Planning a wedding down to the nitty gritty details can be an overwhelming affair, but, for many couples, this love-affirming day offers the opportunity to set the tone for their lives together. Brides and grooms who want to give back now have more opportunity than ever to choose from vendors and services that speak to their sustainable, humanitarian, charitable sensibilities. From rings to flowers to favors, couples can choose to incorporate any or all of these elements to transform the glow from their special day into better lives for others.
Wedding and engagement rings are chosen to be a lifelong symbol of your love and commitment, but sourcing and mining their materials has been linked to less-than-romantic industry practices. Aide-mémoire’s eco-friendly, conflict-free, and made-to-order rings are crafted using recycled precious metals with styles ranging from timeless and classic, to funkier and more modern. Each month the studio spreads the love by making contributions to organizations including The Hunger Project, Human Rights Campaign, and Ethical Metalsmiths.
Other craftspersons we love: Andrea Bonelli for her rustic hand carved wedding bands (and her donations to Kiva and The Toolbox Initiative), Ken & Dana Design’s vintage-inspired engagement rings made with recycled metal bands and conflict-free diamonds, and Bario Neal for their creative and classic designs, and their commitment to sourcing every material ethically (from the smallest pave stone to their fairmined metals).
Dresses That Clothe Others
Celia Grace dresses are handmade and fair trade…and they are seriously gorgeous, with each style being named after an inspiring woman (Mother Teresa, Ada Lovelace, and Joni Mitchell are among the honored). For each dress sold, a school uniform is donated to a child in need in Cambodia. Additionally, Celia Grace continues to work on reducing its environmental footprint, choosing heirloom silks and natural fiber fabrics, and creating styles (like the Marie and the Florence) that can easily be reused for other occasions.
Other options: scour vintage stores or update a dress that has been passed down in your family.
Sourcing local flowers when you live in a rural area might seem like a no-brainer, but urban florists across the country are showing that it’s possible to go local too, and to help support a healthier and greener environment in the process. In Philadelphia, flower farm and design studio Love ‘n Fresh Flowers offers breathtaking full service and prix fixe options, as well as the possibility for florist wannabe brides to purchase flowers in bulk for DIY centerpieces. All the buds and blooms come from Love ‘n Fresh’s organically-managed urban farm. Pistil & Stamen in New Orleans grows the flowers for their bouquets in urban NOLA gardens then mixes them with native berries, herbs, and greenery to create bold and memorable arrangements in every season.
Although flowers are a favorite wedding focal point, once the festivities are over, they are often forgotten and tossed. Repeat Roses does all the legwork for refashioning and repurposing florals into a mood-boosting bouquet. Partnering with local non-profits including hospitals, nursing homes, and women’s shelters, Repeat Roses also arranges for leftover greenery and unusable blooms to be composted. Random Acts of Flowers also accepts floral donations and repurposes them into bouquets for those struggling with illness or injury.
Local, sustainable, environmentally-minded, farm-to-table: a decade or so ago, these might have seemed like tall requests for wedding caterers, but there are many more options available than ever before. Choose a caterer that’s committed to using seasonal ingredients, preferably sourced from close by and using small purveyors, has a composting and recycling plan, focuses on veggie-forward meals, and can adapt to your eco-minded whims. One shining example: Purslane, a NYC caterer that sources sustainable food and beverages from from New York and New Jersey, partners with an organization to donate leftovers to local homeless shelters and soup kitchens, and whose facilities are powered by 100 percent renewable energy.
Gifting your favorite ladies with some bling is a time-honored custom, so why not present them with jewelry that also honors a long-standing cultural tradition and form of livelihood. Rings, necklaces, and bracelets from 31 Bits’ metals collection help provide job opportunities for artisans in Indonesia who have spent years learning their craft. The company, which also supports artisans in Uganda with their original collection of handmade paper bead jewelry, is committed to maintaining fair wages, a family-like and safe working environment, and offers the availability for its workers to have microfinancing and mentorship opportunities.
Cutesy, IG-able favors are hard to resist, but choosing an intentional favor could provide a positive ripple effect that lasts well beyond your day in the sun. A duo of red and white fair trade candles from Ten Thousand Villages is a sweet gift that will have your guests remembering the warmth and light of your day. To satisfy your guests’ sweet tooth, purchase individually wrapped cookies, bars, or brownies from Feed Your Soul Bakery; the company donates a cookie to the The Coalition for the Homeless with every order placed. Or forgo favors altogether and offer your guests a chance to decide where you and your spouse make a charitable donation in their honor. Using tokens and glass jars, guests can “vote” for which organization to give or how the donation will be distributed.
A Thoughtful Registry
Choosing items that are artisan-made by people getting paid fairly and working in a safe and supportive environment is a great way to honor and elevate your daily lives. Online green stores like The Ultimate Green Store and VivaTerra have easy-to-navigate registries. Have all the basics covered already? Think about registering at The Good Beginning: you can choose a charitable organization or two from a substantial list (with categories including healthcare, environment, or animal welfare) and create a simple, straightforward website so your guests can easily make a donation in your honor.