My idea of a wedding, at least a low-waste one, involved a trip to the city registry office and a quiet lunch. While I love celebrating other people’s weddings, planning my own never appealed to me. Out of the two of us, I’m definitely less traditional than The Builder. He wanted to have a church wedding, to watch me walk down the aisle wearing a white dress, to pose for the cheesy photos, and to end at a party-style reception. Seeing The Builder’s enthusiasm for a big celebration was sweet, and we went with his dream wedding. I’m so glad we did, as the day was so much fun! As clichéd as it sounds, my wedding was one of the happiest days of my life.
We didn’t advertise our wedding as an eco-event, not because we didn’t want to be held up all night explaining to everyone why we chose to organise a low-waste wedding but because the goal for us was to simply lead by example and prove that many of the decisions we made can be integrated into any style of wedding, even a big Lebanese–Australian wedding in the suburbs of Melbourne. Eco-weddings are often portrayed as being small, in rural locations with hand-made everything. We wanted to debunk this idea.
As with the planning for any event, we broke everything into categories – and included some new ones such as attire and entertainment – to evaluate where waste would be created. Doing this really helped us stay focused in the five months we had to prepare for the big day. We set out questions to be applied as we worked out the logistics to reduce waste in each category.
- Can we hire it?
- Can we make it?
- Can we borrow it?
- Will anyone miss it?
- Will we be sorry we didn’t have it at our wedding in 5, 10 or 15 years’ time?
- How was it made?
- What will happen at the end of its life?
- Can it be reused?
- Can it be composted?
- Can it be recycled?
Most of our wedding invitations were sent using an online registry website; paper invitations for those without email were printed on recycled paper, as were the wedding day programs, menus and wedding favour cards. In lieu of a physical wedding favour (a gift for guests), we chose to donate money to a charity on our guests’ behalf and requested no gifts. If guests wished to give us something, we suggested a contribution to our honeymoon. This is a common practice and, while we did receive some gifts, they were all useful items given with much thought and care.
My wedding dress and shoes were bought second-hand and the jewellery was borrowed from my mother. I sold the wedding dress to another bride using one of the many online wedding dress websites and donated my shoes back to the charity store I bought them from. My wedding band was second-hand while The Builder’s ring was made from old gold jewellery belonging to his grandmother from Lebanon, a lovely reminder of his heritage. There are many online stores, antique and vintage stores, pawn shops and jewellers that sell second-hand rings or those made from recycled precious metals.
At our first meeting with our catering company, we told them of our plans
to reduce our rubbish; we knew that the food would probably be the biggest waste producer on the day. They loved our ethos and worked with us to make it happen. At the end of the night, they collected all leftover food in plastic buckets for us to take and compost at home along with the natural decorations we provided. We did have the option to organise a compost collection service but we didn’t need it:
our compost handled it well.
We hired furniture, linen and cloth napkins along with plates, bowls, cutlery
and glasses and said no to plastic straws. Drinks consisted of water, home-made lemonade, kegs of beer and wine on tap;
we even had bubbles on tap. This meant there were no beer or wine bottles to recycle; in fact, the only item we recycled for the whole night were the plastic bags from ice, and soft plastic that some of our hired linen came wrapped in. If we did it again, I’d remember to ask the hire company for the linen to come without the plastic.
The bridal bouquet, bridesmaids’ bouquets and table decorations were
a mix of foraged and seasonal flowers, set in glass jars from home and donated by friends. We used candles donated from another wedding; for table numbers, we painted directly onto some of the candle jars. The candles have since been passed onto another bride, the jars are back in my pantry full of food and preserves, the flowers composted and table settings composted or recycled.
The day was big success. We achieved a low-waste wedding without anyone being the wiser to our eco nuptials. While our aim to create an event that reflected our values was important, the main intention was for
it to be as fun and memorable for us as it was for everyone else there on the day.
This is an edited extract from Waste Not by Erin Rhoads published by Hardie Grant Books
RRP $29.99 and is available in stores nationally.