My Soulmate Kris and I, got married last Sunday in Brisbane. It was a day of firsts – not only did we tie the knot, I serenaded Kris with ‘Your Song’ by Ellie Goulding/ Elton John as I walked down the aisle – my public solo singing debut.
Lucky my mascara was waterproof, because I cried through the second verse. Even Kris got misty, aww. So I conquered two of my biggest fears in one day. Hey, why not? A video of images is below.
As we are self-employed nature lovers, it was important that our wedding reflected our lifestyle. So here are my thoughts on how you can have an Earth and wallet-friendly wedding.
Of course, life is a compromise, so I’ve separated the green and not-so-green components of our wedding, to help you see what’s realistic. I’ve also included pros and cons for each option (I was a scientist before I turned professional psychic – objectivity is my thing). We only had five months to plan, while juggling pregnancy and a toddler. If you have more time, that will make things easier…
Special Thank Yous: To Kris (my Tarot Reading Magician Husband), Forrest, our families (Mum, Dad, Barb, Bob, and fabulous relatives), my Angelic sister Helen, gorgeous sister-in-law Jodie, all our friends, loved ones and helpers – we are deeply grateful for your support. Also to Carole Roman who took these lovely photos.
10 Tips for an Eco and Budget Wedding in Brisbane, Australia
The average cost of getting married in Australia is now $36, 200 according to this article. Here’s how Kris and I wed for a third of this cost, while still having a spectacularly grand occasion.
1) Keep your wedding party small. We saved time, money and hassle by not having bridesmaids, flower girls etc. Our wedding party was simply Kris, me, my sister as Maid of Honour, and Kris’s best friend Jason as Best Man. That felt right.
Alternatives: If I had married earlier in life, I would have had bridesmaids, but at 36, most of my friends are already hitched and not fussy about ‘being picked’. For the same reason, I didn’t toss my bouquet or follow other traditions, either.
Pros: It was easy to get hair and makeup done for me, my sister and Mum on the day. Kris and Jason also got ready quickly as it was just the two of them having a ball.
Cons: I was so indecisive about colours, my sister didn’t know what dress to wear until the day of the ceremony. My partner found this annoying as he had to buy his suit at the last-minute. In hindsight I would have picked a theme and stuck to it. Let’s just say, falling pregnant just after announcing our wedding date was more complex than I thought. Thank goodness for Helen Glover from Live Life Gorgeous – a styling session with her helped me get clear on the wedding ‘look’ in just an hour.
2) Use email and SMS for invitations. We used Zankyou to send our wedding invitations and updates, this is a free service which you can upgrade if needed.
Alternatives: I looked into other free invitation services, but Zankyou was easier as our friends also used it.
Pros: We saved trees by not printing invitations, I didn’t have to wrestle Forrest (who loves paper – trying to stop him eating the RSVPs would have been a nightmare) and sending messages to everyone took seconds.
Cons: I typed one guest’s email address wrong, so they didn’t get the details until a few days before (oops). Some emails went to people’s Spam folders so they didn’t see them. A few guests commented it wasn’t as ‘proper’ to send emails (which didn’t bother me).
In future I would have sent group SMS’s after each email burst, to ensure everyone had received the updates. Zankyou have an online gift registry, but it didn’t suit us as we live in Australia, didn’t want to pay them commission, plus aren’t commercially-minded.
3) Choose a free venue. For our wedding ceremony, we hired the Grey Gum Wedding Dais (seats up to 100 guests) at Daisy Hill Conservation Park. As a wet weather option, we also hired the Forest Ampitheatre at the same venue. Although this second site only seats 40, we figured that if it rained, people could just stand up.
Fortunately, despite a gloomy weather forecast (72% chance of a thunderstorm at 1pm when we got married), it was sunny. I guess our magic spells, and the prayers of thousands of Adele fans (she played the Gabba that night) must have paid off!
Alternatives: I looked into a backyard, beach or other park wedding, but didn’t find anything suitable. Although I always thought we’d get married at Burleigh Beach, I’m glad I chose Daisy Hill, because it was quieter, there was no chance of being ‘sand-blasted’ by the wind, and we didn’t have any tourists around.
Pros: Maybe it’s my Chinese blood, but I love free stuff. I also dug the idea of an outdoor wedding under the gum trees – during our ceremony we had butterflies, birds, even a random toad and goanna wander around. The smell of the plants was just amazing and it felt good not to be in a church (I was raised Christian but now identify as ‘spiritual’) – nature is my true teacher.
Cons: There were restrictions on what we could do in a national park, e.g. no flower petals to be thrown, only a PA for amplification, no reserving of carparks on site and so on.
It would have been easier travel-wise, if I had held the ceremony at our reception venue (which was included in our package). However I adore Daisy Hill – not only does my crystal healer Deniz Akan say it’s full of fairies, it was the first park we took our son Forrest to (he is named after the bush – and the movie character), I studied koala conservation at University, and the park has a positive energy.
In the end, everything worked out – my makeup artist Heather Bruce from ME Academy lives nearby, so I was on time for the ceremony (a miracle in itself, if you know me). An indoor venue would also have been less stress. Although I visualised blue sky dozens of times before the ceremony, it was touch-and-go on the day.
The day before we got married, my chiropractor Jolene Cooney (another 29/11 lifepath) joked that ‘wet knots are harder to undo’, very cute.
4) Ask People to Carpool and Borrow Your Wedding Car. Due to our conscious lifestyle, and the limited number of carparks at Daisy Hill, we asked people to share a ride to the ceremony. We also encouraged Uber or ride-sharing to our reception venue at Eve’s on the River.
This worked out fine, as most of our guests were from Brisbane and/ or knew each other. I arrived in ‘Betty’, my father-in-law’s gorgeous blue Dodge, which fit our vintage theme well.
Alternatives: I looked into hiring a bus and limo, but it seemed extravagant considering we have a baby on the way. If I had a lot of interstate or international visitors coming, I would have booked a bus to make sure people didn’t get lost.
Pros: To my knowledge, no one had no dramas travelling to the ceremony. We also saved $$$ on transport.
Cons: We were running late to the reception and it took a few minutes to find a park on a Saturday night at Teneriffe. Thank goodness, Kris and I manifested a space in front of the restaurant, after asking Spirit for help.
5) Don’t Buy a Wedding Dress, Just Buy a Dress. I’ve wanted to get married since I was six years old. if you had told me I wouldn’t wear a big pouffy dress at my wedding, I would have hit you on the head with my Barbie until recently. However, after shopping around, I decided that most wedding dresses are a rip-off. Instead, I found my perfect long, lacy number by Australian brand Jaase for $129 in Millie Meets Lilly.
Their range of women’s dresses and customer service is great – I even rang them for washing advice. Of course, this all happened by ‘accident’. I was second-hand dress shopping with my friend Jill Genet from Red Tent Australia (also a 29/11 lifepath).
We stopped by Pure Simplicity Health Bar for delicious gluten and dairy-free cupcakes, when we spotted a dress shop next door. The rest is history. Initially it felt weird spending so little on a dress, but it meant I could have an even bigger wedding than first planned. As you can see from the photos, you can’t tell the difference, especially with the extraordinary hand-flowered veil my sister made for me.
Alternatives: I spent hours looking online and on Gumtree for preloved wedding dresses, but nothing seemed to fit me (as I’m six foot tall). Lucky I bought the Jaase dress, because two days later I found out I was expecting. It was loose enough to wear, months later. Every other dress I tried on was skintight. Phew! If I hadn’t bought the dress I did, I would have got an eco-bamboo one, however it wouldn’t have looked as fancy.
Pros: I saved thousands of dollars, which meant we could invite more guests to our reception dinner. I also felt good, supporting local designers and retailers instead of getting caught up in the hype. I’m not against spending $20, 000 on a dress if you can afford it, but as an ex-charity fundraiser I also know how far a dollar can go to changing the world.
Cons: This will sound ridiculous, but I kept thinking I wasn’t a proper bride because my dress was too cheap! Fortunately Jill (who found the dress) cheered me up by saying her wedding dress was $129 as well. That made me feel okay. I had wanted a dress with a train, but am glad I had a veil instead, as I would have just tripped over. Walking in the bush with lots of tulle is a recipe for a sprained ankle.
6) Wear Discounted Shoes. Helen Glover, who helped me style my wedding dress, found these amazing red velvet shoes, the ‘Shary Flat’ on sale at Wittner. I picked them up from DFO (a discount factory outlet) in Brisbane for $74.95, which was half price. I then wore heels I already owned for the reception.
Alternatives: If I was vegan, I wouldn’t have bought leather shoes, but being pregnant has totally changed my food cravings and requirements. I love my silver sandals from Gino Ventori (Brazilian shoes fit my narrow, long feet), they are another affordable brand I would have bought if not for the Wittner shoes. I would have happily gone barefoot at my wedding if needed, you could say Kris and I are hippies at heart.
Pros: I felt good about buying shoes I could wear again, that looked fairytale and were comfortable.
Cons: I had to shop around, as there were only a few pairs of the shoes left in Brisbane. Lucky me!
7) Borrow or Hire Everything You Can. The great thing about living and working in Brisbane is I had family, friends and clients to help me out with our wedding. It’s a close-knit city.
On my wedding day, I not only borrowed my sister’s dresses for the reception dinner (I outgrew my $60 gown a few days prior), I hired staff and decor from Francesca’s Flowers – Francesca is a nationally-awarded florist and her flowers were beyond stunning. We also borrowed a suitcase for our money tree.
Alternatives: I was going to do my own decorations and flowers but thank goodness I didn’t. Not only did Forrest wake up at 3am on our wedding day, but with my relatives visiting, there wasn’t a spare moment all weekend. Hiring help was money well spent.
Pros: There was no wastage from our wedding. The only decorations we bought were the flowers, a few helium numbers (for an 11:11 photo wall – it is the Twin Flame sign, after all) and an $8 vase for our blessing ceremony (our in-laws gave us crystals as a sign of love). My guests loved taking their table flowers home.
Cons: I spent a lot of time worrying about styling the wedding in the months leading up to it. As someone who is obsessive over tiny details, it’s a good thing I didn’t have the time/ energy/ money/ chance to implement my plans.
Note to self: no one cares about the small stuff if the food is good. Turning up to the venues was a delight, I loved the surprise of seeing everything done for me.
8) Shop Smart for Wedding Rings. We found our perfect rings for less than expected, by looking online and bargain hunting. I was keen to avoid paying inflated prices and fuelling the gold and diamond trades, which can be environmentally damaging.
Alternatives: I was set on buying wooden, shell or recycled gold rings but none of them worked out. I thought of recycled white gold, but some have a coating that irritates Kris’s skin.
Pros: We put the money saved from the rings towards the reception dinner, same as for my wedding dress. Deniz Akan blessed our rings after purchase. The one I found exactly fits my engagement ring (from Kris’s grandmother), so they look like a set.
I had a blast ring-shopping. When I walked into the shop, I said to Spirit ‘give me a sign if this is the place’. The assistant looked at my fingers (I wear an ‘I and a 1/2’, almost a kid’s size) and said ‘I’ve been waiting for someone like you’. Then she insisted I try on a $15, 000 diamond solitaire, which was, you guessed it, an ‘I and a 1/2’.
She’d been waiting ages to see it on someone’s hand. I felt like Cinderella with the glass slipper, only the glass was diamonds. Even better, I got a discount on the ring I liked (a different one).
Cons: Allow for hidden costs. We spent hundreds of dollars getting rings resized before the wedding, and spend more redoing the settings later on. That’s the downside of heirlooms – you don’t know if they’ve been resized before, and they need to be maintained.
9) Ask for Money, instead of Gifts. As Kris and I have been together for 4.5 years, we have everything we need. So we just asked for money instead of presents. Admittedly, my sister-in-law did get us a toaster, as ours just broke! That was one of our few physical gifts.
Alternatives: I was never going to have a gift registry as I’m the kind of person who wears the same clothes and shoes for years. Kris is the same. We live very simply.
Pros: We had no problems with gifts and wrapping destined for landfill. Better for our guests, us and the planet. A few guests made bank transfers before the wedding, which helped us pay for the event (that last week of bills and deposits is a doozy!)
Cons: Some people feel weird about giving money, so don’t be surprised if you get anonymous cards. In some cultures a money tree may not be cool, you need to go with what works for you.
10) Choose an Eco or Homemade Wedding Cake. I’m blessed to have Anthea Cheng from Rainbow Nourishments as my cousin. She came up from Canberra (with blender in tow), to make us a truly magical three-tier vegan, gluten-free wedding cake.
With 84, 500 followers on Instagram (224K as of 2021!), Anthea sure knows her stuff, she’s even written her own vegan recipe book. Over three days, she filled our house with delicious chocolate and berry aromas and fed Forrest so much cake mix he almost exploded.
Our guests were rapt, we received compliments from everyone on the final cakes. And yes, those are Lego figures on top – a gypsy fortune teller (me) and a long-haired bearded hippy (Kris). Plus a fairy on a unicorn a client gave me recently for the baby-in-waiting.
Alternatives: As a backup, I researched other gluten and dairy free bakeries in Brisbane, but some of them use Nuttelex, which I react badly to. Long story short – when I had orthorexia, I ate a whole tub of Nuttelex, which sent me to the doctor and turned me off it big-time. It’s also not that healthy for you compared to coconut oil etc. as to me, it’s quite processed.
Pros: Although we didn’t have a vegetarian wedding reception, it was satisfying to serve a vegan cake, especially as no one could taste the difference. I love eating vegan food and supporting vegan restaurants, this lifestyle just doesn’t work for me on an everyday basis.
Cons: Buying mainly organic ingredients for the cake was expensive – in future we would have bought in bulk rather than from a health food shop, but time was of the essence. Plus, with Anthea donating her expertise, the cost was comparable to a normal wedding cake, only the taste was far superior. She put so much love into it, it was practically dripping with joy.
Our wedding for 65 guests came to around $12K. I pulled a lot of strings to make our day cheaper – if you don’t have a big network, my tip is to shop local and ask friends for referrals – small is beautiful.
What We Did Green/ Budget
-Ceremony venue, dresses, shows, makeup, rings, decorations, transport, cake, invitations. Even Forrest’s adorable outfit was $25 from Best and Less.
What We Did Normal/ Splurged On
-Our Hen’s and Buck’s nights. I went to Pho Thai Spa New Farm with my friends (they treat you like a goddess) then Mizu Teneriffe for a yummy dinner. Kris went go-karting with the boys.
-Our wedding reception. Chinese people often do 17 course dinners, so 4 courses was reasonable. I considered options like picnics, taco trucks and so on but with 25% of our guests requiring vegan/ vegetarian/ gluten-free etc. meals there was no way I could cater for them without going somewhere like Eve’s on the River, who did a fantastic job for $95 + drinks per person.
-Kris’s suit (the tailoring was worth it), flowers (Francesca Whiting I’m blessed to know you), music (my singing teacher Louise Brown and flamenco guitarist Paul Marsh were awesome), private wedding dance lesson (Chris from Smooth Moves Dance did wonders), celebrant (Elizabeth Wilkie was impeccable and so friendly – true story, I asked for a sign when I met her and saw 11:11), a brilliant photographer (Hai Thi Bui, my client’s husband) and our honeymoon (two nights at Azabu Byron Bay – bliss!).
-I also bought shimmering starfish place holders from Cherishables as guest thank yous. Starfish represent healing and regeneration as an animal totem. When Kris proposed to me at Tangalooma, we walked along the beach throwing back starfish. Eventually, I was like ‘can we stop saving them now, and just hold hands?’.
So starfish represent balanced relationships to me – serving the world while also maintaining intimacy. No kidding, when I ordered 55 starfish, Zoe was amazed as she only had 55 in stock. She thought it was funny I was a psychic. I said, truthfully, ‘this kind of thing happens a lot.’
I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips for having an affordable, joyful and environmentally-aware wedding. If you’re getting married soon, I wish you well – the journey is so worth it.
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