GUEST POST - Gifting with a Green Heart - Inspiration for Eco-Friendly and Ethical Wedding Gifts by Charlotte Argyrou Illustration

17th May 2019

Today I'm delighted to introduce you to Charlotte Argyrou, a talented Botanical Illustrator and founder of the Wedding Bouquet Illustration Service. Here she shares her thoughts on conscious gifting.

Gifting with a Green Heart, by Charlotte Argyrou IllustrationSee Credits at End of Feature

Increasingly, couples are co-habiting long before they marry, living in smaller or modern homes without lofts and cellars, and reluctant to feel encumbered by possessions. So it’s no surprise that the traditional gift list hosted by a high street department store is facing competition from alternative gifting options that encompass eco, ethical, sustainable and socially conscientious options.

Whether you are engaged to be married or a gift-giver seeking inspiration, here’s a list of eight ideas for wedding gifts with a green heart. I’m a botanical illustrator, die-hard wedding fanatic and someone who has done an about-turn in my gifting philosophy over the last couple of years. Previously working for over a decade in the luxury sector of high fashion PR, I’ve been wrapped up in the excesses of gifting. Now, through creating my signature offering - the Wedding Bouquet Illustration Service - I experience how a gift as simple as an illustration can evoke tears of absolute joy, without damaging our planet.

1. Good-Hearted Gift Lists

GREEN UNION partner Aerende's Ethical Gift RegistryGREEN UNION partner, Aerende, is an online shop selling beautiful products and gifts for your home, all of them made in the UK by people facing social challenges. Think of it is a special place to find a range of carefully crafted products from around the British Isles, created by makers who struggle to access or maintain conventional employment.

The non-profit organisation was founded in 2016 by Emily Mathieson, a former travel editor for The Guardian, Condé Nast Traveller and Red. A passion for beautiful, useful, locally made homewares led her to question the lack of high-quality options in the ethical interiors sector. Emily has created a model for considerate, socially valuable shopping with really beautiful products you’ll love to showcase and use in your own home.

It’s also worth revisiting Prezola, the online gift registry that has fast become a household name. They have recently added a Social Gifting category, meaning your guests can formally give you acts of kindness - from babysitting to helping out with your DIY. While it’s a concept not without controversy and cynics, I’m all up for breaking away from the regimented idea that a gift needs to cost anything at all. With Prezola, requests for “social gifts” can be added alongside more traditional gifts, charity donations and honeymoon contributions. 

2. Charity Donations

Charity Donations - image by Nick Brightman PhotographyNick Brightman Photography

Many of the big well-known charities are set-up to receive donations through a fund on your gifting list, or provide a collection box for your wedding day. But have you considered ordering stationery items or favours through a charity? For instance, Alzheimer’s Society offer placecards, small organza bags and even jewellery items – so you can give back as you give to your loved ones. It’s well worth investigating if you preferred charities offer any schemes or products which you can either request from your guests or gift to your bridal party. 

3. Antiques

On my wedding day (nearly 10 years ago), my husband and I received a pair of antique candlesticks and an antique whisky decanter. Both surprised me – in the best way – and both are still treasured to this day. I felt very special to know that our guests had gone on a real hunt to find something they knew my husband and I would use and love. 

I think it’s a great idea to look at vintage fairs and markets, as well as online marketplaces. If you are the bridal couple, you could even consider buying an antique piece of furniture and then asking for contributions to fund it. Gifts can be new-to-you, instead of shop-bought. 

4. Experiences

GREEN UNION partner Buy Our HoneymoonMemberships, courses, workshops and subscriptions all make excellent gifts with very little waste. There are the big guys, such as National Trust and English Heritage, who will use your money to sustain the protected properties and parks. What about a craft-based course, such as learning to cook, sew, brew or preserve? Can you support a small independent business through asking guests to coordinate a trip or experience for you – from bee-keeping to surfing – that works in harmony with the environment not against it? GREEN UNION partner, Buy Our Honeymoon pools your guests’ resources without tying you down to spending your funds in a specific way. Their philosophy of “less stuff, more memories” resonates strongly with anyone seeking to reduce their consumption. 

5. Family Heirlooms 

One of the most special gifts to receive is a treasure from the family archive. Jewellery and watches are a classic item to inherit in celebration of your marriage, and the sentiment and nostalgia will add to the magic of your Big Day. If you know there’s an item coming your way but your family still wish to buy you something too, you could ask from them to cover the cost of servicing, insurance or remaking an item to your taste – granny’s sparkly brooch into more wearable stud earrings, for instance. 

6. Plants and Trees

Plants and trees make perfect sustainable gifts. If you are engaged homeowners, consider asking guests for items from Tree 2 My Door. You could even make a mini ceremony of planting a new tree when you return home from the wedding. “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” said Audrey Hepburn – a beautiful sentiment for newlyweds. 

7. Sustainable Stationery

Heirloom Seals Monogramming household items is a timeless celebration of the union of two names, so consider commissioning a bespoke stamp or embosser from Heirloom Seals. Choose from a range of botanically-inspired designs and customise with the bridal couple’s initials. Not only may the couple use it for their thank you letters, it can be used for years afterwards. It’s a fabulous way to upgrade plain recycled envelopes. 

8. Commission a Modern Heirloom

Gifting with a Green Heart, by Charlotte Argyrou IllustrationSee Credits at End of Feature

If you are looking for something totally unique for your new marital home but haven’t found it on a gift list or antiques market, how about commissioning an original artwork? My signature offering is the Wedding Bouquet Illustration Service, a unique and elegant way to preserve your wedding flowers for a lifetime and beyond. I work from photography after the wedding, though I offer a luxurious gift voucher for those who wish to gift something physical on the day. I speak with the couple’s florist to ensure I’m aware of any stories behind the bouquet design. It is a gift that can easily move from home to home on your life’s journey and can be handed down through generations. 

A Note About Gift-Wrapping

Kate Cullen ribbons for eco friendly wedding gift wrappingSee Credits at End of Feature

And if you are a gift-giver sending or hand-delivering a physical product, don’t forget to consider the eco-creds of your own wrapping. Plasticized luxury gift-wraps are easy to avoid with a bit of forethought, so try recyclable brown paper, a reusable box or tin or a Furoshiki wrap instead. Finish with an exquisite hand-dyed ribbon - Kate Cullen is the queen of sustainably-sourced plant dyes and creates the highest quality papers ribbons the newlyweds will reuse.

Whether you are engaged couple or gift-giver, a bit of forward-thinking helps to combat that lastminute panic of present buying – often where I slip up in my own attempts to live a greener life. I hope this list of ideas sparks some inspiration and helps to contribute to a beautiful and sustainable wedding day. 

Additional Image Credits:

Model: Charlotte Argyrou Illustration

Location: Pynes House

Photographer: Nicole Howe Photography

Planner: Victoria Sykes Events

Floristry: Loulabel Floral Design

Hair: Natalie Nichols Bridal

Make Up: Kimberley Dewar at Changing Faces

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