DIY – Sustainable – Low-Budget Wedding

There are many reasons to want to have a low-cost and simple wedding, you may be loaded with student debt, don’t see yourself in a princess gown, or like us, need to rush things along for a foreign-fiance visa. If you are a bride or groom looking to save your pennies on your big day, then there are short-cuts that do not take away from the magic of the day. As just stated, my situation was that my foreign-fiance and I needed to tie the not in a three month time frame from his arrival on U.S. soil so that he could fulfill the requirements of his K-1 visa. We knew all of this after months and months of research and luckily neither of us are very fussy or uppity, so a shindig planned in a couple of weeks neither stressed us out or meant that we had to give up big dreams of violin quartets or three tiered cakes. We were however, quite stubborn about our special day being waste-free, ethical, and sustainable – meaning little waste, lots of second hand finds, and DIY.

Here are how we managed to make our Earth Day wedding as down to Earth and friendly to her as possible.

The Dress

18156349_1268217376630846_7658297236323043971_oI am no Bridezilla, but I know how important the dress is and after dress shopping with my mom and twin sister, I know now too just how fun and flattering wedding gowns can be, I cannot however, justify paying hundreds of dollars on a dress to be worn just once, especially not for the garden, civil ceremony that we had. Therefore, while my fiance was across the pond spending his nights researching immigration documents, I was browsing the internet for the perfect civil ceremony dress (don’t worry, I helped with the legal research, too!)

A company had been stuck in my mind since watching the eye-opening documentary, The True Cost, the company is People Tree, which I instantly fell in love with when I watched the film. They are a U.K. based, fair trade, and sustainable company. After browsing their site, I found the dress. A cream dress with a navy, red, and carmel floral print, boat neck, knee-length, vintage-style, organic cotton beauty. I shipped it to my beau, and tried it on for the first time a few months later after he landed here to be with me – and it fit! If you are planning a laid-back wedding or will be married with a civil ceremony, then looking at dress shops instead of bridal shops will save you hundreds of dollars. Thrift stores or a friend’s closet will cut the cost even more. My dress is of a much higher quality than most low-end wedding dresses (which are priced mostly for the “w” word,) because it’s made of a thick, organic cotton with strong stitches at the hem whereas many wedding dresses are of polyester and are likely made in factories in developing nations where the women who sew them together are not paid fair wages.

The Rings

My engagement ring is a family antique from my husband’s side, no blood diamonds for us! I can’t state how much I love the fact that the ring that began our lives together forever comes from his family history and not from a store (which really came from mining, which when you think about, is blowing up a mountainside in order to pry out it’s natural resources.) Not to mention, the idea of needing a diamond engagement ring is a relatively new one, women around the world got by without a shiny rock on their fingers for hundreds of years prior to the late 1940’s, but now it’s the norm – good for De Beers, not always so good for the savings accounts of young couples.

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My wedding band is likewise not from a big-name jewelers, instead it is from a smaller producer in California that I found on Etsy. My husband’s band is also from Etsy. They don’t match at all, but they are what each of us liked and they did not break the bank. In order to know my ring size for ordering I went to multiple jewelry shops to get sized, playing that I was browsing there, I then ordered from Etsy. The seller was quick to respond to my order and even asked when the date of our wedding was so that he could have it to me in time, which it was, and I only ordered it a few weeks before our Earth Day wedding. My ring came from this seller. Pictured is Freddie, practicing being ring-bearer with the pillow I had stitched him.

The Cake

I made it! Yes, it was slightly stressful to be making homemade frosting to then frost my chocolate, Greek yogurt cake with only two hours before walking down the aisle, but it was better, in my opinion, to make a healthy,  homemade cake than to make one from a box or get it from a shop. I used all natural ingredients and made it to out specific taste – rich chocolate. It must be said that making my cake myself was possible because I only expected a total of six people at my ceremony, that’s including the bride and groom. For a larger shindig it may not be so do-able, but a local bakery would be better than a grocery store if ethics and health is on your mind, however a grocery store cake would do just fine for a large crowd and a small budget.

I also made my cake topper which was Pinterest inspired. I used burlap ribbon, embroidery thread, and paper straws to hold it up. It was made with the same burlap ribbon I used to make my ring bearer’s pillow, so tied it all together, plus the colors matched the print of my dress. By making my cake and having a low key venue of my grandmother’s garden and kitchen, I was also able to ensure that our cake-cutting was absolutely zero-waste – no paper plates or plastic forks. (The cake topper we kept and it is now adorning one of our house plants.)

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Flowers

My mom and I researched wedding bouquets at local florists, but in the end I decided to go with a simple bouquet of tulips bought from a local grocery store. I would have liked to have supported a local florist for their skill and work, but it seemed to me that just like wedding dresses, wedding flowers are pricey because they are labeled to be for a wedding. The twelve tulips cost $12, the cheapest bouquet I could find online was around $40, and to make them fit in with our earthy theme I cut the wrapper down and wrapped twine around the stems. By the end of the ceremony they were very droopy, likely because they traveled in the car out of their vase, I suggest keeping your flowers in water as long as you can to avoid this.

The Groom

Rather than go out and buy a new suit or rent a tuxedo, my fiance wore khakis, a navy button up that matched my dress, and dress shoes which were all purchased from second hand stores; costing a total of roughly $10, but to be honest, that’s probably a high estimate. Everything that he wore he had bought prior to our engagement except for the shoes which we lucked upon about two weeks before the wedding. Yes, your wedding ceremony is a special event and a special day, but if you can come to terms with you and your groom wearing items already owned, then you can save yourselves hundreds of dollars.

There are many ways to save money on your wedding, especially if you have a civil ceremony with a low number of guests. Make your special day uniquely you by adding special touches that match you as a couple. Keep your eyes out in the months ahead at thrift stores and estate sales, or your friend’s and family members’ houses for items to borrow and return. May your civil ceremony be as romantic and cheap as mine, the two can definitely go hand in hand.

 

Hosting a Beach Clean Up Event

Hosting a beach clean up event has been spinning in my mind as an idea for a while, but I was never really sure how to materialize it. It’s easy enough though to gather a few friends or a group of people and have them collect as much litter as they can, so that is exactly what I am doing.

Last month contained the American holiday of Earth Day, on April 22nd, unfortunately my event wasn’t planned in advance enough to be around Earth Day, but that really doesn’t matter. Each and every day should be a day in which we consider our constant impact on our fragile planet, and we should change our habits so that we cause less and less harm.

Together with a yoga friend, Jessica Rykert Holt, who has been leading mindful meditation gatherings in Busan, a straightforward beach clean up/yoga event has been organized at Gwangali, one of our local beaches. After a date was set for May 16th, Jessica was told of another beach clean up happening at another coastal location in our city, so we joined up to host coinciding events. The other event is through a local scuba diving group, Busan Scuba. Divers will meet and clean up Taejongdae, an island in the southern part of Busan.

Here’s what our beach clean up event will consist of at Gwangali:

  • Meet Up and Introduction – After learning some new names, I will start the event off by explaining my motivation, which is to create awareness about the harming of the oceans and lands, but more specifically, the oceans, by single use plastics such as to-go cups, straws, packaging and wrappers. Next, Jessica will speak about mindfulness and meditation and teach everyone about what they will be doing as they comb the beach cleaning up.
  • Time to Hit the Sand – After the tools are passed out (gloves and city purchased garbage bags in our case) participants will get to the cleanin’. Busan suffers from a lot of littering, both internally in the city and along the coasts and beaches. Daily I see candy wrappers, cigarette cellophane, straws and the like strewn about the beach when I walk my dog and on the streets. Not knowing the language well enough, it seems to me from observation, that people are simply ignorant of the lasting negative impact of their fluttering plastics that land on the beach and quickly find their way into the water via tides or winds.
  • A Yoga Practice, Of Course! – After all of the hard work and concentration on being mindful, everyone will reconvene at a large area on the boardwalk to lay out their mats and flow. The class will continue with the theme of mindfulness and individual impact, and will last an hour. The class will be designed for a range of students, from beginner to advanced.

It can be intimidating to put yourself out in the community and plan an event, but that should never hold you back from striking the match which lights the fire that is action. Let your little light shine! Planning a beach clean up is a great way to get some friends together and make an impact, or to make it bigger and involve locals.

This event is 5,000 won minimum donation with money going towards garbage collecting gear and the remainder being donated to http://www.projectaware.org/ an organization of divers who work towards cleaning and saving the oceans in their Marine Debris project as well as saving endangered sharks in their Sharks in Peril movement. Below is an infograph produced by Project Aware with facts about the impact of our trash.

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Information about meditation events led by Jessica can be found the Busan Yoga & Meditation Group on Facebook.


Update on Beach Clean Up Event

Despite the fact that Saturday, May 16th started out as a dreary, cloudy, and quite frankly sort of miserable day, with temperatures much lower than they had been for a few weeks, a group of dedicated participants met me on the boardwalk for the clean up. After everyone had made their way to our meet up location, Jessica and I got things started. The event went exactly as planned and everyone did a fantastic job of filling up their garbage bags. It was unbelievable how much litter they were capable of collecting in just 40 minutes. Below is a gallery of photos.

Unfortunately, a lot more was left behind that we weren’t able to collect. The problem has to be corrected with people disposing of their waste correctly. An even better solution, in my opinion, is to drastically decrease individual waste production, by changing habits and cutting out all single use items from day to day life.

Use Less Plastic

It’s April. This month we celebrate Earth Day, a day to recognize the beauty of nature, maybe plant a tree, spend some time outdoors, or attend a community planned event. That’s all good and great and brings nothing but smiles to my face, but ultimately, we need to spend every day as if it is Earth Day, because every day we live on and take from this planet and rarely do we take a step back and contemplate our day-to-day choices and their effects on the environment.

It has been on my mind a great deal these past few months to use less plastic. One of my resolutions for the New Year was to decrease my plastics use this year and forever more. Here are some tips of how I have been cutting back.

  • DON’T USE PLASTIC BAGS!!! These nuisances are almost unavoidable. Purchase anything and they automatically toss it in a plastic bag. This is exceptionally true here in Korea at markets and convenience stores. At least at grocery stores they charge you for the bags (here in Korea.) Give it a think, what use does that bag have to you after you bring it home and take out whatever you carried in it? Maybe you could use it as a garbage can liner, but that’s about it. I’m sure you have a larger collection of plastic bags than you do garbage cans. Replace them with reusable bags that fold up and clip onto your purse, or take an empty backpack with you to the grocery store. I’ve made it a recent habit to even take empty Tupperware with me to fill with shrimp or wet items sold fresh from the market. It works great!
  • PURCHASE WITH LESS PACKAGING Marketers wrap their products in so much unnecessary paper and plastic to make it look appealing on the shelves. Again, this is an example of a one time use by-product that has absolutely no value to you in the future. There’s no doubt that it makes its way into the garbage or recycling bin. While choosing a product at the grocery store or any other shop, compare which item has less packaging and go for that. Give preference to post consumer recycled paper board or soy printed labels. If something comes in a glass jar, then wash it out and add it to your Tupperware cupboard, or use it to store sugar or other dry goods in as opposed to in the plastic bags that they come in.
Wash and reuse glass jars after use. This way, you can store dry goods like coffee and sugar in glass rather than the original plastic.

Wash and reuse glass jars after use. This way, you can store dry goods like coffee and sugar in glass rather than the original plastic.

  • ASK FOR NO STRAW If you get an iced coffee or smoothie or even a soft drink with your meal out at a restaurant, then be sure to tell the server or barista that you do not need a straw. They are absolutely pointless utensils and cause a lot of waste. When I collect litter off of the beach a lot of the garbage is straws from drinks from the nearby cafes. Of course, be sure to bring your tumbler  along with you in your purse or bag to avoid using plastic cups and lids with that straw.
It doesn't take me long to collect straws on my morning walks,.

It doesn’t take me long to collect straws on my morning walks,.

  • NO PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES This is an obvious one, especially with my previous post on the usefulness of tumblers, which is hyperlinked just above, but I’ll say something quick as a reminder. Plastic bottled water is as unnecessary as a straw, you don’t need ’em. They have become modern-day conveniences and the norm for most, but change your habit by buying a home use water filter, purchasing a metal water bottle or tumbler to be filled with the filter or even straight out of the tap if it’s safe to do where you live.
    • Side note: Isn’t it sad that it is unsafe to drink from the tap! I was warned when I moved to Korea that it’s a big no-no. Most people create a lot of waste by buying large, plastic bottles of water.
  • CHANGE YOUR PLASTIC USE HABITS This is incorporated into all of the tips above in a way, yet deserves more explanation. In order for me to cut back on my plastics use, I have to make small decisions every day. For example, there is a bakery around the corner from me that I enjoy, but I will not allow myself to go in there unless I have a container on me to carry the bread away with. At first they looked at me funny, but after about the fourth time, they gave me a day old bread free of charge (or service as they say here) because they may have thought it was cute that I brought my own Tupperware.

Changing habits, whether it be stopping bad ones or starting good ones, takes time and effort and won’t happen overnight. It might seem, at first, like a big pain to have to cart around a metal water bottle with you everywhere you go and you might find yourself grimacing at the checkout line when you realize that you’ve left your reusable bags at home – AGAIN! If you keep at it and make little notes, place the bags near your car keys or always in your purse, then it will begin to be the way things are for you and you’ll be cutting your plastics use down bit by bit.