As our understanding of our environmental impact grows, veganism has become an increasingly favourable lifestyle shift for many people. Google Trends has shown a 90% increase in the searches for the term “vegan” in 2016. In the UK, the number of vegans has risen by 360% in the last decade, and vegans are now 6% of the US population, representing a 600% increase.
It’s no surprise then, that more and more compassionate couples are choosing to tie the knot with a cruelty-free celebration – so much so that even VOGUE recently named vegan weddings as a top trend. This is great news for animals and the planet, as the wedding industry is worth over 300 billion dollars and growing – with a considerable environmental impact.
How your big day can hurt the planet
Wedding traditions that harm the planet are not often discussed, but they have been around for generations. In past decades, brides have desired to wear gowns they hoped to pass on, but many never see that second wear. Pretty extras like plastic confetti and balloons also carry their own eco impact that many couples fail to consider. Simple decisions like passing on your dress can really lessen the burden on the environment (as well as your budget) and other simple tweaks, like opting for local flowers that don’t require extra resources to produce, can lessen your big day’s strain on the environment.
Responsible ring shopping
Blood diamonds, with their human rights and slavery implications, are far from a symbol or love. Ask your jeweller if they commit to sourcing conflict-free jewels and what proof they have of their process. You can also track your diamond by using the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, created in 2000 to stop conflict diamonds from hitting the main market via the United Nations General Resolution Assembly 55/56.
Another idea is to try thinking closer to home and tradition. Why not use a family heirloom? Diamonds aren’t the only stone associated with love, and a well-loved family piece will bring more meaning to the occasion. If you prefer a diamond, choose a lab-created one like MADE Diamonds or a similar eco-friendly brand.
Reuse an old ring from a jewellery store that resells used pieces, or melt down and refine old gold. Conveyor systems move up to 10 tons of ore to extract only 10 grams of gold with traditional harvesting methods, so recover gold from old jewelry, phones and other items to create sustainable gold usable for you.
Start an eco-friendly registry
Newlyweds often come back from their honeymoon to a household of gifts they’ll never use, some of which unfortunately end up in landfill. Encourage monetary gifts, so you can choose what items you need for your household. Create a registry of items that support an eco-conscious lifestyle.
Select a wedding charity of your choice for guests to donate to, such as the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, an animal shelter or initiative to save the rainforest. If hosting a destination wedding, give back to the country you escape to by choosing a charity there for your donations.
Choose a sustainable venue
Reduce your carbon footprint by choosing a venue for the ceremony and reception that makes sustainability a priority. Use the Green Building Information Gateway to search for venues, and you can also find event spaces and hotels with Energy Star ratings and LEED certifications, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. More venues see the value in going green these days, so you don’t need to skimp on style to be sustainable.
Another option is to select an outdoor space or other unique space. Don’t discount the power of a quirky little venue to represent the vibe of you as a couple, such as a wild backyard or rustic barn. Or host the ceremony at your local arboretum or park. What about a farm or vineyard? Your outdoor space won’t require extraneous lighting, and you’ll save money, too. Just make sure you prioritize post-wedding cleanup so your guests aren’t leaving trash outside in these spaces.
Imagine a wedding set in one of Finland’s national parks with the northern lights overhead. Why not get married under the starlight?
The virtues of plant-based
When choosing a vegan menu for your wedding, ask yourself where the produce came from and think of the production process and gas mileage it takes to transport the food to and from various facilities — and ultimately, to your wedding. When planning a vegan wedding, look closely at where ingredients are sourced for the menu to have the most impact.
Choosing a vegan caterer and menu will lessen the burden on the planet, as less money is invested into the production of animal products. In Philadelphia, Miss Rachel’s Pantry follows the seasons with her vegan menu, and Green Plate Catering has produced delicious vegan food since 1982. In the UK, vegan catering is widely available from places like Fairfoods in Devon or Rocket Catering in Leeds.
You can also look close to home and consider more farm-to-table approaches with farms that use sustainable and green practices. The food travels a shorter distance, and you support the local economy. Don’t be afraid to work with a vendor new to supplying a vegetarian or vegan menu — as long as you keep them apprised of all dietary needs, they will often be receptive to unique opportunities to grow their business in this way.
Say yes to the dress
The choice of the wedding dress is perhaps one of the most crucial questions of your big day – and as bridal fashion tends to not be something you wear more than once, you might consider opting for a pre-loved version to minimise waste. Add personal touches to your mother’s wedding dress, or upcycle dresses together with your bridesmaids. Consider other eco-friendly options, such as preowned dresses from vintage and secondhand stores. Many newlyweds post their gently-used dresses and suits for sale on social media platforms – worth a look.
While fabrics like fur and leather are often discussed in connection to animal cruelty, few people know that 6.6 thousand silkworms are killed, often by being boiled alive, to produce just 1 kg of silk. It’s been proved that silkworms have a physical response to pain, and we can only imagine the agony of being boiled alive – you don’t want this cruelty associated with your wedding. Go for a beautiful vegan dress from a brand such as Indie Bride, Atelier Tammam, Minna or The Cotton Bride.
Don’t use live animals as entertainment
Releasing doves and butterflies has become a tradition, but this practice risks to harm and displace not only the animals themselves, but also surrounding ecosystems, as releasing non-local species into a new environment can cause diseases to spread, not to mention leave the animals at risk of attack from predators, starvation and other dangers – doves, for example, are flock animals and must rely on finding a local flock for survival. Butterflies are sometimes transported to the weddings in envelopes and arrive dying or dead – and who wants to sart their married life by opening an envelope full of dead butterflies? Choose cruelty-free decorations such as candles, lanterns, fairy lights and pot plants – beautiful extras that don’t harm animals.
Mind what you throw
Throw lavender seeds instead of plastic confetti, which takes years to break down and clean up. Additionally, throwing seeds may look too “earthy” from the outside, but some plant species are invasive and choke out local species. Visit an herbalist or florist with knowledge of local plants to make a collection of seeds friendly to the area and the birds and bees.
Select eco-conscious invitations
Once you have the important features in place, consider the little details — such as eco-conscious wedding invitations. You can send e-invites or find a vendor that creates invitations on recycled paper — Botanical Paperworks uses seed paper to grow something in place of what goes to waste, and the paper is made from recyclable materials. People can plant the invitation. Some vendors also plant a tree for a particular number of invitations they send out.
From creating an eco-friendly registry to selecting eco-conscious invitations, you can plan a wedding that honors and respects both the environment and your union.
Vote for us as Best Vegan Magazine in the VegFest UK 2018 Awards!
Photos by Demetrius Washington, Alekon Pictures, Gift Habeshaw and Charisse Kenion via Unsplash