Many years ago I was given a piece of advice by my neighbour; “Waste”, she said, opening her kitchen bin and pretended to scrape a plate, “Not waist”, pointing to her own (rather svelte) waistline. I have often thought of this elegant old lady as I start yet another Monday morning diet and, although she made perfect sense, from an environmental point of view her’s isn’t really the best advice.
Reducing the amount of waste we produce seems like a relatively recent phenomenon, but as baby boomers and those, like me, born in the sixties will tell you wastage was something that didn’t exist in our childhood homes. My mother, who’s own childhood was dominated by the war and post war rationing, couldn’t bear to see anything wasted. As a result, my siblings and squeezed the living daylights out of toothpaste tubes, carefully put lids back on pens so they didn’t dry out and never, ever left food on our plates (clearly Mum and my neighbour didn’t sing from the same hymn sheet on this point!)
Almost nothing was thrown away in our house; Dad’s old vests became polishing cloths; jam jars cleaned and reused for homemade marmalade; empty baked bean cans found themselves strung over the vegetable patch to keep away the birds and wrapping paper had its sellotape removed to be reused for future birthdays, or to cover school books. Every garden had a compost heap; empty glass bottles were returned to shops in exchange for cash and shopping baskets or tartan trolleys accompanied many a shopper on their regular trips to buy groceries.
My parents’ generation had experienced so many years of rationing and making do, that reusing was part of everybody’s DNA. Simply because a piece of china had been dropped into tiny pieces didn’t mean it ended up in the bin and we would often help Mum as she painstakingly glued things back together. Many a dippy egg were served in an egg cup that closely resembled crazy paving!
Although we didn’t realise it at the time, we were all busy recycling without thinking - it was a natural part of our everyday lives. Thankfully now, after decades of excessive landfilling, recycling and reusing has once more become part of our daily routines. Little by little, we are all doing our bit to help preserve our planet for future generations, so it comes as no surprise that many couples planning their weddings are keeping their day as eco-friendly as possible. Weddings produce literally tonnes of waste in food, decorations and flowers, (and forgotten wedding favours) every year. So by finding ways to reduce this will further help protect our planet - but how?
Firstly, look long and hard at your guest list and separate the weeds from the grass and decide who you really want to share your day with. Small weddings have gained rapid popularity in the last year. Couples who had to cut their lists have found that now they can increase them that they don’t want to anymore. They love the idea of having their nearest and dearest and from an eco-friendly point of view this is the biggest step to creating a more sustainable wedding. Quite simply, less guests equals less waste - a decision that is both great for the environment but also your pocket.
Secondly, find the right venue. It is easy to forget just how much is required to make a wedding venue sing, so choosing one that needs little decoration is key. Empty, cavernous barns or woodland glades can require vast amounts of decorating and will ultimately result in mounds of wilting flowers and foliage to dispose of the following day.
Thirdly, suss out your suppliers. If you love flowers then sourcing seasonal ones from local cutting gardens is the way to go rather than buying imported ones so ensure your green choices are as “green” as possible. In East Sussex we are very lucky to have some wonderful cutting gardens owned by some excellent florists, some of who will deliver buckets of freshly cut flowers you can arrange yourselves. In the autumn and winter months you can get creative with twigs and seasonal foliage; collecting oak leaves as they turn orange and fall and pinecones are a sustainable and effective way to decorate weddings later in the year.
Finally, catering. When it comes to deciding what catering you should have for your wedding you might find yourselves struggling with too many choices. Narrow it down to local caterers to avoid unnecessary travel requirements. Ask them where they buy their ingredients from and choose a menu that is locally sourced and seasonal - a good choice and also a tasty one!
Without doubt, the biggest wastage at a wedding is left over food. To achieve a fabulous looking buffet requires more food than you can possibly eat if you want to ensure it looks tempting but this ultimately means wastage. I am pretty sure none of us would want to be the last guest served at a portion controlled buffet - finding yourself staring at a solitary piece of quiche on a huge platter. By having your food plated in the kitchen, and served at the table, ensures very little, if any, wastage and avoid more than one choice unless there are dietary requirements.
A question often raised is just how many times your guests need, and expect, to be fed? In reality daytime guests are still pretty full when the evening buffet is served. It is normally just the evening guests who are hungry, so by keeping your wedding smaller, the evening buffet and all the associate waste such as disposable plates and napkins will vanish into thin air - along with the evening guest list!
Instead, feed your nearest and dearest once, but feed them well. There is no doubt about it, if you want your reception to kick off with a bang, you need plenty to drink and plenty to eat and this is where canapés come into their own. Call me old fashioned, but who doesn’t love these little mouthfuls of scrumptiousness to go alongside your glass of bubbly? By choosing the right canapés your wastage should be as tiny as they are.
For me, old favourites are unbeatable - sticky honey and mustard chipolatas and rare roast beef and horseradish Yorkshire puds are rarely (excuse the pun) left sadly on a tray going round (and round) a drinks reception. This route doesn’t need to break the bank as you can op to sit down to your main course and not skip the starter. By this point your guests will have had a few drinks, delicious nibbles, plenty of chat and lots of laughter. They will be happy, you will be happy and, even better, the environment will be happy - so what’s not to love?
The Pilgrims Rest is a stunning 600 year old wedding venue full of rustic charm and historic soul. Perfect for small weddings and those a little larger - needing little, if any decoration - but still one you can make your own. If you would like to speak to a member of our wedding team please call 07552873448.
Photo credit: Sarah Williams Photography