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  • Sarka Jelenova

Eco friendly elopement with a real couple in Tenerife


Not long ago I realised that everything can be done with consideration of the environment. The environmental impact of our activities is huge, from everyday shopping, travelling to planning weddings. Here's the fact: UK weddings are one of the chief offenders when it comes to CO2 emissions. As much as 14.5 tonnes of gas is created during an average wedding, which unlike the marriage of the happy couple, is certainly not a reason for celebration.



As a wedding photographer, I am complicit in the environmental damage such marriages cause, so whilst in Tenerife earlier this year I decided to put together this eco-friendly elopement editorial to show weddings can have a much smaller footprint. Once people see this is an option my hope is they will be more likely to choose an eco-friendlier marriage.


The idea was to find and connect local businesses that make beautiful crafts and who are willing to do things with respect to the planet. . I wanted to inspire and create new possibilities for couples coming to Tenerife to get married. Or, for that matter, anywhere in the world.



The couple


For this editorial I was fortunate to find a real couple, Giverny and Shy - beautiful, heart-warming people, who were very much excited about the idea. They love playing music, organizing small spiritual events, doing acro yoga, and are well aware of the environmental troubles ahead if we fail to change our approach.

There's nothing better than photographing a real couple. It gives me the realness, the authenticity, the spontaneity. When shooting an elopement it's important not to interfere too much. There´s no crowd to disappear into, I have to be 100% discrete and ensure that they can do whatever they feel like. While taking the couple portraits I only lightly direct them for the best light and composition.


Wedding Dress


I was struggling to find a local brand for the wedding dress until a colleague recommended I approach the Slovakian slow fashion brand ‘Soay products’, whose owner provided us with a beautiful and unique dress. The size is universal and the dress is boho style so it can be worn on (almost) any other occasion too.


ECO tip: Most wedding dresses are worn once then packed away forever, so opt for a second hand dress, one that can be worn again or altered into something different.


The groom’s outfit


Shy brought a couple of shirts with him. The one we chose was a genuine vintage piece from delicate material (made in Madrid in 1977) with some beautiful original buttons. The craftsmanship back then was pretty impressive. The shirt is so timeless, stylish and universal it can be worn any time of the year.





Flowers


I was lucky enough to find some local workers trimming the palm trees in the town who allowed me to pick as much as I wanted. It made me happy that we could use something that would otherwise go to waste. Had I not met these workers, I would have used fallen (both dry and green) branches which can be found anywhere on the island.

I asked our florist, Julia, to use the local flowers and to go modestly about it. For the bouquet and other small decorations, we used locally produced flowers, smaller palm leaves and eucalyptus (this goes well with everything).


ECO tip: Ordering local flowers is an obvious choice to make, but you can also ask your florist to use some fallen pieces of local flora. Dried branches or palm leaves can create lavish decorations.



Wedding cake


I found a local cake maker who happened to live in the same building as me – and even on the same floor. It’s amazing how things work in your favour when creating something that comes from a compassionate place. Despite the lack of common language we somehow managed to bring the idea of a small and simple vegan cake to life. Everybody loved it. The small cacti made for a unique final touch – and as there was some cake leftover we all got to try some after the shoot.


ECO tip: Order only a small cake so nothing goes to waste. If there are leftovers, share them with your “team”.




Teepee and arch decoration


A macrame teepee is a dream for any couple (as well as the wedding photographer). Bea, the macrame maker, has been living in Tenerife for 5 years and uses bio cotton threads to make these beautiful creations. She spent over 40 hours making the teepee - and I made sure we made the most of it. We set up the cake cutting on the beach in it, and later used it as a chillout zone for guitar playing and a little sing-along session.


ECO tip: Once you’re done with your elopement, keep your decorations and give them to someone else who's planning a wedding. Alternatively, use it as decor for your home. Macrame pieces make great home accessories and are also a sweet reminder of your day.




Picnic set up and food


Glam picnics are becoming increasingly popular. Companies like Paradise Picnic have a whole range of picnic furniture and accessories to create the most luxurious experience for romantic couples. By combining the individual pieces they are able to create unique setups over and over again. They customize the menu according to the couple's wishes and make sure the portions are appropriate so there are no leftovers.

We went for a gluten-free, vegan menu. I also found a permaculture farm that supplied vegan cheeses for us, inadvertently creating a new connection between the picnic company and the farm.


ECO tip: Ask your caterer to source from local farmers and zero waste shops (they have numerous vegan options as well). This does mean the caterer will have to go the extra mile, but it's well worth it. You will enjoy eating clean and supporting local people and their produce.




Jewellery


The dress is considered the most important part of the outfit (accompanied by the beautiful white and green bouquet). When it comes to jewellery, less is more, so we styled the bride in a simple and elegant way, only using handmade crocheted earrings together with a matching bracelet made by local designer Beatriz - who designs her own accessories that can be worn across spectra.


ECO tip: Buy items from small designers. You’ll be surprised to find it does not always cost a fortune. Alternatively, visit your grandma and ask to borrow some of her vintage pieces. It's quite magical what our grandmas keep in their jewellery boxes, and no doubt they’ll feel privileged that you want to wear something of theirs on your wedding day.



Rings


There are only a few ring designers in Tenerife, but I was lucky to find a brilliant lady who supplied two simple silver rings. Originally these were not meant to be wedding bands, but finding wedding rings out of the box is exciting and is another way to support local artists and small businesses.


ECO tip: Avoid conflict diamonds (or don’t use diamonds at all). Speak to small designers and ask where they outsource the materials from.





Using a local agency


Barefoot Bride is a great option if you´re planning an elopement in Tenerife. They know the local vendors, the best-hidden gems, and will create an unforgettable experience on your wedding day.

They´ve also been very open to my dream of sustainable weddings and I believe we've created some everlasting local business connections.


Does it all have to be ECO?


In an ideal universe yes, but we live in the real world and it is important to be realistic. Go the extra ECO mile when you feel like it, look for alternative options, but don´t get overwhelmed or stressed. The last thing you want to be thinking on your wedding day is: “We don't have an electric car to get to the location and my mascara is not in biodegradable packaging.” You´ll get there next time.



ECO TIP: When planning your wedding the general advice that should be resonating in your mind is: Refuse - Reduce - Reuse - Repurpose - Recycle






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