From ‘needing’ a new dress (hello fast fashion!) to the right confetti – as wedding season approaches, so does a whole host of sustainability issues. And while brides and grooms might make efforts to be more eco-friendly, a survey by Bridebook found that the average UK wedding now costs £30,355. While brides and grooms splash out, so do guests. Not to mention the throwaway nature of much of the event.
Sustainable weddings are increasingly popular and while the happy couple try to make their big day as eco-friendly as possible, as a guest there is plenty you can do, too. According to Provident, the average wedding guests spends up to £1,015 and it’s likely much of that is on items that aren’t sustainable, such as fashion and gifts. Here’s how to save the planet as well as some of that hard-earned cash.
Fancy a new dress but not the fast fashion regret? Then you need to hire one. Companies such as Hire Street are seeing a huge rise in women wanting to get their hands on something lovely but not forever. Research by HireStreet - an online dress hire marketplace - found that sustainability was the second largest motivation for customers (32%) with a whopping 64% citing ‘value for money’ as the primary reason to trial renting.
Isabella at HireStreet explains: “So many of our customer referrals happen at weddings. It’s so great that people are proud to say that they have rented their outfit on social media - it’s really driving the sustainable approach to fast fashion. You could also try borrowing or a swap with a friend. So, say you both have two weddings in one summer, why not raid each other’s wardrobe for outfits, accessories and shoes?
Could be you have just the handbag she’s after, and she has the perfect necklace for you, without anyone needing to hit the high street or online retailers which produce fast fashion. Fascinators can be expensive and non-recyclable. Go online to find a second-hand one or trawl charity shops – they often have a fab range of hats in the summer where people have donated.”
Linda Thomas makes luxury up-cycled clothing and is an eco-campaigner. She can help you change an outfit you have into something new, thus avoiding two sustainability problems: having a dress you don’t wear, and buying a new one you don’t need. “I change outfits that people already have, and often there’s a story behind the piece, for example it was a mother of the bride outfit at a previous event,” Linda says. “It could be a piece that was emotional that they can’t let go of.”
If all else fails, then it’s time to go through your wardrobe and consider wearing something you already own! At least that means no wearing-in new shoes.
With over a decade of experience hosting weddings at their Ash Barton estate, Simon and Julie Daukes are keen on guests sharing transport. “It’s no secret that cars consume a lot of energy and automotive emissions are amongst the top contributors to the destruction of our environment,” says Simon.
“Getting into a car requires virtually no planning when you must travel, so to many, it’s the most convenient option. But take a second look and consider whether a little more effort could result in the reduction of your carbon footprint. If the wedding is in a remote area, consider teaming up with friends and hire out a coach. If the wedding is more accessible, why not take the train and have a small pre-party in your train carriage?”
Do you need to give a gift? If someone says ‘only if you want’ then that’s up to you. So rather than giving money to their honeymoon fund you could go for something more sustainable such as a donation to charity.
Lisa Ford runs Tree of Hearts, a wedding stationary brand and says there are many ways guests can be more eco-friendly. “When it comes to presents, many couples ask for money towards a honeymoon, but if they don’t, you could consider a gift from a UK supplier.” Reduce air miles by buying from a local craftsperson, she adds. “You could ask to take flowers home if they’re cut flowers, so there’s no waste – many get thrown away. Find out if there’s a website where you can share information with other guests, and make sure any cards or paper you use are recycled.”
“Wrapping presents goes so much further than wrapping paper,” adds Simon Daukes. “In fact, a thoughtfully wrapped present can stand out and show you put more effort into the gift. Check out your local charity shop for loose fabrics such as scarves or muslin blankets that you can upscale into wrapping paper. If you want a low effort, recyclable alternative, use brown paper and dress up your present with twine or burlap.”
Watch out for waste!
“One of the best ways you can be a sustainable wedding guest is to train yourself to be conscious of your own waste,” advises Linda Thomas. “If the wedding food is being served buffet style, try not to take more than you can eat. Are the invites recyclable? If so, recycle! Buy eco-friendly confetti or suggest biodegradable flowers if you are a bridesmaid.
When you are a conscious consumer at the wedding, you can relax knowing you have done your part for the planet. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t notice everything the first-time round, it takes time to become aware of our harmful habits.”
A simple way of addressing this is to "be the change you want to see", adds Linda. Picking up litter if it’s an outdoor event, or making sure people are acting responsibly when it comes to everything from confetti to straws.
“Rice isn’t sustainable,” she says. “It can be dangerous for wildlife. Instead, use dried flowers. You could dry petals from your own garden and put into paper cones for other guests. Above everything else, I’d discourage a balloon release. Even natural latex takes six years to decompose. I would, if you can, proactively try to stop a balloon release happening.”
Words: Jenny Stallard