the Good Hotel if you really want to make a difference – it provides hospitality training for unemployed people from the local community in East London. Lots of international hotels harp on about their eco-credentials or local community projects but lots of this is greenwash. Look for ones that do things properly, such as the Resplendent Ceylon group in Sri Lanka – beautiful island hotels run by a local family that oversees multiple social projects via its foundation. For more ideas, Look up the selection on Bouteco – for stylish and sustainable places to stay around the world.
All images provided by companies mentioned. Aerende main image, featuring our natural glaze dinner set, by Emma Harris from A Quiet Style