If you’re having a beach themed wedding, looking at eco-friendly options to reduce the environmental impact or seeking a green sustainable wedding, I really hope this post will help with ideas.
I took great pride in designing all of the environmentally friendly wedding stationary and taking up role as ‘creative director’. It was scary but really exciting overseeing both the ceremony at Bamburgh Castle and the reception in Tynemouth. The greatest challenge, but most fun, was trying to make it as eco-friendly as we could. This was certainly not a traditional wedding.
This project includes: Wedding Invitations | RSVP Postcards | Order of Service Booklet | Transport | Sand Ceremony | Party Gift Bags | Favours | Wedding Reception Activities | Table Decorations | Patchwork It Gift Website | Guest Book | Thank You Cards
We had so many ideas together and it was loads of fun to be involved with every stage, being so hands on, I really would recommend this approach. The creation of all of the promotional material and the feedback from the ideas and games we used at the reception forms just as much of a memory of the day for us as the ceremony itself.
This experience is not about being perfect, it’s not about having zero carbon emissions or aiming for carbon neutral or preaching a better way. It was about making as many practical small changes as we could and always thinking in the back of our heads, can we be a bit more eco-friendly with this. It’s a project of ideas and thoughts, a process just as much as the end products. There are so many ideas I’ve had since the wedding for things we could have done. Hopefully I will get to bring some of those ideas to life on your special day, helping you to curate your own green wedding.
The theme for the wedding, you might have guessed was ‘beach’ as we spend most of our lives walking or cycling along them. The wedding was split over two days and two venues, this wasn’t the original plan and it was a really tough call on the environmental front due to the distances between them, but it worked out really well in the end.
The invites were based on a traditional postcard that we all used to send when we went on holiday. All of the invites, booklets etc we used were printed onto recycled FSC approved paper. We did consider the option of a website with email invites but for us personally, we really value the feeling of physical items for our memories so we had to weigh that all up.
To make the RSVP more entertaining we asked our friends and family to fill in the space with a drawing, photo or message, with prizes for the best entries. It helped set the tone that this wasn’t going to be a ‘normal’ wedding, it was a wedding where everyone was involved and part of the whole event.
The postcards doubled up as a pre-wedding guest book and we tried to encourage people not to buy us wedding cards to save on that card/paper usage. We displayed all of the entries at the ceremony so everyone could browse through them too. They have formed a great collection of memories, we now have them stored in a little postcard album.
The wedding ceremony took place in the evening at Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland with a few drinks afterwards. The main reception and party was at Crusoes on Tynemouth Longsands beach the following evening. This also doubled up as a 40th birthday, a great way to save costs, both financial and environmental.
We encouraged our guests to use a coach that we paid for to transport them from pick up points in Tynemouth and Whitley Bay up to Bamburgh and the majority used this. Those that weren’t able to use the coach, arranged car sharing between them to avoid loads more cars. The distance was something we were really conscious of when we decided to do it across the two venues but both places have such a special meaning for us, it was just something we had to work with.
As part of the ceremony we produced what began as an order of service, but quickly grew into more of a keepsake booklet. We decided we weren’t going to do speeches because from our experience it’s often so hard to hear and take in all of the wonderful stories and details. These are really important to the couple and they want to share them and yet the guests tend to miss out so much of this. We didn’t want to go down the same route.
Instead we opted to write our speeches into our ‘order of service’. This allowed us the space and time to compile something we really wanted everyone to read and they could do so in their own time. It meant we could focus most of our time mingling with our friends and family, instead of standing talking at them.
In the booklet we included all the readings, the sand ceremony wording and the music playlist (another thing that’s usually really significant to the married couple that often gets forgotten by guests, even though they come away thinking, what was that song called?). We also wanted to include the information about how much we had considered the environmental impact of the wedding in all of our planning because this was really important to us. You can browse through the order of service in the video below.
We did nearly abandon the idea because it felt like it was too many pages and the cost was increasing the more we added but I’m so glad we stuck with it. Our friends and family loved the fact that when they arrived at the ceremony, instead of milling around, they could read about the ceremony, the speeches and a little bit about us. It’s been a real treasure to look back over and I don’t think a website would have had the same feel to it.
Being beach lovers and explorers in general, we initially went for the cliched VW Campervan for our wedding transport to get us up to Bamburgh. It was an impulse decision after seeing it on a local business listing. It was the one decision we made impulsively as it was quite early on in the planning. Boy did it come back to bite us.
After booking it, I calculated the cost of fuel for the journeys we would need to make up and down the coast. It was grim reading. Being a classic vehicle it was only going to return about 20 mpg. For comparison, our Nissan Leaf electric car averages around 110 mpg when you do the conversions. This was going to cost us a lot. So already we were having doubts, but we had paid for it all upfront (foolishly). A few weeks later we got notification the company had gone bust, we’d lost all of the hire cost. It was a gutter, but we took it on the chin, it was meant to be.
This presented us with an opportunity to find suitable, cheaper, more sustainable transport. So… we opted for a tandem bike… there was a significance to this decision that relates to a past experience, it wasn’t just plucked out of a (mad) hat. We had such a laugh on this thing, it was one of the best decisions we made and a very wise investment as we still use it every week. We’ve since added a toddler seat to the back so I can take both boys out for rides along the coast. It even folds up to fit in the car boot too. Amazingly, it was cheaper to buy than the VW Campervan hire cost.
The reception was held at one of our favourite local haunts, Crusoe’s. It sits directly on Longsands Beach in Tynemouth and it’s just amazing to be there. It makes us feel as if we’re on holiday abroad every time we visit and walk along that beautiful stretch of beach. It totally proved to us that there really is no need to go abroad if you’re wanting a beach wedding (one of the options we considered early on as it’s what so many people do).
The reception doubled up as a 40th birthday too so we always planned for it to be a less formal set-up than a traditional wedding reception. Having it on the day after the ceremony meant that it was a more casual dress attire could be worn (we had told guests to come in Bermuda shorts and bikini if they were feeling brave… some actually did). As most folks had used the coach to return from Bamburgh the evening before, they were staying locally with friends, family or shared Airbnb’s and so they were able to mostly walk or tax a very short journey home, (no driving also = more drinking). It meant we could create a really great party atmosphere and come up with some crazy, creative ideas to get everyone talking to each other and be entertained.
Upon arrival we provided everyone with a gift bag. It wasn’t your usual tat of a party bag though. It was a recycled brown bag full of hand made eco-friendly goodies along with some challenges.
The idea behind the reception was to get folks talking. So often at wedding receptions the seating plans keep family and friends in their own separate groups but then they usually end up never leaving that group and it can all be a bit, well, stiff and stale and we really didn’t want that.
Each gift bag included:
- A quiz and crossword complete with
- An eco-friendly Treewise pencil made from rainbow paper
- A hand made cardboard drinks token
- A hand made pin badge with a famous person and a name on it (but not the name of the guest)
- Card props on stick
- The younger kids bags included a balloon too (these were biodegradable but we were still well aware of the harm they can do to wildlife, especially being close to the sea so we absolutely made sure these were not released outside and were disposed of properly. We felt it was a fair pay off to provide hours of entertainment for the younger kids instead of lots of other throw away plastic tat).
The Quiz worked much better than we expected, it got everyone up and talking to each other as we made questions that were specific to a certain time frame of life, e.g. Uni so family members wouldn’t have known those answers, they had to go and speak to our friends to find out. There’s nothing quite like a challenge to get people motivated. It was such a simple eco-friendly idea and everyone loved it.
Let’s talk about the badge. It really surprised us just how well this worked. We didn’t think anyone really liked pin badges anymore and it was just a strange fetish of mine. In each gift bag there was a 25mm button pin badge. I’d always wanted a badge making machine so this was my opportunity to get one so we could hand make them.
Each badge had a celebrity or vaguely famous person or character on and their name. The idea was for everyone to go around and find their own name badge, then wear it with pride so that everyone knew who they were. It was one of those things we noticed at other weddings – when you listen to the speeches or hear friends and family telling stories and recounting memories, you often hear the names of the people but you have no idea who they are in the room, and it’s good to put a face to a name.
As with the quiz, everyone really took to the idea, they loved the challenge. They ended up being like gold coins, the kids (and some adults) were going round trading names and hunting down people to match them to. There was also a lot of laughs (and disgust) at some of the celebrity choices to match with the names, it created a great conversation.
There was one last thing we had to fit into our party that had a special meaning… a rainbow. We found these awesome Piñatas quite by accident and we knew we had to use them. We had one set up for the kids to whack and one for the adults… it was fantastic… the kids won easily. Never underestimate the motivational power of sweets!
I’ve tried to give you a flavour of our overall experience in planning a greener wedding. Helping the environment is a learning curve, it’s about asking questions, testing things out but keeping the whole occasion special for you too, it has to be personal for it to work.
It wasn’t always easy, but it was always fun. This is by no means an exhaustive list and it’s not perfect. I know I’ve missed bits out such as the Patchwork it website we set up for ‘gifts’ (we mostly asked for people’s time and activities – like babysitting), our honeymoon (a ’round the world’ walk from Tynemouth to St Mary’s Lighthouse) and the message in a bottle ‘guest book’ (we get to smash it open on our 1st anniversary to find out what everyone wrote). Some things may not be explained in full detail either like the sand ceremony but these are much better to share in a conversation setting.
Thank You for taking the time to read this. I hope its been useful.
If you would like any advice, have any questions or want to have a conversation about me being part of your wedding plans, whether it be the invites, full stationary, website design or creative direction and planning of the whole wedding event, please contact me. I am also more than happy to share our environmental statement that we produced and our sand ceremony wording as we found this sort of thing quite hard to locate.
Peace, Love and making small changes to create something even more special,
Mr Arteest (Mark) x