We love to tell couples that one of the easiest ways to make a wedding sustainable is to reduce the number of guests, but what if your cultural beliefs put high value on inviting and celebrating with extended family and friends at weddings?
Alexio and Gwendolyn sought help from our Wedding Footprint Calculator to find other ways to make their wedding sustainable, and they’ve shared their special day with us in the hopes to inspire other couples celebrating big wedding style!
The most important things Alexio and Gwendolyn wanted for their wedding day was that their family and friends should have a great time, and to keep the wedding as sustainable as possible. By using the Wedding Footprint Calculator they were able to counterbalance the guest numbers. They told us that by prioritising sustainability, it also made decision-making easier – if it was too complicated, unsustainable or a high cost then they chose not to do it. This meant ditching things like excessive wedding florals and unnecessary wedding favours, and sticking to one bridesmaid and groomsman to keep things simple.
To kick things off, Gwendolyn handmade invitations at a local makers workshop where she laser cut the invitation information into wood offcuts, with key guests getting the originals and the rest of the guests receiving a photo of the work. As you’re about to find out, Gwendolyn’s DIY skills were going to come in handy for their wedding!
“Less Stuff More Meaning was my favourite source of inspiration. It was so encouraging to see so many couples also valuing sustainability, and the different ways it can look to different people”
For Alexio and Gwendolyn, combining their Italian and Chinese wedding traditions meant starting the day with a Chinese Tea Ceremony and ending the day with an Italian Tarantella Dance with all of their guests, along with a traditional Italian torta from local Italian patisserie Dolcetto.
The wedding was held at The Church Barn at Chapel Farm Estate in Middle Swan, Western Australia. They chose the beautiful venue, made from repurposed and recycled materials, because it was a venue that required little decorating. The venue provided fairy lights, greenery and furniture which meant the couple didn’t have to add much that would go to waste after the wedding.
All their vendors were local to the area, which is also where most of the guests live, which limited the environmental impacts of travel.
Their florist Lisa, from The Forager and the Farmer, sourced florals and greenery locally from her own garden and was able to stay over 80% plastic free (completely floral foam free). Gwendolyn and Alexio specifically requested that she use any offcuts from her garden which would otherwise have gone straight to the bin.
They made considered choices with their wedding attire. Gwendolyn wore a sustainably sourced Chinese Tea Ceremony dress while Alexio wore a suit he already owned. Gwendolyn’s wedding dress was Alexio’s Mum’s wedding dress which Gwendolyn added to with an overskirt purchased secondhand and altered with floral appliques made from repurposed fabrics. Her earrings were handmade and her necklace was upcycled from thrifted jewellery. Alexio’s ceremony suit was made from linen and that he plans to rewear to other events. And Gwendolyn’s post-reception dance floor dress was her year 12 ball gown upcycled with additional pieces (from an old wedding veil and lace curtains!).
All their decor was sourced from Sydney where they currently live, more specifically a creative reuse business called Reverse Garbage. For name cards Gwendolyn dug up rocks from her parent’s backyard in Perth and painted the guest names, by hand, in gold paint on each rock (all 100 of them!). Whilst this might seem like a daunting task, Gwendolyn is quick to point out that she really enjoyed spending time with her family and the memories she made preparing for the wedding.
Instead of wedding favours, they encouraged guests to take home the table flowers and rocks, with the leftover rocks taken by the florist who was happy to put them in her garden.
We asked the couple more about how their day went, in Gwendolyn’s words:
Our wedding day was long. My day started with hair and makeup from 6am for myself, my bridesmaid, my mum, and mother-in-law. At 10am, the groom and his family arrived, and my bridesmaid played some pranks and games on him before letting him into the house to see me. This is a part of traditional Chinese weddings called the “Gate crash games” or “Door games” where the groom and his party have to face a number of challenges to prove that he is worthy and devoted to marrying the bride. One of the typical challenges involves the groom eating a series of things that are “suan, tian, ku, la”, meaning “sour, sweet, bitter, spicy”, which represents the ups and downs of marriage. Once all challenges were overcome, Alexio was able to finally meet me.
At 12pm our extended families arrived for the Chinese Tea Ceremony. This is a ritual where the bride and groom serve tea to their parents and extended families in return for a blessing (in the form of a red envelope filled with money). For this, I wore a traditional Chinese red dress (qi-pao). After the Tea Ceremony, we all had a big lunch with our families to celebrate.
Next, everyone (including the groom) left to get ready and head to the Estate at Chapel Farm where we had our ceremony and reception. Our beautiful friend Joanne played harp as the guests were arriving, and she also arranged a harp version for our aisle song. She really made everything feel whimsical and magical, and more so because she is such a close friend of ours. We also asked our good friend Kale to host most of the ceremony while Celebrant Gala did the legal parts. He did an amazing job and it felt much more natural and intimate, even with a crowd of over 100 guests. We are so lucky to have friends that are so talented and happy to be an important part of our day! When we walked back down the aisle, showered with rose petals, we headed into our bridal car for some wedding portraits at Bells Lookout.
When we got back to the venue, we took photos with family in the vineyards and once everyone was seated for dinner we made our big entrance as newlyweds. We assigned the job of MC to our groomsman and bridesmaid and they did a lovely job. The whole day felt so much more personal this way. After dinner and cake-cutting, we went around and greeted each of our guests before our first dance turned into our parents’ dance followed by a traditional Italian Tarantella dance to get everyone moving and on the dance floor. Tarantella is traditionally performed at weddings as a way for the guests to wish the couple good luck. It’s also just ridiculously fun! Finally, I got changed into my party dress and we danced the night away.
We asked the couple what their favourite part of the day was:
Gwendolyn: I really can’t pick one – I loved every part especially where our dearest friends and family were so excited to get involved; the Chinese Tea Ceremony my parents hosted, Joanne playing harp, Kale officiating the ceremony, and the traditional Italian Tarantella. Although, I do find myself often craving our wedding cake!
Alexio: The ceremony, because of all the special little things like Joanne playing harp, our cute flower boy getting confused about where to stand, the groomsman (my twin brother) pretending not to have the rings before he gave them to us, the beautiful church bells ringing as we were leaving, as well as the things that didn’t go quite right – everyone except my dad forgot to sit back down after we all reached the altar and the ceremony started, so seeing everyone standing awkwardly for a few minutes while only my dad was seated will be a funny memory.
And finally, What advice would you give couples planning a big wedding?
For couples trying to plan a sustainable wedding but are unable to reduce guest numbers, just do your best and don’t give up! Also, don’t strive for perfection but rather embrace the imperfections that come with whatever constraints you face. They will make it all the more meaningful.
Photographer – @keepsakesbychlo
Venue – Chapel Farm Estate
Celebrant – Celebrant Gala
Videographer – @openproject_studio
Florals – The Forager and the Farmer
Music – DJ Tim Preston and Joanne Moo
Make up – @hmua_by_eliza
Hair – @evsartistry_bridal_hmua
Cake – Dolcetto Patisserie & Cafe
Invitations, décor, seating chart – Reverse Garbage
Wedding website – withjoy