3 Jan 2019


By Reece Proudfoot

WWF-Australia Innovation Strategist

You know that feeling when you’re walking down the street and spot a discarded timber pallet and let out a little squeal with excitement at the prospect of turning it into a pinterest-inspired herb garden? Okay, you may claim to not be excited, but the fact that pictures of ‘pallet herb gardens’ on Pinterest rank just after Kardashian selfies and celebrity flossing suggest there are a lot of us pallet nerds out there - I know I’m not alone.

Anyway - times that excited feeling by a hundred and you’ll understand how pumped my new wife, Nat, and I were about the prospect of having a go at a bespoke, hand-made sustainable ‘picnic chic’ wedding.

Nat & Reece's sustainable wedding
Nat & Reece's sustainable wedding © Anna Blackman

Nat and I were married in early November in her parent’s garden in Bowral, about 1.5 hours south west of Sydney. We are extremely lucky that their garden is a comfortable two-thirds of an acre, meaning we had the perfect ‘blank canvas’ on which to design our dream wedding. From the outset we decided that a few things were non-negotiable. There had to be live music; we had to have the people we loved around us; the food had to be amazing and, of course, it had to be locally sourced and sustainable. The rest was all up for negotiation. (Although Nat’s dad, John, would say his freshly planted rose garden was non-negotiable. Okay, John, the roses make the cut too).

There are a lot of ways a wedding (or any event with 100 people) can impact our environment, which means there were lot of things we could do to reduce its impact on the planet. But as my sister in law, Alex would say in her blog “Low Tox Life”: if you aim for perfection, you’ll often set yourself up to fail, so it’s better - and way less stressful - to aim in the right direction and do the best you can. So with that philosophy in mind, here are some of the ways we approached our big, fat sustainable wedding:

  • Our furniture was made out of recycled timber. I collected 10 disused pallets (it’s surprisingly easy to find disused pallets) and with the help of a small gang of legends (thanks Laurent, Jared and Ollie!), deconstructed and then reused the timber to make benches, tables and timber crates. We also reused some timber floorboards to make a timber ‘feature wall’.
Recycled timber turned into feature wall for sustainable wedding
Recycled timber turned into feature wall for sustainable wedding © Reece Proudfoot
  • Our beer was sourced locally from a family-run microbrewery just four km down the road that uses renewable energy (did you know beer has huge carbon footprint?). Being a bit of a beer-nerd, I was keen to get this right! On top of this, the brewery also happens to commit 10% of its profits to a sustainable development charity. Shout out to Eden Brewery!
  • Our food was served on biodegradable plates with biodegradable bamboo cutlery, and catered by an wonderful local caterer - thanks Rustic Table Catering - to reduce food miles and carbon footprint - who themselves use as much local and seasonal produce as possible.
  • Our ‘favours’ (confession: I had to learn what ‘favours’ were) were seeds in a recycled paper envelopes, with rosemary and lavender from a friends garden. Guests could take home either rosemary or lavender seeds, which they hopefully planted in their garden.
  • We offset the carbon used to power all the extra lights, fridges and sound equipment.
  • We tried to go plastic free at home in the months leading up to the wedding and saved and reused hundreds of old glass jars for candle holders, vases and cutlery holders.
  • We bought five bales of hay from the local gardening co-op, and then donated them back to the co-op for local farmers after the wedding.
Bales of hay and recycled wooden pallet turned into wedding furniture
Bales of hay and recycled wooden pallet turned into wedding furniture © Reece Proudfoot
  • Our signs were made from recycled timber and I found and repurposed the mini-blackboards from the local tip!
  • The wedding arch was handmade out of bamboo by my dad, Richard, from his garden. John and Marie-Alice love it so it will remain a permanent feature in their garden.
Nat & Reece under their sustainable wedding arch made from bamboo
Nat & Reece under their sustainable wedding arch made from bamboo © Anna Blackman
  • Nat’s dress was a lucky find from a vintage store in Newtown.
  • All the flowers - bouquets included - were either from the garden itself, or from my brother-in-law’s mum’s garden, who lived down the road and happens to have one of the most beautiful gardens in the Southern Highlands.
Wedding bouquet made from garden flowers
Wedding bouquet made from garden flowers © Anna Blackman

So there it is - just a few of the ways we managed to reduce the footprint (and probably in loads of ways, the cost!) of our big day. And I have to say one of the unintended bonuses of the DIY/upcycled wedding is the fun you get to have making and working on everything in the weeks leading up to it.

Now granted, it’s going to take more than a sustainable wedding to drive the systemic change needed to combat climate change, but in addition to the big collective action things we all need to get involved in, it’s important to make the personal lifestyle changes fun and meaningful for you so they’ll stick - and our sustainable wedding ticked a lot of boxes for us.