How to have a more sustainable wedding

Spend it Better: More something old and borrowed and less of the new can also make weddings more personal and memorable

We witnessed a lockdown wedding one summer morning in the early days of the pandemic. The couple and the celebrant stood under an umbrella as we sheltered under a tree in the Phoenix Park. We clapped tentatively when it was all done, a sweaty group of runners in the background of their pictures, not wanting to intrude, but enjoying the sweetness of it all.

Big days had to be small back then. There were just more than 9,500 weddings in 2020, compared to more than twice that in 2019. Last year 17,000 couples tied the knot as restrictions eased.

No one could blame a couple for going bananas after the suffocation of life during Covid. But at an average of €30,000, weddings are already a massive €510 million industry. Not everyone enjoys (or can afford) the “till debt do us part” madness of it all. Much of it also carries a high environmental impact, from blood diamonds to flowers shipped from overseas, the beef banquet, travel emissions and the fast-fashion flurry of a new outfit for everyone in the congregation.

There are plenty of vintage and greener options available, more something old and borrowed and less of the new can also make weddings more personal and memorable.

Stephen Carroll and Gillian Ennis got married last month in their new event space. Before Covid, they ran an Airsoft range (paintballing with fewer bruises) on Carroll’s family farm in Scribblestown, north Dublin. Insurance had skyrocketed for the military-style shot-your-boss game, and then the plague put the tin hat on the whole enterprise. With events on hold they had time to build a new business, and decided to do it using repurposed materials.

Two shipping containers became an office and a bar, with the bar itself made from sanded-down fire doors. Their plumber turned festival builder friend, Ned, provided a coffee trailer. They built a coach house with industrial strength pallets clad in timber. The corrugated roof was seconds from a roofing supplier and polycarbonate panels from a former showroom. Two IBCs (intermediate bulk containers) more commonly used on farms now house lights. They have enough friends in various trades to ensure that old fittings on their way to landfill can be offered new life at the venue.

After a soft opening they decided to get married there themselves, and got two of the best days of weather. “We know the space and it meant a lot to get married there,” Carroll explains. “Half the fun was all the work in the run-up to it.”

All their bookings have been word of mouth so far. But the festival boho feel of a repurposed venue feels like a trend that is going to grow.

Catherine Cleary is co-founder of Pocket Forests