Making conscious wedding outfit decisions that you can be proud of

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When someone mentions wedding attire we all immediately jump straight to “the dress” but choosing eco-friendly or ethical attire is about so much more than that. It’s the suits, the shoes, the jewellery, the head piece, the ties, the coats you’ll wear later. It’s your day after outfit, or the clothes you’ll wear to the rehearsal. It’s the outfits you’re gifting your wedding crew and the suspenders you’ve had made for your dad. There are so many beautiful and meaningful aspects to your wedding attire. It makes sense that they align with your values so you can wear them and gift them totally guilt free.

A burgundy wedding suit hangs from a driftwood arch
Photo Credit: Abi Hackling Photography


I can feel you cringing now – “But I’ve dreamed of choosing this outfit all my life!” I know, I know. But that doesn’t mean that someone else hasn’t worn something similar before… And let me just add that wearing something similar to someone else doesn’t mean that you aren’t unique either! I promise, no matter how original you think your attire idea is, there’s probably someone else somewhere in the world who’s done it first. What makes your wedding unique isn’t the outfit you wear, its the way you wear it, it’s how you pull it together, it’s what you make of it (I’ve got another post on unique weddings here if you’d like to have a read). And anyway, you can always have it altered or adjusted to make it that little bit more your style. With so many places to find second-hand outfits (opshops, trademe, facebook marketplace, specialist dealers…) you’re bound to be able to find something you like.

Buying second hand gives an otherwise single use item a new lease on life. If you’re not that keen on your whole attire being second hand – I totally get it – I wasn’t either. But maybe parts of your outfit can be. Your veil, or shoes, a bracelet or necklace, a tie (op shops stock some seriously cool ties), it doesn’t have to be a big thing and buying bits and pieces second hand can be a massive boost to your budget, it adds up fast when you start counting!

Another aspect that some people love (and some people absolutely hate) is imagining your items past life. Getting creative and dreaming up it’s backstory, giving it even more meaning and allowing your day to be another chapter in it’s ever-growing collection. It can add whimsy and a kind of secretive or surprise element to the feel of your outfit. And if you’re into acting (or even if you’ve just ever played dress-ups) you’ll know how different you can feel when you’re wearing something with a story. How much confidence that can add to your persona. Like I said, it’s not for everyone. Don’t beat yourself up about it if buying second hand just really is not for you.

A group of groomsmen pull brown leather shoes over their novelty socks
Photo Credit: Abi Hackling Photography


Chances are someone you know has been to a fancy party before. Family or friend, wedding or otherwise, we all tend to buy new just for that one event (any excuse right?) only to find that we never wear the item ever again. If someone you know has your dream outfit or accessory you may as well try your luck and ask – they’ll probably be thrilled to hear that someone actually wants to use it! And on something as special as a wedding, no less!

Heirloom pieces also kind of fit into this category. You might not be able to (or want to) wear your fathers wedding suit, but maybe one of your parents or grandparents has something else they could lend you for the day. It’s special, you’ll feel their presence whenever you see it, it fits the “something borrowed…” to cover your superstitious bases and… it’s free. Turns out this eco-friendly business can save us money all over the show.

An embroidered handkerchief is passed from one hand to another
Photo Credit: Abi Hackling Photography


Hiring your outfit or select parts of your outfit is yet another affordable way to achieve your dreams in an eco-friendly way that doesn’t hurt the pocket. It’s the perfect option for anyone who just can’t quite afford the wedding item they’ve always wanted and it ensures that whatever it is, it’s not single-use. There are way more hire shops out there than you can even imagine – yes even some that are specifically for wedding attire – so if you aren’t necessarily wanting to keep the item after your wedding, or if you’re looking to save a few dollars it’s well worth checking out your hire options first, may as well have a quick google and see what you find.


If you’re dead set on having a brand new outfit that no-one else has worn before you then buying or making your own is clearly the only way to go. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be eco-friendly or ethical! All it means is that you’ll need to take a bit more time and do a bit more research before you purchase to make sure it’s considered and you truly believe in the values of what you’re purchasing.

If you’re looking to get something made then the easiest option will be to choose a designer who specialises in eco-friendly or ethical clothing. They’ll already have suitable suppliers and they’ll be well versed in the in’s and out’s so you’ll be able to trust that they know what they’re doing and you’ve left your garment making in safe hands. The same goes for if you’re wanting to buy something pre-made – if you can find a seller that advertises as eco-friendly and ethical then you’re going to find the whole process that much easier.

In saying that, regardless of whether you intend to use someone who knows about conscious purchasing or not, I’d highly recommend that you read up on it yourself first. You’ll want to know enough that you can have confidence in the purchase, and ask all the right questions to give yourself that confidence if it’s not immediately present. Things like what kinds of fabrics are eco-friendly and how to tell if the fabric has come from sustainable or ethical sources. Even reading up on what kind of fabrics aren’t eco-friendly can be super useful and help you to narrow down the options much more quickly. It won’t necessarily be easy but it will be rewarding and if choosing sustainable and ethical attire is important to you then it’s 100% worth the effort.

Flamingo cufflinks sit on a light sage tie, blurred shoes and wedding rings in the background
Photo Credit: Abi Hackling Photography


Although I’ve labelled this as an option, I do prefer to think of it as an extra. Hopefully, you’ll take one (or even better, all four) of the first four options and add this one on as well. Because none of these “options” are exclusive – you can absolutely use them all at once.

So what do I mean by “the afterlife”? Well… what will happen to your attire after you wear it? Where will it go? What will it do? Can you choose a versatile outfit that you’ll be able to wear again and again? Or can you take your outfit apart and pair it with other things in your wardrobe instead? Will you donate or sell your outfit? Or keep it as a family heirloom? Could it be altered slightly to give it a new and more versatile lease on life? – A simple dress with a train is a good example of this, have the train removed and voila! you’ve instantly got a new dress that you can wear regularly.

There are many different ways to make eco-friendly and ethical choices on your wedding day. Get creative, come up with a way that ‘suits’ you, (no pun intended) and don’t get too caught up worrying about the fact that you just aren’t that keen on some of the options. It’s your day, and if you won’t be happy in what you’re wearing, then it wasn’t worth your money. Do your best, have fun with it and let me know how you get on! I’d love to hear what you’ve come up with.

Got any thoughts, questions or suggestions? Add them to the comments and let’s share our ideas!

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Emerald and Ebony – Planning Eco-friendly weddings in Taranaki and beyond.

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