Create a sustainable wedding day with Venetia La Manna
Step into the future of love and commitment as engagement traditions get a modern makeover. Meet Venetia Le Mana, a fierce advocate for sustainability and slow fashion, redefining romance with a sustainable wedding day that's all about making a positive impact.
4 minute read | Words by Venetia La Manna - Fair Fashion Campaigner
On August 15th 2018, a few hours before we first met, Max went for a run and picked wild flowers. Upon his return to his Peckham AirBnB.
(he was visiting from the US), he arranged the flowers and wrapped them in a piece of string that he had in his suitcase, placed them in his canvas bag and went on his way to central London where we had arranged to meet for breakfast.
It is the cliché of all clichés, but as soon as our eyes met, I knew. As he placed down the bag, I saw the blooms creeping out, to which I nervously asked:
“How vegan are you?! There are plants coming out of your bag!”
“Actually, these are for you,” he responded as he presented the small bouquet.
“I picked them on my run this morning.”
My heart landed in my chest. There was something about the attention he had played to choosing, arranging and presenting the flowers. It was under-stated, resourceful and utterly romantic.
Within ten days, we said “I love you” and then entered into a long-distance relationship. After hours and hours of FaceTime and a few trips back and forth between London and New York, we had met each other’s families and close friends and were very much talking about the future. When Max landed back in London for Christmas, we went straight to our local pub for a mulled wine and he excitedly told me he wanted to get married.
One of the (many) reasons why I fell so embarrassingly hard for Max is because of the care he takes over the planet that we live on, being mindful to leave as little trace as he can, and his compassion and kindness towards its people. He also loves a good party.
In June, we set a date for November and started planning our wedding. We knew we wanted it to be intimate, aligned with our green values, and most of all, fun!
The Dress Code
As a slow fashion campaigner, I didn’t want anyone to feel that they needed to buy something new for our wedding so I came up with the dress code: ‘Something Old, Nothing New, Something Borrowed, Something Renewed’. Not only did this mean that there was an incredible array of pre-loved, vintage and rented pieces on the weekend, it also meant that even if our guests hadn’t met before, they instantly had something to talk about.
I opted for a vintage dress that I found in my neighbourhood in London by an incredible designer called Jane Bourvis. Originally two separate pieces of lace, Jane combined the 100+ year old pieces to make the dress of my dreams. I wore it with a pair of dark red second-hand Prada platforms and a slightly ripped veil (steeped in stories), also from Jane Bourvis.
The bridesmaids wore my old dresses from when I was a little girl which felt so special. I loved how they looked a little miss-matched and it was a great way to save a few pennies, too!
Weddings are not all thatplanet friendly, especially whenyou’re flying in guests from 3,500miles away, so we decided to hostthe wedding in the village wheremy parents live in Gloucestershire,as the majority of our guests wereUK based.
One of the best ways we can lower our impact, is tosupport small and local businesses and this formed thefoundations for our special day.
We worked with a local marquee company who ensuredthat everything we used from the flooring, to the tables,chairs, plates, cutlery and napkins would be re-used timeand time again. As it was November, we used a generator toheat the marquee, so if you’re keen to lower your footprint,perhaps consider a summer wedding.
Food and drink
Food is the third person in our relationship. Max is a chef and I live to eat, sothe topic of food was high on our agenda.
Max and I are both vegan (Q: how do you know someone’s vegan? A: don’tworry, they’ll tell you... twice), so we decided that the entire wedding would beplant-based. In order to further support local and small businesses, we workedwith a catering company based in Gloucestershire, who were able to source allthe ingredients as locally as possible.
After the ceremony, we had (a veganised) english afternoon tea. We ofcourse had tea, and hot mulled wine too to go with stacking platters of crumpetswith salted butter and jam, scones, victoria sponge cake, carrot cake and tinytriangle marmite sandwiches.For dinner, we sat down for a seasonal squash curry for our main andblackberry and apple crumble for dessert.
We worked with a local bar company who fashioned a bar out of old barrels.We used as many spirits that were made from waste as possible, one being a sustainable British gin called Boxer, and we swerved champagne in favour of an English prosecco.
We wanted to make the wedding as single-use free as possible, so we went without straws, paper napkins and coasters.
We were really careful to only provide theamount of food that we expected to be eaten, but ofcourse, there are usually some scraps and leftovers,so anything we did have was composted in myparents’ garden. We opted for doughnuts instead of atraditional wedding cake because in my life, I’ve neverseen a wasted doughnut. And our wedding weekendwas no exception.
Flowers, plants & decoration
In keeping with the little bouquet Max gave me when we first met, all the flowers we used were sourced locally, and the majority from my mum’s garden. My mum is a flower fanatic and unearthed the joyful fact that the Aster flower, which grows seasonally in November, is native to Gloucestershire and NewEngland (where Max is from). What’s more, it stands for ‘everlasting love’. It was interspersed as table decorations, in the bouquets, in bridesmaids’ hair and groomsmen’s buttonholes.
Our lovely friend Lizzie (Elizabeth Scarlett) is a hugely talented illustrator and came up with some adorable illustrated Aster designs and pileas, which we used on our invites and order of service. We did consider foregoing printed invites and orders of service, but so many of our friends reassured us that they keep them forever as mementos, so we went ahead with them.
Speaking of pileas! We don’t have a garden or outdoor space in our London flat, so houseplants are our way of bringing the outside inside and the first present Max bought me was a little pilea from a small plant shop in Richmond.We love Patch Plants (an online plant delivery company) and they very kindly offered us their surplus plants as a way to decorate our marquee, but also to giveas presents to our guests to take home. That way they have something to nurture and remember the day by, as our marriage grows too.
For our table place-settings, we collected autumn leaves from the garden and wrote the names directly onto them, holding them in place with little chestnuts.
Even if marriage isn’t for you, perhaps you can take away some of these ideas for events or parties you plan. I strongly believe that if we treat the planet and each other with kindness, minimising our impact in small ways where we can,we’re in a better position to build long-lasting relationships and enduring love.
Venetia is a slow fashion activist and the founder of the Talking Tastebuds podcast. Alongside her husband Max La Manna, Venetia campaigns for less waste and a stylish, yet sustainable lifestyle.