My mom didn’t know what an ethical wedding was.
Sure, she was supportive of me starting the platform 4 years ago and very on-board about the do-good part of it, but she was unclear what an ethical wedding could look and feel like.
Maybe you can relate.
Your people, whether it’s your parents, your friends, or even your partner, support you but perhaps they have yet to catch the vision of what you’re trying to do with your socially impactful and eco-conscious wedding.
Let me give you the BTS of how Barry and I planned our wedding in two-ish sections: expectations vs. reality (a nod to one of my favorite movies 500 Days of Summer) followed by the framework we used to plan our wedding, so you can see how my mom went from not knowing what an ethical wedding was to exclaiming, “this is the best wedding I have ever been to”.
Expectations vs. Reality
I would enjoy a small wedding
Reality: Yes, but we had to work for it.
In Priya Parker’s Art Of Gathering she shares, “we often choose the template and activities before we are clear of the purpose”. This couldn’t be more true of many weddings I’ve attended where traditions are accomplished more than thought through. Barry and I took time to define a clear purpose for our wedding (a process you’ll see later on in this post) which was, “to publicly declare and celebrate our union in a way that honors God, each other, and our families”. We knew that something more intimate was more honoring of our story and our personalities. Also, having fewer guests reduced our carbon footprint and allowed us to have more of a budget wiggle room.
However, an immediate-family-only wedding took some finessing with my parents since they have a high value on community (they are more focused on social than social impact ☺️) i.e. it would be ideal to host at a wedding every auntie, cousin-cousin, and co-worker (which I totally get to because I do love a rager of a dance floor).
But we learned that if we led with heart and invited all our family to have an integral part in our wedding, they would feel honored too. We had grandma be the ring bearer, our siblings help us with the Filipino traditions of the veil and cord, and during dinner, in lieu of best man/maid of honor/father of the bride speech, we invited all our guests to take the microphone. We chose the theme of beginnings and had everyone share a story in line with the theme. We heard stories of first meetings, raising young children, and first aha-moments as married couples. The personal touches around the table unified our families and were deeply satisfying.
Also, a creative way we still included our broader community who we couldn’t invite to the wedding was by having an online hub where they could give us a wedding blessing. We snagged the URL withpraiseandbarry.com and invited our community to send us 30-second video clips as a virtual guestbook ending with the phrase “we are with you Praise & Barry”. They also had an option to donate to three of our favorite causes/non-profits.
Takeaway: Check in with yourself and your partner to discover what’s important to you. Honor your story, be unafraid to break traditions, and know there is always a solution.
I could easily source things ethically
Reality: Online marketplaces have made ethical sourcing of goods more common yet it could be better. For example, I was able to source about 80 reusable, battery-operated candles second-hand from another bride off of Facebook Marketplace BUT I had to drive about 30 miles to pick them up. And because I couldn’t find any more locally available second-hand, I bought about 40 more lightly used candles from Amazon Warehouse. The pro was that I was also able to easily re-sell the candles just a couple weeks after our wedding.
Another example was buying my shoes. I bought some lightly used Zara heels from a woman in Socal on the resell platform Depop. When I didn’t receive a shipping notification a week before my wedding, I grew nervous that the heels wouldn’t come on time (the drawback of buying from an individual who doesn’t sell full time and probably has a busy life) so I bought the same pair new from Zara just in case. Thankfully, my used shoes arrived on time and I was able to return the new ones unused. BUT the energy and resources for the backup new pair to be delivered to me and returned…I’m not proud of it.
And lastly, we wanted a practical wedding gift to our guests that could also add to the decor. Because we had an outside wedding in San Francisco, layers were necessary so blankets became a good option that we knew our guests (and even us!) would use after the occasion. I googled, checked blogs, and asked a number of my friends for recommendations for ethically sourced and created blankets. I received a number of good options but eventually went with fair-trade, handcrafted blankets from West Elm. While I do wish I could’ve supported a smaller brand and was connected more directly to the artisans who made them, West Elm has had a very good reputation of their work chains, especially with their fair-trade label. I’m also grateful that the color palette went well with our foggy evening.
Takeaway: Buying things ethically whether it’s second-hand or handmade can be time-consuming and inconvenient. However, keeping exisiting things in circulation decreases the global demand for new. Also, platforms like Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, Depop, etc – don’t sleep on them. They got some good goods there. Real talk though: I wanted specific second-hand wedding websites like Wedding Recycle (we’ve even considered doing a listing platform like this on here) to work better but there’s not enough traffic on those sites so availability of goods and of buyers is low.
working with vendors would be all delegation
Reality: it was both delegation and collaboration. We enjoyed working with our vendors (they were some of our favorite guests!) It was part of our values to hire local, minority-owned businesses as much as possible.
Here’s who we hired & loved:
- Bride’s Wardrobe: @shellyxudesign
- Chef: @saldevidagourmet via @lacocinasf
- Coordination: @daldevents_Alicia
- Earrings: @sinta_co
- Food: @samovartea, @picapicarepakitchen, delancey street restaurant, @rtrotisserie
- Florals: @diosablooms
- Hair: Selenia Perez
- Headpieces: @dareanddazzle
- Makeup: @janesasimmons
- Officiant: @deniseleeyohn
- Photos: @cheersbabephoto
- Rentals: @brighteventrentals
- Rings: @emigrannis
- Shoes: second hand zara on @depop
- Suit: grooms own
- Tie: @otaa
- Venue: @meetatmaru
- Video: @Fritz_paper_scissors
Some cool notes:
Our rings: Emi took a ring we inherited from Barry’s grandmother (it was given to her for her 25th wedding anniversary) and modernized it for our engagement ring and both of our weddings bands!) Heirloom pieces are a great way to use resources that are already available AND that come with a story.
Bride’s outfit: Shelly Xu took my vision of honoring my Filipino culture by designing my pieces as a modern take on a Flipiniana (peep the raised shoulder cap and sheerness of the cape) and designed it with her zero-waste fashion methods (for example when she hemmed my pants, she used that material to make my top longer). Also, her innovative design will be featured in an upcoming museum exhibit featuring the past 150 years of American fashion history. More details to come on that. But in the meantime YO GURL IS FREAKIN’ OUT ahhhhhh.
Another thing when we hired vendors or purchased items was to ask ourselves if we could reuse them in our lives after the wedding day. I’m pretty stoked to be able to use some of my wedding outfit in other styles. For example, I paired my pants with this rad Fame & Partners vest dress. Fame & Partners is another brand I’m a fan of because they reduce textile waste by creating made-to-order pieces. I was able to request this piece made for my height and with pockets (needed for dog treats, haha). Also, on warmer days I can rock this buttoned as a dress. Yassssssssss to a capsule closet!
For our ceremony floral pieces, the sisters at Diosa Blooms used in-season flowers and flourished them with additional cuttings from my friend’s backyard where the wedding was hosted. This use of existing greenery both reduced waste and had an integrative effect that made the whole backyard garden a cohesive space.
Takeaway: hire well, cast vision and then trust that your vendors will be in their skilled sweet spot. Also, tip well. Feed well. (This is more from being a wedding vendor myself for over a decade haha)
I would feel somewhat numb or apathetic about our wedding since I have worked, attended, and been in the wedding party of over a hundred weddings
Reality: THE FEELS ARE REAL
From engagement to wedding was two months (we booked some vendors before we were officially engaged) and in that time we spent over 6 weeks traveling. While we were away from home, I was making phone calls, signing contracts, and filling out spreadsheets. I did have moments where I knew we were purchasing and making decisions according to our shared values and eco-ethical values…but my fear then became “what if it’s not cute?!”
Barry could sense my frustration and anxiety.
By sense, I mean I was probably crying and in like, not a cute way.
Since we were traveling, we couldn’t immediately go to the rental showroom to tangibly feel and see our reception layout.
Instead, we took some time to mentally remove barriers and simply dream.
If there were no limitations (space, availability, finances, etc.), what would you want our wedding dinner to look like?
This gave us both a chance to talk about what visual and tactile pieces evoke an air of “special” and “celebratory” to us.
Simply hearing my partner dream and having my partner dream with me quieted a lot of the freakout.
It was almost like having a check-up wedding business meeting in the middle of our planning.
Some of that dreaming we were able to make real some and the rest wasn’t realized. But the space to imagine was enough.
Plus time is special.
As the wedding day got closer and more details were finalized I became more settled.
I had an intuitive sense that it was going to be wonderful.
Another feels was after the ceremony. Barry and I did a dance exit and as we walked out the gate, I excitedly jumped into his arms and he swung me around. WE MARRIED NOW BOO! Marriage. It was here. It’s fantastic and wonderful.
Takeaway: have self-compassion. Even if you’re a pro, you most likely will only plan your own wedding once. Expect the unexpected.
A framework for planning an ethical wedding to launch you into a mindful marriage
Before getting engaged:
- Why are you coming together as a couple?
- How will with world benefit because you get together?
- What are your shared values?
Use these answers to create a joint purpose statement as a couple. Mine and Barry’s is, “To join with God in creating a just and gentle world while honoring our limitations by nurturing spaces of belonging and inspiration with excellence, gratitude, and humor.”
After getting engaged:
Now that you have a clear mission as a couple, your wedding should align with it. But make this fun. Set aside a date night and go to a special place to have a wedding business meeting to clarify your wedding purpose statement.
- Do we need a wedding?
- Who is this wedding for?
- What is the purpose of our wedding?
- What values do we want to express through our wedding?
- Dream big. How do we want to feel at the end of the wedding?
The values and feelings we wanted to express at our wedding were: honoring, intimate, aligned, low mai (the hip way to say maintenance haha), and special.
Using these values, we created our wedding mission statement: “To publicly declare & celebrate our union in a way that honors God, each other, and our families.”
BTW, the ordering and prioritizing was very intentional.
- How much money do you want to invest?
- How many people do you want to invite?
- When is the ideal timing?
- What should we hire out?
- What would we enjoy doing ourselves?
For us, we didn’t want to spend more than $10,000 on the wedding day itself and no more than $25,000 on what we call the marriage merger, haha. We knew we only wanted to invite immediate family. And as for hiring, I knew I wanted to collaborate with talented professionals as much as possible. 10/10 always have a wedding coordinator.
After your wedding:
Have a recap wedding business meeting (we did this over brunch – yas fried potatoes).
- What were your favorite parts of your wedding day?
- What did you wish were different?
- What and who are you grateful for?
- Did you meet your logistic goals?
- What did you learn about each other?
Before and Throughout Your Marriage
The expanded vision of ethical weddings is not only to empower people with ideas to use the wedding day to do good but for that mindful momentum to bleed into every day doing good. How can your marriage also be just as conscious, mindful, and purpose-driven to do good?
Here are resources Barry and I used that give me such hope and confidence:
- 101 Questions to Ask Before Engaged
- 131 Necessary Conversations Before Marriage
- Prepare & Enrich 8-ish-weeks pre-marital counseling
- 7 Principles For Making A Marriage Work (Gottman)
- A commitment to work on our marriage in a regular rhythm. Weekly (having a regular prayer time over the schedules of our week and also a weekly date night), monthly (we do check-ins of how we are doing in terms of our values such as feelings of rest, purpose, community, etc.) , and annually (come with us to A Vision For Marriage marriage retreat in April 2022 peeps!!)
Some of my wedding industry hopes:
- Ethical quality choices become more readily available and easy (some of our vendors aren’t exclusively marketing themselves as sustainable or ethical but they are interested or already operate a bit on these principles. BTW if you’re a vendor reading this, take our course to give you all the 411 on how to become an eco-ethical wedding vendor: The Good Green)
- Couples take time to pause and ask themselves what the purpose of their wedding is and that there would be alignment check-ins
- The intentionality would continue beyond the wedding into the marriage
After we came back from our honeymoon, my mom called me and was gushing over how special the wedding was. She could sense the care that was put into it, feel the intention in what we wanted our guests to experience, and appreciate the customized atmosphere it created. “I know you’ve talked about what you do before but I now know what an ethical wedding is.”
I hope this read gives you a deeper sense of what an ethical wedding could look and feel like.
I cheer you on as you plan the rockin’ celebration of your union. It can be deep. It can be sustainable. It can be impactful. And it can be much much fun too.