In order to write this blog I have had to read extracts from bridal magazines, and that has been quite painful. Even when I was planning my own big day I found the excessive consumerism on display a bit nauseating. Animated cakes? A wedding video shot to movie-level standards (a snap at £5000)? Apparently this year’s top trends are personalisation, metallics and abundant florals. I was mostly concerned with not getting my sleeves in the soup or coming out of the toilet with my dress tucked into my knickers!
With so much to think of, is it any surprise that Brides magazine estimated that the average cost of a UK wedding in 2015 was £24,000? That is a lot of money to spend on one day, however important that day is. So perhaps we need to be working harder at making ethical choices of how to spend that money.
Lets start with the engagement ring. Well everyone knows that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. But it is less well known that more than a million diamond diggers in Africa endure dangerous and unfair working conditions. Many diggers earn less than $1 a day, which is not enough to feed their families or live in dignity. The diamond mining regions of West Africa remain among the poorest in their respective countries, despite their extraordinary natural resources. At the moment there is no certification system for Fairtrade diamonds, but there are standards in the early stages of development. But for now, at the very least you can ensure that you have a “conflict free” diamond. Conflict diamonds are diamonds illegally traded to fund conflict in war-torn areas, but here is now a certification process in place (the Kimberley Process) that is working to eradicate this trade.
And how about the wedding ring? Are you aware of Fairtrade gold? This is a standard that was introduced in 2011 to offer a lifeline to poor and exploited small-scale miners around the world, but while Fairtrade foods are now a mainstream option, not many people know Fairtrade gold exists. The Fairtrade Foundation have been raising awareness with their ‘I do’ campaign. They estimate that if 50,000 couples chose Fairtrade-certified gold wedding rings, £650,000 could be generated to help the poorest mining communities in the world transform their lives, health and working conditions.
And now for possibly the most important purchase – the dress!!! Many wedding dresses are made from polyester, which is petroleum based. Also beading and sequins work is often done using child labour. Could you choose Fairtrade cotton? Or perhaps Cambodian handwoven silk, which is a traditional industry that is starting to be revived after nearly being wiped out under the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s? Some designers also work using Fairtrade principles.
Or how about a vintage or upcycled dress? Oxfam now has 11 specialist bridal departments across the UK, as well as an online bridal shop.
So you have the rings and the dress, what about the venue? There has been an increasing trend for ethical and green wedding locations. One local example for us is our good friends at the Ceridwen Centre who run Welsh Green Weddings on their organic farm. The whole site is driven by eco principles – they grow a lot of the produce they cater with, all heating is biomass or solar thermal and power is solar PV. The guests can even be transported by my husband’s gorgeous gypsy cob Bonnie. She is much nicer than a fancy limo!
And last but not least, those all important wedding gifts. Have you ever considered a Fairtrade wedding list? At Fair and Fabulous we have a wide range of gifts, homewares and soft furnishings to help you out!