Kwadwo and I are celebrating three years of marriage. We always start celebrating on Thanksgiving because that’s when we had our rehearsal dinner, the evening before our ceremony. I’m a pretty simple person and naturally gravitated towards an eco minimalist wedding. Why? Because…
- I wanted minimal stress surrounding this special event
- We wanted our wedding to be a collaborative event, bringing together the gifts, talents, and generosity of our community of loved ones
- We also wanted it to represent things we value: sustainability, fair-trade, and simplicity
Although we could have allowed ourselves a larger budget, we’re pretty frugal people and couldn’t imagine spending more than a few thousand dollars. In the US, couples typically spend between $19,984 and $33,306 on their wedding, not including the honeymoon. There’s no way either of us could have justified that kind of cost. Rather than spending a small fortune on a one-day event, why not invest in a downpayment for a home or buy a car outright? Even $3000 seemed extravagant to us.
Here’s a breakdown of the choices we made.
I knew from the beginning I didn’t want a diamond. Diamonds are supposed to be symbols of love, commitment, and unity. But have you heard of blood diamonds? Blood diamonds are diamonds that are fueling brutal civil war in countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, The Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are the diamonds sold nearly everywhere, and conflicts over them have resulted in the murder and displacement of millions of people.
Also, like I said, I’m pretty simple and don’t wear much jewelry to begin with, so I just didn’t think I needed a diamond.
Ethical Wedding Rings
Thankfully, there are a few companies that source ethical diamonds for the socially conscious couple:
- Brilliant Earth sources conflict-free, environmentally responsible diamonds. $1,500-$10,000.
Melissa Joy Manning makes unique rings from ethically sourced, up-cycled and recycled materials. Their designs are earthy and beautiful. $560-$7500.
- James Allen rings are conflict-free and come with a lifetime warranty. $500-$10,000
- Fair Trade Jewellery Co makes fair-trade rings with fair-mined nickel-free gold. They also offer custom rings. $995-$5,495.
- Stone & Strand offers product lifetime warranty. $65 – $6,500
- Aili Jewelry uses both conflict-free and recycled materials. Their signature design is small bands and stones. and $200 – $3,400
- Blue Nile is a popular company that sources conflict-free diamonds. $1,500 – $10,000
Vrai & Oro rings are made in the US and have really simple and eco minimalist wedding ring designs. $125 – $1,040
Catbird uses fair-trade gold. $455 – $6,500
Bario Neal uses ethical materials including fair-trade gold. $2,500 – $10,000
- Isadoras uses only antique and vintage diamonds (even some from the 1800’s). So cool. $575 – $10,000
Trumpet & Horn rings are made from repurposed jewelry and diamonds from the pre-conflict-mining era. $775 – $10,000
- Erica Weiner also sources antique germs and has beautiful vintage designs. $1,000 – $8,000
- VK Designs is a one of several shops of Etsy that uses recycled and ethical materials, including conflict-free diamonds.
- Mia Donna sources conflict-free diamonds. $500-$3000.
Our Rings – Repurposed Gold
Together we envisioned and designed our wedding bands and found a local artisan to make them from our own vintage heirloom gold jewelry. He melted down the meaningful pieces and created two beautiful gold bands out of them. We love the design, that they are made from meaningful materials, and that they supported a local artisan’s work.
We went paperless and chose to send out e-vites through Wedding Woo, our favorite wedding website. This saved us time and money and made practical sense to us. I usually don’t prefer receiving paper mail myself, and rarely ever save invites anyway. We were very happy keeping the invitation, information, and RSVP process online.
Our rehearsal dinner was on Thanksgiving day. We had a big Thanksgiving potluck with family and friends at a dear friend’s home. Our loved ones were eager to contribute to the potluck, and every part of our wedding, with generosity and love.
Dress & Veil
Initially, I really did not want a traditional, extravagant wedding dress. I had a simple and elegant off-white dress that I had purchased at an outdoor market in Peru back in high school that I thought would be perfect. But Kwadwo disagreed. It meant a lot to him that I wear something special. I went back and forth about it and eventually decided that it was worth it to invest (not more than a few hundred!) to make him (and us) happy.
I designed a dress that I thought we would both love and found a seamstress to custom make it. It turned out beautiful and cost a fraction of what it would have at a big retail store. And it supported a small business. I borrowed my veil from a dear friend.
Eco Wedding Dresses
If you can’t find a seamstress, consider one of the following eco-conscious companies:
- Celia-Grace – ethical and fair-trade wedding dresses that support women entrepreneurs.
- Natural Bridals’ Etsy Shop – eco wedding dresses from Atlanta
- Tammam – Vegetarian and cruelty-free dresses from the UK
- Minna – Ethical, handmade, and vintage dresses from the UK
- Deborah Lindquist – Eco conscious wedding gowns from LA
- Nicole Lenzen – Beautiful dresses in traditional silk and lace and organic cotton
There are many more! Just search Google and Etsy for “eco wedding dress”. You could also find a beautiful used-once dress on eBay or from a friend or relative. A friend even found a gorgeous lace wedding dress in perfect condition at a thrift store. Recycling is the best!
Jewelry, Shoes & Makeup
I wore hand-me-down jewelry that my great-grandfather had given my great-grandmother and had been passed down to me. Not only was it a frugal option, but the pieces were vintage, gorgeous, and full of meaning.
You may laugh at this but I wore my canvas ballet shoes under my dress. I’m a dancer and I love those shoes! I was comfortable!
I didn’t wear any makeup because I don’t normally wear makeup and I didn’t see the point in doing it any different on that day. Also, Kwadwo doesn’t prefer makeup. If he did like it, then I would have probably made my own homemade makeup or purchased the Dr. Hauschka’s brand of organic and natural makeup.
Flowers and Decorations
We decorated the chapel with flower arrangements that a friend made. My bouquet and the boutonnieres were also DIY, made by another creative, generous friend.
If we hadn’t married in the Fall (cold) I think we would have definitely had an outdoor ceremony because who needs to decorate already-beautiful nature?
Ethically Sourced, Sustainable Roses
My bouquet and the boutonnieres were white roses and hydrangeas that I purchased from Whole Foods. Whole Foods’ “Whole Trade” flowers are sustainably grown and much less expensive than flower shops or online retailers.
Instead of flower girls we had lantern girls. I loved that this was a way to keep and reuse some “decorations” from our wedding. The two girls walked up with the lanterns and placed one on each side of the chapel’s altar.
We have very talented friends and instead of having bridesmaids and groomsmen, our best friends made up our “wedding party” band and played our favorite music at our wedding.
We initially wanted just a small hors d’oeuvres and cake reception at the chapel where we had our ceremony, but it was really important to some of our family members that we host a full-blow reception. We met somewhere in the middle.
Hors d’oeuvres & Cake
Right after our ceremony we had an hors d’oeuvres and cake reception on the first floor of the chapel. We purchased the hors d’oeuvre platters from the catering section of our local grocery story and had a friend pick them up for us. Another very talented friend of ours made a spectacular and delicious three layer gluten-free cake. Did I mention it was delicious? And I love that it was healthy too – free of refined sugar and grains and mystery ingredients.
The day after our ceremony we hosted a reception lunch for our family at a restaurant nearby our town. One of our biggest values is sustainable agriculture and healthy, whole foods. Everyday we make choices that support these values and our family lunch was no different. We worked with a restaurant that sources organic ingredients from local farms. We were even able to source grass-fed meat from our favorite farmer and support their business. All the food at the family reception was locally sourced and in season (we had a Fall wedding), including the delicious apple crumble and homemade vanilla ice cream.
Photography & Videography
I reached out to a few photographers but after hearing back that they were all booked I decided to ask some of our artistic friends and family to take pictures and video and to manage the audio at our ceremony as well.
We went on a two week honeymoon to Hawaii the Spring after our wedding. The cost of our airline tickets was completely covered by airline miles we had accumulated. We didn’t have to book a hotel because we had the privilege of staying at a relative’s apartment by the water. We indulged in delicious local food and the whole trip cost us just a few hundred dollars. It was amazing.