An abundance of food, the company of friends and family, and the sound of a big Lebanese band in the heart of Melbourne’s historical Newport substation. At first glance, Erin Rhoad’s wedding would appear to be a typical traditional Lebanese celebration. But apart from a few stickers left at the end, the entire event was completely waste-free.
From champagne on tap to a vintage wedding dress, even with over 170 guests, Erin wanted her wedding to reflect the eco-lifestyle she shares with her husband.
“No one suspected that we worked hard to make it sustainable,” Erin said.
“It was never explained on the invites or on the day because we didn't feel the need to tell everyone that our wedding was an eco-event."
In doing so, Erin was able to display how easy it can be to make eco changes such as picking local food, hiring decorations and arranging shared transport.
“We [Erin and her husband] didn’t just pick elements that would please others for the sake of having it look a certain way, only to be thrown away,” she said.
“We made intentional and meaningful choices that left a minimal footprint.”
At the end of the day, the couple even took every last scrap of food waste home to compost before going on their honeymoon, including the forgotten pastry flakes from the baklava.
“We wanted to show people that a mainstream wedding can be an eco-wedding,” Erin said.
“It doesn’t have to be out on a rural property where everything is handmade.”
An environmentally conscious wedding no longer has to be an intimate ceremony in the forest lit with eccentric citronella candles. Wedding planner and founder of Less Stuff More Meaning, Australia’s first ethical wedding directory, Sandra Henri, believes eco-weddings don’t have to be ‘a hippy thing’ at all.
“It can really come in any size, shape or form,” Sandra said.
“It’s about intentionally selecting each element with a more sustainable approach.”
Sandra says the throwaway quality of weddings today can be hugely impactful even if you’re only getting married once.
“There are a lot of implements of a wedding that just are for the one day, like the styling, flowers and invitations,” she said.
“Then it all goes in the bin.”
According to data collected by The World Bank, on average, in just one day a wedding produces the equivalent emissions five people would in an entire year. With the pressure to customise many elements and get the perfect photo opportunity,
'the average wedding costs over $28,000 and produces 400-600Ibs of trash.'
- Huffington Post
Unfortunately what’s actually important to a couple, like love and trust, is often silenced by the lavish decorations and trend-driven elements of a wedding.
Erin believes every aspect of a wedding, from the initial invitations to the final taxis home, can be addressed in a more sustainable way.
“Most people just don’t realise,” she said.
She recommended to mediate on the aspects that are important to you and cut out the extras.
“Remembering the purpose of the wedding helps put into perspective what is ‘needed’ and what is just for show,” Erin said.
She advised anyone looking to minimise waste at their wedding to focus foremostly on food.
“Guests aren’t going to be eating as much as you think,” she said.
“They’re going to be busy talking and drinking.”
She said couples should choose a caterer who selects local produce, cooks with the season and composts leftovers. Additionally, they should avoid throw away items by hiring or borrowing instead.
“Use proper cutlery and napkins,” Erin said.
“It’s not always that much more expensive and makes the reception more fancy.”
Sandra pointed out that people often throw out wedding favours or presents and instead of a physical gift, donations or money can be better received. However, she suggested gifting an eco-friendly item as wedding favours can be a great talking point for guests.
“I’ve got a supplier who supplies reusable straws for wedding favours, rather than those little chocolates,” Sandra said.
“It’s a great introduction to sustainable living.”
While organising a sustainable wedding may seem like an onerous task, Erin says there are ways around doing it all yourself.
“It’s about talking to your vendors,” she said.
“They want you to have a wonderful day so will go above and beyond.”
Ultimately, Erin reiterated that any day can become beautiful with the right touches.
Sandra also stressed that you shouldn’t feel like you have to get it perfect because that will drive you insane. She believes it’s common for most brides to be sucked into the vortex and caught up in the whole show of weddings.
“All of it really is just stuff,” Sandra said.
“The sustainability of your relationship is more important than anything on that one day.”If you’re interested in vowing to make your wedding waste-free or even incorporating some eco-elements into your ceremony, a downloadable e-guide with tools and contacts for creating an eco-wedding is available at lessstuffmoremeaning.org.