Today we are rejoined by the lovely Hannah from Green Soul Weddings for the second in her series on how to make your wedding more sustainable.
Last month I shared 7 sustainable wedding favour ideas with you, so this month I thought I’d turn your attention to ways in which you can think more ethically about your wedding attire. I’m not just talking about those wedding dresses either, there’s something for you grooms to think about here too, and even your extended wedding party and guests. As with all sustainable and ethical approaches to weddings, every little helps! Here I’ve tried to provide you with a variety of suggestions so you can approach it like a pick and mix and select those that work best for you as a couple, after all it’s your day and you should have it your way!
One of the easiest ways to start your ethically minded wedding shopping is to think local and support local. Give the independent bridal boutiques, tailors and eveningwear stores in your town or county a browse online and take a visit. Whilst the dresses that bridal boutiques stock or those dapper suits hanging on the rails might not originate locally, the carbon footprint of your search will be reduced and you’re supporting your local economy too.
If you fancy taking an additional eco-conscious step, why not choose British designed and made attire. If it’s made here in the UK you can be more confident it has less air miles and can also be reassured that the production process is more ethical with our typically higher standard of working conditions than those of other countries (although this isn’t always the case, many other designers are becoming more transparent about their production lines too which is great to see).
There may be a local boutique to you that sells well-known and ready-to-wear British designers, or if you fancy going direct we are lucky enough to have some amazing bridal designers right on our doorstep! Based in Harpenden, Lisa Lyons Bridal creates beautiful and sustainably made-to-measure dresses ready for you to have tailored just for you, or alternatively she’d love to turn your completely bespoke dress vision into a reality.
Preloved and Vintage
Quite honestly, the fashion industry, and especially wedding attire, can be guilty of being a very fast fashion industry, with these spectacular pieces worn only once and then proudly hung up, occasionally fetched out of the wardrobe and reminisced over, but hardly ever slipped back into! If you’d like your special day to be more eco-friendly, and you don’t like the idea of contributing to the fast fashion world of single-wear wedding dresses, then have you considered preloved?
There’s entire boutiques that specialise in dresses that are gorgeous vintage finds, have been worn before, or are ex-display, providing you with that special wedding dress shopping experience but with a more wallet-friendly price tag and a planet-friendly wedding dress at the end of it! Who says eco-friendly weddings are more expensive!
As for the grooms out there, vintage can be such a brilliant suit choice, or re-wearing that suit jacket from a few years ago with a pair of your smart chinos for a casual groom look is totally awesome too, it’s all about what works for you and your personal style.
Following on from the idea of vintage and preloved, maybe you have a family heirloom or like the idea of wearing preloved but want it to be more personalised to you, tailored and extra special whilst still not adding a new garment to the production line. If you don’t have the skilled knowhow with a sewing machine (I know I certainly don’t!) or aren’t sure exactly what design alterations you desire, then there are local creatives that would happily work with you and your garment, or one they stock themselves, and personalise it to perfectly flatter you.
Based in Hitchin, A Lover’s Thread would love to help you bring vintage into the now and redesign your vintage or preloved dress to ensure it reflects your unique love story. Sophie, founder and designer of A Lover’s Thread, says of her approach “I like to think of it as the history of the vintage piece you choose, or the family heirloom you bring to me, merged with your unique style and an opportunity to create a future heirloom embellished with your love story so far”.
Separates and Re-wearable Pieces
Last, but by no means least for the brides amongst you (plus there’s more ideas I’d happily discuss with you if you’d like to get in touch), what about thinking ahead with your wedding attire and choosing something you could re-wear? Separates can be a great way to approach this … imagine those gorgeous tulle skirts paired with a delicate floral top at a summer party, or that lace bodice accompanying skinny jeans for a fancy date night! Depending on the bridal look you go for, some dresses and separates can be dressed down and easily re-worn, helping that beautiful craftmanship and that (sometimes) hefty price tag work harder for you in the longer term, all whilst reducing your wedding waste. Imagine the memories that’ll resurface each time you re-wear your wedding attire too!
Hiring and Buying the Most Re-Wearable Elements
I promised I wouldn’t just give ideas for the bridalwear, so here’s one with the grooms more in mind this time. Continuing on from my last point, if you choose to hire your wedding suits (a very common practice and one that’s already more planet-friendly too) why not choose to buy the most re- wearable elements as keepsakes and gifts for your grooms party? Obviously if you’re happy to hire it all and hand it back for others to enjoy on their big day too then definitely go for it, but for those of you who’d love a sentimental keepsake, choosing to purchase elements like a tie, handkerchief or funky matching socks means you’re much more likely to see them actually re-worn.
Avoid Single-Use Bride Tribe Attire
When it comes to your wedding attire, there’s lots of other ways you can think ethically and sustainably, beyond you both as a couple. One of my go-to sayings when talking about my business and my approach to eco-conscious weddings, is that it’s not about stopping you from having what you want! You’ve always dreamed of having a stunning dress by your favourite Australian designer? Have it! Being ethically minded doesn’t have to be about every decision being 100% carbon and waste free, Fairtrade and ethical; it’s about considering your impact, and considering ways that this could be counteracted or reduced, in some or all areas of your day.
So, some, or maybe none, of the ideas above are for you… then how about thinking of your bride tribe instead? When we think of single-use, the well-known example is plastic, but as we’ve already touched on above, wedding attire can be pretty single use too! You will have chosen an outfit that makes your bridesmaids or bridesmen look amazing, but will they really wear it again? How often do we find ourselves with the type of formal occasions that suit the reusing of these beautiful outfits?
Instead, why not consider setting a colour scheme or palette and letting your bride squad choose their own outfits! Not only does this increase the likelihood of them being re-worn, but everyone will choose something that suits them and they feel super comfortable in, helping you to avoid any disagreements or the issue of finding something to suit everyone! If you’re concerned that your team won’t look consistent, consider providing matching accessories that they would all reuse, plus their bouquets/buttonholes will help to distinguish them from other guests too.
“Being ethically minded doesn’t have to be about every decision being 100% carbon and waste free.”
Hire those Hats!
Unless you’re a regular race goer, or have a large number of friends and family still to get married, has that hat or fascinator you purchased for that wedding a few years ago ever seen the light of day again? I fear not!
Hats have a long-standing tradition at weddings, with so many intricate rules and etiquettes being associated with them. Now, you might have realised by now that I’m not one for sticking to tradition, and this goes for hats too … if you like hats and want a really formal traditional wedding then definitely go for it, but by no means should you or your guests feel they are always required, no matter what relation between you and your guests!
If you know of relatives or other guests who will want to wear a hat to your wedding, why not extend your ethical vision for your day and encourage them to hire their hats? Not only does this highlight your sustainable ethos to your guests, but it saves them money and the waste of a potentially single-wear item!
I Can’t Wear That Again!
We’ve all been there, we’ve all said it, we’ve all felt that because we have 2 friends marrying in the same year that’s 2 outfits we need to go out and buy, but does it really matter if we’re seen in the same thing twice?! My stance is no, you’ve bought that item because you love it and it suits you, so save some precious pennies and go out there rocking that look more than once. By all means mix it up a bit, different accessories can go a long way in changing the overall look, but don’t feel you need to buy a different outfit for each wedding you attend. As a couple, why not actually say this to your guests with a little note on your invite or wedding website providing them with a friendly nudge that you want to be more mindful with your wedding day and they can contribute to this by feeling comfortable wearing whatever they like and already own. You’ll still get some who would prefer to buy new, but at least this way you’ve made it very clear that re-wearing is a completely acceptable option.
Life After your Big Day
Finally, what about the life of your wedding dress, suits, bridesmaid dresses, accessories, and even your guests’ attire after the big day? Obviously, if you’ve opted for some of the options above then this might already be sorted and you’re returning your hired items and re-wearing those select purchases or adaptable dresses. If not, your wedding attire doesn’t have to be destined to get lost in the wardrobe. Should you wish to there are services through which you can sell your wedding attire, enabling someone else to give it another life and gaining some all-important funds back after your wedding. Alternatively, there are lots of websites, charities and organisations set up to also help your wedding attire to see another day and they would love to receive your wedding dress, suit, shoes, accessories, eveningwear; they will act as the middle-man between you and someone in need. There are lots of charities that do good, whether that be campaigning to end child marriages, helping to provide weddings for the terminally ill, providing prom attire for those who couldn’t afford to go otherwise, or creating priceless gowns for precious lasting memory photos of stillborn babies, plus other fantastic ones besides. Donating your wedding attire helps them to do their amazing work, and you’re sure to find one that really means something to you.
There really are so many different ways your wedding day can reduce its impact on our beautiful planet, and each of you will have your own way of doing things. As a wedding planner I love to really get to know each of my couples, following which I can tailor my suggestions to those I know are more up their street and align best with their values. We all fall at different places on the continuum that is the eco-conscious journey, and I’ve tried to cover different points along it with these suggestions. I hope maybe at least one will have inspired you to think ethically about your wedding attire!
Hannah will be joining us for more great sustainable wedding day tips in the future,
feel free to chat with Hannah from Green Soul Weddings for more advice for your big day.