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Big day needn't cost the earth
Lucy and Stuart Bannister didn’t want their nuptials to cost the earth.
“We don’t have a lot of money. We work in the arts so we put what we want to do over earning money. We didn’t have money to spend on a wedding and the last thing we wanted was to end up in debt,” says Lucy, an artist.
With consideration for the environment – the average wedding with 120 guests generates approximately 8,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions – the couple spent a year planning an ethical, eco-friendly and affordable event.
Their decision to have a vintage-themed wedding came from their love of charity shopping. Stuart, a sound engineer, says he is drawn to old things, especially music and instruments from bygone times. Lucy loves vintage homeware.
The couple met four years ago at the Brudenell Social Club in Hyde Park, Leeds. Stuart’s romantic proposal took place in front of a fountain in the Latin quarter of Paris on Valentine’s Day. “But it was without a ring,” he says.
“We went to look for one, but I have tiny fingers and the only one we could find was one he bought for one euro from Claire’s Accessories!” adds Lucy.
Stuart proposed, with the ring, in the car park outside the store. The couple put £50 that Stuart’s father gave them from a Pools win into a ring created and designed by Lucy’s friend, Hannah Lamb, a professional jewellery maker. “Originally I didn’t have any idea what I wanted, but I never imagined myself in a normal white dress,” says Lucy. “I always imagined I would have a vintage dress and I guess it started from there.
“We found a barn in the Peak District and it seemed to lend itself to this idea of ‘make do and mend’. Wartime street parties were a big influence.”
Family and friends pitched in with making things such as bunting from scraps of fabric for their big day. They all brought jam jars for the tealights to decorate the tables.
Stuart looked after the entertainment, putting together a band with his friends, and Lucy looked after the decor. “I got hooked on the idea of cake stands because I think they are lovely. I know how to get hold of things quite cheaply, so I applied that knowledge to make sure we didn’t spend too much money,” she says shrewdly.
Lucy ran a tight budget. The wedding cost less than £5,000 but it was a magical day that everyone played a part in.
“We wanted to put on the best day we could for as little money as possible and in an environment people felt comfortable in,” says Stuart. “Everywhere you looked you saw something nice, like something one of our friends had donated or made. It made it a really nice, warm atmosphere.”
The couple were keen for their big day to be green. “We are very strict and hate waste. We are always trying to re-use things and we know weddings can be wasteful. Things get thrown away, so it felt right to us,” says Stuart.
The couple boycotted buying invitations. Lucy built a website to invite family and friends to the wedding.
Her vintage cream, gold and brocade dress was bought for £38 from the House Of Rose And Brown in Saltaire. Lucy had the high-necked maxi-style dress customised into a regal waistcoat which she wore over the pale pink silk dress she had made from fabric from Bradford’s Bombay Stores. Cravats for the men were created from the same fabric. Her vintage shoes were £8.50. The total cost of her outfit was approximately £200.
Her ‘something new’ was Stuart’s brown pin-striped suit, bought from Topman.
Lucy’s bouquet of vintage buttons and beads was created by her sister-in-law and incorporated a piece of vintage lace from the turn of the last century given to her by her great, great aunt.
The couple’s rings, again made by Lucy’s friend, Hannah, were created from old gold donated by their families. They included the earrings Lucy had her ears pierced with and some heirlooms. “Gold is very expensive and often very unethical because people can be exploited in the production of gold,” says Lucy.
The ceremony took place at Keighley Register Office in the presence of their three witnesses, two best men and Lucy’s bridesmaid.
For the official exchanging of the rings, in the Peak District on August 23, the couple wrote their own vows and Lucy’s brother read a blessing.
Guests, some dressed in vintage clothes, dined on lamb, pork and beef spit roasts and ice cream from local farms. An aunt made the salads and vegetarian kebabs and Stuart’s mum made the wedding cake.
“We did stick to tradition in some ways, but in other ways it was more relaxed. There wasn’t a lot of ‘pomp and ceremony’” says Lucy.
When it came to the first dance, Lucy and Stuart decided to sing a duet instead – Johnny Cash and June Carpenter’s ’Cos I Love You.
Stuart’s best pals played songs from the Sixties and Seventies and others pitched in with some modern tunes.
“It was a bit like a festival!” says Lucy, referring to the fact they camped in a field with some of their guests after the celebrations.
“But the honeymoon slightly blew the eco theme,” she adds. “We went to Canada for two months, but we have offset that by planting oak trees in Wales. We wanted to put something back into this country.”
Looking back, Lucy says the wedding was “a bit of a whirlwind”.
Unlike most brides, Lucy had the opportunity to wear her bridal attire for a second time. She and Stuart donned their wedding outfits when they set up stall at the Saltaire Vintage Fair recently to sell off some of the items from their big day.
Well, they do say waste not, want not!
A spokeswoman for the web-based green wedding service, Green Union, which puts people in touch with wedding suppliers and services in their area, says: “What we are trying to do is get people away from the thought that an ethical wedding has to include lentils and sandals, because it can be really eco-chic and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.”