Friday, 22 February 2008

Honeymoons and cycle rickshaws

On the theme of low CO2 weddings that involve cycle rickshaws, I came across a great picture on of a couple being whisked off on a none-flying honeymoon (destination unspecified) by a very smartly dressed cyclist... promotes alternatives to flying and you can use it to sign up to a pledge not to fly, which has 2 different levels - no flying at all ('Gold') and no recreational flying, for those who might not be able to get out of it for work ('silver'). Somewhere further down this blog I've already talked about our plans for a honeymoon in Morocco, travelling by train, but I've got to put in a quick plug for Venice, since it's such a romantic destination and flying there is just madness... there is no way to arrive in Venice that beats the sleeper from Paris, pulling in across the lagoon in the morning after dawn rising as you approach through the countryside of Northern Italy...

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

The dress!

Haha! In a stroke of ridiculous good luck, I've managed to prove the point that an ethical wedding needn't be an expensive one. Indeed, it's just gotten very, very affordable in at least one respect. Totally by chance, I've found my dress, and it cost a tenner in a second-hand shop on Oldham St in Manchester...
I was never really a candidate for traditional white. Firstly, I'm surprised enough to find myself getting married in the first place, and envisaging myself in the full white works is just further than my imagination can stretch. Secondly, I really don't look that good in white. Thirdly, it would be mildly fraudulent...
I'm not inherently opposed to white wedding dresses. My mate Liz (interviewed below), had a gorgeous one that fit her kind of classic, 50s style fantastically. But at five foot nothing and a half, I need to be careful with styles that might make me look even shorter than I am (especially when Overgrown Antipodean is six foot four and we already look like we're from different species and will have the daftest wedding photos anyway). So any of your frothy white numbers would be out, since they do tend to make people my height look like a snowdrift. And so many meringues are just reallt quite horrible - especially, however, the 80s-style peach satin one I walked past in, I think, Bride Be Lovely a few weeks back.
There are, of course, some great ethical wedding dress makers nowadays, especially Conscious Elegance,, which does a range of classic wedding gowns, made to measure from environmentally sound fabrics. Or there are places like Oxfam, which sells wedding dresses for charity - a bit hit or miss, as they're dependent on donations, but there was an absolutely gorgeous antique one on their website recently for a ridiculously reasonable price (go to the website, click on 'shop' and then search the 'women's' section). Or ethical designer companies like Enamore or Ciel do lovely frocks for a less traditional look.
So, without risking Bad Luck (this whole wedding thing has made me bizarrely superstitious), we have a lovely little fitted dress, simple cut, in a kind of patterned satiny finish and a warm goldish shade that is very forgiving on my fair-to-washed-out sort of complexion. It's the kind of thing that will look classy for the day but I can still dance in it in the evening, and it will make a great party frock thereafter.
And all for a tenner...

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Grub's up

Well, Operation Wedding has commenced in earnest now. I've been happily toodling along in 'I'm getting married next year, that's ages away' mode. Now I'm in 'Ohmigod I'm getting married in September, and now it's February, I'd better actually organise something!' mode. And it's amazing how early stuff gets booked up...
So, with some of the registry office, legalistic bits on the go, I've at least now got my caterers booked, and am somewhere close to a venue. The caterers, though, I'm pretty pleased with. OA and I decided pretty early on that we want a vegetarian meal, as although we're not the world's strictest veggies we're certainly not too happy about the idea of spending money on meat for our guests when it's something that for various resource-use and cruelty reasons we're not comfortable with in an industrialised society (for more info on the resource impacts of producing meat on a large scale, including pollution and contributions to climate change, see
Green Plate, a small Manchester catering company, fit the bill very nicely. They're not exclusively vegetarian, so if we decide that asking my 90-odd year old Gran to eat something that's not only vegetarian but probably North African/Mediterranean in style, when she's never even eaten a curry before, might be too much, then we can still ask for a small ham salad. They're aware of issues like local sourcing and organics, but also of price, which means that if we've got room in the budget we can ask them to include more organic and fair trade food, whilst knowing that even if we have to keep the budget tight they'll be looking out for this kind of thing. And they're based only a mile or two away and run a cafe in a local health centre, which means that feel like they're on our turf. Which is nice.
Now I'm really looking forward to getting those menus...

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Burma's rubies

The scandal over 'blood diamonds' and the link between diamond mining and trading and bloody wars in Africa, including those where young children are used as cannon fodder, provoked at least some reaction from the international community. The Kimberley Process may be an inadequate response, and some of the biggest suppliers of diamonds to the world market may still be finding ways to get round ethical standards, but at least people are starting to know that they need to ask questions about where gems are from.
Human Rights Watch now also has a good backgrounder on rubies, the majority of which come from the famously repressive regime of Burma. Some big name companies have already stated that they won't use Burmese rubies. More information from Human Rights Watch's website at

Friday, 1 February 2008

Interview #2: Liz O'Neill

Liz O'Neill is head of communications at the Vegetarian Society. She and husband Joe, a teacher, were married in July 2002.

“Our desire to have an ethical wedding started with the fact that I was vegetarian and Joe is a strict vegan,” says Liz, “so we wanted to have good food that met with our ethical beliefs. And then it just made sense to approach other parts of the wedding so that it reflected how we felt about the world.

“Out guests covered a really wide spread of ages and interests, from some who very much agreed with us politically and socially to others who didn't really know about our beliefs. But afterwards, lots of people said it was a really good wedding in that it totally reflected who we are as people and as a couple, instead of just being like everybody else's wedding days.”

As well as sourcing almost entirely vegan food from a small vegetarian restaurant in Chorlton, Manchester, Liz applied environmental and fair trade ideas to the rest of the wedding.

“One of the hardest things was the flowers. I went into so many florists and was just met with blanks stares or even one place which laughed at me when I asked about local or fair trade flowers – I think awareness of the issues has increased loads since then, but a lot of places just didn't have a clue five or six years ago. Lots of people assumed that because I wanted things to be ethical I was looking for a hippy look, when actually we wanted something quite classic – modern and urban, but very smart too. People kept offering me grasses!

“But eventually I found a place in Buxton where the woman was interested in helping to source them, and she did a great job – she even dropped them off herself on the way to visit her mum!”

Another issue that Joe and Liz felt strongly about was waste. “I'm always upset by all of those little table decorations and favours and things you get at weddings, which mostly must end up in the bin,” says Liz.

One of Liz's solutions was to ask friends and several local restaurants to save the cobalt-blue bottles that companies like Ty Nant sell mineral water in, and Neal's Yard toiletries are packaged in. They were used to make striking vases for fresh flowers on each table at the reception. Liz made many of the table decorations herself, using ribbons and materials from craft shops.

Joe is also a very keen cyclist, so the couple had a cycle rickshaw to carry them from the church to their reception.

Liz's dress came from a small boutique and was made by a European designer, while Joe had a suit made at a local tailor in Nottingham, where he was living at the time. “Neither place was particularly super-ethical,” says Liz, “but they were the kind of independent local businesses that we felt it was important to support, and they provided us with just what we wanted.”

And following a Roman Catholic church service, Liz and Joe's reception was held at a local community centre. “We really enjoyed, and felt strongly about, celebrating our wedding somewhere that was local to us and where we were part of a community, rather than going somewhere in another part of the country where we didn't have any connections. It was a very affordable venue, too – in the end we were able to provide all the drinks as well as food, outfits, flowers, venue etc for less than £10,000.”

Liz's main recommendation is just to take each stage of the wedding planning process as it comes, and then to think about what the alternatives might be. “If you just view it as lots of single jobs and find a way of doing each one of them as you want it, it suddenly seems much more manageable,” she says.

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