Your eco-friendly wedding: tips for an ethical dress

Feet of bride and bridesmaids

By Morwenna Kearns

Hear those bells? The rustle of ivory taffeta? The vows and 'I do's? Get yourself a big hat: wedding season is here! For the couple, there's a lot to think about – not least a lifetime of marriage ahead – and the eco-friendliness of the big day might get forgotten. But there are plenty of ways to make your wedding a bit more sustainable without becoming a green bridezilla.

For many brides, the dress is the most important part. It's pretty much the only opportunity to wear an incredible white dress you're going to get in life (unless you're going to the Met Gala) so finding the fairytale gown is a top priority.

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There's an expectation that it has to be new, perhaps owing to connotations of bad luck. But why? The groom can rock up in a vintage outfit (remember when Chandler wanted to get married 'in James Bond's tux' in Friends?), so why not look at the options for a preloved dress too. See if your mother or another family member has her wedding dress stored away and is willing to pass it on – it could be your something old. Tailors can do amazing things to make even complicated second-hand garments fit properly while retaining their history.

Alternatively, sites like eBay have hundreds of reloved dresses for an absolute steal, or for more alternative styles see vintage brands like Real Green Dress or online retailers such as Once Wed. For extra Good points, check out the specialist selections from Oxfam, the British Red Cross, Cancer Research Wales and other charities. You could be helping to give someone else their happily-ever-after. One organisation working their bejewelled socks off in this area is Brides do Good (pic below), a social enterprise that sells preloved and sample designer wedding gowns with a third of every sale going to support charities who are protecting potential child brides across the world.

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Hiring a dress could mean getting the gown of your dreams for a fraction of the cost of buying one, and it'll be used for more than a few hours. It's not uncommon in other countries – I have a friend in Japan who looked incredible in her rented wedding dress, which most definitely wouldn't have fitted in her Tokyo wardrobe – plus, it'll be your something borrowed. Visit Vonlee Bridal Hire or The Bridal Gallery in London.

However, if you love the idea of your own brand-new gown to keep forever, there are some incredible designers and brands making dresses you won't see in your friend's wedding photos. Leila Hafzi, Minna, Linda Thomas, Julie Dutton, The Conscious Bride and more use more sustainable fabrics and ethical craft processes to create their gorgeous dresses. Or how about making your own? For seasoned sewists, this (admittedly formidable project) offers freedom on fabric, style and fit, in the knowledge that the supply chain is that bit simpler.

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According to Kate Beavis, vintage style expert and curator of the Eclectic Boutique at Manchester's National Wedding Show, the trend for more casual, boho-style floaty dresses continues – and don't dismiss a fantastic suit or separates – so there are also opportunities for glamming up a high-street buy you can wear again and again.

Whatever you choose, choose an outfit you love.

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