Sustainability – your wedding needn’t cost the earth

Most of us are only too aware that our world’s resources are limited, and we want to live in a way that doesn’t do more damage. But how do we do that? Particularly when it comes to weddings, it’s so easy to get sucked into the commercial wedding market! Stepping outside consumer society, however, can be a radical reclaiming of our core values.

Here are a few pointers as to how you might create a sustainable and meaningful ceremony that helps to build community, and may also be an act of love toward the earth.

Please remember that there is no set way to have a wedding.  There is plenty of “tradition”, but really that tradition is being created and adapted all the time (sometimes with a big push from the world of marketing) – so why not create your own? How can your wedding be the change you would like to see in the world?

When we change
our daily lives
– the way we think, speak and act –
we change the world.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Our own wedding

In the weeks leading up to our wedding in 2012, my partner Jane invited a group of crafty friends to join her in making willow and tissue paper lanterns, paper roses (from re-used old maps and music), and crocheted and knitted flowers. They had Tuesday evening crafting sessions and deep friendships were made in addition to beautiful lanterns. Another friend even built a tissue paper and withy boat!

Our son, Callum, (then aged 12) decided he would like to make the wedding cake – with some support from an older friend and two of his friends. In the end it had four layers plus a vegan and gluten-free side cake, and indoor fireworks on the top!

Callum lights fireworks on the wedding cake
Callum lights the cake

We had a team of people who volunteered to decorate the hall – with ivy gathered from a friend’s wood, and flowers from ours and local friends’ gardens. Friends lent tablecloths and fairy lights, and we re-used ribbons from a local community event. Entertainment was ceilidh style, with everyone invited to contribute turns: a song, a speech, a story, a dance.

Friends and family members are often only too happy to help make your wedding a special event. You can offer them opportunities to play a part in preparations, which builds community and helps us to see the rich mix of gifts we can share with each other. It helps promote a more circular economy and builds confidence in our ability to live more sustainably.

Pot-luck feast

We invited guests to bring a dish for a pot-luck feast and a marvellous spread magically appeared! This has also worked really well at other friends’ weddings, with delightfully varied dishes featuring home grown fruit and veg. Recipes are swapped and people love to see the dishes they have created being enjoyed by others. An alternative approach might be to support a local catering business that uses local and organic foods.

Wedding food, including a cake with firework, and decorations behind
Potluck feast

We asked family members who enjoy photography to take photos, and found clothes we wanted to wear in charity and vintage clothes shops. Instead of material gifts we asked those who wanted to contribute to a fund to help us have a nice holiday in Scotland. Other friends have asked for contributions to Trees for Life or other tree planting initiatives.

Do it yourselves

In addition to saving you money and promoting sustainability, a do-it-yourself approach helps you see and feel that you are truly loved. It really is the best gift! We felt held within the embrace of our wider community of friends and family, and I really treasure the opportunity to help create that holding for others.

If you want this to be the legal marriage ceremony, you will need to involve a celebrant (such as a OneSpirit Interfaith Minister) who is authorised to do that. But for everything else, you pretty much have a blank slate. It can be very helpful to have a celebrant to hold the ceremonial space and say the words you’ve chosen, while you focus on feeling the love and enjoying the day. I’m really happy to work with you in whatever way you want.

If you choose to work with me, I’ll strongly recommend you write your own vows/commitments/promises. It’s so much more personal and meaningful than a pre-written formula, however traditional, and there really aren’t any set words you have to say. Make this the time when you tell your partner, from your heart, and out loud (in public – gulp!), what your relationship really means.

Mix it up!

You might also want to jump out of the traditional roles. I’m so glad that some of the traditional roles around gender and sexuality that seemed so fixed when I was growing up are much more fluid these days. Of course it’s not all plain sailing, but we do have much more freedom to express ourselves in these dimensions. This is maybe one thing that’s easier if you are a same-sex couple: you don’t have traditional bride and groom roles, and you have a certain freedom to play with and subvert these stereotypes.

In a mixed-sex partnership, it can be easy to slip into more traditional (patriarchal, heteronormative) gender roles, which might not actually be an expression of your relationship. You know the things: the bride’s father “gives her away”, the man makes a speech on behalf of the woman, the man can’t wear a lovely white gown (a tartan kilt seems to be OK). I invite you to mix it up, throw out the tired old stuff and do it your own way!

Ceilidh dancing

Some Dos and Don’ts


  • Let go of perfection! It’s less stressful that way.
  • Practise DIY.
  • Invite your guests to contribute: food, skills, music, decorating, …
  • Build community – include a space for guests to make their own commitments.
  • Focus on what’s special and meaningful to you and you partner.
  • Focus on the – hopefully full of joy – life together that’s to come, not on this one day.
  • Research traditions from your own culture that are meaningful to you and you partner.
  • It’s fine to borrow elements from other traditions, but please do that respectfully and with acknowledgement.
  • Think about choosing a venue that is accessible by public transport.


  • Travel long distances (you or your guests) – think of the carbon footprint.
  • Do you really need to fly to Scotland for that romantic elopement?
  • Don’t do anything just because it’s “expected” – surprise yourselves and your guests.
  • Don’t use exotic air-imported flowers. Ask your florist what’s locally grown and in season.
  • Don’t release balloons or sky lanterns. They can look lovely, but the pollution is lasting and they’re a threat to animals.
  • Avoid single-use plastics.
  • Don’t forget that this is a day for celebrating love, joy and connection!
Elizabeth builds the boat, with help from Hobbes the cat
A beautiful pea-green boat…