Happily Eco After

Weddings are a celebration of two people publicly declaring their love and commitment to one another. There’s a lot of talk about the future they’ll build together—for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.

In thinking about the future that my husband, Michael, and I want to create, it was important that our wedding represents our values of sustainability, cultivating community, and not spending our life-savings all at once.

Sustainability-focused bride and groom look to each other as they stand side by side and hold hands in Historic Mordecai Park's garden.

How to Look Nice

The thought of wedding outfit shopping did not bring me joy. Instead, I felt anxiety similar to the time I almost trapped a dear friend in our attic while replacing the pull-down ladder. My Millennial brain thought, “Surely, there’s a better way to do this in way that avoids the spectacle of bridal boutiques and allows me to shop from the comfort of my couch AND shares my environmental morality as a conscious consumer on a budget.”

Bring in Fame and Partners, a California-based clothing company that creates bespoke fashion pieces at exceptionally reasonable prices. Similar to Lulu, everything is created on-demand. No storage, no excess, less waste!

The rest of my outfit revolved around three questions:

  1. Can I wear it again?
  2. Is it a million dollars?
  3. Does it support a business with positive social and/or environmental impact?
Bride sits in chair wearing sustainable wedding dress from Fame & Partners and puts on handmade clogs by Maguba.

Perhaps my favorite purchase was from Maguba, a footwear company that creates customizable Swedish-style clogs. Their clogs are so cute and comfortable. Maguba consciously works with suppliers within their region to help reduce their carbon footprint. Their clogs may not give you better dance skills, but they will keep your feet feeling great.

Etsy is another great way to support independent artisans. I purchased hairpins from MyVintageFancy. The silver oak leaf pins were a perfect way to tie in our wedding location of Raleigh, North Carolina, which is lovingly called The City of Oaks.

We designed our rings together with Lauren Ramirez of Quercus Studio. She’s a local Raleigh jeweler who specializes in custom jewelry and repurposing heirloom pieces. Lauren works with recycled and ethically-sourced precious metals and sources gems using the Kimberly Process Certification.

Stacked wedding bands with diamond engagement ring

The certification aims to regulate the business of rough diamonds and prevent the trade of conflict, or “blood” diamonds. Such diamonds are used by rebel groups to finance armed conflicts.

Lauren helped us reuse the diamonds from my mother’s engagement ring to create a new ring and matching bridal earrings. Reduce, reuse, and sparkle.

Southern groom puts on navy, custom jacket by Indochino in garden

My husband also found his fancy pants with a company that specializes in made-to-order clothing called Indochino. Armed with a piece of string and a ruler, we took all of his measurements as directed by Indochino’s helpful video series. Not only did he get a great looking suit that actually fits his 6’6” frame, but he didn’t have to waste additional resources on tailoring.

Where to Say “I Do” and “Let’s Dance”

We held our ceremony at the quaint St. Mark’s Chapel on the grounds of the Mordecai Historic Park, a landmark owned and operated by the City of Raleigh. Not only was the venue inexpensive (less than $500) with beautiful gardens, but we felt good about sending our dollars back to the City of Raleigh. We wanted to help preserve the park’s history, including stories of its enslaved and free residents.

Father of bride waits with bride on porch while groom escorts his mother into St. Mark's Chapel to begin wedding ceremony.

Another great aspect to our venue choice is that it helped keep our guest list modest simply because we physically couldn’t fit more than 50 people in the tiny, white chapel. This ultimately helped save money, reduce waste, and kept the celebration intimate. Win, win, and win.

After the ceremony, we sent our guests to Tap and Table, one of Trophy Brewing Company’s restaurants. We picked the restaurant because Trophy’s craft beer is delicious, they have exceptionally friendly staff, and they’re a mainstay of Raleigh’s downtown community. Plus, they have a beer called Trophy Husband!!

Wedding reception guests mingle at Tap & Table's bar and enjoy craft beer.

It’s in The Details

I created our wedding guest book with Lulu xPress. If you haven’t tried it yet, you totally should because it’s so dang easy.

The publishing tool guides you through choosing a format and uploading the interior and cover files. It also has a snazzy preview tool that allows you to “flip” through the book and see how it will print.

The review step of publishing a photobook with Lulu xPress includes helpful guides that show the margins, bleed, and folds.
Lulu xPress wedding guest book with Instax film camera at Southern wedding reception

As with all of Lulu’s products, I was able to order as many or as few copies as I needed. Print-on-demand publishing is not only a more environmentally-friendly option, but it also helps creators like me keep on creating by ditching the need to manufacture print runs in the thousands.

Likewise, Lulu uses FSC certified, lead-free, acid-free paper that meets the ISO 9706 standard for permanent paper. This means our wedding book will last several hundred years. Hope you enjoy it, future generations!

We kept our decor simple and largely relied on the built-in beauty of our venues.

Three rows of minimalist wedding reception tables with simple DIY floral arrangements, candles, and white linens.

One of my wedding goals was to grow my own flowers and greenery for the floral arrangements and my bouquet. And I did! It was definitely a learning experience, but I managed to harvest several buckets of local, seasonal flowers and the entirety of the greenery used. Likewise, I foraged wild flowers from the greenway and threw in a few bunches from Trader Joe’s to supplement the flowers from our garden.

Southern bride holds DIY bridal bouquet made from local, seasonal flowers.

Local, seasonal flowers typically have a smaller carbon footprint compared to their imported counterparts because they need less transportation. Like seasonal food, these flowers require less heating, lighting, pesticides, and fertilizers.

To find sustainable flower growers and florists near you, check out Slow Flowers. They have a terrific online directory.

Asymmetrical wedding flower arrangement with blue hydrangea, wheat, and wild flowers in upcycled brown glass vase on white linen

Our vases came from The Scrap Exchange, a nonprofit reuse center in Durham that promotes creativity and environmental awareness. I believe the glass containers were originally used as candle holders. They cost a whopping 75 cents!

We gladly sent most of the arrangements home with our guests. The next day, we delivered flowers to our neighbors.

Another great option to reduce floral waste is to donate the flowers to a nursing home in your area. There are even organizations like Petals With Purpose or Random Acts of Flowers that will distribute and deliver leftovers for you.

The thought of throwing any remaining wilted flowers into the compost bin seemed a bit sad. To keep the good times going, I incorporated live potted plants. The ferns have retired from their wedding days and now happily reside on our front porch.

As a way to say “thank you” to our guests, we gifted artisanal soaps from Hestland Gard Soap, a local, woman-owned business. The soaps are handmade using traditional soapmaking methods in Eastern North Carolina from sustainably-sourced ingredients. The tomato leaf fragrance is my favorite!

Wire baskets filled with handmade soaps in white paper bags as wedding guest gifts.

How to Remember

Finding the right photographer is one of the most important aspects to planning a great wedding. Besides your commitment to your partner, photography is the one thing that lasts after the wedding celebration.

We were thrilled to work with Chelsea Collins Photography. The owner and namesake, Chelsea Collins, specializes in fine art wedding photography. We were drawn to her style because it’s not the typical overexposed bridal cliché. Her style is dramatic, a bit moody, and will give you all the feels.

Besides being an exceptionally talented photographer, Chelsea and her husband/business partner, Will, are part of the major revitalization effort in downtown Goldsboro, NC. They are renovating the old firehouse (a building that has sat empty and in disrepair for as long as I can remember) to become a modern event space.

Smiling couple celebrates after intimate wedding ceremony on steps of porch with a glass of champagne.

Now go forth and be married!

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