REAL WEDDINGS: A Very Personal Eco Friendly Wedding in the Heart of Bristol | Anne and Steve
7th October 2016
Time for another amazingly creative and inspirational eco friendly wedding!
This week I’m handing you over to lovely couple Anne and Steve who will tell you all about their amazing natural wedding which took place earlier in the year right in the heart of Bristol City. Their wedding was first brought to my attention by a very talented dress designer, Linda Thomas, who makes it her business to create one off works of art using recycled silk fabrics with felted highlights.
This really is a one off and best told by Viktoria Kuti's beautiful photos and Anne, the lovely bride herself ...
The Perfect Place
Boiling Wells Nature Reserve – a beautiful site managed by St Werburgh’s City Farm; a little bit of country in the heart of Bristol.
The idea of a church wedding followed by a hotel, didn't really appeal. We’d originally thought about having a very informal day at our allotment site, but security issues and the work required to 'beautify' our plots soon made us abandon that idea. And then we found the perfect compromise in this beautiful site, 2.5 acres of nature reserve - a tranquil oasis in the city. We had the whole site for the whole day which meant we could have lunch, our ceremony, post ceremony reception and evening meal all in one place.
We wanted our day to feel like an “extended BBQ/garden party” for friends and family. The site is spread out over different levels (so great for exploring) and is a calm, quiet space ideal for relaxing in. As we had the site for the full day, we arranged for guests to come for lunch, which then led into the ceremony followed by afternoon tea and cake. Later we had an evening meal followed by story-telling round the fire.
The site is off-grid and mainly outdoors with a small roundhouse, larch barn and outdoor cooking area. There is also a marquee and some gazebos that can all be used. Oh, and not to forget the composting loos including a composting urinal!
We encouraged people to come dressed accordingly - no dressing up unless they wanted to, comfortable footwear and to be prepared for all weathers!
Although the site is beautiful in itself, we also brought in pots and planters of home grown bee-friendly flowers and herbs, and decorated the site with hand-made bunting.
Ahead of the event, we asked people to send in their favourite poem, lyrics or quotes and we used these to create a “poetry trail” around the site.
Our overall vision was for the wedding to be really relaxed, simple and low-key with a focus on sustainability. We wanted our friends just to come, relax and enjoy themselves.
We wanted a very natural and low-key wedding, which reflected our joint love of nature and the outdoors; we are both eco conscious and therefore our choices were guided by this.
Clare Hanson-Kahn, a Humanist celebrant, led our wedding ceremony which was conducted in a small ‘amphitheatre’ on the site - it was perfect. We worked with Clare to create our own tailor-made service, scripting our own vows and ring exchange words including some poetry and prose extracts of our choice.
As part of the ceremony, we had a ring-warming and we also planted two young apple trees (grown by a local community orchard) which we hope to fuse together into one “marriage” tree.
In keeping with the informal nature of the day, we didn’t have bridesmaids or best man, etc. Neither was there a processional entrance - as everyone was already there for lunch, we just moved from the lunch area to the amphitheatre, which was very relaxed and friendly.
We had about 65 guests, although the site allows for up to 100 people. Friends and family came from Scotland, Wales, east and north England, France, Switzerland and Germany as well from Bristol and the local area.
We organised a boat trip around Bristol’s Floating Harbour on the Saturday morning for those people arriving Friday evening or early Saturday. We also arranged for a meet-up for those who were around on the Friday evening - it gave us the opportunity to spend a bit more time with friends coming from farther afield and also allowed people who hadn’t met previously to get to know each other.
We laid on transport (mini coaches) from the city centre to the venue and then back again at the end of the night.
The music play-list incorporated guest selections - guests were asked beforehand to nominate a song(s) they would like played and, as I mentioned above, we also had a “poetry trail” which was made up of the guests’ favourite poems, lyrics and quotes.
We organised a story-teller for the end of the evening; Jane Flood, a professional story-teller from Somerset, came and told traditional stories of the West Country and further afield. People really loved it.
We had a rough budget of around £7,000 - one of the reasons for opting for a “DIY” wedding was to keep costs down - it irks me that as soon as the “W” word is mentioned, prices are often hiked enormously!
We pretty much stuck to the estimate, although as we made quite a lot of things ourselves, we didn’t keep a tally of stuff such as the compost for our pots/planters, beads and ribbons for decorations and vintage teacups and teapots sourced from local charity shops.
I did spend more than I originally intended on my dress, but it was completely worth it as I love it so much!
It was hard working out how much food and drink to supply, particularly as it was an all-day event and we ended up over providing, but better that than the other way! Wine and Champagne was bought on a “sale or return” basis, so we were able to return what we didn’t use.
I had to stop myself looking at the internet too much as that created more self-imposed pressure - it was a great tool for ideas, but too much, and I could feel myself becoming swamped by the “must-have for a perfect day” wave that crashes over you! I had to keep reminding myself that the important thing was our friends and family being there with us when we exchanged our vows, and as long as they didn’t go hungry or thirsty, everyone would have a great time regardless of decorations, drapes, table settings or extravagance of floral arrangements.
I wore a beautiful dress crafted by Linda Thomas, Eco Design. Linda creates her clothes using up-cycled silks and other luxury materials, and then incorporates hand felted features. I loved the idea of having a dress made from recycled silks and it really suited the ethos of the whole day.
Steve went for a smart-casual look with his clothes bought from the local high street.
Other than being relaxed, there was no theme.
Steve is Welsh, so we opted for some Welsh cheeses alongside the delicious cheeses available in the South West and, as I had lived in Cyprus for several years, I was keen to include some Mediterranean flavour to our meals.
Lunch was a selection of cold roast ham, roast beef, local cheeses from the South West and Wales (sourced by our local cheesemonger), salads, a selection of pitta bread, wraps, locally baked bread, falafels and mezze dips such as humous and baba ghanoush with a selection of home-made pickles, relishes and stuffed olives.
Afternoon tea was a selection of cakes, together with a range of organic teas, coffees and herbal tisanes using home-grown herbs. We decided not to go for one big wedding cake, opting for a range of home-made cakes to be served as “afternoon tea”; 15 delicious and beautiful cakes were made by a colleague who bakes as a hobby - did an amazing job!
The evening meal was a BBQ, which was accompanied by salads, marinated chicken, jerked chicken and lamb for the meat eaters, cod (caught by Steve) and red mullet wrapped in vine leaves for fish lovers and stuffed peppers with locally produced grilled halloumi for vegetarians. We also wanted to acknowledge the Caribbean influences which abound in Bristol, so Bearnie who has Caribbean roots herself, prepared pots of goat curry and vegetable curry served with traditional rice.
There were large platters of fruits for dessert together with the cheeses left over from lunch.
The main catering (lunch and evening meal) was done by a friend and colleague of mine, Bearnie Demonick, who has her own catering company Eat Day Eat Night. Bearnie was happy to work with us to create menus that incorporated the crops we were able to provide and she was more than happy to cook in the outdoor kitchen area on site.
The Eco Elements
- Venue – the site is off grid, with composting loos etc. The music was provided using a portable sound system created by Steve, which was powered by recycled mobility scooter battery packs (battery packs sourced from the local council recycling centre).
- Flowers – rather than going for bought cut flowers, we opted for creating pots of flowers and herbs that could be used around the site; everything we grew was bee/insect friendly. Many of the planters were made from old pallets.
- The cut flowers we arranged in jugs and vases for the tables were picked from the allotment on the morning of the wedding. We didn’t use any bought flowers at all.
- Herbs – These were all grown by ourselves
- Food – We wanted to use as much local South West produce as possible. We foraged and grew as much of the food as we could ourselves - foraged wild garlic; new potatoes, herbs, salad leaves, spinach, beetroot and garlic all came from our allotment. Steve is keen on sea fishing, so he caught cod that was cooked on the BBQ as part of the evening meal. Sustainable charcoal used on BBQ
- Drinks – foraged sloe berries for home-made sloe gin; foraged elderflowers for home-made elderflower cordial; allotment grown blackcurrants for home made crème de cassis; a selection of home-made cordials.
- Decorations – recycled jam jars for tea lights and vases, decorated with re-cycled ribbon, beads and organic jute string. Bunting was all hand-made.
- Dress – this was made by Linda Thomas Eco Designs from up-cycled silk.
- Rings – these were made for us by a local jeweller using a gold ring which had belonged to one of my grand-parents and a silver dog-tag which was given to Steve by his parents on his 18th birthday.
- Gift list – rather than a gift list, we asked for donations to either The Woodland Trust or Oxfam.
Can you be both Stylish and Green on your Wedding Day?
Yes, you can! But it does take more planning and work, particularly if you are doing a lot of it yourself, so don’t be too optimistic with what you think you can achieve and give yourself time and more time!
Most of our friends and family don’t live near us, so we had to do most of the preparation ourselves and we were probably over enthusiastic with what we decided to do. With hind sight, we wouldn’t have opted to provide quite so much of the vegetables and salad leaves from our allotment; getting up at 4am on the day of the wedding to pick salad leaves and flowers from the allotment probably isn’t for everyone! We ended up getting dressed at the venue, and I was still wearing an apron when the first guests arrived!
Tips for Other Couples planning to throw a Green Wedding
Give yourselves plenty of time and/or enlist the help of friends and family if they live near-by!
It felt very special that we were able to exchange vows we’d written ourselves – in fact the whole ceremony was lovely; being able to tailor the ceremony so much made it feel very personal and meaningful. The ring warming made our guests feel part of the ceremony rather than just observers and everyone liked the symbolism of the tree planting at the end of the ceremony.
What does marriage mean to you both?
We have been living together for 10 years so in many ways things haven’t changed. But as we said to our celebrant, marriage to us is “like a settling and easing of the soil around a plant’s roots”.
OMG! Where on earth did Anne and Steve find the energy to do so much for their wedding, let alone the time ...
Thank you so much Anne for telling us all about your fabulously unique and wedding full of love and friends. I'm still gasping for breath thinking about everything they did, but you'll agree with me that the whole day looked amazing and their efforts certainly paid off, leaving the couple with lasting memories of a very special day.
Linda Thomas filled me in about the making of Anne's dress and I will be posting her story soon. For the inside scoop on the making of an upcycled silk wedding dress, just type your email address into the field at the bottom of the page and hit 'Sign me Up'.
Thanks also go to Viktoria Kuti for her fabulous photos.
Eat Day Eat Night - Caterers
Linda Thomas Eco Designs - Dress designer
Viktoria Kuti – Photographer
Jane Flood – Professional Story Teller
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