Enjoying a long career photographing weddings, it was a ‘mid life opportunity’ that drew Sandra on another path. Having witnessed the trend toward lavish and extravagant weddings, it was clear that there was less and less meaning centred around the two people actually saying ‘I do’. Returning from time spent in Africa, Sandra realised the need for social change and was inspired to create a new wedding culture – one of eco-ethical celebrations. Her philosophy has inspired many and has grown into the development of Australia and New Zealand’s first eco-ethical wedding hub. Sandra shares her vast knowledge in the area and helps with handy tips to ease into the ethical and eco-minded wedding path!
Less Stuff – More Meaning organisation for wedding rebels, for those who value connection, community and living mindfully. Mindfulness and weddings don’t seem to naturally go hand in hand, but our focus is to make it easy for couples to be eco and ethically conscious, all whilst feeling affirmed in your relationship and community values.
Through our eco-ethical wedding community, we bring you the ‘how to’ – our Mindfully Wed E-Guide, as well as the tribe you need to plan a wedding that is kind to people and the planet. We believe that as empowered individuals, alongside the pretty, we can infuse our hearts, passion and vision for a better world into our weddings.
Eco Weddings – Image by Capture the Present Shaun Li
Of starting the ‘Less Stuff – More Meaning’ Sandra says, I like to call it a ‘mid-life opportunity’. I’d been working as a wedding photographer for over 10 years, and had become somewhat jaded with the wedding extravaganza. Then add in a little dash of cynicism thanks to a divorce!! It had always been my dream to work in Africa, somehow I could feel it in my bones.
So following my divorce, I went to Malawi to volunteer as a photojournalist for a development organisation. Capturing success stories, and speaking heart to heart with those who shared their stories, was where I found my soul space. It was the most healing experience of my life (way better than therapy!). I sat on peoples’ front porches, listening to their immense appreciation for the things such as pots and pans, a mattress to sleep on, or a brick home that won’t need to be re-built every 1-2 years.
And then I returned into peak wedding season, with the luxury that this entails, and it changed my lens forever. Rather than seeing this cultural contrast as a negative, it got me thinking: what if these happiest of days, instead of being centred around the couple, we extend the love to our greater community and global family?
From this grew our motto of: “Eco-ethical weddings: celebrating the love you share between each other and ALL humans”
Over time, I got to know many more change-makers in the wedding industry, offering more sustainable options or giving back in some way. So very organically, LSMM became a hub for eco-ethical wedding businesses, a source of eco-ethical inspiration, and an avenue to help find like-minded wedding vendors through our directory.
Letterbox Press Recycled Papers – Image by Sandra Henri Photography
Image via Lina Hayes
What are some ways that couples can get involved and make ethical choices in their wedding planning?
There are more ethical or eco-friendly choices at every step along the way of planning a wedding, but trying to do them all might drive you a little batty! We recommend concentrating on your most important values, such as plastic free, small and simple, up-cycled, or supporting local, and going from there.
For a comprehensive guide that includes all our tips and knowledge across the industry, we recommend grabbing the Mindfully Wed E-Guide, which is empowering as well as sanity saving!
The best things you can do for the planet with your wedding, might surprise you and even save you money!
Image via Lydia Reusser – Eco-Friendly Florist
A few easy ways to incorporate eco-friendly choices may be:
- Increase the plant-based options in your wedding menu:
Switching one beef serving for a plant-based meal for 100 guests, would result in a carbon saving of 1164kg. That’s the equivalent of 3 one-way flights from Sydney to Bali. What an easy way to offset your honeymoon travel! Head to the Mindfully Wed E-Guide to get some menu inspiration that is both earth and guest friendly.
- Reduce your travel miles:
This includes the obvious travel made by you or your guests, but also the hidden travel miles of your produce, flowers, or your clothing. The Mindfully Wed E-Guide will help you understand which questions to ask your vendors, so you can make the most sustainable choices.
- Use something that already exists, rather than buying new:
This may include re-creating family jewellery into a new bespoke piece, up-cycling fabric or a pre-loved gown into something perfectly you. Borrow, rent and re-use where you can.
Image via Nina Hamilton
The biggest item of waste at weddings is…flowers! You’d be surprised how many kilos of flowers are ordered for your wedding styling, in order to select the best to create your bouquets and table decorations. 80-100kgs is not uncommon! And due to time constraints, venues will often turf the left over flowers in the bin.
We recommend choosing a florist who sources locally grown, seasonal and can compost your florals, or loves to work with dried flowers. Or feel like Santa for a day, and re-gift the flowers to a local community service, nursing home, or hospital. Fun!
When I first started LSMM, I felt a little like the wedding industry crazy lady! Yet now, I hear over and over “I wish you were around when we planned our wedding!”.
Through my own experiences attending weddings as a photographer, I have to say, eco-ethical weddings have a whole extra layer of meaning. These couples ooze heart, are totally grounded in why they are getting married, and have zero fear in ditching traditions that don’t mean anything to them. It’s a way for them to say no to any unnecessary fuss, save money where they can, and have the fulfilment that comes with knowing you have personally made a difference.
Image via Nina Hamilton
With 110,000 weddings/year in Australia, and with an average wedding budget of 35k, never before (and maybe never again) will you hold so much consumer power. Use it! Let your wedding speak for a better world.