The Eco WeddingThe sun is out, the Leaving Cert is upon us, the place is coming down with scary looking politicians leering out from lamp posts, begging to be loved — so it must be early June.

Apart from the above, early June is bang in the middle of the wedding season and recession or no recession, weddings in Ireland, like baptisms and communions, are special occasions. Even when we are staring bankruptcy in the face, this is one thing we don’t scrimp on.

Over the weekend I saw four weddings parties in full regalia, no expense spared. One of the weddings that passed me by was a new type, and after a little digging around, it seems that there is a new highly sophisticated and recession-proof wedding out there. It is the eco wedding. It is a special wedding for these sensitive souls who want to go one better than their mates but don’t want to be seen to do this by means of flashing the cash alone.

We all know that weddings are about social competition. I have been told of mothers, not only brides, turning into living monsters, ageing years in the run-up to the big day as the intensity of the occasion gets to them. But the madness never stops. And there are new and discerning ways of defining yourself and your wedding.

The latest one — the eco wedding — is wonderful because it combines a one-world concern with the rainforest as well as one worried eye on the practicalities of the downturn.

In these straitened times, many have decided that it is all rather vulgar and tacky to be going over the top with personalised match boxes, a hired Riverdance rip-off troupe and a magician to entertain the guests. That’s all so 2007.

The way to avoid this is to offer your ceremony up to a higher God. The eco wedding is the pinnacle of taste and political ‘right-on-ness’ and like all things environmental, it will set you back a huge whack. But the expenses is justified not because ‘you are worth it’ but because ‘it’ is worth it. The ‘it’ being the type of person you want to be as symbolised by your big day out.

‘Fair Trade Fiona’ wants everyone to know where she stands on logging in Honduras, and the best way to scream this from the rooftops is by setting out her stall at her wedding. All the invitations are made from recycled paper, as are all the place names. Her flowers are in season and obviously she will use only potted plants for decorations — plants which she planted with her own hands.

The dress was crucial. Her dress would be ‘upcycled’, not recycled. Deep down, Fair Trade Fiona knew that the dress would trump all competition. She got it made from organic cotton that is woven to look like lace. Upcycling, the holy of holies for the concerned shopper, means that the designers take material from second-hand clothes — silk and cashmere from dresses and jumpers — and they make them into wedding dresses. Deborah Lindquist is Fiona’s favourite designer. Even Fiona thought it was a bit pricey, as the ‘donation’ as it’s called — nothing as vulgar as price could be mentioned — starts at about €2,000. But an upcycled dress was worthy. She knew it and so would her guests.

Needless to say, her wedding cake will only use Fair Trade ingredients and is made by the organic baker in Portobello. She spent weeks checking that the hotel would only source food locally and an exacting ‘food mile’ inspection was carried out on a rainy Saturday in March to make sure the carbon footprint of dinner came in way under the Green Party’s advised limit.

But it’s not only the ingredients that must not be shipped in from all over the place, she had to find a venue which was closest to the guests so that they didn’t have to travel unnecessarily far, again for environmental reasons. This involved a ruler and a calculator — things she hadn’t used since she sat her maths paper in the Leaving Cert. At one stage she nearly gave up, but Fair Trade Fiona was not a quitter. This would be a sanctimonious occasion, where her guests, mainly unemployed architects, would marvel at her commitment to the bigger things in life, the world, the ozone layer and of course the Indians in Amazon. Guests were encouraged to pool transport to the venue, walking or cycling is possible, the latter getting most points in the internal scoreboard that was constantly ticking away in the unadorned head of Fair Trade Fiona.

Her wedding list was a social minefield. One false move and the whole thing could be brought crashing down. She really wanted a BT shopping list of top-of-the-range things for the new eco village they had moved into, but she couldn’t reveal this inner conflict when everything on the outside was zen and virtuous. So she chose donations to a ‘wonderful charity’ which specialises in literacy courses for the descendants of Mayans in Guatemala.

Luckily for her, the rock didn’t pose too much of a dilemma because certified ethical diamonds are available. The Dublin jewellers Appleby are supporting the Sierra Leone Ireland Partnership (SLIP), an assistance programme run by Irish Aid in the country in which many of the world’s diamonds are mined. So Fiona could even get a rock that had a story.

The honeymoon was local of course. She had booked a tepee — one ‘crafted’ by the same people who made the tent in which Kate Moss sleeps at Glastonbury — in the Burren. Going local with no running water was the pinnacle of commitment to her lifestyle manifesto which would be effortlessly on display on the big day. Let’s hope the weather stays fine for her. Yes we may be in a recession but some things are going to take some time to change, no matter who wins the elections.

The big day out will be the last thing to get the chop as the credit crunch tightens.

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