Weddings, parties, anything
Planning your big day? Or a party to remember? Here are seven secrets for hosting an ethical event that’ll wow all your guests.
1. SERVE PLANT-BASED FOOD
Food is probably the first thing you’ll think about when planning a wedding or event. Serving plant-based food is the easiest way to make the biggest positive impact through your event. Apart from greenhouse gas emissions, the livestock industry is also a major source of land and water degradation, a contributor to acid rain and the degeneration of coral reefs, and a driver of deforestation. But what if your family and friends don’t love the idea of vegan food?
Food is inextricably linked to culture and tradition, and it can be difficult to go against the expectations of family and friends when it comes to big celebrations. It takes a little bravery to do things differently, but your event should be a reflection of you and your values. It’s also an opportunity to create new memories and a new culture around food. If your family is very unsupportive, you could try taking some of them along to taste the food that your caterer will serve, to put their mind at ease. You can also remind them that it’s just one meal and that it is important to you.
“Your event should be a reflection of you and your values”
Abundant vegan spread at Secret Creek / Harustudio Photography
And what about all your guests? Should you tell them the food is going to be vegan? This is entirely up to you. You’ll need to ask your guests for any special dietary requirements and make sure your caterer can manage those, but beyond that you don’t need to give details about the menu beforehand. If anything, plant-based food is more accessible for more people.
The way that you frame your choice makes a big difference to how it is perceived. You can do this in a short speech, giving the reasons for why every plant-based meal makes a difference. Doing this changes the narrative from personal sacrifice to empowerment.
2. MINIMISE WASTE
Beyond the food, there are other ways you can reduce the footprint of your event. One of the things to consider is the waste that your event might produce. If you need to use single-use packaging, plates, or cutlery, you can consider using compostable products. If you are using a caterer, ask them to design a menu that is seasonal and local where possible. Check their waste processes, such as what they can compost or recycle from the food preparation and service, perhaps asking them to pack up leftovers for you or your guests.
You can also consider eco-friendly decorations. You might choose natural and biodegradable confetti made from dried leaves or flowers, bunting made from recycled paper, or recycled jars and bottles to house flowers or candles on the tables. You can also hire decorations and other styling props from a local event styling company, instead of buying small items that you will never use again. Also, instead of paper invitations, try digital. You can even make a website to manage RSVPs and guest information, or use an app such as Appy Couple or Appy Life.
3. USE ETHICAL SUPPLIERS
Ask about the processes and products used by other suppliers that you might need. For example, you can find a florist that can avoid single-use plastics like zip ties and floral foam in their work. Check if they can source the flowers from local sustainable farmers instead of from overseas. For vendors like photographers or celebrants that supply a service rather than a product, you can still choose to support people who align with your values. And if you believe memories are more valuable than stuff, you might make photography and videography a higher priority than other items you’ll only use on the day.
When putting together your ethical dream team, start with the most important things. These are usually venue and caterer. Once you find those that align with your values, ask them who they would recommend for the rest of your team. They will likely know suppliers they have worked with before that share your values.
Table setting from vegan wedding at Secret Creek / Benny Valentine
4. DRESS THE PART
Remember to think about cruelty-free fabrics for your outfit, suit, or wedding dress. For a sustainable option, you could have something from your family’s collection altered, purchase second-hand, or hire something fabulous. Thinking outside tradition in terms of what you should wear can also open up possibilities. Another consideration is to choose a makeup artist and hairstylist who only use cruelty-free products.
You can also be mindful about your jewellery and whether the precious metals or stones were mined ethically. Even better, have a jeweller remake a family heirloom or a piece from an antique store. A preloved piece might come with an added layer of significance for you.
5. BE INCLUSIVE
Veganism encompasses so much more than food; it’s about minimising other types of harm too. Thinking about ways your event can be more inclusive to your guests and the wider community is one way to do this. Suggestions include making an acknowledgement of country to recognise the traditional custodians, ensuring your guests with extra accessibility needs are catered to, using gender-neutral language in your speeches, and interpreting some gendered traditions in more modern, interesting ways.
6. GET YOUR GUESTS INVOLVED
When it comes to gifts, you can ask your guests to donate to your favourite charity or you may choose a wishing well instead of physical gifts. If you are thinking of giving your guests a gift, think outside the box. You could give them seedling of a native tree that they can plant at home, something handmade from an ethical business, or sponsorship of a rescued farm animal in their name.
7. KNOW THAT MONEY MATTERS
One of the most significant impacts we can make as individuals is choosing where and how we spend our money. Thinking about weddings in particular, Australians spend an average of around $30,000 on this one celebration. And there’s no shame in going large for your special day. If you use your investment in the day as an opportunity to make a positive difference, you can feel empowered by your spend.
The impact of your spending can also reach beyond your big day too, through the vendors and venue you choose to support and the stories and messages that extend into the community through your guests. Money is power and regardless of the size of your budget, the choices you make about how you spend it are valuable.
Outdoor table setting at Secret Creek / Kirsten Cunningham Photography
THE I DOS AND I DON’TS
Lead image: Secret Creek