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How to: An Ethical Wedding

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

Claire Bemister photography muscat dress rock the frock alternative ethical wedding inspiration

So, when I was preparing for my own wedding I started thinking - how could we do this more ethically?

The very nature of a wedding being a one day event, and in many cases an extravaganza of guests and details and expense means that inevitably there are waste issues, or worries about whether certain things are "worth it." So, how can we do things more ethically? What should we look for in an ethical supplier? How do we do the very best that we can do?

So, with these questions in mind, I gathered a group of wonderfully lovely and totally ethical suppliers together, and we challenged ourselves to put together a 100% ethical shoot, with a bit of a twist. If you're looking for an inspiration shoot with white walls and a light and airy vibe, this is not the shoot for you. If you're intrigued by a dark and moody set-up, or just want to see some alternative takes on wedding day styling (particularly one which involves things hanging from ceilings), keep scrolling!

Whether you want anything from an industrial wedding or a Mad Hatter vibe, through to boho maximalism, it's all completely possible.

Hair and Makeup: Why not look into how your hair and makeup products are made? Toni of Toni Searle Beauty is an absolutely amazing lady who ushers in all things vegan and cruelty free - if you want to know that your makeup and hair styling products are as ethical as possible, then she is THE lady to go to (plus she's pretty damn talented too and so easy to chat to - pretty important when you have someone so close to your personal space on such a big day!). She also runs makeup consultations and lessons if you want to apply your own on the day, or stock up on a few extras with no guilt attached. For this shoot, she gave us relaxed boho hairstyle vibes with a defined eye and natural lip.

Floristry: Why not go foraging, or select only seasonal plants to lessen your environmental impact, and cost? Jacqueline, from Kelmsley Catering & Events used exclusively home grown and foraged flowers and foliage in the bouquets, hairpiece and flower crown that you'll see below (and you can even eat the entirety of the flower crown and coordinating bouquet - it's totally edible!). Just thinking differently about what you might put in a bouquet might not only save you money, but it can also really help your flowers to stand out, and work with the season you're in. Some of the less expected "ingredients" in this set are scarlet kale and blackberries - mmm, delicious!

The Dress: Ok, ok. You care about the world, but actually you want to know you're going to look incredible and just knock it out of the park when it comes to your dress, right? Like, you only get to do it once, so you don't want to compromise. Well, the great news is that to be ethical you don't have to waddle down the aisle in a hessian sack! Oh no - there are a huge range of phenomenal indy designers out there who not only create the most stunning and varied designs, but they're comfortable to wear (some of the dresses below even have pockets!) and can be customised to be exactly as you want them by the designers themselves. Plus, you'll have an outfit that is a complete expression of YOU whilst also feeling bridal, and you'll be supporting small independent businesses - whether that's the designer or the boutique stockist as well. These dresses are by Muscat and were kindly supplied by Rock the Frock. If you visit Rock the Frock, not only will you find a team that is totally dedicated to you being you, but you'll also find exclusive designs, cool dresses/separates/jumpsuits and accessories, and a whole lot of love. The dresses are handmade, with ethical sources for the fabrics and are drop-dead gorgeous. Could you ask for more?

eclectic alternative industrial wedding inspiration muscat wedding dress rock the frock bridal clairebemisterphotography
Industrial Props courtesy of Perry Hill Antiques, Dress by Muscat courtesy of Rock The Frock

Food: If you get to choose your own catering, there are so many ways to go about doing this, but have you ever considered using it as a way to support small, local independent businesses? And I don't just mean by using a small, local caterer. "Whadda ya mean then?" Well, what about an emphasis on the food itself being ethical? "Huh?" Well, there's the obvious option of vegetarian/vegan menus, but what if you stretched to locally grown or made ingredients? This could come from locally made cheese (like here we used "Organic Brighton Blue" cheese from local suppliers High Weald Dairy and cheese from the organic supplier Godminster Farm), a local butcher who uses local farms (for the carnivores amongst you), or even wine and bubbly from a local vineyard (the wines  here were from Bluebell Vineyard and we opted for an English Sparkling Wine as a delicious alternative to Champagne). Jacqueline from Kelmsley Catering & Events elegantly prepared a range of vegan and vegetarian canapés and desserts for this shoot, complete with homegrown edible flowers.

Props and Styling: Buying is expensive and feels wasteful, hiring is pricey too. Sometimes it feels like the props are all for similar themes. But what if there was an alternative? What about finding all your props or seeking out some styling inspiration from your local house clearance, charity shop or car boot sale?You might even find somewhere fascinating like Perry Hill Antiques (which coincidentally is where we chose to shoot)! David essentially owns a rabbit warren of an Aladdin's cave full to bursting with undiscovered treasures. Whether you're looking for bathtubs for beers, trunks for cards, endless bottles and ladders and watering cans for decoration, or something more unusual like a vintage hanger for your dress, or picture frames, or trays, or cutlery, or rugs, or door panels... he's got it! Everything, and I mean everything, is pre-loved, and is an absolute bargain. It might need a little extra love to help it blossom, but David is always keen to hear about your plans and can even help you track down something if you have something particular in mind. Every single prop in the different staging sets below was sourced on the day in the shop, so there's something for every theme or style you could imagine. So, if you want to reduce landfill, recycle or reuse things you can find at home, in your recycling bin or here at Perry Hill, and then possibly even sell on or donate once you're finished with them! And if you can save money too, well I think that's a pretty good bonus.

edible flowers ethical wedding inspiration homegrown alternative Claire Bemister photography
Vanilla Panacotta with Salted Caramel Sauce, Fresh Berries, Popcorn and Homegrown Edible Flowers, by Kelmsley Catering

Photography: So I guess that leaves me. How on earth can you select an ethical photographer? Well, my approach to this is to not only use my own ethical suppliers (my products are handmade by small businesses, and use ethical and sustainable sources for their materials), but to give my services and time back to the local community several times a year, and to never push a service or product onto a client - this is why I offer two very simple packages, but also hourly rates and individually priced products - people end up with exactly what they want, and that means less waste, and happier people. And that's what makes my heart sing, to see my couples happy!

You might have your own suggestions for ways to make a wedding more ethical. Could you give plants as favours rather than sweets with plastic wrappers? Could you use recycled paper for your invites, or do your invites online? Could you select an ecological wedding venue? What about confetti choices - recycled biodegradable paper or dried petals? Let us know what you did or would love to do in the comments below!

So, if you think you're ready to see a truly alternative and ethical shoot that thinks outside of the usual wedding box... Here we go!


Kelmsley Catering and Events

Rock The Frock


Toni Searle Beauty

Claire Bemister Photography

Perry Hill Antiques


Emily Argrave

Siobhan O'Reilly

If you'd like to see more from me, you can see more on the blog here, or find me on Facebook, Instagram, o if you'd like to chat about what I can do for you, you'll find the contact form here. I look forward to chatting with you!

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