Monday, 7 January 2008

Interview with Rebecca & Hugo Whately

Here is the first of my interview posts - conversations with people who've had green or ethical weddings and who have ideas and tips for those of use still in the planning phases!

Rebecca and Hugo Whately

We decided to get married about 18 months before the wedding and we really struggled about how to do it. We didn't know how we wanted to get married – we knew we didn't want to get married in a church and we were quite put off by a lot of things that we traditional about the traditional wedding and wedding industry, so it took us about 6 months of thinking about how to do it – whether we wanted a big wedding and lots of people.

And one of our concerns about having a big wedding was the environmental impact of having that many people travel and huge amounts of food. Coincidentally, Hugo found Daphne and Penrhos on the internet, and my family already knew about Penrhos, so it seemed an ideal place for us to get married. We met Daphne and really liked her and we really like the kind of thing she did at Penrhos [Penrhos is a converted mediaeval manor farm in the Welsh Borders, with a pioneering organic restaurant and interests local food. They offer a full range of wedding facilities and help with planning green weddings.]

For both of us food is really important, we're both really appreciate good food but also food that's sourced locally and organically and seasonally, which Daphne does.

So that was a brilliant start really, and once we'd decided to have it at Penrhos we pretty much just trusted Daphne, because I didn't have any clear ideas the way some people do of how I wanted it to be, so we trusted her to sort it out. I didn't have an image in my head of some huge day – my partner Hugo actually did more organisation than I did, I'm usually really put off by big events and that meant that I wasn't the middle of organising it all so I could actually be quite calm and had an amazing day.

So Daphne sorted out a lot of it, like the food, and it was really nice because everyone could stay at Penrhos – we had about a hundred people with all our families and Daphne was really flexible and sorted it out with the local farmer so that people who weren't staying in the building could camp in one of his fields next door, which was great.

She was really brilliant at really taking on as much as we wanted her to take on but being flexible on things like having lots of our friends camping in the field next door.

We also made the invitations ourselves and wrote them out.

Ethical dresses, suits and rings?

For the clothing it was really amazing, once of my friends offered to make my dress. The material wasn't sourced really environmentally, I suppose – it came from a fabric shop on the Edgeware Road in London, and my friend over the year made my dress with the added challenge that over the year it had to change shape because during the year I became pregnant so the design needed to be changed for that.

And Hugo had a pair of linen trousers from years ago and he got a waistcoat and shirt from Green Fibres.

The rings – Daphne did a printout of things like local bands and local jewellers and flowers and we used that a lot – so actually we used a local jeweller in Worcestershire, we went for a weekend with him up there and made our own rings and he was this incredible character and had this incredible studio in the countryside which looked over the countryside, and he was there to make sure there weren't any disasters and to make sure we ended up with a ring each! And he sourced the white gold for us in the jewellery quarter in Birmingham.

Weddings lists

We ummed and aaahed about the idea of a wedding list. We didn't particularly like the idea of a wedding list and the over-consumption of the whole wedding industry and the wastefulness of it in some ways and going with the usual rituals just for the sake of it, so we tried to be a bit... [Hugo in background – 'spending for spending's sake'] so in the end we had a wedding list with Green Fibres and got some bedding from there, and then there's a little traditional shop round the corner from us which is run by a couple and does kitchenware and garden things, and they were great, so it was just those two things.

Local flowers

And then flowers- a friend of Daphne's tries to do flowers in a more ethical, local way and grows a lot in her garden and grows wild flowers and herbs and we didn't get any of the flowers from abroad, it was all flowers grown locally. and a friend of mine made my bouquet from her garden.


It cost less than £10,000 for a hundred people and that included paying for people to stay the night at Penrhos and for people to camp, and we paid for all the drinks in the evening, and that included everyone staying overnight in the building or camping and then having a big breakfast the next day together. It was really lovely – having been someone who was quite phobic of big parties and bringing all these different people together it actually turned out to be a really incredible day.

Mum and Dad made the wedding cake and Hugo's brothers did the music – basically Daphne did everything we wanted her to and then we could add things on like that.

And the food was incredible – I think people sometimes have the idea that if it's going to be organic food it's going to be a bit bleurgh, but it was really beautifully cooked and delicious.


I think it's quite good at each step to think about how to do it and thinking about whether there's an alternative way. So we didn't really sit down and plan it but because we were engaged well before we got married we had plenty of time to think about it, so we could do the invitations and you can easily do those yourself, and thinking about everything from flowers to wedding lists. Particularly now it's not so difficult, there are lots of people who offer alternative services and also i think people who are coming to the wedding like friends and family, we didn't want to be really sanctimonious about it, not everyone agrees with us completely, so it was about having a really incredible day without trying to push a particular political or ethical stance, but at the same time it just had that feel to it.

Hugo: we wanted to get married but we didn't like weddings!

A lot of people find finding the venue difficult, so finding a venue where everything was like that was great and they could organise so much of it and then we could just do the bits we wanted – that was perfect. People who usually go to church weddings said they were surprised by how moving the ceremony could be without being in a church – we passed the rings round, we got married inside this tiny little room and then went outside and passed the rings round to everyone held them and it kind of included everyone in the ceremony.


And then we went for our honeymoon on an eco-retreat in Wales, in this incredibly luxurious blissful teepee with a fire and lots of rugs, outside Machynlleth, four miles down a dirt track.

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