Meet three couples who made sure God’s world (the people and the planet) got a front row seat at their big celebration.
Whether you’re the bride, the groom, the in-laws or the MC, planning a wedding can be a stressful business. When you consider the printed invitations, single-use decorations and masses of food, it can also be quite a wasteful one too.
As a party dedicated to celebrating love and family, there’s no doubt Jesus would have loved a good wedding. But as followers of Christ, we’re called to love one another, and to love the earth too. We chatted to three couples about how they used their special day to honour God, his kingdom, and one another!
Jo Herbert is (Tearfund Australia’s sister agency) Tearfund UK’s Theology and Networks Manager, focusing on environmental and economic sustainability. As a passionate environmentalist already living a zero-waste lifestyle, she knew when she tied the knot, sustainability would be a big part of the planning.
“We wanted our wedding to be a complete celebration, but we also wanted to have the lowest environmental impact we could,” Jo said.
The invitations were compostable, the decorations were recyclable, and the food? That was the best surprise of all!
‘We fed people with canapés made from food that would have gone into landfill otherwise,’ said Jo, who found a company that created incredible nibbles from food waste.
For Jo being zero waste isn’t just ethical, but a practical outward expression of her faith. “The Gospel is all about things being restored and reconciled to their right relationship,” she said, referencing Colossians 1:20. “God designed us to be in harmony with and to care for wider creation”.
Planning an ethical and sustainable wedding may seem daunting at first, but according to Zara Vaccari and Simon Cook, it’s well worth it.
“Extra people-power is definitely required to get the jobs done,” said Zara, the producer of The Justice Conference Australia (presented by TEAR Australia and partners). “Thankfully the aesthetic we chose required minimal setup, so people could focus on enjoying the day.”
For the couple, planning a wedding to be environmentally sustainable wasn’t just a win for the planet but the people in their lives as well. Whether it was hunting around for second-hand decorations or finding potted plants to use instead of flowers, the couple quickly realised these tasks gave their bridal party a chance to come together around not just the wedding, but also the environment.
“The bridesmaids all could choose their own dress, so they could pick something they’d wear again,” said Zara. “And the groomsmen had fun searching for matching ties in op shops, which we then altered to a more modern width.”
On the big day, the bridal parties got ready next to the church, cutting out any need for wedding cars. And at the reception, place cards doubled as bonbonniere: drink coasters with the person’s name on it. Zara said: “I still see them around today when I visit family and friends’ homes.”
“God is a God of justice.”
When Kelsey Reist, a Tearfund Australia supporter and long-term volunteer, made this connection in her heart, everything in her life changed. “I realised there was a better way for almost everything I did and thought I knew,” she said.
For Kelsey and her partner Sam Kostevc, this didn’t just mean giving to those less fortunate or advocating for human rights, but also caring about the environment and living sustainably.
So, when Sam proposed and wedding planning began, they knew it would be done with the same passion for justice they had in all other areas of life.
The couple held their wedding at Yarra Valley Estate in Victoria, a venue known for its sustainable approach to events. “I think that can be a big stress taken off justice-loving couples when the venue highly values the environment,” said Kelsey, who said the venue only allows biodegradable confetti and streamers and used organic produce from an on-site garden for the catering.
As for the gift registry, if you were looking for the traditional appliance or cutlery set to gift, you were in for a surprise.
“We asked for donations towards our Tearfund DEEP trip that was happening less than a month after the wedding,” said Kelsey.
While the Bible says there is a time and a place for celebration and having a wedding was important for the couple, they also wanted an opportunity to give back. As a couple who first bonded through their shared heart for social justice, the trip to visit Tearfund’s partners was the perfect way to begin their marriage.
So, what would Kelsey’s top tips be for future brides and grooms attempting a justice-hearted wedding?
Firstly, don’t compare your wedding to others. “If you’ve tried your best and made an effort to include certain ethical elements, you’ve made a huge step in a world that encourages self-gratification and self-pleasure!”
Secondly, don’t forget it is a party! While it’s easy to be overwhelmed with advice and start to feel guilty about even having a wedding at all, Kelsey knew in her heart that God is a God of justice, but also joy and celebration. “I do believe Jesus loved to party, especially when two of his children become one flesh for the glory of God with strong hearts for justice,” she said. “And your wedding will show others glimpses into that.”