Real Life

Nice day for a green wedding

When eco-warriors Vanessa Atkinson and Chris Hay tied the knot, they went for a white wedding with more than a hint of green.

Both Greenpeace environmentalists, the couple were determined to make sure their special day didn’t impact on the earth in a bad way. From the recycled paper invitations with vegetable-based ink to the solar-powered sound system for the wedding music, Vanessa and Chris chose the best options for the environment every time.

The two met seven years ago, aboard Greenpeace’s second Rainbow Warrior protest ship, and were immediately smitten by each other’s strong calling and devotion to all things green.

“I really loved Chris’ passion, his principles and his commitment to his ideals,” says Vanessa (32), who then lived in Australia. Eventually, Vanessa moved across the ditch to Auckland to be with her soulmate, taking a job working alongside Chris (37) at Greenpeace.

They then decided it was time to make their loving relationship official and started planning their green marriage ceremony.

“For us to have a wonderful day, we had to make sure that there would be a low impact on the environment, which was something that was in line with our beliefs,” says Vanessa.

For their invitations, the couple used a vegetable-based printers’ ink on 100% recycled paper. They asked the 140 guests to RSVP by phone or email rather than using more paper.

“one of the first things we looked at was transport to the wedding and how to reduce the impact of that, because our wedding was an hour outside of Auckland,” says Vanessa.”We put on a bus service for our guests, picking them up in town and dropping them off. We also arranged a website where people could connect with each other to arrange car-pooling to the venue.”

The couple got married outdoors in a pohutukawa grove, meaning they didn’t need to use extra power or create waste by having the ceremony at an indoor venue. “It was a beautiful location, but it was miles away from the nearest electrical plug,” says Vanessa. “So we got a solar power system and used that to run the PA and sound system.”

The reception was held at a place that grows its own organic meal ingredients, and the menu was entirely vegetarian. “There are a lot of greenhouse gas omissions from farm animals so we didn’t want meat on the menu. It also takes 25 times more land to feed a meat-eater than it does a vegetarian, so this was one more way for us to reduce that footprint.”

They did have bubbles to toast the bride and groom, but instead of champagne, they found a locally made feijoa wine for the traditional celebratory drink. “That was a nice touch to our wedding,” says Vanessa. “It was made in New Zealand and it tasted really nice as well.”

Unfortunately, Vanessa was unable to find an organic wedding dress for her perfect day so she chose a New Zealand-made gown by Jane Rhodes instead. But the pair made up for it with their honeymoon – a tour of New Zealand with tramping, kayaking and other activities that allowed them to enjoy Mother Nature at her best without harming the environment.

Vanessa says the green aspect made her big day even more memorable, both for her and Chris and for their guests. “We never considered not doing a wedding like this, so we looked at the greenest options that we could,” she says. “Every bride wants their wedding day to be memorable and amazing. For us, it wasn’t a compromise because doing something that was ethical and environmentally sensitive was very important to us.”

She and Chris, who now have an eight-month-old son named Nuku, believe that other couples should look into eco-options when planning their big day. “We’re proof that you don’t have to be far-out and crazy to want this,” she says. “It’s an easy and wonderful thing to incorporate into, not just your wedding, but anything else you want to do.”

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