This ethical weddings movement is not only about inspiring soon-to-be-wed couples, but also about educating those in the industry how to push the socially-impactful, eco-friendly wedding movement.
So heyyyyyyy my wedding vendor friends <3
Want to give back to the world with your art/business/side-hustle but unsure how? I tapped one of the greatest movers & shakers in this movement to give you the 411: ethical wedding champion/colorful, off-beat wedding photographer Sandra Chile. Sandra has been championing ethical weddings for years. I’ve been inspired by one of her previous models in giving back. I can’t look up to her enough!
Welcome to the school of Sandra and our How to Become An Ethical Wedding Vendor Part 2 (check out Part One here if you’re new!)
Eco this, fair trade that, sustainable this, carbon neutral that; and today the ethical trend has reached our industry, weddings.
Yes, ethical weddings.
If you are in a developed country (Canada, USA, Australia, UK, or any other country in Europe) getting married is a culture. You may not have acknowledged this, but there is an entire subculture surrounding weddings. Rings, parties, dresses, behavior patterns, lingo, and a lot of traditions, fancy and big is always best.
In other cultures/places, instead, getting married is a privilege for those who can afford it.
MY DEFINITION OF AN ETHICAL WEDDING:
I like to define it as :
“The conscious decision of walking into marriage with an attitude of gratitude, giving a little something back as a response to that privilege, while keeping in mind others, and the planet.”
HOW IS MY BUSINESS ETHICAL?
Since the mentality of caring about others, the planet, and the implications of my consumer power are important to me, I have shaped my business to be ethical and to keep that in the center of my business plan. I am loud and clear about what I want to achieve, and I am intentional in every aspect of my business so I can attract those who feel the same way I do.
Some of the things I have established are:
- I only sell eco-friendly printed items.
- I source things that are made by countries where labor laws are in place to protect the workers.
- I offer discounts and products in exchange to donations to charity, and I openly encourage couples to walk into the planning journey together in purpose.
However, I have learned that not everybody is naturally inclined to embrace this lifestyle nor is everybody intuitively empathetic, and it’s okay, but I want to encourage you to embrace ethical weddings from the perspective of a business person:
STATISTICS: WHO IS GETTING MARRIED?
There are wedding vendors who are more interested in making money than I am, and colleagues who are more interested in the business side of things. For someone like me, the moral benefits involved in being a humanitarian are enough to motivate me to pursue the ethical approach, but if you are not like that, then we need to dig into your clients: the generation getting married.
Megan and Cody, Married in September 2017, and decided to make a donation to charity instead of having favors.
HOW DO MILLENNIALS CONSUME?
Media has all kinds of names and stereotypes to refer to millennials. They call them lazy, entitled, narcissistic, and they have given them the worst reputation for all the wrong reasons, however, a study by Pew Research Center, shows that helping others in need ranked amongst millennials top 3 priorities, even before having high pay or owning a house.
In another study done in 2014 by the research agency Achieve, determined that an incredible 84% of millennials reported to have made a charitable donation.
*Roughly seven-in-ten Millennials (69%) say they recycle paper.
More than a half (53%) buy green products.
And a third of them (36%) buy organic food
Millennials might be stereotyped as entitled and narcissistic, but they are passionately concerned for others, and they are deeply engaged in any form of activism that can produce societal change.
If you are a wedding vendor, you need to be aware that your potential clients have a kind heart, have a powerful voice of concern, and are determined to change the world.
In summary, people will be more inclined to hire you if you are giving them an opportunity to be philanthropic.
HOW TO MAKE THE SWITCH:
FROM (JUST) BUSINESS TO ETHICAL BUSINESS
This is the number one question I get.
A lot of my friends want to give their businesses a charitable or more humanitarian approach, but they don’t know how to begin, so I have gathered 3 simple tips to turn your business around:
My business is not what I do, it is how I do it.
My mission is the signature of my work and attracts the people I want to work with, laid back individuals who are passionate about the things that truly matter in life.
— Who do you want to work with?
First: Be loud.
If you are donating a portion of your profit to charity, communicate this upfront and in the most loud way to your potential clients, be repetitive so the public can associate your work with your philanthropic mission.
This shoe company founded in 2006 revolutionized everything with their product, but even more with their marketing strategy which was centered around their mission: We donate 1 pair of shoes for every pair purchased.
Up to that moment, they were the only manufacturers of the traditional argentinian shoe called “Alpargata” in the United States, that alone could have been their slogan, but instead, they put their philanthropic mission at the center of their strategy, and it worked. Suddenly everyone was wearing Toms and we made this, for profit company, one of the most successful ventures in the country, who has sold over 100 million pairs of shoes, only by making their mission their biggest statement.
Second: Be precise.
When you have a humanitarian heart, it is easy to want to help everyone.
To make your contribution as effective as possible, it is best to pre define the areas you want to impact within a time frame.
During the first year of my business, I had requests for all kinds of different causes, and since I had not taken a step to define who I wanted to contribute to, I ended up emotionally defeated, physically exhausted, and financially frustrated.
That year alone I photographed the most diverse array of things for free. From military funerals, to wine tastings to benefit rabbits. And I donated money to people who never even thanked me for it, let alone sent a receipt.
With the years, I have learned about the importance of setting your own rules, that way if someone requests help who doesn’t align with your business, you can decline them on solid ground, or if on the other hand, it is something your business deeply cares about, you know your answer will be a yes.
Third: Separate your personality from the personality of your business.
This one has relation with your branding beyond the graphic assets.
When we talk about the personality of your brand, we are not talking about you. You are a different entity than your business, and you may contribute to different causes with your business than with your personal life.
For example, If you go to church (any) and you give money to the offering, it is not your business that is putting the money in the basket, it is you. The same way, your business doesn’t have to give to organizations that don’t resonate with your business.
Defining this will not only help you during tax season, but it will also help you to strengthen the branding of your business. Having these parameters will shape your marketing strategy and define your social media voice
You will know how to talk about being ethical within the frame of business, if you have set the tone ahead of time. For example, in my personal life, I am deeply committed to animal activism, in regard to their rights, but in my business, I never mention this. Instead, my business is committed to the local community, because I am in the business of people I honor people with my business.
FINALLY, I WANT TO GIVE YOU 3 SIMPLE IDEAS TO TURN YOUR BUSINESS ETHICAL:
1- Give back: The most popular way to be ethical is by becoming a vendor who gives back. You can donate a fixed amount, or a percentage of each sale to one or multiple organizations through the year.
2- Reduce your footprint: Commit to a business with an eco friendly approach by buying less, or producing less waste.
For instance, you can commit to be a plastic free during this year, or print all your needs in recycled paper, or use compostable packaging for all your mailing needs.
3- Buy Local: Support your local community by buying local when possible, or go a stretch further by supporting businesses owned by women, immigrants, or minorities. Or support the national economy by buying items exclusively made in America as opposed to items that come from China (or any other under developed country).
If we apply this last principle to the wedding industry alone, the implications would be huge, not only from the economical perspective but by the ecological aspect, considering the standards of production here are way above standards in some other countries.
Finally, it is important to keep perspective and to remember that the most important thing through the entire process is not how much impact you are producing, but that you are producing an impact(!), and by embracing an ethical approach you are not just creating a campaign, but we are building a movement!
*(Unless otherwise noted, all statistics come from The Millennial Impact Research)
Sandra Villarroel, is an immigrant from Chile, owner of Sandrachile, a photography studio committed to inspiring couples to walk into marriage with purpose.
She offers an entire line of printed products that are sustainable, responsible, and eco – friendly; upgrades in exchange to donations to charity, and most importantly, engages proactively with opportunities to use weddings to impact the community, like delivering leftovers from the wedding to homeless people.
Sandra is based out of Pittsburgh PA, in the northeast of USA, but travels all over the world documenting couples who are willing to embrace their wedding day in a more ethical and intentional way.
During her free time, Sandra can be found spending too much time on Instagram (@sandrachilep), helping others, and having Chilean tea parties (“once”) with strangers at her house.