Pope Benedict XVI said, “Purchasing is always a moral—and not simply economic—act.” As an newly engaged couple, you and your fiancé have a unique opportunity to many options for including service to others in the material preparations for your wedding and marriage.
The purchases you make for your wedding and reception reflect your values. From your dress to the flowers, there is a person behind each product. And just like you, they have a story to share. These creators' stories become part of yours. So, consider choosing ethically made, fair trade, vintage and local sources to carry out your commitment to service in your celebration.
Here, five ways to incorporate ethically made and eco-friendly products into your wedding and reception:
Jewelry: vintage, fair trade and conflict free
Vintage rings are great for those who love stories from the past. When you buy a vintage ring—or, if you’re lucky—have one handed down to you, you preserve past memories and prevent the ring from being tossed out or forgotten. If you prefer a new engagement ring or wedding bands, consider purchasing rings that are certified fair trade and conflict free. Either way, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re not unintentionally funding child labor or violent conflict—and you’ll be helping to protect the environment from pollution caused by conventional mining practices.
Wedding gowns: vintage, fair trade, and repurposing
Like vintage rings, vintage gowns are a great eco-friendly option. You can have fun searching for just the right gown that reflects your style or pays homage to a particular era. I personally love the style of Grace Kelly’s iconic gown and was thrilled to see that Kate Middleton, now the duchess of Cambridge, chose a similar style when she got married.
Fair trade wedding dresses are growing in popularity. Handmade by artisans in developing countries who are paid fair wages, these dresses are crafted in safe conditions that also respect the environment.
After the wedding, it might be hard to imagine parting ways with your beloved gown, so consider these ethical alternatives to preserve it: upcycle your dress into christening gowns, or donate it to an organization that provides for brides who might not be able to afford a new (or even a used) gown. Which brings me to my last idea: you can sell your dress to a consignment shop to be loved by another bride.
Bridesmaid dresses: fair trade
We all want our closest friends—our sisters—to feel confident, comfortable and beautiful in their bridesmaid dresses. My friends have always been so thoughtful when choosing dresses, and I’m grateful for the time and energy they put in to choosing a dress that would flatter me and work for my budget. Fair trade bridesmaid dresses are becoming easier to find and, just like fair trade wedding gowns, are handmade by artisans in developing countries who earn fair wages. And their prices are very comparable—and sometimes less—than similar bridesmaid dresses.
Flowers: local, seasonal and fair trade
I’ve always enjoyed seeing seasonal flowers at weddings: sunflowers in late summer, daffodils in early spring, or flowers not native to my Maryland home when I’m attending a wedding out of state. Local farms and florists will let you know which blooms are native to your region and will be available during your wedding month. By choosing native flowers that are in season, you support your local economy.
Fair trade flowers are another option worth considering. Although they may be shipped from overseas, fair trade flowers can set your arrangements apart. They are produced by workers who earn fair wages, and come from farms that use sustainable practices.
Gifts: fair trade registries and donations
You can include fair trade options on your gift registry, too. From kitchenware to other home essentials, fair trade products add special meaning to gift giving. And if there’s nothing you really need or want, consider giving guests the option of donating to you and your future spouse’s favorite charity, instead. As someone who never knows what to get as a gift, the option for a donation is always welcome, and it gives me a glimpse into my family and friends’ particular hearts for service.
I hope you find these tips helpful as you prepare for your wedding. You truly have an opportunity to be a witness to your guests on your wedding day, and the products you choose to use can be a powerful way of showing your commitment to service and responsibility.
About the Author: Erin Mackey is a young professional who strives to live out her faith by seeking a simple, sustainable and conscious lifestyle. She loves discovering new ethical companies that are changing the world and believes business can be a force for good. She currently serves on the Ethical Trade team at Catholic Relief Services and in her free time enjoys tea dates, exercise and listening to podcasts. Erin has contributed to The Catholic Woman and appeared on The Catholic Feminist and Leah Darrow's Do Something Beautiful podcasts.