Nothing starts a blog post off right like a bunch of big words and a nice alliteration, am I right?
Now, we all know that if weddings are famous for anything…it’s being expensive as hell. Seriously. I’m trying to cut ALL the financial corners with this shindig and it’s still more money than I’ve probably spent on anything in my entire life, combined (except maybe take-out).
But let’s think about it for a second: if a marriage serves a function in society (otherwise, why would be do it?)…then weddings must, also. It’s not like a wedding is a requirement for marriage (newsflash), or that there is a correlation between fancy ass weddings and happy marriages (let’s hope).
The truth is, we want our weddings to say things about us. We want people who attend, or stalk after the fact on FB and insta, to learn things about us – or perceive us in certain ways, at least – based on the choices we make for our “big day”. And people have been doing it this way for decades and decades (so leave the millennials alone, y’all, it’s baby boomers and gen-y parents who are seeking status and glory from these shindigs, too). Truth is, weddings have practically always been a way to show how fancy-shmancy a family is, among other things. However, what’s most frustrating for me is seeing women (especially smart, strong, wonderful women like the ones I know and love) devolve from cool chicks with cool partners that they can’t wait to spend the rest of their lives with…into weird Disney nightmares who all of a sudden can only carry on a conversation about designer wedding dresses and spending $6,000 on custom (monogrammed, obvi) hand towels for the reception venue bathroom. Yikes.
So what to do, then? This week’s #feministfriday wedding edition is about conspicuous consumption with a purpose. There are so many huge companies out there that profit BIG TIME off the multi-billion dollar wedding industry, but there are also so many women, families, and local purveyors that would love a little of your wedding cash (even less of it than the big corps, perhaps!) Even if you want a white dress, floral nirvana, champagne flowing for days kind of function, you can use your wedding as a time to put your money where your mouth is.
Your wedding should make a statement! But it should be a statement about you, your relationship and your values, not proof that you are the most up-to-date with spring wedding trends and the Pantone Color of the Year (fyi: it’s Marsala. I don’t know what that is, but I’m pretty confident that I drank it once). Dollars are the best way we have as consumers nowadays to cast a vote, be heard, and make an impact. So why not spend those dollars in the ways that will maximize the impact, long after our nuptials are over?
Below are a few of my favorite ways to conspicuously consume while a) actually being true to who you are and your values as a couple; b) maybe bring a little economic stimulus to those who could really use it; and c) not ask too much of the planet or create too large of a giant pile of unusuable crap when you’re done getting wed.
And, it’s important to remember: if you want your conspicuous wedding consumption to say something more about you and what matters to you, you should find ways to do that that are specific to you and your partners needs, passions and values.
Here you have it, folks: my own personal suggestions for a socially conscious wedding that does some good for others while still making your guests think, “DAMN what a cool couple”.
Venues and Vendors:
When it comes to venue, there’s a lot to think about and it is perhaps the most personal and complicated way to take a stand with your money.
Finding a space that uses your money in a way that’s inline with your values has a lot to do with specifics. What do you and your partner talk about that makes you the most angry in the news or look for in politicians? If you care about climate change, you want to look at places that make an effort not to overuse energy and have legitimate and sustainable water and energy practices. If labor equality and workers’ rights get your blood boiling, you want to host your wedding somewhere where the workers are unionized, perhaps. If you go with a catch-all venue (that includes catering and perhaps other amenities), these can be amplified – where is the food coming from? If supporting local food production matters to you, it may be a challenge to find a place that does large-scale catering and can keep it local.
You have even less control of where your money is going, but it’s not hard to find out if a venue is inline with your practices: just ask! Finding a venue that hits all the things that you want can be a challenge. For our part, we didn’t have any friends with a really sweet backyard we could use, nor did I want to deal with the tent/tables/chairs/rentals drama (laziest bride ever, it’s true), so went with a 100% family-owned and operated resort for our wedding, so we could ask those questions and get answers about the things that were most important to us.
Fashion and Jewelry:
As a bride, it can be hard to reconcile your big wedding dress dreams with thinking about where it comes from. Luckily, there are burgeoning resources for fair trade dresses (made by people who are paid and treated fairly) AND dresses made with planet-loving fabrics. Men’s fashion and bridesmaids dresses can be a challenge, too.
Here are a couple of my favorite spots for fashion that looks good and does good:
Bridesmaid dresses and fashion for men can be tough. Many of the companies above (especially Celia Grace) offer men’s accessories (ties, etc.) in eco-friendly fabrics made using the same fair trade principles. For bridesmaid dresses, it depends on the aesthetic you’re going for. There are many local purveyors and really cool companies that make all kinds of funky dresses for all your bridal party needs, though they may not have the traditional looking styles you may be hoping for.
- Global Mamas (bonus: many of my cool social science-y and well traveled friends have actually purchased Global Mamas items from their shops in Africa!)
- Ash and Light
- People Tree
Often, when it comes to fashion, it’s best to pick a color or vibe and let your ‘maids select what they want to wear, anyway (additionally, I am incredibly creeped out by the idea of being surrounded by a bunch of women wearing the exact same thing – did you know bridesmaids originally dressed the same to confuse evil spirits who wanted to mess with the bride on her wedding day? See? Creepy.)
As far as jewelry goes, it’s getting so easy to find really cool handmade wedding rings and rings made out of sustainable, but very cool, materials (aka: conflict-free stones. It’s so incredibly easy to avoid that nowadays, and I strongly recommend to everyone who seeks big sparkly diamonds that they get them from a place they trust, that has a strong reputation, and can assure beyond a shadow of a doubt that they only source stones that are conflict free). Some handmade ring vendors I’m o b s e s s i n g over right now as Marshall and I pick wedding rings (eeek) are:
- Staghead Designs (though the antler designs freak me out a bit, all the other wood/metal/turquoise designs are amazing, custom-made and reasonably priced)
- These fingerprint rings from Brent & Jess are seriously cool…
- Barbara Michelle Jacobs
- Also tons of (less expensive) finds on Etsy
There are a disgusting amount of DIY, low-cost, environmentally friendly decoration options. I can’t begin to compile a list of all of them here, but a few things to think about:
- Flowers are just about the saddest part of a wedding to me. They are so, so beautiful, but they basically sacrifice themselves for your wedding. Plus, it can be one of the most expensive parts, so you’re literally going to spend THOUSANDS on something that will wilt and die basically DURING you’re wedding. Weird. So, try to source local flowers from local purveyors so you can boost the local economy, get flowers that grow naturally there anyway. Additionally, One World Flowers offers all certified fair trade flowers that you can order in all different styles and quantities for your floral soiree. Bonus: a lot of the proceeds from their flowers go to relief efforts in Haiti and all around the world. Another great find is Ritzy Rose, who use vintage finds to create REALLY cool accessories, bouquets, boutonnieres, basically anything you’d traditionally use flowers for. So dope.
- Stationery is another tricky one, but luckily “big business” has caught up there pretty quickly. Companies like Minted and Wedding Paper Divas use recycled materials for their invites and support independent artists for all their designs. There are about a gazillion small stationery shops on the web, too, and of course, Etsy! Or, be extra cool and send out all your info electronically, with a Paperless Post or more personalized, super-cool video.
- Other than that, upcycle, borrow, antique, and upcycle some more. Find cool pieces that you can turn into your own. Have your friends drink lots of wine for you and save the bottles. Pinterest to your hearts content and get crafty. It’s cheaper and it’s much better for the planet.
Alright, for now, that’s all I got for ya. I’m a firm believer in thinking about where my money’s going all the time: both for my own spending habits, and because spending money is one of the biggest ways we can flex our muscles in a capitalist-driven society. M and I are still navigating all these options and choices and figuring out how to have an ethical wedding that represents us and our values, but these are some great (and still fun and beautiful) places to start. Got more ideas? Let me know! I still have a lot of work to do myself…