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Farm barn with chairs stacked in front

Before Christmas I had a chat to my friend Alison, who had organised her wedding with the explicit purpose of reducing the carbon footprint of her wedding. Here are some of her ideas on making your wedding day not only more environmentally aware and low carbon, but also one that focuses on relationships and community and not just spending money and getting stressed in the process.

Boy with buffalo Oxfam Australia

1)      Try a different approach to gift giving

If you are a couple who already has most of what you need for your life together, why not give people an alternate option for gift giving? Alison and Dan (her husband to be) asked everyone to donate to Oxfam with the aim of purchasing a buffalo, for a community in a developing country. This approach was so successful that ultimately three buffalo’s were purchased through gift donations. The online option of donating also allowed people to write wishes to the wedding couple, either online or by sending a card. The certificate received at the end is now a happy reminder of the big day.

2)      Get everyone to chip in

One way to save money and get people participating is to ask everyone who is coming if they could contribute in some way. Ideally people will be able to volunteer and contribute with things that they are gifted in, or enjoy doing. For example someone who enjoys sewing may be able to hem some tablecloths, your musical friends (or family) can perform and those who like cooking may be able to provide some special dishes.

Man singing while playing guitar

3)      Recycle

Alison and Dan decided that all the crockery and cutlery they used would be purchased from second-hand stores and then re-donated to the stores afterwards. In total this cost them around $100 or less and was probably a cheaper option than hiring tableware and a more environmentally sound option than plastic plates and cups.

People cutting vegetables with cooking pot

4)      Source things locally

Athough Alison and Dan weren’t married in their hometown, they did their best to find food that was grown or made in the region where they were getting married. This included locally made ice cream and fresh food from a local market garden.

Sign and balloons on fence with farm landscape background

5)      Reduce travel or offset

As most guests were travelling to get to the wedding there was an emphasis on car pooling. One wedding guest was kind enough to purchase a green fleet carbon offset for all the travel to the wedding.

6)      Reuse your wedding dress

Alison’s wedding dress was made by a local designer and was deliberately designed to be wearable not just for the wedding, but also future occasions. Each anniversary the couple wear their wedding outfits to remember and celebrate their wedding day.

Man and woman kissing

Overall Dan and Alison found that their wedding was not only a unique and special day for them, but a chance to build community by sharing the preparation and organisation activities for the day with family and friends. Guests were given the option to participate as much or as little as they liked, resulting in a relaxed and informal celebration. Although the emphasis was on everyone chipping in, they do recommend paying for certain jobs to get done, such as washing the dishes, as no-one wants to be left with this job on the day!

Other gift-giving alternatives, for those who want to give something more personal can include “living” gifts, such as a plant or sapling or something home-made. Alternatively chipping in some money for something desperately needed such as a washing-machine can also be of great assistance.

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