The big day is getting close! You’ve got most of the things checked off your list and just a handful of the fun details remain – a final dress fitting, choosing the donut flavors that will look best on your donut wall, and buying thank you gifts for your mom & dad, MIL & FIL, and (most importantly!) your bridal party.
If your wedding planning has been anything like mine, your girl gang’s devotion to you and constant willingness to help throughout this process has been your saving grace. So, it’s only normal that you want to get each of them something to say thank you. But what?
You want to get them something nice, but not just something nice. Something they will love and cherish, just like you love and cherish each other. You want it to be something useful, beautiful, and of course it must reflect your ethical values.
So, what’s a girl to do? To keep your brain-racking to a minimum and let you get back to the celebrating, I’ve put together a list of our nine favorite ethical gift ideas for your most cherished gals. In no particular order.
1. Make a donation to a charity in their honor. Think about what each of your ‘maids cares about and make a personalized donation to a charity organization with the same goals. Is your maid of honor a vegan? Think about a donation to a sustainable agriculture non-profit or to an animal rights advocacy group. Is your sister-in-law passionate about the environment? Consider donating to Greenpeace or the Sierra Club. The donation isn’t about the amount, but about the fact that what’s important to her is also important to you, and that you know her well enough to make her issues your priority.
2. Treat your friends to an (organic) spa day! I don’t know about you, but I am so happy that organic spas are finally becoming more mainstream. The days of sticking your feet in a bath of toxic chemicals pre-pedicure are over! Do a bit of research and show your friends you care by treating them to a toxin-free facial, or a super relaxing herbal massage. Nothing says ‘I love you’ more than a couple of hours of relaxation away from reality. Not sure where to find an organic spa? A quick google search is likely to turn up multiple options in your area.
3. Did you meet your future husband while traveling or living in another place? Think about gifting a local artisan product from that place. When I asked my friends what the most meaningful gifts they’d received as bridesmaids were, one mentioned receiving fabric from Kenya from a friend who married a Kenyan man. Another mentioned a set of hand-woven baskets from Southeast Asia that came from a lucky friend who met her husband while taking a year off to travel. This type of gift is easier for ladies whose partner is from a country or culture different from their own, but even if your own story isn’t so exotic a local artisan product from the place you met your partner can never be taken for granted.
4. Jewelry. If you’re artistic, experiment with making a personalized piece of jewelry for each of your bridesmaids based on what you know they like. Not artistic? Check out Au | Rate for gorgeous handmade pieces or look on Etsy to see what small designers are selling. Just make sure to read the fine print. Opt for recycled metals and recycled, vintage or raw cut jewels when you can. Can’t decide on one piece for everyone? Don’t worry about it, just focus on finding something you feel confident each will like! Worried they won’t go together at the wedding? No problem! Just because you buy jewelry doesn’t mean it must be worn at your wedding. Focus on finding something for the everyday, rather than a gift they feel forced to wear on your special day. They’ll probably appreciate you more for that!
5. A pair of super luxe pajamas. Is there actually anything better than a nice set of silk pajamas? Take the personal style (cut, color, etc.) of each of your girls into account before you purchase to have a better chance of success. Again, they don’t all have to match. This shouldn’t be about matching photos for your wedding day, but a gift that is truly about what each girl likes. Check out brands that give back, like Brook There, Azura Bay or Pact for comfy styles made from natural and organic fibers.
Oh, and about those matching robes? It’s cool if you want them for your pictures, but don’t confuse the items you need to complete all your wedding photo dreams with gifts they will appreciate. Play it safe – buy the robes you want them to wear in addition to the pj’s you know they’ll love.
6. A plant! Isn’t everyone aspiring to home jungles these days? (Or just me?) If you have a plant that can be easily propagated, consider planting some cuttings for your gals. You can find gorgeous handmade pots in local ceramics studios, or unique planters secondhand in the thrift store. Whatever your budget, the planter options are endless, and a plant is a gift that can be appreciated for years to come. Don’t have a green thumb? Consider a low maintenance option like a succulent or a cactus. You can purchase them from your local garden or hardware store and replant them in planters that represent each of your friends’ personal styles. Check out some creative ideas for planters on Pinterest or Etsy.
7. Did you get personalized linens made for your wedding? If so, cleaned and pressed post-wedding, a set of these makes a perfect keepsake (and is a subtle nudge toward a more sustainable lifestyle!) Even if you didn’t opt for personalized or monogrammed linens for your big day, a personalized set of napkins for your bridesmaids is a wonderful gift. Look for sets that are made from natural dyes and natural fibers. I’ve been seriously crushing on the collection from Bayith…
8. A mixed swag bag of awesome waste reducing products. Because, let’s be real, who isn’t trying to live more sustainably these days? Start with a reusable tote of your choosing (remember to opt for bags made out of natural fibers like cotton, linen or hemp). Consider including a Swell water bottle and/or a Keepcup reusable coffee mug. Both of these brands allow you to personalize colors and sizes, so you can really find the perfect gift! Once you have your basics, any (or all) of the following plastic-free ideas will round out the bag of goodies: a bamboo toothbrush from Brush with Bamboo, a metal straw, a set of reusable silverware in a personalized wrap (sew it yourself or browse Dot & Army), and/or a mason jar filled with each girls’ favorite (bulk) snacks. This bag sounds basic but it is literally my dream, and my go-to gift whenever I’m out of more creative ideas!
9. Still unsure? If nothing feels right, just take an afternoon and write really nice cards to each bridesmaid. Tell each one how much you appreciate her and love her. No gift is more meaningful than a gift of words. Choose a card you think your friend will appreciate or design some of your own stationary on recycled or seed-based paper.
Anna Pollock is co-founder of Field & Gown, Executive Producer of the documentary film Disposable Addiction, and a public health professional. An environmentalista to the core, she lives a zero waste lifestyle and brings those principles to the core of the business. Field & Gown is a sustainable wedding and event decor company based in the Washington DC area.