The Green Room

I founded the Sustainable Wedding Alliance. AMA

Michelle has been in the weddings and events industry for two decades and over that time she has built up a wealth of knowledge. She has been running her own successful events and wedding agency since 2009 and understands the challenges that companies in the industry face, when thinking about how they can be more sustainable, and reduce their environmental impact.

She founded the Sustainable Wedding Alliance in 2020, with the aim to drive change to create a more sustainable wedding industry. Raising awareness and tackling climate change and attitudes, by proactively encouraging businesses to develop future thinking strategies and make responsible decisions.

“The downtime that the pandemic forced on the wedding and events industry gave me the time and headspace to be able to develop the Alliance. It was clear to me that there was a need for a place where people could come together, learn about how they could make their businesses more sustainable, share their experiences and help each other.”

This is a great opportunity to ask Michelle all of your burning questions on sustainable weddings and find out more about the fantastic work she is doing.

We hope to see you here Tuesday 27th July at 12pm!

You’ll need to sign up to the forum to take part. Once you have signed up, add this event to your calendar by clicking the three dots in the invitation above.

Hi Michelle,
Thanks for doing this AMA! What would you suggest for couples who want sustainable flowers at their wedding?

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Depends on where you are. In Montreal we have fair trade flowers. Or better : seasonnal flowers : 15 fleuristes du Québec où se procurer des fleurs équitables | L’actualité

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Thank you for joining us today Michelle! What are your top tips for people wanting to make their weddings more sustainable?

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Hi Michelle, thanks for hosting this AMA session! Really looking forward to hearing some information on Sustainable Weddings! I have a few questions I would love to ask you today, Can making your wedding more sustainable be a longer process? I would assume that sustainable wedding planning could take longer as a result of it not being as easy to find options for. Do you feel like this is a true statement or would you find sustainable wedding planning more easier?

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Hi Michelle,
Thank for being here today!
I was wondering if there was a sustainable way to provide tableware at a wedding, particularly plastic cutlery? I have seen some people use regular, reusable, plates and cutlery you would normally have at home rather than using paper or plastic ones, however I was wondering if the amount of water used to clean them after and the actual cost of acquiring them is actually more sustainable, especially if there is a large number of guests?

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Hey Michelle!
It’s so exciting to have you here to talk about sustainable weddings.

I just have a couple of questions that I want some input from you:

  • What sort of sustainable wedding favours would you recommend?
  • Does planning and having a sustainable wedding cost more compared to non-sustainable-focused weddings?
  • For those who are thinking of switching some of their things for more sustainable alternatives, what would you recommend they switch to?
  • What part of wedding event planning is more difficult to make sustainable?

Thank you very much Michelle!

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Great question @LegacyTheTeam thanks for asking it.

There are two parts of the jigsaw when it comes to sustainable flowers - how and where the flowers are grown, and how they are put together. If you’re looking to have a sustainable flowers at your wedding you need to consider both.

Seasonal flowers and foliage that is grown locally to the venue combined with a sustainable, or eco florist that doesn’t use any plastic in their arrangements is the best option.

If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend taking at look at Flowers from the Farm. On their website they have a fantastic map that includes all their members across the country, with info about what they do (i.e. event/wedding flowers, seasonal bouquets etc).

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There are so many ways in which couples can make their wedding more sustainable.

My top tip for couples that have already started their planning is to stick with your season. Without doubt it’s the most sustainable way to plan a wedding. Think about your favourite foods, when local produce is in abundance, flowers are looking their best, how much day light there is.

If you’re just starting out on your planning, then choosing a sustainable, environmentally conscious venue is the biggest impact you can have on your wedding carbon footprint.

Michelle

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Thanks for the questions @Laura-Legacy

If you start out planning your wedding in a sustainable way then no, it’s important to start right and think about how sustainable you want your wedding to be and what elements you want to focus on. Do you want to minimise waste, reduce your wedding carbon footprint or maybe serve a plant based menu? Write down criteria and ensure that any suppliers you book align with it.

If you’ve already begun planning your wedding, then going back and looking at the suppliers you’ve booked can take some time, but it’ll be worth it.

You’re right that there aren’t enough suppliers working sustainably, but that is changing and we’re seeing many businesses across the country taking time to develop their sustainability. We work with our member businesses to assess where they are and help them to put in place long term sustainable. They then become accredited. For couples that means they can trust that if a supplier has a Sustainable Wedding Alliance Accreditation, that they’ve been through our assessment process.

Personally I find sustainable wedding planning easier, working with conscious couples that know what they want (and what they don’t) makes the planning process straightforward.

Michelle

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Thanks for your question @Jane

It’s a really interesting one, and depends on the materials used to make them and where they are being hirer/purchased from. I would never recommend single use plastic items particularly cutlery, plates or straws. I would suggest talking to your caterer about the options. The majority will either have tableware in-house, or have a relationship with a local hire company. If you choose a sustainable caterer, as part of their process, they will have spoken to their suppliers about minimising waste and water consumption. You should also think about your menu, as many dishes can be served as finger food eliminating the need for cutlery.

Michelle

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Thanks so much for your response! I’m glad to hear that more and more suppliers are becoming sustainable :slight_smile: Do you find looking for the right venue for your clients a hard process? I understand that no matter what sometimes you just cannot completely abolish means of pollution/waste. I think sometimes the right questions may not be asked so when arriving to the venue, it could possibly be less sustainable than you thought.

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Speaking with your caterer is a great option, especially if they are a sustainable business!
Are there any aspects to a wedding that are overlooked as they initially may not seem to have a huge negative impact on the Earth but in reality poses a relatively large threat and is not very sustainable?

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Hi Michelle,
Do you have any suggestions for making wedding dresses more sustainable?

Thanks!

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Thank you for your questions @KarlaB

What sort of sustainable wedding favours would you recommend?
To be honest, the most sustainable option would be to not have any, however I appreciate that for many couples it’s an important part of their day and a way of thanking their guests. I would suggest sticking with your season and nature - wildflower seeds, honey jars locally harvested, bird seed for feeders etc. You could also combine the favour with a place card, using seeded, plantable paper (ensure the ink used is non-toxic) that guests can take home.

Does planning and having a sustainable wedding cost more compared to non-sustainable-focused weddings?
No, planning a sustainable wedding doesn’t need to be more expensive. As with all weddings, taking time to talk to your suppliers about the detail it key to reducing costs.

For those who are thinking of switching some of their things for more sustainable alternatives, what would you recommend they switch to?
First of all, avoid anything single use - think about the ongoing life of everything you hire/buy for your wedding.
Second I would say think about the food you’re serving and moving to a plant based menu, whether it’s the whole menu or just one course. Having an open, honest conversation with your caterers is key. Talk to them about where they source their produce. The more local they are, the less carbon footprint they have! It’s also a great idea to talk to your caterer about donating surplus meals to a local foodbank or homeless shelter. Just be aware regulations can be strict, so be sure to organise this well in advance so that nothing goes to waste. Check out food collection services such as OLIO, Karma and To Good To Go too.
And thirdly, your flowers - find a florist that doesn’t use floral foam and buys from UK growers, or even better, grows them themselves.

What part of wedding event planning is more difficult to make sustainable?
By far the most difficult element is travel, not necessarily for you but for your guests. It’s unavoidable, your guests are going to need to travel to your wedding, and depending on where your venue is and where they live it might be taking a flight, driving or using public transport. If you have a lot of guests traveling and staying overnight, you could look at hiring a bus (ideally EV or bio fuel) to bring people to and from the venue, or perhaps ask guests to car share. You could also consider offsetting the carbon footprint of your guest’s travel, or asking them if they would be happy to offset their own travel instead of asking for wedding gifts.

Michelle

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If you asked me that question two years ago I would have said yes, but now I’m pleased to say there is growing availability of sustainable venues across the country, and they’re not just all purpose built eco venues. Don’t get me wrong, there needs to be more to meet the growing demand but we are definitely going in the right direction.

Yes, we often speak to couples that thought they were booking an environmentally conscious venues but actually all they do is compost their garden waste. Greenwashing is a problem across the sector (as it is with most), so to help couples we’re in the process of developing a sustainable wedding guide that will include a list of questions that couples can ask venues (and suppliers).

Michelle

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Yes, travel is by far the most overlooked element of a wedding. Couples think it’s something outside of their control but actually, it’s something that they can minimise, whether it’s by choosing a venue local to the majority of guests, or in a town or city with good transport links. I’ve included some suggestions in my previous reply to @KarlaB.

Michelle

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Wedding dresses are one of the worst ‘single use’ offenders at a wedding. We have written two articles on the subject as there is a lot to think about. Have a look at Conscious Couples blog: Wedding Suppliers For Conscious Couples

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That’s a wrap folks! Thank you so much Michelle for all of your in depth responses and thanks to everyone for their questions.

If you have any other questions for Michelle, you can message her on here at @MichelleMiles or through the links below:
hello@sustainableweddingalliance.com

https://www.instagram.com/sustainableweddingallianceuk/

Join us in the Green Room same time next week for another Ask Me Anything! :grinning:

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