How to have an ethical wedding

Early on we realised we both felt uncomfortable spending a lot of money on one day (plus James was still a student), so we were working with a modest budget. We are by no means experts on this subject, but here are the ethical wedding ideas that we came up with.

The ring

James: For some girls the ring is the most important thing; the size, the shine, the price. Luckily for me, I knew Chloe would be most concerned with where the ring had come from. A lot of diamonds you can buy are conflict diamonds; diamonds sold to finance warlords and armies. I started researching ethical diamonds, but it became quickly clear that ethically-sourced diamonds came with a price tag that was way out of a student’s budget!

There were two options; to buy second hand, or to buy a man-made diamond replica. I opted for the latter, and chose a moissanite stone who also make bands out of recycled silver (one gold wedding ring produces 20 tonnes of waste!) Moissanite rings look similar to diamonds and are guaranteed to never dull with time. Other diamond alternatives worth looking at are asha, cubic zirconia, sapphires, emeralds and rubies (which were tempting just so I could feel like Sonic the Hedgehog).

Chloe: My Mum says you shouldn’t have different metals next to each other, so I went for recycled silver again, this time from a shop on Etsy. There are loads of options out there, including making your own or Fairtrade gold which is now available. James even considered a wooden ring.

The dress

Chloe: The problem I quickly found with dress shopping and bridesmaids’ dress shopping is that you don’t go in the same shops you’re used to shopping in, so you have to start researching ethical practices all over again. A designer I spoke to told me that any dress you buy from any wedding shop in the country will be made abroad, most likely in China. You can get a dress designed and made for you in England using Fairtrade material, but that wasn’t within our price range, and wasn’t an option time-wise as it could take six months or longer. However wedding dress designers seem to have tighter ethical policies than your average fast-fashion company, and being made-to-measure means they have to put quality over speed and quantity which is good news. My dress is from Alfred Angelo and the company is very transparent about their manufacturing process. If you don’t mind something second-hand, Oxfam has a wide range of ex-catwalk and pre-owned dresses, and even some specialist wedding stores.

The suit

James: If you’ve looked in to Fairtrade men’s clothes before you’ll know your options are limited, and are even more so for suits. Getting a suit custom-made was going to be too expensive, so I decided to stick to high-street retailers who I had more faith in ethically. Ideally, I wanted my suit to be Fairtrade, but having had some contact with Next in regards to their ethical policy before, they appear to be one of the high-street retailers trying to do the most to improve workers conditions.


Chloe: As with James’ suit, you can get nice dresses from high-street retailers that would work for bridesmaids (and be a lot cheaper too!). However this can be tricky considering high-street shops get certain trends in later on in the year, so if you’re planning a summer wedding you might not have time to wait and see if they get the dresses you want. My bridesmaids and I turned to Etsy and found a dress we liked on there. While Etsy does not audit or approve third party manufactures they do set high standards they expect businesses to follow. This includes no child labour, no involuntary labour, humane working conditions, non-discrimination and sustainability. Alternately, if you don’t want your bridesmaid dresses to match, you can give each of your bridesmaids a colour swatch and tell them to hunt down a dress in charity shops.

Our top tips:

  • Use recycled materials to make your save the dates and invitations.
  • Use a venue that stock Fairtrade tea and coffee.
  • Make sure your wedding cake is made with Fairtrade ingredients.
  • Get friends and family to help make bunting and decorations (Pinterest is great for inspiration).
  • Put eco-friendly items on your wedding list.
  • Instead of wedding favours, why not donate what you would have spent to charity?

Have you planned an ethical wedding before? What tips do you have?

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