The S Word: Creating A Sustainable Wedding

The dream wedding. The most perfect day, a day you’ll never forget. The biggest build up and most preparation you’ll possibly ever do. A day that is entirely unique to the couple exchanging vows.

Weddings are one of the most intimate and special days for any couple and the family and friends they choose to share it with. They can be extravagant and expensive, or intimate and on a budget. The best weddings are usually always the weddings that completely embody the couple getting married, because every inch of that day, the little touches, the experience; it completely and utterly embodies their partnership. Which is the very essence we are all there to celebrate.

Sustainable Wedding isle, bride walks towards the groom with the mother of the bride. Groom stands under trees watching the bride come towards him.

The moment the Groom sees the Bride. A day that embodies the couple we are there to celebrate.

We create everything for this one day, so much time and energy goes into the preparations. But what happens afterwards? When is your next opportunity to wear your dress? What happens to all that leftover food? The invites, the flowers, the party favours? 

Whilst weddings are made to be the most beautiful of days, often the leftovers, the waste and rubbish, the trampled decorations; there can be a lot of wastage created without meaning to.

In 2018, Sky Ocean Rescue stated there were 245,513 weddings taking place in Britain in the previous year, using almost 20kg of single-use plastic at each ceremony, with an average guest list of 100 people. That means the potential of 4,910 tonnes of plastic making its way to our oceans each year - that is the equivalent of 47 blue whales - imagine!

But what if we could still have the grandest of days, without the waste. A more circular wedding?! 

Eco-friendly wedding corsage, worn on the wrist. Close up of two women, seated, wearing bridal and mother of the bride dresses in neutral colours.
From pre-loved dresses to eco-friendly corsages.

Jade of The Mindful Step is doing just that. Living in Portugal with her partner Toni, they are creating a wedding that aligns with their values, a wedding that has been planned to be as sustainable as possible, to embody the ethos they share together. And it all started with the dress….

With a keen eye for a charity shop gem, mid-pandemic something caught Jade’s eye. Whilst having a sweep of Instagram, Jade came across a charity shop in West London, Mary’s Living and Giving in Teddington, part of Save the Children UK, who had an incredible selection of second hand pieces. A bit of a secret designer hub, they had an array of high end and designer, for a fraction of the price. If you’ve found one of those gems in a charity shop that you absolutely love, from the designer of your dreams, you will know, you feel like you’ve won the lottery. 

But it wasn’t just designer ready to wear, this particular charity shop had just had a delivery of wedding dresses, samples donated from several designer and highstreet brands, all available for just £50! Don't tell me you wouldn’t be tempted!

Looking through the collection online of second hand dresses, Jade spotted the most perfect dress in her size. For £50! You couldn’t not purchase! So she did. She took a chance. Being in Portugal, she asked her mum to collect the dress from the store, and on a trip to London in September 2020 for a family visit following a bereavement, she tried on the dress, and it fit perfectly! A chance well worth taking!

At this stage, Jade and Toni were yet to be engaged, but for the perfect dress for £50, I would have done the same thing. When you know, you know. 

The Bride and Mother of the Bride stand together in their beautiful pre-loved dresses, with the Bride holding flowers. They stand next to a light blue VW Camper Van with a palm tree in the background.

The Bride and Mother of the Bride stand together after arriving in a vintage VW Camper Van

It was Jade’s Grandmother who had sadly passed away. Many of us hold a special bond with our grandparents, and they hold so many stories and tales from their lives, as children we are completely hooked. Jade’s Grandfather proposed to her Grandmother with a vintage ring, a treasure with a past, and a treasure with a new future. This ring was passed to Jade after her Grandmother passed away, she had left it for her, with her name on it. A treasure for Jade to keep in memory, always, a ring you would want to hold close everyday. And Toni knew just what this ring meant to Jade. 

And so Toni proposed to Jade, with her Grandmother’s ring, in January 2021. If this ring could talk, the two proposals, maybe even one before it even came into the family. Second-hand is full of stories being passed on and on.

And this was the beginning. From the dress purchased from the charity shop, to the previously-loved engagement ring, already aligning with their values, together they decided to uphold this throughout their wedding.

Under the trees the Bride and Groom embrace. The Bride's plaited hair is seen trailing beautifully, whilst she holds her flowers with arms wrapped around her Husband.

Under the trees the Bride and Groom embrace. The Bride's plaited hair is seen trailing beautifully, whilst she holds her flowers with arms wrapped around her Husband.

So Jade and Toni decided to ask all of their bridesmaids and their wedding guests to join them in finding a pre-loved, rented or borrowed outfit to wear for their big day. And they didn’t have to do much persuading. Everyone was really excited to take up the challenge.

Weddings are often top of the events list to buy a new outfit for. Sure, everyone wants to look amazing at a wedding, but does new = amazing?! Not sure that’s the way it really works. (For the record, I think it’s confidence and joy - but that’s for another time.)

Imagine if everyone chose a pre-loved or hired item instead - that would be a lot less infrequently worn event items not gathering dust in the wardrobe.

But it’s not just wedding outfits. The food, the decorations, the plastic!

According to Sky Ocean Rescue charity, the most common wedding plastics causing trouble in the oceans are water bottles, plastic cups, gift bags, disposable decorations and table-favour wrappings. Confetti is also still a big issue, although many outdoor venues now stipulate that confetti must be biodegradable or real flower petals. Can you imagine trying to sweep confetti off the luscious green grass outside a venue?! Exactly. Let's make plastic-based confetti a thing of the past!

Eco-friendly confetti spread across the grass - image by Jason Wong from Pexels

Eco-friendly confetti spread across the grass (Image by Jason Wong, from Pexels)

And then there’s the big clear up of the whole event. I don’t know if you’ve ever helped a friend clear up after a wedding before; I have, and believe me there were a lot of bin bags of non recyclable waste… and a lot of balloons!

For Jade and Toni, they’ve really thought about everything. The delicious dining was vegan, whilst they aimed for minimal waste, they donated any unused food to a local charity fighting hunger. 

They were inspired by nature, sustainably gathering flowers from the beach (only picking where there is abundance), and drying the flowers out; meaning they could take their time throughout the year to gather the flowers slowly, rather than picking on mass. These were used for the table decorations and boutonniere (the flower in the lapel buttonhole on the men’s suit), whilst the confetti given out was being made of the flowers they were given on their engagement, which they dried. The name cards were leaves penned in gold; beautiful!.

Menus were made from recycled packaging and repurposed paper from the brands Jade works with - Jade is a business coach for sustainable and eco-conscious small business owners and hosts her own sustainable fashion tours around Porto, Portugal. And for the wedding favours; reused jam jars (with a little collective help from family and friends), filled with corn for popping - they asked guests to suggest their favourite movies. 

What they really enjoyed though was the time to be creative; Jade says it has been very therapeutic. Of course, the lockdowns gave them time to work on creating from what is already available, and up-cycling, but the lovely thing is that, given enough time, drying out the flowers and creating from existing waste means that there is no hurry. You don’t have to worry about fresh flowers turning. 

The Bridesmaid holds her flowers in hand. Her dress is embellished with fabric roses.

The Bridesmaid holds her flowers in hand. Her dress is embellished with fabric roses.

There’s certainly potential for lightening the organisational load - this looks like a major benefit right here! And imagine being able to create something so beautiful, but at the same time at a much lower cost. 

And, bridesmaids! This is the dream situation…. You get to choose your dress! (Let’s be honest, we all know that feeling when the bride shows you your dress and your face has to work double time to break a smile!)

You get to choose your own dress, the one that works for you, your body, the one you can’t wait to wear again and again! Jade chose a versatile colour palette - earthy and neutral tones - and the beautiful thing is you can work to what suits you best, be it the richer tones, or softer shades - having a malleable palette is a really great way to create a synergy, without dictating a specific colour. Something that can actually work for everyone!

So what did everyone wear?!

The Bridesmaids walking down the isle, in the garden setting, holding flowers.
The Bridesmaids walking down the isle, in the garden setting, holding flowers.
The Bridesmaids and Mother of the Bride seated at the outdoor ceremony, wearing their pre-loved dresses, laughing.

The Bridesmaids and Mother of the Bride seated at the outdoor ceremony, wearing their pre-loved dresses, laughing.

Bride Jade, walking down the isle with her Mum, wearing their second hand wedding outfits.

Bride, Jade, walking down the isle with her Mum, wearing their second hand wedding outfits.

Bride and Groom wearing their pre-loved sustainable wedding dress and suit, with the Bride holding her flowers. They both hold hands.

Bride and Groom wearing their pre-loved sustainable wedding dress and suit, with the Bride holding her flowers. They both hold hands.

Bride and Groom make their vows in their pre-loved wedding outfits

Bride and Groom make their vows

Bride and Mother of the Bride sit in their beautiful pre-loved dresses, inside the vintage VW Camper Van

Bride and Mother of the Bride sit in their beautiful dresses, inside the vintage VW Camper Van

Weddings are big to organise. But just because they are big, it doesn’t mean they cannot be more sustainable. Yes, some of the solutions require time and effort to create the table pieces, the wedding favours, the decoration. But if we think outside the box, make these creative solutions a part of the wedding lead up, the hen do’s, the stags - yes that’s right lads - we can create a wedding that is not only stunning, but sustainable too.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.