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It’s such a long time since I last posted (*hangs head in shame*) but I’m very happy to have another fantastic Follow That Dress story for you.

Our first post about donating wedding dresses to Malawi was over a year ago now but the responses from generous-hearted brides are still coming in. Today, we’re sharing Hannah’s story.

Follow that dress logo for Ethical Weddings initiative

Hannah’s story

When I went to look for a wedding dress, I was expecting to find something COMPLETELY different (isn’t that always the way?). But when I put it on I felt like an absolute princess. It was the ONE! I was so lucky to be able to afford to buy my dream dress on my dream wedding day.

In time, however, my marriage sadly broke down, leaving me with memories and… a wedding dress.

For a long time I tried very hard to sell my dress. All the usual suspects: ebay, facebook, gumtree. All to no avail.

In 2013, I decided to be more proactive about life and started my blog (26-things.blogspot.co.uk) that follows my 26th year by doing 26 things. One of these things was to complete a Random Act of Kindness every month for the year. It occurred to me what a wonderful opportunity I had to pass along what was my dream dress to someone who would love and appreciate it even more than I could.

After a little Google search, I found Ethical Weddings and discovered that a lovely lady called Joyce in Malawi was hiring out dresses to Malawian women for their special day. And that is the story of me donating my wedding dress to this wonderful cause.

It wasn’t just a Random Act of Kindness, it was also a form of closure which allowed me in some small way to contribute to the lives of women half a world away.

A big thank you to Hannah for sharing her story – her dress is now with Clare, Joyce’s contact in the UK, and should be winging its way to Malawi very soon.

If you’ve been inspired to donate your dress, please get in touch.

Katie

Related posts:

Follow That Dress – every dress tells a story

Follow That Dress – first donation

Follow That Dress – Lucy’s story

Donate your wedding dress to Malawi

Ethical Weddings

What next?

Every ring tells a story

I don’t do rings – or so I thought. I’m prone to losing things, and I’m just not into sparkly, shiny jewellery. I like things that are quirky, unique, that tell a story. I like the idea of something simpler, more natural, but still reflecting the powerful and personal meaning of a wedding ring.

Wooden heart

On a trip to Cornwall, I came across a wood turner at the local community market. I asked him if he could make rings out of certain woods, ones that were significant to me and my family? He said yes, he could – but that it might be tricky.

He was hesitant, after some rings he had made in the past turned out to be too delicate to withstand daily wear. In the end, he made me something beautiful, from four different woods that were meaningful to my family, but with the caveat that it probably wouldn’t last very long.

Natural and durable

One solution is encasing the wood in metal. A Brighton company, Wedding Rings Direct, has teamed up with a Cornish designer to address the issues of making wooden rings a viable alternative to traditional magpie-targets.

“Wood tells a story”, says their marketing manager, Kate Rivera. “The wood comes from Cornish boat masts, trees in the designer’s garden and even mahogany from the Eden Project. The wood in the yew rings comes from his grandma’s garden!”

Most people go for oak, but pretty much any wood will work. They use recycled metals and match the metal colour and tone to the wood. If you do want a bit of bling, you can get a little diamond or something embedded in the wood, too.

Wooden Rings

You do have to look after it a little bit. “You have to care for it more than a plain platinum ring. You shouldn’t really wear it for hard labour. The wood will flex or contract a tiny bit, and it’s a good idea to use some oil to moisturise and hydrate it. However, most of the time the natural oils in your skin will help with that too.”

The whole thing I like about natural rings is the idea that they’ll change over your lifetime. As Kate says, “rings are sometimes the last thing people think about, but they’re the longest term part of your wedding”. Every ring tells its own story, and this continues with time; the wood will shift and change according to your lifestyle.

Soundwave rings

While the wooden rings will be an evolving symbol of your lives together, a different kind of storytelling ring can crystallise forever a couple of life-changing seconds – the moment you say ‘I do”.

Sakurako Shimizu, a Japanese artist and jewellery designer based in New York, has made ‘waves’ with her beautiful rings presenting the soundwave pattern of your voice saying a certain phrase. It doesn’t have to be ‘I do’ – any words can be recorded and captured – but that has obviously been a popular one with her clients. Again, the gold and precious metals are recycled (she even made the test rings by melting down gold rings belonging to her mother).

Love story

When it comes to a ring telling a meaningful story, however, it doesn’t get better than this. To propose to his girlfriend, Luke Jerram designed an engagement ring with grooves etched onto the surface, same as a vinyl record. When he played it on a miniature record player (in a hot air balloon, no less), it revealed a 20 second recording of his proposal: “Shelina, I’ll love you forever. Marry Me!…Shelina, I’ll love you forever. Marry Me!”

He did something even better for the wedding ring, designed to incorporate a tiny photo projector so that, when held to the light, a series of portraits are revealed. He made miniature photo slides, inserted into the edge of the ring.
But before you ask, it’s not for sale. Apparently, Luke gets lots of enquiries for commissions but he wants to keep the design unique for his wife. Now there’s romantic…

Ethical Weddings

What next?

We found out about this wedding fair a month or so ago and suddenly it’s coming up this weekend so we wanted to share it with you.

CreativWeddings sounds like our kind of wedding fair – they’re promising “local, traditional suppliers, makers and bakers” with “alternative wedding suppliers and venues” who cover everything from Steampunk to vintage, from across the UK and online.

CreativWeddings Fair flyer

When & where

The CreativWeddings fair takes place this weekend

  • in and around Caedmon Hall at Gateshead Central Library, Prince Consort Road, Gateshead, NE8 4LN
  • on Saturday 21 September
  • from 1.30pm to 5.30pm

We particularly like the sound of the  ”Cakery” – a place where you can sample bakers’ work, buy cupcakes and even order your wedding cake.

And if you’re in need of some pampering, there’s a pop-up Body Shop just waiting for you.

How much?

Entry is £2 for a single/couple/mother and bride (or any other combination!).

This includes prize draw entry and a goody bag with wedding guide and supplier info.

There are only 250 goody bags, so you might want to buy an advance ticket from the event blog: creativweddings.blogspot.co.uk

Have fun if you go and send us some pics so we can see how you got on.

Katie

Ethical Weddings

What next?

This week we welcome new blogger, Megan McAuliffe who has some tips for us on getting ready for your wedding in slow style. Over to Megan…

5 slow beauty steps to get you down the aisle looking, and feeling, amazing

There is an ironic twist to our well mapped out wedding plans: in order to get to the big day radiating the joy of a blissful bride, we have to march through an onslaught of stress and tension. Then, worn out, we flop into our wedding dress, put on a big smile, knock back a Bloody Mary and fall down the aisle.

Bride lying on bed

Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but we understand, it is exhausting.

So, how do we make it to the chapel all in one piece, and drop dead gorgeous at the same time?

Here’s a liberating concept: Slow down, take time off the grid, throw away all those quick fixes and transform your beauty routine into a meaningful, holistic practice.

‘Slow beauty’ is a philosophy and an inner-outer fusion which takes time and dedication. We all know that when we feel good, we look good. Which is, in essence, the key to true beauty.

1. Slow rituals

We could all take a leaf out of the Ancients’ book. They worshipped rituals, performing daily practices of love for ourselves and reverence for life. And, with our bodies, minds and spirits so overloaded by our fast-paced lifestyles, rituals help us feel alive, calm and content.

Light candles, draw a fragrant bath of jojoba oil and frankincense and give your skin a thorough body brush. Dry skin brushing helps shed dead skin cells and encourages your body to discard metabolic waste. Gently heat massage-grade sesame, coconut or sweet almond oil and massage it into your skin from head to toe.

Take some time out to sit and daydream, read a book, or get away to the country and walk amongst nature. Whatever your ritual, do not underestimate these subtle, restful respites. We need these moments to experience regeneration on a cellular level.

Bride meditating

Close your day with a meditation. Even ten minutes a day of silent breathing has been proven to make you feel younger, improve health and longevity and keep your brain sharper, for longer. Deep breathing slows down brain waves and releases endorphins into the bloodstream; a regular practice strengthens the immune system, helps to maintain a youthful appearance and calms the nervous system.

You could even try ‘52 Mindful Moments‘ which promise to take you ‘from stressed to smiling in under sixty seconds’ by former Ethical Weddings blogger, Clare Josa.

2. Slow treatments

Whether it’s monthly sessions at a spa for beautification or the realignment of your teeth in preparation for those wedding photos, beauty isn’t about being stuck on a conveyor belt of quick fixes and pre-packaged wonder creams.

According to research, 45% of adults are unhappy with their teeth, but most feel that braces are for children. Invisible braces or Lingual braces are a gentle, slow, yet effective way to straighten the teeth and a socially acceptable way for adults to feel happy about their teeth.

Big smile bride in red trainers

After all, smiling is good for us, studies have shown that when we smile a real ‘Duchenne’ smile, endorphins are released that result in feelings of euphoria and relaxation.

3. Slow food

The Slow Food movement has caught on fast, a welcome counter to the fast food movement that wreaks havoc on our bodies. We are enjoying better quality food which has been produced in its natural state, harvested in the right season and baked with loving care. Eating is a ritual in itself, take time to sip and savour, rather than eating on the run.

Mother and child eating vegetables on an allotment

And if our ancestors could knock back six pounds of dark green leafy vegetables a day, a salad or two and a green juice in the morning would be a perfect way to get your pre-wedding beauty regime off to a satisfying start. Green veggies are packed full of vitamins B, C and E which protect our cells from damage, and small amounts of Omega 3s which gobble up fat and cleanse the blood.

4. Slow skincare

For too long, the beauty industry has been churning out products that fail to nourish our body. Products full of harmful synthetic chemicals, which over the long haul do indelible damage to our cells. Natural skincare products use safer and kinder alternatives to keep our skin healthy and youthful. Natural Wisdom Organic Skincare and balance Me have beautiful products and strong ethical and eco values.

Skincare products surrounded by lettuce, peppers and avocado

If it’s consumer information you want, there is a fantastic US-based resource called www.truthinaging.com which has unbiased reviews on all sorts of chemical-free beauty products.

Your kitchen probably has a handful of items you can use for skincare. Mashed up fruit such as papaya, grape, lemon or lime work well as natural cleansers. So do yoghurt, milk, honey and coconut oil. Here are five homemade recipes to kickstart a natural beauty regime.

4. Slow medicine

The slow medicine concept is gaining momentum even among the medical community, which is increasingly promoting alternative therapies such as Reiki, acupuncture, herbalism and aromatherapy. Breathing exercises and therapies such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) are being offered as a way to release hypertension and stress. Weddings are notorious for causing anxiety, slow medicine is an effective way to promote wellbeing and relaxation.

5. Slow Movement

More and more people are turning their bodies and minds to slower forms of exercise such as yoga, tai chi and even superslow weightlifting for muscle strength.

Bride doing yoga

It has been acknowledged that slow exercise is smarter as it uses precise, careful movements to push the muscles to become fully fatigued. Slower movements increases strength without placing unnecessary wear and tear on the body. In other words, you get all the benefits of a hearty jog, without having to wear a knee brace as a bridal accessory.

I hope you’ve found these 5 slow steps to becoming that blissful bride helpful. If you have more ways to slow down in the run up to your wedding, we’d love to hear them.

Megan

Ethical Weddings

What next?

We’re really excited today to bring you the story of Brian and Tegan’s wedding. Tegan runs the blog In Tandem Fair Trade Weddings so she has some great tips to share with us.

Just married couple, head-to-head

The couple: Brian and Tegan

Wedding date: 7 October 2012

Venue and location: Caldwell Presbyterian Church and Camp Chingachgook YMCA Camp, Lake George, NY, USA

Approx budget: $20,000 USD (no honeymoon)

What inspired you to have an ethical wedding?

Brian and I wanted a celebration that was fun and down to earth, but also a ceremony filled with meaning. Because we both value social justice and the environment, it seemed only natural to incorporate these passions into our wedding.

A bride by a lake holding an orange and yellow bouquet

By choosing to make the wedding more eco- and people-friendly, it helped me to feel excited and less stressed throughout the process. It was good to know that through our wedding we were supporting local farmers, local businesses, and artisans in developing countries and that we were also reducing the environmental footprint for the day by using local food. What could be better than making a positive impact on the world while celebrating our own commitment to each other!

What was the hardest part?

One of the hardest aspects of wedding planning was finding a good starting point. However, in my wedding research I wasn’t finding a lot about how to have a “fair trade wedding”. I found many green wedding blogs and websites, but not many that focused on an ethical awareness. I particularly struggled to find resources for wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses. When I stumbled across Ethical Weddings I was really excited to find likeminded people!

Group shot of a wedding party outside a white church

However, I was finding that the UK simply had more socially-minded wedding websites and companies, more up-to-date resources and more ethical wedding designers than the United States.

Because of this, I was inspired to create the blog In Tandem Fair Trade Weddings (www.intandemfairtrade.com). I wanted to fill the void I found stateside, share what I had learned through my own wedding planning and hopefully inspire other couples particularly here in the United States.

Bride's bouquet in green, orange and yellow

What was the most fun bit?

I’m an artist so the most enjoyable aspect of planning our wedding was creating all of the DIY details. I made recycled paper leaf place cards, fair trade hanging paper decorations, repurposed wood table numbers, cloth banners and our save the date postcard.

Wooden place settings

What was also fun was working alongside my husband Brian. We love gardening so we were both excited to plant our own potted succulent centrepieces, which we gave to guests after the wedding to enjoy. Following in family tradition, I also had the opportunity to design my wedding gown along with my mother who made her dress for her wedding.

Floral centrepieces for wedding

How did it go on the day?

Our wedding went really well. They had predicted rain so we were delighted and surprised that the sun came out right before the wedding ceremony! The Adirondack Mountains of New York State were just beginning to turn a delightful shade of yellow ochre and red, and despite the slight chill in the air we couldn’t have picked better day.

Cream wedding cake with couple on top

Although I was a bit nervous before the wedding ceremony, it was great to see everything come together so beautifully. The YMCA lodge where we had our wedding reception was rustic so the nature-inspired décor reflected the season as well as the setting. Our caterer Spoonful Kitchen and Catering was so helpful and the locally sourced food was delicious. Because we really wanted to thank our friends and family for their support, I was so happy that our guests had a great time filled with good food and music.

What are your top tips for an ethical and green wedding day?

  1. Although it’s the least glamorous aspect of any type of wedding planning, I definitely think that it’s important to create a realistic budget and to stick to it! A budget will help you to plan out your wedding as well as prioritise your decisions and the causes you want to support.
  2. A really simple way to have a green wedding is to use potted flowers or plants as your centerpieces. For our wedding reception we potted our own succulents in simple terracotta pots. Not only was this a more eco-friendly alternative than cut flowers, it was actually a cheaper alternative to flower arrangements from a florist. After the wedding we encouraged our guests to take home a plant so that they could continue to enjoy them.
  3. There are so many new ways to reuse materials so buy items that can be reused or have been repurposed. Have your bridesmaids wear dresses that can be worn again, go to thrift stores or rummage sales for glass flower vases since so many get donated after other weddings, repurpose mason jars for candle holders, and so on. Pinterest has some great images for DIY projects using recycled materials.
  4. Share the wealth! Donate your dress and decorations to charities. I know that Oxfam sells wedding gowns in the UK, but in the US there are organizations like Brides for a Cause (www.bridesforacause.com), Wish Upon a Wedding (www.wishuponawedding.org), and Brides Against Breast Cancer (/www.bridesagainstbreastcancer.org).
  5. It’s important to be creative and to think outside of the box. It’s great to see more and more couples having weddings that aren’t cookie cutter so embrace your quirks and passions!
  6. Lastly, try to have fun with the process and remember that the wedding is one day, albeit an important one. More important than the actual wedding is the marriage that you have and the exciting adventures that you will take with your best friend!

Wedding ring from Bario Neal

Little white book

Photography: (c) Sarah Smith Photography, 2012  www.sarahsmithphotography.com

Rings: Bride’s band and engagement ring, Bario-Neal www.bario-neal.com and Groom’s ring, vintage from his grandfather

Bridal Party Bouquets and Boutonnieres : Heavenscent Eco-Friendly Florist www.heavenscentfloralart.com

Caterer: Spoonful Kitchen and Catering-Farm to Table Catering – find them on Facebook here

Ethical Weddings

What next?

This is the question we’ve been asking ourselves for a while – after all, a hire suit is intrinsically eco-friendly as it gets worn again and again, but where and how was the suit made in the first place, and what happens to it when it just can’t make it up the aisle one… more… time?

Newly weds from the back - groom with arm around the bride

We put our intrepid blogger, Tara, on the case. Over to Tara…

According to the Office for National Statistics the number of marriages in England and Wales increased by 3.7 per cent to 241,100 in 2010. So I think I’m safe in saying that if every bridegroom bought and wore wedding clothes that were destined never to see the light of day again, that’s a mind boggling stretch of miles and miles of yarn ostensibly going to waste.

But why should it only be the bride getting all the attention and admiration?  Because although they might not admit it, every groom, best man and usher wants to look sharp on the big day too.

Suit hire no longer equates with cheap and nasty, shiny suits.  There are many companies in the UK that offer top quality tailored formal suits, morning suits and all the accessories made from real wool, cotton and often UK-made materials.

More and more grooms, best men and ushers are opting for less formal clothes that reflect their personal style, and can be worn again. But a lot of men still prefer the traditional and time-honoured look: the formal suit or morning suit. And who can blame them? Dapper, flattering and with a touch of vintage all rolled into one – it’s a look that’s hard to beat.

As a bonus, formalwear hire is inexpensive and sustainable: you’ll keep spending and waste to a minimum by hiring clothes that will be re-worn and reused.

We applaud formalwear hire companies for already supporting sustainability. But as part of our groom focus on the blog, we wanted to take things a step further and find out if there were any formalwear hire companies going the extra green mile. We spoke to three forward-thinking hire companies about what they are doing to get ethical.

Anthony Formalwear

www.anthonyformalwear.co.uk

Hire suits from Anthony Formalwear

An established and traditional company with over two decades of experience in men’s tailoring, they have a choice of traditional, contemporary, designer and vintage suits and groomswear for hire, as well as accessories and evening wear.

1. Where and how is your formalwear made? In the UK or abroad? Do you have any information on the working conditions or pay of those who make it?

I do not like to deal with any company on important items I cannot travel to and from within 24 hours. I like to know as much as possible about how and where items are made.

All of our own branded items are made in Europe. Our waistcoats, ties, cravats and so on are all made in England in our own factory. Our suits for hire are all made in Germany or Portugal, while tailoring is done in England and Europe.  All the suit factories are large modern establishments so pay would be in line with country average. Shoes again are made in Portugal or by Loakes in Northampton. We sell cufflinks by Ian Flaherty -  made in London. I have visited virtually all of our manufacturers and can vouch for the conditions.

We do have a few accessories and shirts for hire which we buy through agents and I have no idea about the conditions and pay of workers who make those items.

2. What is the formalwear made from? Are any organic, sustainable or fair trade fabrics used?

Harris Tweed Waistcoat from Anthony Formalwear

Our new range of Harris Tweed is from a small family mill on the Isle of Lewis. I chose to use them rather than buy a cheaper version from the East because I feel we need to support our industry.

Our suits are all made from European silk, cashmere, wool or wool poly mix. Our waistcoats are made using European and English milled cloth with some of our accessories’ cloth coming from Japan. Again I prefer to buy British but some of the mills in Italy and Germany produce better cloth.

We did look at organic cotton shirts but it worked out too expensive – this is a price-conscious industry. We can make one-off items in organic and Fairtrade cloth through our made-to-measure department, so shirts, ties and suits can all be designed and made.

3. What happens to the clothes at the end of their life in the hire shop? Are they donated to charity? Recycled?

We sell everything useable on Ebay or to other shops, theatres, performers and artists. Anything not useable goes in the recycling.

4. As a company, do you have any particular ethical policies? Make any donations to charity? Support the local community in some way?

I have my own ethical morals, however, it is hard to bring those to bear in today’s economy where you have to make a profit to keep the staff employed.

In 26 years I have never been asked whether the cloth is organic or Fairtrade, however, a number of times people have commented that they bought from us because the item was made in the UK. As a company we have always tried to deal with businesses we know from the ground up.

Hugh Harris

www.hughharris.co.uk

Black Traditional Herringbone Morning Suit from Hugh Harris suit hire

Hugh Harris Formal Attire has been offering menswear hire and formal suit hire since 1914 with a focus on the very best quality, tailoring and service.

They offer a wide range of their own design suits and accessories in traditional or modern styling as well as an exclusive range from William Hunt of Savile Row.

1. Where and how is your formalwear made? In the UK or abroad? Do you have any information on the working conditions or pay of those who make it?

Currently we stock William Hunt, also of Savile Row, London. In regards to the rest of our collection, shirts, waistcoats, accessories and so on, we try and source as much as possible from the UK.

The majority of our suits are made by a company called Wilvorst who specialise in what is known as ‘Occasion Wear’. They are based in Germany, with all of their manufacturing taking place there. At Hugh Harris we also specialise in designer suit hire. We have worked in the past with Ozwald Boateng of Savile Row to create a collection exclusive to us.

2. What is the formalwear made from? Are any organic, sustainable, Fairtrade fabrics used?

Although we aren’t aware of any organic, sustainable or Fairtrade fabrics being offered or used by our suppliers at the moment, we would certainly consider it if we found it to be a suitable and cost effective alternative to the fabrics we currently use.

Around 90% of our collection is made from natural fibres. Wool, silk and mohair in our suits, silk in our waistcoats, cravats, ties, hankies and other accessories and cotton in our shirts. This is because natural fabrics create a far superior product to wear, and are often longer lasting than man-made fabrics.

3. What happens to the clothes at the end of their life in the hire shop? Are they donated to charity? Recycled?

Once we discontinue a line of suits, either because there is no longer a demand for them, or because they are no longer of an acceptable standard, they are usually donated to charity. We also often sell off our stock as ex-hire.

4. As a company, do you have any particular ethical policies? Make any donations to charity? Support the local community in some way?

Although Hugh Harris doesn’t currently have a specific ethical policy in place, our staff do make an active effort to reduce waste as much as possible, whether by recycling or by turning off unused electronics and lights. The managing director of Hugh Harris also donates to charity on behalf of the company on an annual basis. We regularly donate gift vouchers as raffle prizes for local events that support local charities.

Hugh Harris is also looking to upgrade their booking system to reduce the amount of paper we use. We aim to eliminate sending paper copies of customers’ orders, terms and conditions and other paperwork, instead sending this information digitally either via email, or via a web-based customer portal. This will also facilitate an improvement in how we manage, prepare and dismantle orders, again reducing the amount of paper we use.

Young’s Hire

www.youngs-hire.co.uk

3 men in grey silk suits

Located in Debenhams stores nationwide, Young’s have a large collection of pure new wool morning suits – in traditional or contemporary styles.

1. Where and how is your formalwear made? In the UK or abroad? Do you have any information on the working conditions or pay of those who make it?

All our factories and suppliers go through regular vigorous checks to ensure that all workers are paid fairly and work in safe environments. The majority of our formal hire suits are made by Swiss Garments in Egypt which is wholly owned by the Arafa group, which is our parent company.

2. What is the formalwear made from? Are any organic, sustainable, Fairtrade fabrics used?

A mixture of natural and man-made fibres are used in our suiting and all fabrics are sustainably sourced.

3. What happens to the clothes at the end of their life in the hire shop? Are they donated to charity? Recycled?

Most garments are donated to charity, unless they are beyond use in which case they are then recycled.

4. As a company, do you have any particular ethical policies? Make any donations to charity? Support the local community in some way?

Help for Heroes is our current supported charity; we have a kilt that was designed in conjunction with Help for Heroes and they receive a donation for each one hired – to date we have raised a considerable amount for the charity.


A big thank you to Anthony Formal Wear, Hugh Harris and Youngs Formal Wear for answering our questions and being transparent, something that isn’t always easy for businesses to do.

The following companies either failed to respond at all, or were unable to respond within the time frame: Jo McLaren, Slaters, Regency Groom, Moss Bros, Groom Hire, Ultimate Formal Hire, and Nicholas Smith. Burton menswear provided a telephone number to their head office but were unable to send us any information via email.


Something a little bit different

If you’re after a keepsake from the day, something you don’t have to give back to the hire shop, how about a  quintessentially British flat cap? It might not quite fit with morning wear, but certainly looks cool with a suit, or why not pull one on as you drive off into the sunset?

Man on the moors wearing eco flat cap and waistcoat

The traditional flat cap has been given a sustainable update by East London label Cock & Bull Menswear, who offer a range of designer menswear made entirely in the UK from sustainable fabrics and yarns.  This tweed, hand-woven design is made on a Hattersley loom in the Outer Hebrides and spun from an eco-friendly blend of British Scottish wool. It’s 100% organic and made to last a lifetime.

Personally, I love this look, and you don’t have to be dressed in plus fours to rock it either.  Here’s what designer A.A. Lindsay said,

The story of this flat cap began with the hunt for exceptional fabrics for the outer tweed cap and an inner lining that would render our flat cap indestructible. Our journey began in the outer Hebrides islands of Scotland – known worldwide for their excellent production of wools and tweeds, and specifically for the British Isles’ most famous heritage textile – Harris Tweed.

What we wanted were hand-woven woollen tweeds in arresting patterns and palettes that would seriously blow away any hat lover. And we certainly got that!

Enjoy the hunt for your ethical groomswear – and if  you have time, come back and tell us about it, we’d love to share your stories.

Tara

Related articles:

Here comes the groom

Seven stylish ethical cufflinks

Keep calm, you’re getting married

My alternative husband

Meet the Groom: Collaboration, Cream Tea & a Céilidh

5 great green grooms

Fairtrade shirts for grooms

Ethical Weddings

What next?

This month we’ve been inspired by one of the coolest ethical and fair trade brands in men’s bridal fashion.

Our favourite shirt maker, Arthur and Henry, produces beautiful fair trade shirts in organic cotton. We wanted to find out more about them so we collared (sorry) company owner (also “chief herder of geeks and boffins”), Clare Lissaman for more info on this rather exciting company.

Arthur & Henry fair trade shirts for men

What are men’s top choices when they come into Arthur and Henry?

The classics: white herringbone and blue herringbone.  But we’ve also seen that men like little bits of design interest – our pink stripe with floral cuffs and collar has been flying off the shelves too.

Pink stripe floral cuffs shirt from Arthur and Henry

Have you seen an uptake in grooms coming in and wanting something organic for their wedding day?

As we’re an online business we don’t always know what people are buying our shirts for, but yes, we have had an increase in email enquiries from people wanting ethical choices for their wedding and excited to have found us.

One of our grooms, Matt Wilkinson told us this recently: “It meant a great deal to me to get married in a Fairtrade shirt. I didn’t expect to find one that fitted and was smart enough, but I was determined to look nonetheless.

I came across the Arthur and Henry website and immediately ordered two shirts to make sure I had the right size. I didn’t even consult my bride to be!

The shirt is stylish, very well made and looked just right with my suit. Fairtrade means that farmers get a fair price for their crop, which is only right. I was glad to support this idea on such a special occasion.

Groom wearing Arthur and Henry Fairtrade shirt

What inspired you to start Arthur and Henry?

I was at the World Congress on Organic Cotton, full of people passionate about organic farming and textiles.  Someone asked who was actually wearing organic cotton and while most of the women were, most of the men weren’t. They were mainly suited and booted and said that they just couldn’t get smart shirts in organic cotton.

So we decided to make some.

(Makes it sound so simple doesn’t it?  In reality it was a bit of a journey but we got there and are so proud to be the first company doing a full collection of proper shirts for men for work and play in organic cotton).

What does ethical clothing mean to you?

Maximising positive impact on planet and people and minimising the negative. Also, quality clothing that wears well and lasts rather than disposable clothing.

Why should a groom consider Arthur and Henry for his wedding day?

A groom deserves to feel and look his very best on his wedding day.  Our shirts are good shirts.  They are well made. (We don’t like to boast but we’ve received compliments on the make from a Savile Row bespoke tailor.)  And they’re also good for the planet and for the people who’ve made them. Which will make him feel even better on his wedding day.

We can’t promise they’ll take away the pre-wedding nerves. But we can say they’ll see him through the ceremony and the celebration with aplomb.

Arthur and Henry are already making an impact in the ethical fashion world and this is what groom Alex Dodds had to say on why he chose an Arthur and Henry shirt for his wedding:

“I guess the main reason why I was so keen to buy an Arthur and Henry shirt is your and my ethical stance. I buy Fairtrade and organic clothing and food as often as possible anyway, it only felt right to make sure everything involved with my wedding was as humanely and environmentally friendly as possible.

“Even if it means spending a bit more time and money searching out manufacturers like yourselves who care about the products you sell, and more importantly about the lives of the people who actually make those products. I really believe voting with your wallet and being careful who you give your money to can really help to make a difference in the world.

We couldn’t agree with you more Alex!

Our thanks to  Clare and the Arthur and Henry team.

Green grooms please get in touch to let us know what you think and if you know of any other innovative, ethical fashion companies catering to your tastes.

Kate

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5 great green grooms

 

Ethical Weddings

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We’re taking a brief break from our green groom theme to celebrate Vegetarian Week with this post on edible flowers. Over to Tara…

Seasonal flowers bouquet

Seeing, smelling and eating colour – The joy of edible flowers

I love talking, thinking about and eating good food! And, I don’t think I’m alone in that. Planning the gourmet aspects of your wedding day can be exciting, and challenging.  After all you want to get it right, because for many, the feast is the favoured part of a wedding celebration, and you want everyone to enjoy what they eat.

One of the most wonderful things about communal festivities is the ritual of sitting and eating together, so basic, so ancient and yet so intimate.  But what about adding something really unique and unforgettable to the veggie fare? What about the idea of eating the flower arrangements?

Lettuce Flowers display at wedding show

Sushma Windsor is the founder and director of a flower shop with a difference.  Her company Lettuce Flowers provides fresh, seasonal living floral displays for weddings and events.  Many of the flowers and plants are edible.  This makes for a delightful multi-sensory experience.  As guests admire the beauty of the scented bouquets on their tables, they can simultaneously savour the taste of those same coloured petals in a delicious edible herb and flower salad.

Lettuce flowers use only seasonal plants grown in the UK for their wedding flowers, which eliminates the need for carbon heavy transportation and required by traditional cut flowers flown in from far off places.

Lettuce Flowers gift for guests

Then at the end of the event,  guests can take the flower displays home with them to put on their windowsills or re-plant in their own gardens.

As Sushma says:

“Our displays say that you care about sustainability and symbolise perpetual growth as they make perfect keepsakes”

We recently contacted Sushma to find out a little more about her inspired approach:

Where did the idea for Lettuce Flowers originate?

Back in 2008 my husband proposed to me. We decided we would have a simple ceremony with a wedding picnic with all our friends and family to enjoy a day out in our lovely county of West Sussex.

We chose a local venue which has a very strong ethos on nature conservation.  We also decided we could not use cut flowers and especially not non-seasonal.

Lettuce Flowers displayed in pots

The estate manager was delighted when we offered to donate the growing wild flowering plants we were going to use for our day on the picnic tables and around the grounds. All the food arrived with edible flowers in various colours and the guests were thrilled to see the bees and butterflies flying on the wild flowering plants. So much so that they all took them home and asked for planting instructions.

How did this experience develop into a thriving business?

The following spring, I kept getting calls from my family and friends telling me how they loved seeing the plants come up again and how much it reminded  them of the edible flowers on the food. This sparked an idea for both of us, what if we could combine the plants with edible living flowers and keep them seasonal?

Edible flowers by Lettuce Flowers

After months of research and relentless negotiations, we found nursery suppliers who specialised in herbs, salads and edible flowers.

“We thought: Imagine how wonderful it would be to use Lettuce Flower arrangements for an event or send them to your friends, when they can use the plants in their cooking and garnishes.”

What ethical considerations lie at the heart of the business?

With my background in sustainable and ethical clothing, I wanted to ensure similar principles applied to this new business of events and gifts. Our search continued and we found some wonderful options for compostable containers, including a beautifully hand crafted heritage trug made in Sussex.

Arrangement of seasonal flowers in a trug

Armed with the knowledge of the UK cut flower industry worth over £2 billion, of which 90% are imported from Kenya and Columbia, where the land water could be used for food production, we decided it was the right time to offer UK customers a seasonal and slightly quirky alternative to intensively farmed cut flowers from abroad.

Longevity through living plants makes complete sense.

Cut flowers have to be thrown away into landfill: most local councils do not consider them as part of garden waste. Unfortunately this will add to methane gas production as the flowers decompose in the landfill.

We recently joined Positive Impact on a challenge to make us do things in a better way as we always put environment at the heart of everything we do. Lettuce Flowers should be certified ISO20121 by the end of 2013.

Can you describe some of your most memorable events?

Our first event was a wedding followed by an Italian restaurant launch in Isle of Dogs. The reaction was simply of intrigue and we saw how people wanted to touch, feel, rub, smell and taste the arrangements. A multi-sensory reaction was not what we expected, but were thrilled to learn from it. We started to offer a recipe inspiration and care instructions with every arrangement and the feedback has been very positive.

Quiche with edible flowers

At a recent business presentation, we took some canapés made using herbs and edible flowers to show how food can not only look beautiful but inviting. Needless to say, not only was all the food polished off, but the general consensus was that it was much more engaging than expected. So when we say, ‘Grow don’t throw’, it should conjure up an image of Lettuce Flowers edible arrangement and not an ordinary bunch of unseasonal cut flowers.

You’ve recently started an online service, was this something that was in demand?

To date, we have adorned dinner tables at Gala nights, Award ceremonies, birthday celebrations and weddings and without exception they all wanted to know if we had an online service they could use to send Lettuce Flower arrangements to their friends and family.

Vintage floral display by Lettuce Flowers

Early this year, we started our online shop to cater not just for the main calendar dates, but also for people to say thank you, a birthday or a ‘get well soon’ wish to their friends and family. We want people to be excited about using seasonal plants and get creative with cooking. Children may be intrigued if they see their parents using edible flowers, and who knows, it might just plant a seed for the future, in those tiny busy minds!

Tara

Ethical Weddings

What next?

5 great green grooms

Today I’m sharing my top 5 green (read: eco, alternative, ethical…) groom stories as delivered to me very kindly via the wonders of the world wide web. Enjoy – and be inspired!

1. The crafty groom

Bride and groom in front of DIY 'My Beloved' sign on reclaimed wood
Incredible photos from Frolic Storytelling

Ok, so the story is told by the bride (Chase) but the groom (Aaron) was fully on ‘board’ (that’s a pun – as you’ll see). His background is in architecture, hers is in graphic design and they run a crafty Etsy business together. Almost everything for their wedding they made together from reclaimed wood – it’s amazing. I was peering at the photos thinking – is that wooden bunting? A wooden necklace? A wooden buttonhole?

Thank you to Green Wedding Shoes for sharing the story: Crafty Reclaimed Wood Wedding: Chase + Aaron

2. The team player

Erik and Shelley high five after getting married
Photo by the wonderful onelove photography

I found this feisty couple on the fabulous offbeatbride.com. Shelley is a video game artist and Erik is a student of robotics so things got crafty quite quickly. This was a joint project – for example, Shelley made the table numbers, Erik made the wooden place cards. Erik also surprised Shelley by making her ring. My favourite bit though was the vows that they wrote together – especially this line: “Will you always keep making brownies at midnight, even on a school night?” Brilliant!

Read the full story at offbeatbride.com: Shelley & Erik’s crafty DIY and bluegrass wedding

3. DIY Groom

DIY coffee bar by groom

This is a very short, simple and sweet post that I stumbled across. The bride wanted to serve drip filter coffee at her wedding. The venue didn’t understand. So the groom, Will, built a coffee bar. Love.

Read the DIY Groom post at Wolf Haus and see the incredible wedding photos at a stunning Scottish location here.

4. The reborn vintage fashionista

1960s 3-piece Herringbone tweed suit

The suit, from Bookster

I love this guy! This post details his dedicated trawl through charity shops and vintage shops – both virtual and brick & mortar, across London and Brighton in the hunt for the perfect suit with a passion that would match that of any bride in pursuit of The Dress.

But our man gets extra greenie points because not only is his suit secondhand (1960s vintage), he’s likely to get a lot more wear out of it than a bride will from her gown – even with the best intentions. In fact he is already: “Roo often comes in from work to find me watching the TV, lounging in the jacket…”. Go green groom!

Read the full story on Rock n Roll Bride: Something borrowed, something Roo: The groom’s view by Lamb (AKA Mr Roo!)

5. The offbeat groom

Groom in embroidered suit
Photo by Diana Clock Weddings from another excellent Offbeat Bride post: “Let’s check out this groom’s kick-ass embroidered suit

We’ve heard from the Offbeat Bride now it’s time for the Offbeat Groom to have his say. He lays into the wedding industry that celebrates the ‘princess’ and relegates her prince to the sofa with the footie and a can of beer. He overturns the stereotypes and he gets involved, properly involved:

“Turns out I like thinking about readings for our ceremony. I like designing invitations. I like scouring Etsy for the perfect name cards. I like tasting food — she’s with me on this one — and creating a menu. I like sewing her wedding dress by hand. Turns out I like my fiancée quite a bit.”

Read the full story on Offbeat Bride: Musings from an offbeat groom

And those are my 5. I have to say it has been a struggle to find even this much groom perspective. Grooms, if the wedding industry isn’t listening maybe you need to shout a little louder. Tell us about your experience planning your wedding, tell us what worked and what didn’t, tell us how you can be a green groom. On this blog, we’re all ears.

Katie

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I’m very excited about this post but first I must apologise for the hiatus in our ‘All about the Groom’ theme – I’m blaming this largely on 2 bouts of chicken pox (1 each – nicely spaced). Anyway, we’re back with a great line-up of posts about the man of the moment. Over to Tara…

Bronia on the wedding stage with wellies and umbrellas

Lewis Davies told Ethical Weddings about the ups and downs of his earth friendly wedding.

We love a unique perspective here at Ethical Weddings, we’re mad about the devilish details of real life experiences, after all, nothing beats a true story. And so, in accordance with this month’s theme which focuses on that all-important, handsome, patient and often unsung hero of the wedding party – The Groom – we talked to Lewis about his wedding day.   We hope you enjoy his engaging, comical and astute take on things as much as we did.

Which things were most important to you in the planning of your wedding?

“I think my major priority was that no one in either family got stressed out.”

If I could have measured, for example, the anxiety levels of my future mother-in-law at the beginning of the project, and at regular intervals throughout, and kept those levels at a constant, then I would have  considered the wedding to have been a success. I am aware now that it was the fevered dream of a mad man.

We didn’t want everything to be too heavily staged managed. We’d been to a wedding the year before in the Downton Abbey house, and while we didn’t and couldn’t get married there (even though it has a mummy in the basement – an actual Egyptian mummy), we both liked being able to wander around the gardens in the down time. So I think the idea of a ‘wandery’ relaxed wedding appealed to us.

Kids playing on wedding ceremony stage

I grew up in Cornwall and we had the reception at my wife’s parents’ farmhouse in Devon. I know right? What could ensure the wedding was stress free better than deciding to have the wedding in one of the principal participants’ homes? Where they were both the parents of the bride and the venue managers?

Fevered dream. Mad man.

But, it was incredibly cheap, incredibly beautiful and had enough open space for that ‘wandery’ thing we liked.

“What was important to me was using local facilities.”

I have very strong ties to my identity as a Cornish man and to the West Country so I was really happy to keep all suppliers local. Almost everyone we employed was known by people we knew. I don’t think we Googled a single supplier, with the exception of the tent people.

Everything else came from people we knew in the local area by recommendation, so that was nice. The tent people were from a bit further away, but they did a thing to ensure the transport was carbon neutral.

Group of wedding guests enjoying wedding breakfast in a yurt

“One of the things that was really important to Bronia was that it was a collaborative project with our friends”

She had spent a lot of her youth in the Woodcraft Folk, a sort of left wing pacifist version of the Scouting/Girl Guide movement with Brown Owl replaced by a woman in a home knitted jumper who had been at Greenham Common, and Akela was replaced by a man who sold Socialist Worker on the weekend and smoked roll-ups. Bronia liked the idea that all of our close friends would come down to the venue together a week early, along with her extended family, and would prepare the venue for the wedding.

A guest in yellow dress and wellies sweeps the stage ready for the wedding

At some level this unsettled me.

I was really keen on the idea that the last stages of the project would be completed by people with whom I had some sort of official contract, so that if they breached, I was in a position to demand my money back. I’ve tried to get people we know in our personal life to sign contracts like that, but Bronia says it’s not allowed. Anyway, that was important to her and I am happy to tell you that I was 100% wrong about it being a bad idea. A large group of our friends did come down before the wedding. And they did toil in the wedding mine on our behalf: they cooked, they cleaned, they built a stage for the ceremony and turned a garden into a venue.

The wedding wouldn’t have been possible without them and I think one of the things I took away from it was not only that I was marrying an amazing woman (which I’d already known) but that she had surrounded me with amazing people too.

How involved were you in the planning of things and was this important to you?

I think I had input in the early stage planning: “It’s going to be in a tent in your mum’s garden”.  And at a more micro day-to-day level: “I’m going to put up a fence around this abandoned quarry on the site so that a child doesn’t fall in and drown”.

Bronia & Lewis making their wedding vows in the rain - she in red wellies and he in a kilt

I did quite a lot of the sourcing of materials because we were more on my home turf than we were on Bronia’s. However, the planning in between was mainly hers. It’s worth pointing out that Bronia’s job at the time was as assistant to the woman who designed the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. So her logistical and planning skills outstrip mine to quite a degree.

I don’t know if I cared what things looked like in particular, beyond things that I thought were going to generate more stress for people.

I organised the barbeque – a guy from a local farm shop who also had his own fishing boat, but stayed far away from the additional catering that went on in the kitchen of the farm. That was the beating heart of the project, overseen by Bronia’s formidable grandmother. It was operating under a long established Polish tradition -  that you need to make enough food for two weddings in case a wedding down the road has all their food stolen by invading Russians and they need to come and borrow some of yours.

Did you have a stag do, and if so how did you celebrate?

I had the world’s most circumspect stag do. I went to Brighton with two friends and got mildly drunk. I think they can be terribly forced affairs with people trying to act the way they think they are meant to act because it’s a ‘staaaaaaag!’.

Lewis in the wedding yurt with friend

I didn’t do the stripper thing, not because it’s unethical but because, as sex work goes, it looks like a really inefficient way of using one’s financial resources, and they don’t really make strippers who look the way I’d like them to. Also, what are you meant to be feeling while your friends watch a naked person dance on you?

I think all in all stag dos are something you have to try to come out of not feeling like a pillock. I can’t imagine what my ideal stag do would have been like.  I guess that means the one I got was okay.

Can you describe the day and what was most memorable, beautiful or unique?

“Instead of confetti we had wild flower seeds thrown on us as we ran round a track cut into the grass of the bottom field”

We got married in a registry office in the morning with as many people as we could fit in the office in Tiverton and afterwards we drove back to the house where there was a cream tea. Then we did a little personal vow and music ceremony on the stage we’d built. Then we did dinner and had a Céilidh and a bonfire. We wrote our own vows, and that’s pretty special.

Lewis (in a kilt) and Bronia (in red wellies) make their wedding vows

Wedding speeches

Wedding guests doing readings

We ate and danced in the tent with everyone pitching in to clear the tables and chairs between the two sessions. I’d recommend a Céilidh because then you can do your first dance with six other people.

Ceilidh at Lewis & Bronia's wedding

Ceilidh at Lewis & Bronia's wedding

Have you got any advice you could offer our Ethical Weddings grooms who might be in the process of planning their wedding?

  1. Try to minimise stress for others, but accept that this will never be a system that is 100% efficient.
  2. There aren’t any objects or stuff or experiences that will ensure that your wedding is ‘perfect’ –  only people can do that. Although striving for perfection is ill advised too.
  3. Take the opportunity to try to tell or show your wife how you feel about her. I did it in vows but that may not be your thing.
  4. Do jobs little and often.
  5. After your fiancé, your friends can be your most valuable asset.

Tara Gould

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Here comes the groom

Seven stylish ethical cufflinks

Keep calm, you’re getting married

My alternative husband

Ethical Weddings

What next?

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