For Summer Solstice on 21st June in 2019, I arranged an event during Bristol’s annual food festival Bristol Food Connections that features events put on by communities and restaurants, as well as food demos and talks from well-known chefs. The invitation to my event was for people to get off work early and welcome in the summer. I took 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' as a theme to style with, working with florist Jennifer Owen and prop hire company, Rustic Rentals. We began at 3pm with James Wood, of Totally Wild UK, exploring Snuff Mills woodland for edible treasures, especially those that could be picked and taken back to be used in cocktails. I'll do a separate post about that!
While the group of 15 were away in the woods, we got busy prepping the space in the willow circle at Grow Wilder, an Avon Wildlife Trust site. At this time of year everything is green and in full bloom, so that you quickly forget that the motorway and bus stops are mere metres away. I used wooden pallets on site for the tables and cushions and rugs for seating.
Tip: Between each row of pallet tables add two widths of blankets and cushions to allow extra wiggle room for guests to get up.
Some of the guests brought extra blankets and cushions with them. The tables were filled with medicine bottle floral arrangements and golden ferns and ivy collected from the local woods. (The rugs and cushions featured in the photos without people in belong to Rustic Rentals).
The dinner started with an introduction from Sean Williams, who is known as ‘Sean in the Woods’ on Instagram. Sean cooks at many outdoor supper clubs and has recently bought his own woodland to offer more of the same on his own turf. He combines a Michelin star background with a love for gathering people together around food in a relaxed style. We were instructed to take a handful of dough, stretch it out a bit, and then throw it straight onto the charcoal. It was very quick to cook and there were several homemade dips (with chargrilled vegetables blended in) to enjoy it with, as well as various salads and sweet potato.
The final element was a home-cooked pavlova and foraged berries. For more events like this, check out Wild Folk's event page. And if you'd like to explore hiring my enamelware crockery for a look like this, please do get in touch.
Are you hoping to create a zero waste wedding (or let's face it - low waste), eco-friendly and sustainable? You've come to the right place! Here are a few tips to get you going.
1. PAUSE BEFORE YOU BUY
Beg, borrow and hire as much as you can. Buying things new can seem appealing and can sometimes amount to the same as hiring. But, if every couple kept doing that we would acquire endless clutter and waste! Check Gumtree, hiring websites (like Enamelware Events) and ask around on social media – you might well have friends or neighbours with unused crafty bits, table decor, fairy lights and all-sorts that they'd be glad for you to use. The bottle in the photo (by Matt & Esther Photography) was one out of a box load that I collected from the wonderful Emmeline Bristol. They had a little sign up in their shop to say anyone was welcome to their used glass bottles. They just happened to be beautiful ones like Lemon Aid and ChariTea. I used Festoon in Bristol for our Festoon lights.
Check out the recycling setup at your venue in advance. It may be basic, e.g. if you're at a farm, so create your own! Even just sticking on bits of paper to different buckets (bringing them with you if need be) to say 'recycling' and 'compost', and so on, will help your guests sort it out for themselves as they go. Set this up as soon as you arrive at your venue. If there are no facilities to recycle or compost on site, find a friend to take the waste home with them.
3. WATER STATION
Set up a water station to keep your guests hydrated, avoiding water bottles. I'm in love with this enamel one from Crow Canyon Home *cue wishlist*. Supply cups – we're a bit biased, but we'd recommend enamel ones – and if you really can't face extra washing up, choose biodegradable cups. Little Cherry has some great options. If you're sending out digital reminders for your wedding the week before, you could even encourage your guests to bring a cup or bottle to use for water refills.
4. SAVE THE DATES
If you can, why not send out the save the dates online to save on extra paper and resources. Paperless Post did it for us. This method allows you to keep your guests updated while you prepare the invitations (which could also be paperless, but we know how lovely an opportunity it is to create your own 'real' invites!)
Choose your suppliers carefully. The Natural Wedding Company has a carefully curated directory of suppliers in the UK with eco credentials from caterers to photographers to stylists. And don't be afraid to ask your supplier to do something they don't normally do. If you're having a mobile bar, check what the drinks will be served in and if they're recyclable and/or biodegradable. Find out if they will take the waste back with them to be sorted or reused.
6. FIND MULTIPLE USES
This is key to keeping costs down, to limit waste and make the best use of your resources. Flowers can get costly if you need to dress different spaces as well as provide buttonholes, bouquets and extra bits. Why not use the bridesmaid bouquets for some of your table decorations – get vases/jars with water in ready for them. Do the same for your bridal bouquet; find a prime spot where it will be seen and enjoyed! If you choose some special vases, you could gift the vases to your bridesmaids for them to take home with them. Ties work well as gifts for the groomsmen, while 'tying' (sorry!) them in to your colour scheme and style.
7. FORAGE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
Ivy is generally in abundance and can be gathered up to 2 days in advance before it starts wilting. Make use of what's around you for free. Spray pine cones and leaves gold and sprinkle them across your dinner tables. Rosemary and lavender can also be foraged and are great to use in buttonholes and table settings for a touch of nature and a lovely scent.
8. DITCH THE DISPOSABLES
Disposables might seem easier, but hiring really isn’t more of a hassle. For example, Fabric napkins feel much more luxurious and can add the finishing touch to your table setup. As with our fabric napkins, at Enamelware Events we allow you to return our dinnerware and cutlery unwashed, so it really isn’t extra work for you. Some venues will ask that you take all waste home with you, so save someone from that task!
9. KEEP THE CANDLES BURNING
Let me explain. We bought lots and lots of pillar candles for our wedding. Sadly they all came wrapped in plastic, and now we have boxes full of candles with only a bit used on each. I’ve been wondering about adding these candles to our hire list, and as they get burned down I will lower the hire price each time. What do you think – would you use second-hand candles? It would be amazing if local candle-making companies could recycle old candles and reuse the wax. Or perhaps even hire out their candles.
10. PICK UP THE PETALS
Make your own confetti from dried petals. This is a lovely activity that you can do in the lead-up to your wedding. Use it as an excuse to get outside and go hunting for petals with your friends while you natter! You want to get freshly fallen petals. The two methods myself and my friends used were the microwave method, oven-drying and, my favourite, just leaving them by the window to dry in the sun slowly. Wildflower Favours give the run-down here.
Please do email me or send an Insta message if you're planning/have had your own green, eco-friendly or zero waste wedding. I would love to hear your top tips and answer any questions! And just shout if you'd like to use Enamelware Events enamelware crockery for your wedding.
PS I haven't been paid to mention these suppliers and brands – they are just personal recommendations.
One final note on wedding planning: I would say the core thing to remember is to plan ahead and to delegate well. Take time to walk through your wedding day in your head, picture your venue and consider where you will need to ask someone to step in or add something to your ‘to bring’ list.