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When Justice-Types Tie the Knot

The wedding industry terrifies me. As someone who claims to value intentionality, stewardship, and inclusivity, I kind of hoped I would never have to deal with the wedding industry. So when Chris and I started seriously talking about marriage, and visions of pink taffeta and bedazzled cake toppers started dancing around our heads, we knew we’d have to do something outside the norm. We’ve been engaged for a month and have already found some ways to plan a justice-bent wedding. First, we laid out the values that we'd like to drive our decisions.

  • inclusive: We want everyone to feel welcome, regardless of ability, race, gender identity, or marital status.
  • intentional: We want to choose things because they're important, not because they're part of the wedding industry. We also want to share the stories behind some of our more interesting decisions.
  • covenantal/rooted in a serious faith
  • original/unique
  • not extravagant
  • economical

Here’s how we’re applying those values with an eye to justice:

Registering for gifts: We wanted to minimize our consumption of energy, resources, packaging, transportation, and overseas factory labor. We registered for a few material things but focused our registry on gifts of time. There are lots of alternative registries, but I’d particularly recommend SoKind. Here’s a peek at part of ours, so you can see how a variety of gifts show up. 

Rings: It was important to us to avoid conflict diamonds and the extraction industry. My ring is from Chris’s family, but if that hadn’t been an option we would have gone with an estate ring on Etsy. Chris’s ring was made of reclaimed sterling silver by Julie, an independent artist in Washington, who we found on Etsy.

Inclusive language: Marriage is great, but really we’re celebrating covenant love, which is not exclusive to marriage. We hope to keep using language that doesn’t exclude the many in our community who find themselves outside of a heterosexual, picture perfect, first-time marriage.

Dresses: What would the wedding industry be without dresses? We opted not to have matching outfits for attendants and, on a whim, I made my own dress. I wanted to see if I could make an ethically-sourced dress, so I chose fabric from and picked vintage lace, notions, and a pattern from Etsy. The fabric is fully certified and made from silk and flax, both from China. Farm and mill workers are paid a fair wage for their work, receive benefits, and have a significant amount of say about their jobs. Obviously this isn’t an option for everyone, but it was a good fit for my skills and passions.

Deconstructed gender roles: Traditionally only one person in a relationship gets an engagement ring, but, if you hadn't noticed by now, we're not strict traditionalists. I wear my engagement ring not to show that I've been "claimed", but to show that I'm making a commitment. Chris is doing the same, so why wouldn't he get a ring? My proposal to Chris reinforces the fact that we come into this relationship as equal partners.

I also have a strong aversion to anything that stems from the legacy of women as property. The traditional passing of the bride from father to groom is not in itself offensive, but as people who challenge outdated hierarchies we feel very uncomfortable doing it. Chris and I plan to walk down side aisles at the same time, both to symbolize our inherent value and agency, and to gently challenge “the way we’ve always done it”.


Other ideas and wisdom from fellow CRC-ers:

  • carbon offset for guest travel and wedding carbon footprint
  • local food
  • ask guests to do legislative advocacy as a gift
  • “Food & flowers from the farmer's market, no save-the-dates, locally-made jewelry for the bridesmaids.”
  • “They got married at a park and had the reception in the shelter. They went resale-ing to pick up all the dishes/tableware for the wedding. They borrowed from friends also. Friends helped prepare food and serve it.”
  • “We used all potted flowers (except simple bouquets) and replanted them in our garden after the wedding.”
  • “We had friends make the food. It was international--an Egyptian friend, Dutch food (natch!) and Indonesian. Little Ceasar’s Pizza and big bowls of Captain Crunch for the kids.”
  • “For our cake we used a locally and minority owned bakery (M&M bakery in Wyoming).”
  • “Bridesmaids dresses were handmade and cost about $10/piece.’
  • “Reception in the basement of the church.”
  • “The bride and groom made a donation to a favorite charity in lieu of wedding favors for all the guests.”
  • “Get married in a pasture; no need for electricity!”

(Thanks to Janet, Jack & Kelly, Sarah, Kyle, Beth, and Magdalyn)


I’m new to this, but so far I’ve found family support for our non-traditional ideas, a community of people who have challenged wedding norms, and our core values as the guidelines for all our decisions to be the biggest help in combating the wedding industry.

That, and a continual refocusing (away from Pinterest and the glorification of brides) on God’s restorative work, remembering that “All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits, committed to our trust on this condition, that they should be dispensed for the benefit of our neighbors.” - John Calvin


Image from flickr user vanz.

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