Some brides start their wedding dress search knowing exactly what they want. Some have no idea where to even begin. Being the picky and particular person I am, I fell into the first category. I wanted a large ball gown (the bigger, the better!), some sparkles up top somewhere, and of course, for it to have some kind of ethical and/or sustainable components to it. Wanting an ethical wedding dress narrowed down my options – but thankfully, not so much that I had to compromise. I ended up finding mine at Lea-Ann Belter, and cannot imagine a more perfect gown for my wedding day. Because I can’t contain my excitement, here are some photos of the dress, taken by our amazing photographer, Nova Markina!
The big day has come and gone, but the memories and these photos will last a lifetime.
But Why Bother Looking For An Ethical Wedding Dress?
While environmental impact is not exactly the most warm and fuzzy thing to be thinking about when you’re planning your wedding, it’s important to consider because one such day can bring about tons of negative effects. From food waste to the excessive amount of single-use items that result from weddings, it’s impossible to ignore once you’re aware. Over 160,000 weddings happen in Canada every year, and in the U.S. that number explodes to approximately 2.5 million weddings. Of course, all these weddings have varying degrees of environmental (and social) impact. But when taking a look at what the average weddings tend to look like? Well, we’re not doing too great.
At the same time, it’s important to remember that it’s not about perfection. We did our best to do everything we could to have as sustainable of a wedding as possible. More details on how we made that happen coming to this blog soon (you can subscribe here to get notified once that’s up). Yes, I was able to find (and afford) an ethically-made wedding dress. But when it came to finding local hair stylists and makeup artists that were knowledgeable about green, non-toxic beauty and that could confidently apply it to make it last all day and night? That was a struggle, and my search was ultimately unsuccessful.
Be honest about what you can and can’t do – lots of the time, the sustainable option actually ends up being the cheaper option! Then, move on without feelings of guilt. After all, it’s your wedding, so enjoy it!
Finding Your Own Ethical Wedding Dress
Okay, let’s get into where to find your ethical wedding dress. A while ago I wrote this blog post here about where to find them, so you can hop on over there to check out some of my favourite ethical/sustainable wedding gown designers. That list came from lots of online searching and reading, so I hope you find it useful in your own search for an ethical wedding dress! Broadly speaking, there are several things to consider and think about when choosing your dress:
- Is it made locally and/or ethically? Does the designer/boutique that you’re buying the dress from know where the dress was made, and in what conditions?
- Is the dress made from sustainable, natural materials? Most ‘mainstream’ wedding dresses I looked at were made of polyester (the fabric version of plastic) and other synthetic materials.
- Is the dress new or secondhand? Buying a previously-loved or vintage wedding dress not only saves an extra dress from being made, but can save you literally thousands of dollars.
It sounds like a lot to think about, but the good news is, you don’t have to check all the boxes. Instead, find what the most important pieces are to you and then start there. For myself, I cared most about who made my dress, so when I fell in love with some Lea-Ann Belter gowns and found out that they made them all in their downtown Toronto studio, I was sold. It just so happened that I was also able to have a gown that was made primarily of real silk and had Swarovski crystals (instead of plastic beads). Knowing that my dress was constructed, layer by layer, by hand in Toronto was all I wanted. You may decide that you’d rather focus on the textiles of your dress, or finding something already in existence that you’ll alter slightly for yourself. Both of those are just as great of an option.
Where I Found My Dream Ethical Wedding Dress
Working with Vanessa at Lea-Ann Belter was an absolutely wonderful experience. Because everything is made ‘from scratch’ right there, I was able to really make the dress my own. The dress itself isn’t actually one that they make. I loved the top piece of one dress, the bottom skirt of another, and wanted to throw some sparkles up on top, and it was all totally doable. Thankfully, it didn’t cost much more than purchasing one of their set designs, either. I was involved in every decision, from how it would be bustled to what beads would be used, and how padded the chest area would be. And all this was done in private appointments, working with one person who knew all the details of the dress. We had regular check-ins and got full explanations of what was being done and worked on. I definitely felt like a princess throughout the whole process.
So there you have it – the details of my ethical wedding dress, and my list of 9 other places to check out if you’re looking for your own. Have questions, or want to share how you found your ethical or sustainable wedding gown? I always love hearing from you, so let me know in the comments below!