FEATURE: Ethical Weddings #1
CityHippy is proud to introduce a new columnist. Katie from www.ethicalweddings.com will be writing for CityHippy regularly and will take you through her struggle to have an ethical wedding and how that prompted her to set up an ethical wedding website (launching soon) to help others through the same process. Part wedding diary; part diary of a green start-up, our new ethical weddings columnist promises to entertain and educate.
In the beginning…
I have been asked to tell you the story of Ethical Weddings, or rather the story so far as it is a long way from being finished. The question of course is where to begin. I could start when I first met my (now) husband, sitting on the floor in a grimy corridor in a hall of residence in Sheffield asking the usual questions about where we were from and which A-Levels we had done? I could start four years later when we finally realised we were “more than just friends”? Perhaps I should start, most logically, with the marriage proposal, another four years down the line, walking in the peak district the day after Valentine’s Day 2004, my ever-obliging boyfriend helping me do up the shoe laces on my hiking boots and deciding that while he was down there on one knee, he might as well pop the question! Yes, let’s start there.
Of course I said yes (I had after all been harassing him to ask this question for the last year so it would have been rude not to!) and our attentions turned to the planning of the wedding, which was to take place in a year’s time. For a while I resisted the lure of the glossy wedding magazines, convinced they had nothing to offer me, but once I gave in there was no going back and soon they were everywhere – on every sofa, every coffee table, beside the loo – for my housemates and my fiancé there was no escape! What we quickly discovered from these venerable tomes was that weddings are potentially a very expensive business. The average wedding of 2004 apparently cost £17,000, money we simply did not have, especially not to spend on just one day. A quick flick through showed that many of the greater excesses could be easily avoided (the £500 Gucci watch as a gift to your bridesmaid, for example) but it also highlighted just how much money there is in the wedding industry and we started to think about where it was all going.
Skip to a couple of weeks later and a quiet moment reading the Oscar Wilde short story, ‘The Young King’. The story, which tells of the preparations for the coronation of the young king of the title, struck a particular chord with me at that time, attuned as I was to the extravagances of the modern wedding. The young king demands the best of everything for his coronation; it is his ‘big day’ after all. His robes, the pearls, the rubies that are to adorn his sceptre, no expense nor effort is to be spared in the search for perfection. What he does not take into account is the human cost (and we could also insert here the environmental cost) of his demands and it takes a dream to make this real to him. In his dream, he is able to observe the different people around the world slaving and even dying to fulfil his demands, the boy who is made to dive again and again until he finds the perfect pearl – and then dies, the weavers making the fabric for his robes, working for a pittance. When the king-to-be awakes the morning of the coronation, he can no longer bear to wear the results of such suffering: '...on the loom of sorrow, and by the white hands of Pain, has this my robe been woven. There is Blood in the heart of the ruby, and Death in the heart of the pearl'. And then: 'Shall Joy wear what Grief has fashioned?'. The contrast between a day of celebration and the suffering that has gone into making it possible is too great.
Over the years, we have become increasingly interested in fair trade, human rights and issues affecting the environment. This short story (good old Oscar!) suddenly made all these things very relevant to our own day of celebration and we resolved there and then that wherever possible our celebrations should not take place at anyone else’s expense. To find out how we were going to do this, well… you will have to wait for next week’s instalment!
The world is changing and alternatives are appearing in every commercial direction. The economy is being greened from the ground up which to me seems like the best way to do it. Katie is a champion for putting her plans into action and we are right behind her and www.ethicalweddings.com
Oscar Wilde speaking from an age long past and yet profoundly and presciently reminding us to remember exactly what most of us have long since forgotten or ignored. Shall Joy wear what Grief has fashioned? Nice one Oscar! Nice one Katie!