Ethical Wedding - Brett And Elissa

On June 13 I am marrying the love of my life Brett Hansen. Brett is a gentle, kind, creative, patient, talented man who I look forward to spending the rest of my life with. We share the same personal and political values and support each other’s dreams (no matter how mad they sound when you say them out loud!).

Ethical Wedding - Brett And Elissa

As a social justice and environmental activist who has studied business ethics, consulted to social business, worked in the non-profit sector and dreams of running a global social enterprise, planning a wedding is a pretty overwhelming thing to take on.

Not everything we’ve chosen to do is ethical. For example, we opted to hire a stretch limo because we both share a love for luxury and the idea of being treated like rock stars for a few hours. We investigated Green Cabs, but unfortunately discovered we weigh more than the maximum allowable weight (that’s my fault, not Brett’s). We also chose to go on a cruise (or ‘ocean liner’ as my friend Sean put it). Given its tendency to burn lots of fuel (not to mention other ocean hazards I dare not begin to research), our saving grace is that we are heading to Vanuatu. Our visit there ought to provide vital assistance to the economy there post Cyclone Pam.

That said, we’re not 100% arsehole, so we’re incorporating a number of ethical elements into our marriage celebrations. Here are 10 of them. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

1. Ethical Invitations

We shunned paper invitations and went with Greenvelope. Not only was it a more environmentally-friendly option, but it was extremely convenient, super quick and heaps cheaper.

2. Ethical Rings

We’re getting our rings designed and made by Utopian Creations. The white gold being used in the engagement ring and both our weddings bands is recycled. The aquamarine and black stone (exact stone still to be determined) being used for my engagement ring are both locally sourced. The white diamond being used for my wedding band is a vintage white diamond.

3. Ethical Food

As I am half Italian, we are having a very loosely themed Italian wedding. Who better to make pasta for us than one of my favourite local restaurant and catering services Mu’ooz. We’ll be serving the pasta in recycled cardboard Noodle Boxes from Kent Paper & Packaging. Mu’ooz is an African non-profit social enterprise and restaurant run by the Eritrean Australian Women & Family Support Network.

Mu’ooz Restaurant & Catering provides employment and traineeships for African refugee women. For women who have suffered traumatic experiences of war and poverty and have had little opportunity in education in their life, Mu’ooz gives both employment and new opportunities that help in the healing process. To date they have given work experience, training and employment to over 70 women.

Prior to British colonisation, Eritrea was colonised by Italy. Many who visit Mu’ooz will notice pasta and lasagne options on their menu. Mu’ooz founder Saba Abraham once told me that many older Eritreans still speak Italian.

I attended one of Mu’ooz’s first fundraisers when they were trying to get their Moorooka restaurant off the ground and have had them cater for Green Party and Green Institute events over the years. Their restaurant recently moved to West End (sad for us, but good for them!).

4. Ethical Venue

After a private ceremony with family at the Brisbane Registry Office, we’re holding a reception for 200 guests at Food Connect Warehouse at Salisbury Industrial Estate, just down the road from where we live. There will be food, music and dancing until late (no noise restrictions!). We’re going to walk home afterwards.

Food Connect is a social enterprise that envisages a world where all Australians have access to healthy, fresh, ecologically-grown food that is fair to growers and eaters.

For this occasion, they will be converting their warehouse into an exciting party venue for us. Yay!

5. Ethical Gift

We didn’t initially intend to, but we’ve actually ended up spending a stupid amount of money on celebrating our marriage. However, rather than recoup our costs via a wishing well (because there is no way I’m going to recoup the costs of my ring anyway!), we’ve decided to invite donations from guests to a project I’m partnering with in Kenya called the Migori Health Rights Network.

The Migori Health & Rights Network is working to improve school attendance among schoolgirls and empower young women with knowledge and skills for socio-economic development.

The Network currently distributes sanitary pads to girls in primary schools and to young women (mostly siblings and friends of the pupils attending studies in schools in Migori).

Currently, the program receives donations from local Kenyan well-wishers and is only able to provide 239 girls with 2 pads each month. However, this is way below the proxy number required to last a girl the entire menstruation period.

6. Independent Dress Designer

I am not having a white wedding, so I decided to buy myself a dress I could wear over and over again. I’m spending $500 on getting a custom dress designed by Pixie Pocket on Etsy. I’m not aware of where and how the fabric is sourced, but I like the idea of supporting a small, independent artist rather than purchasing something from a chain department store. That said, if it turns up and looks horrible, I may be forced to make that trip to Myer afterall. Fingers crossed!

7. Independent Photographer

I am delighted to have secured the services of talented local photographer Tammy Law. I first met Tammy when she volunteered to take some photos for us at Lifeline. Tammy is the only non-family member who’ll be attending our ceremony, with a view to capturing it on camera and I’m excited to have her join us. Her website is Tammy Law Weddings and I love how she describes her approach: “I have an appreciation for capturing the important moments without being intrusive.” I also love that she features a same-sex wedding in her portfolio.

8. Independent Pasticceria

Mumma’s Pantry is an emerging catering business who will be putting together a selection of desserts for us (with gluten-free and vegan options) and making us a rustic, homestyle red velvet wedding cake. Yay for start-ups! We wish Morgan the best of luck in her new business and look forward to eating her sweet treats on June 13.

9. Social Justice Mindset

I realise marriage isn’t for everyone. I also realise monogamy isn’t for everyone. But Brett and I have chosen both of these things and hope that, in the same way we respect those who choose other paths, ask that people respect the path we’ve chosen. Sadly there is no choice for same-sex couples to marry and we both support the call for marriage equality in Australia. If you’d like to hear more of my views on this issue, you can read this speech I made at a marriage equality rally in 2010.

10. Feminist Mindset

As a feminist, I have ummmed and ahhhed about the whole marriage thing for the last 20 or so years. I’ve attended at least 20 weddings and I have enjoyed (and cried through) them all, but I’ve never been able to picture myself having a traditional white wedding with an engagement party and a Hen’s Night. Despite being a big fan of the sisterhood, I don’t see a Hen’s Night as an opportunity for female bonding. I would simply miss having some of my male besties there – Brett, Mitch and Dan.

But for me, ‘marriage’ is separate to ‘wedding’. I carefully read the vows that I am required to read and commit to. There’s nothing in those vows that causes me offence. I am not changing my name to Hansen. To me, it just doesn’t feel right. I am also aware of my rights to keep or share the property that I have owned on my own for that last 8 years. While the financial decisions we make as a couple are our business and our business only (instituted by the law), it’s important to note that I will be making my decisions from a place of equity and fairness – as is Brett.

I enjoyed reading Amnesty International’s 11 Ways To Have An Ethical Wedding that’s doing the rounds today. I personally find the second-hand wedding dress a bit weird (I reckon they’re great for costume parties though!). I like the idea of buying a fairtrade dress, but unfortunately there are very few fairtrade clothes available in fuller figure sizes full stop, let alone wedding dresses. We think our online invites totally trump Amnesty’s recycled paper suggestion! Finally, we’re not having flowers at all – fresh, local, plastic or otherwise. I do love flowers, but I just can’t justify the spend.

I hope you liked some of my ideas! Good luck with bringing ethics into your own everyday life and special events.

5 thoughts on “10 Ways To Make An Ethical Wedding Possible

  1. Awesome Elissa. I love the way you speak so openly about what are sometimes private and mysterious things … the backstage of a wedding! you are thoughtful about so many things, its inspiring to read! so looking forward to being part of the 200 strong ethical love festival!

  2. Sounds great!
    I was surprised how hard it was when we tried to have an ethical green wedding. We did however:
    – remove the definition of marriage from the service (Churches can do this),
    – I had bride’s boys in my side of the bridal party (I don’t have sisters but why should my brothers be left out because they aren’t girls?),
    – eco-limo did our transport,
    – the venue was shocked when I insisted on a vegetarian option ON THE MENU as well as the ethical meat choices,
    – I chose a $500 short dress that I’ve worn multiple times
    – 2nd hand vases made up the centre pieces
    Can’t remember the other bits & bobs but we did quite a bit and I remember it being really hard to keep fighting the institution of marriage and all the commercial industry expectations. It shouldn’t be this hard.
    Oh and of course I kept MY name – why are people still surprised at this?
    Good luck with the big day – you’ll have a blast!

  3. Thanks for your insightful post. It can be difficult making ethical decisions whilst still not compromising on the things you really want to do (as you’ve noted with your cruise decision, which has its pros and cons). Even with companies like Kent Paper & Packaging that sell eco-friendly paper products, you have to be careful where their products are sourced as some products may be produced in an eco-friendly manner, but if their imported from an offshore manufacturer the transportation would have quite a large carbon footprint. I see that they try to source locally where possible, but they do not specify exactly which products are locally sourced and which are imported. I think in the end, you’re doing well to minimise your impact and I hope others planning a wedding will find these ideas of use.

    BTW, from an equality perspective, is your husband-to-be getting an engagement ring too? It’s not unheard of for a man to have one 🙂 I think they look quite striking!

  4. Hey Angela,

    Thanks for your comment! Yeah it’s a massive minefield to navigate ethical productions online. Locally versus internationally sourced is always hard to figure out. Even better is that we could’ve hired crockery for the meal, but wanted something portable for guests – less formal for the big party style affair.

    I’m a big fan of jewellery and Brett doesn’t like stones in men’s jewellery so I get all the stones. Yay for me!


  5. Emma,

    ECO LIMO!!?!??!?!?!??!

    I wouldn’t even have thought of googling that!!! Who woulda thought!!!?!?!?!?!!?

    Your wedding sounds lovely.

    Elissa. 🙂

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