This blog post accompanies a Radio EcoWolf podcast episode [in Russian]. In the podcast we talk in detail about our zero-waste wedding and share our experience of organising such a celebration for 90 people.
Podcast audio recording [in Russian]:
Let’s get married!
We chose the French Alps for our wedding because we both love mountains and we wanted to share one of our favourite places with friends and relatives. All three parts of the celebration took place in Chamonix – a mountain town just an hour from Geneva (Switzerland) and close to our hearts. It’s also a well-know island of Britishness, with English speakers around every corner and behind every second bar – a fact that made life easier and more comfortable for our non-French-speaking guests.
The breathtaking views made for a magical atmosphere and the snow-capped peaks ensured uniquely different wedding photos. Perhaps even more importantly though, the more beautiful the landscapes, the less decorations you need in the indoor spaces!
The church was so beautiful that any additional decorations were simply out of the question.
We couldn’t get away with no decorations at all however. We decorated the venue at which dinner and the evening celebration took place with things from home, branches from a tree that had fallen not far from where we were staying, and with an eclectic selection of glass vessels such as wine bottles and garlands. The red paper roses and potato sack material were sourced from a colleague who had married a few months before us.
We put out hand-made welcoming sign in a frame that we’d found thrown out on the street some weeks before the wedding. We wrote the greeting message on the reverse side of the backing paper insert that was inside the frame as the colour of that backing paper harmonised well with the wooden walls of the venue.
You will surely have noticed that red elements are to be found in most of the pictures. Drawing inspiration from the colour palettes of the places in which we planned to celebrate (the volet shutters on the windows of the restaurant at which we lunched, the upholstery in the restaurant, the fondue pots, the mountain train, etc.), we chose red as the colour of the wedding. This helped us to avoid buying single-use coverings to achieve a colour scheme.
The only new purchases we made in order to reenforce the colour choice were the bride’s lipstick and six metres of silk ribbon that was used to tie bouquets and for small decorations. It’s easy for the bride to further highlight the colour scheme of the wedding by simply going for a coloured rather than a traditional, natural manicure.
The bride and groom’s outfits
The bride’s bouquet and the groom’s boutonnière
Both bouquet and boutonnière were made from the pages of an English-Russian dictionary found in a waste paper container. The bride’s bouquet and the bouquet caught by one of the guests also contained red paper roses. They were used as decorations at the wedding of the same colleague who donated some of her other used decorative pieces. This meant that we were able to both upcycle and reuse.
We used birdseed from a pet store as confetti. Our guests loved it but we spent the next couple of days picking it out of our hair. Still, it was both a fun and sustainable choice!
Food and drinks
Most guests ate fondue made from local cheese at lunch. This is a typical Haute-Savoie/Swiss dish.
Our chef liked the idea of going with a vegetarian take on traditional Russian finger food. After all a Russian wedding isn’t a wedding at all without gherkins and beetroot!
The main course at dinner, following pumpkin soup, consisted of Asian-style pastry parcels filled with tofu and mushrooms and complemented by a sweet and sour sauce.
What about the leftovers?
The little that remained on the plates of our guests was sent to one of the nearby farms as food for the pigs.
During the day, guests moved from place to place on the public bus we rented and one of the local trains, which was depicted on the original artwork we ordered for the wedding.
We asked local guests who came by car to car pool as far as possible.
Two years prior to our wedding, we were at the wedding of friends of ours at which the couple gave out to guests tulip bulbs and little packets with sunflower seeds (the event was in the Netherlands). One year on from that wedding, we planted the sunflowers and ended up with a huge harvest of seeds, which we then passed on to our own guests. Many people have planted them already and are keeping us updated on their progress.
Zero-waste cloth bags fulfilled a dual role as both presents and place name cards.
The names were written using vanishing ink; all you have to do is pass the iron over the area with the name and all traces of the ink disappear.
Games and entertainment
Many people enjoyed looking at photos (including childhood photos) of the bride and groom and tried to find some of the answers to questions in the quiz in those very pictures.
The quiz was a collection of humorous statements about the bride and groom. Guests had to guess which ones were true and which false.
None of the games (with the exception of the quiz and the rhyming game) required additional materials. The photo above shows one of those games: here our masters of ceremony (MCs) sat us with our backs to one another and asked us to take our shoes off and swap one, leaving us each with one of our own shoes and one of our partner’s. They then started asking each of us in turn questions like “Who in your relationship is the better cook?” and we had to indicate the answer by raising the corresponding shoe. We surprised everyone by being on exactly the same wavelength!
In the breaks between dancing and the games, we took part in a game much-loved by skiing enthusiasts: you have to drink a shot in one, without dropping the shot glass affixed to a ski, and without spilling a single drop. Four people play, with one at each end of the ski “steering” the movement of the ski with a single hand. The two people in the centre should not touch the ski at all. No skis were hurt in the making of this game as the shot glasses were secured by way of magnets stuck to the ski and the glasses themselves.
In place of a conclusion
If you’re preparing your wedding and don’t know how to go about making the event more sustainable, drop us a line. We have a lot of unused ideas still stored up as it’s never possible to squeeze everything into one day and we’re more than happy to share them with you.
Photography was taken care of by the wonderful Eight Bells. They speak English, Russian, and Hebrew (and possibly some others too) and are based in the French Alps.
Wedding planning and coordination was entrusted to our organisational “rock”: Mont Blanc Weddings (they speak English and French).
Our MCs were the rip-roaringly funny Viki and Daire from the improv group the Renegade Saints.
The creative and endlessly flexible food programme was taken care of by head chef Emma from Chamchef (a talented British chef based in the French Alps).
Music: Swinging acoustic hits were provided by local band Tintamarre.