Seven ways to have an ethical wedding

By Milly Stilinovic

Your wedding day should certainly be one of the happiest moments you’ll experience during your journey as a couple.

However, the sweetness of joy can be soured by the daunting fact that your special day – from ring to reception – can be overshadowed by actions that contribute to human rights abuses.

Here are seven helpful alternatives to consider, before you walk down the aisle, to keep your celebration humane and your conscience clear.

1. Look beyond the karat and clarity of your diamond

Seventeen years ago, The World Diamond Council (WDC) imposed a crackdown aimed at curbing the trade of blood diamonds.

Since then, the sale of precious stones mined in conflict zones – whose sales financed some of Africa’s most violent war crimes atrocities in the 1990s – has been close to eradicated.

However, despite this encouraging news, couples are still at risk of purchasing blood diamonds from new supply streams that have entered the market from the Central African Republic (CAR).

The best way to avoid purchasing a blood diamond is to ask your jeweller a series of questions – where does your diamond come from, do they have supporting evidence to back this claim, and what is their policy on the purchase of blood diamonds. If the jeweller cannot answer these questions satisfactorily, then it’s best to keep shopping.

2. Consider fabric choices

Silk organza or chiffon? Unfortunately, your fabric choices – from groomsmen suits, bridesmaids dresses, to the all important bridal gown – could be produced in garment sweat shops where 1 in 10 workers survive on less than $2 a day and are subjected to poor working conditions.

The solution is to consider going vintage for the occasion. Rummage through your mother’s closet and scour the racks at vintage shops. Not only will you avoid contributing to the global chain of slave labour but also to the fashion industry’s detrimental impact on the environment.

3. Ditch the decorations

While pretty, your decorations may have been produced by children as young as eight, forced to work in small and unventilated work rooms, under the constant threat of violence.

Instead of going OTT on the ornaments, why not opt for a reception venue that needs little to no embellishment? Or, better still, get creative and decorate your space with locally-sourced, and ethically-grown, flora.

4. Location, location, location

You may have found the perfect backdrop for your special day. However, unbeknown to you and your beloved, you could be standing atop a site that was once witness to atrocious human rights violations.

From former jails, where inmates were subjected to mindless torture, to plantations that once housed slaves, some of world’s sought-after reception halls are tainted with the memory of abuses past.

The antidote is to do your research. The haunting tale of human suffering can really put a dampener on your special day.

5. Re-think your wedding make-up

It’s no secret that the global production of palm oil, which has doubled over the last decade, has had a detrimental impact on the environment.

However, according to a recent Amnesty International Report, The Great Palm Oil Scandal, palm oil production contributes to heartbreaking child and labour abuses.

© Amnesty International / WatchDoc
© Amnesty International / WatchDoc

Palm oil that can be found in roughly 50 per cent of household products – including makeup. Opt for cruelty-free by surveying the list of products that don’t contain palm oil.

6. In lieu of gifts

Tearing the wrapping paper off a mountain of gifts might be the marital equivalent to Disneyland for some couples. However, the registry is an opportunity to help those less fortunate.

Instead of opting for a long list of must-haves, why not inform your guests that you’d prefer if they donate to the charity of your choice.

7. Honeymoon heaven or hell?

The nuptials have been performed, the cake sliced, now all that’s left is for you and your loved one to ride off into the sunset and enjoy a few weeks of honeymoon bliss.

And while you may have your heart set on a particular destination, it’s recommended to check that your destination of choice is not a territory marred by human rights violations.

From ongoing and often secluded abuse, to government crackdown on freedom of speech and expression, your honeymoon heaven can equate to hell for many a local living on the picturesque shores of the world’s most coveted hot spots.

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Milly Stililovic, journalist
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