“Why are you having a wedding?” might be an unusual question to ask engaged couples, but Kat Wray believes this is the starting point for intentional wedding planning.
Kat is an elopement and small wedding photographer at Red Eclectic. She is also the editor of Less Stuff – More Meaning, an eco-ethical wedding blog. Kat is passionate about mindful and sustainable weddings that are genuine and full of character.
In this chat we discuss:
- How to come up with your marriage mission statement
- Finding vendors with the same values
- Managing unsolicited advice and your guest list
- Incorporating culture, religion, & tradition
- Creating less formulaic, more intentional moments
- Staying mindful on your wedding day
- Wedding planning is a joint effort
- Reducing the environmental impact of your wedding
The first step on how to plan a values-based wedding is to ask yourself how you want your day to feel. How do you envision celebrating the first day of your marriage? Write down your marriage mission statement and use it as a north star.
Once you’ve established your why, it’s time to look for vendors. Chances are, vendors who share your same values will understand your requests and expectations. Hire eco-friendly vendors that can help you with the best practices for lowering the carbon footprint of your celebration.
Weddings are often influenced by trends, traditions, and unsolicited advice. Before incorporating any of them, always ask if it holds meaning for you and your partner. Decades from now, you’ll want to look back on your special day and remember how it truly reflected your story and values as a couple.
Links & Vendors Mentioned:
Find Kat Wray:
On Polka Dot Wedding: Red Eclectic
On Instagram: @redeclectic
Find Dorothy & the Polka Dot Wedding team:
On Instagram: @polkadotwedding
On the website: polkadotwedding.com
This podcast was produced by Polka Dot Wedding.
The Polka Dot Wedding team is honoured to conduct our work on the land of the BoonWurrung, WoiWorung, Eora and Kuring-gai people. We honour the traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders custodians of the land and pay our respects to Elders past & present.
If you’re looking for a wedding podcast that’s not just fun but goes a little deep, then you have found it.
We’re the Feel Good Wedding Podcast by Polka Dot Wedding. My name is Dorothy and I am also known as Miss Polka Dot. I am the founder and editor of Polka Dot Wedding and I have been writing about weddings for 16 years. The Feel Good Wedding Podcast dives a little deeper than the stories.
Of course, we tell the stories, we tell plenty of them, but we’re also talking about vendor advice. We’re also talking about business advice and we’re also diving a little deeper beyond those stories. We’re diving into the mistakes and the I-wish-I-dids and the problems and the qualms that these couples have and that vendors have too. We’ve got so much in store.
We’re jumping into season two and we can’t wait to have you along for the ride. Keep on listening and we’d love to hear from you, so make sure you stick around.
The Polka Dot Wedding team is honoured to conduct our work on the land of the BoonWurrung, WoiWorung, Eora, and Kuring-gai people. We honour the traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander custodians of the land, and we pay our respects to elders past and present.
We will talk about the nitty-gritty of Polka Dot Wedding all day long.
We will talk to you about how to write a wedding run sheet. We will talk to you about what colours go together and how to book a photographer and all the nitty-gritty fun stuff, but there’s something that we don’t really talk enough about, and that is about how to plan a values-aligned wedding. Because you see, there’s so much noise when it comes to planning a wedding. There’s family and friends and media and must-haves and must-do’s and your wedding will be awful if you don’t do this and it won’t live up to that. How do you cut through that noise and plan a wedding that is values-aligned, plan a wedding that aligns with what you and your partner believe in and how you live your everyday life and how you plan beyond a wedding for your marriage?
Today’s guest is Kat Wray. She is a wedding photographer under the brand Red Eclectic and she’s also the brand new editor of sustainable and eco-friendly wedding blog, Less Stuff – More Meaning. Now, Kat has a passion for small intimate weddings. She loves them. She’s all about elopements. But what she’s got an even bigger passion for is helping couples plan days that means something special to them, that are less about the pretty and all the things that you have to buy and do and must-haves, and more about how do we reflect who we are in our wedding day.
This chat is all about how to plan a wedding with intention and it’s something that I’m really excited to chat to Kat about and I can’t wait to dive on into. Let’s go.
Hello, Kat. Thank you so much for joining us on the Feel Good Wedding Podcast. I’m so thrilled to chat to you today about weddings with intention.
Kat Wray 02:50
Thank you for having me.
Now, tell me all about you because not only are you a wedding photographer under the brand Red Eclectic, but you’re also the new editor of sustainable wedding website, Less Stuff – More Meaning.
Kat Wray 03:04
Yes. I wear two hats now, but obviously both complement each other. I guess from a photographer’s point of view, I never intended to become a wedding photographer. I pushed back for a long time, I guess because the big-fuss traditional weddings that I was seeing 10+ years ago, they didn’t just didn’t appeal to me. It seemed like this weird tradition where people were just following a script and just did what they did because that’s what everyone was doing at the time. I just really couldn’t get past how unsustainable weddings were with all the trinkets and the fluff that didn’t really seem necessary. It wasn’t until my friend’s sister got married and asked me to be her photographer and her wedding was this beautiful, intentional, meaningful wedding where she sourced heaps of things secondhand, she really considered the impact of everything they bought and did, and they even chose this amazing venue where the owners really cared about the environment. After that, I was like, “Okay, I can do this,” but I did start small and started specialising in elopements more than anything because I kind of loved the idea of these tiny little weddings where the couple is truly…. that’s all that matters and it’s all about who’s there.
Because you do specialise in small weddings and elopements, was that wedding what really inspired you to focus on that?
Kat Wray 04:24
Yeah. I guess it was the point where I’m like, “Oh, weddings can be sustainable and meaningful and full of character and personality.” It’s almost like I didn’t realize you could do whatever you wanted until I saw it with my own eyes and it was just such a beautiful wedding. Yeah, that gave me hope that I could do this.
That’s a great segue into our topic today, which is all about planning a wedding with intention or a wedding with meaning. If we’re focusing on the marriage beyond the wedding day, if you will, what does planning a wedding with intention mean to you?
Kat Wray 05:02
I guess it’s before we get carried away with how the day is going to look, which is I think, in this day of Instagram, a lot of people fall into that trap; planning a wedding with meaning and intention is just deciding how you want the day to feel. When it’s all over, and that day will go super quick, you want it to feel like it was the perfect way to celebrate the start of a marriage and a perfect way to celebrate you as a couple. It’s not one person’s time to shine and it’s not their party and a way to show up and have them looking their best on their best day. It’s about you as a couple. Planning this is it’s about coming together as a couple and deciding what’s important to you both, and I emphasise the word ‘both’. Both people in that couple should be part of the planning process.
100%, especially when so much of wedding marketing is aligned with pushing the focus on one person out of the couple. Where do we start with planning a wedding intentionally? What is the first step? Where do we begin?
Kat Wray 06:09
I think it’s about establishing your why. Literally why are you getting married, which sounds like a funny question to ask a couple who are inquiring with me because they’re getting married and I ask them why you’re getting married, but like, why are you having a wedding? Just remind yourselves that, really, at the end of the day, a wedding is just a legal ceremony that all you need as a celebrant and two witnesses and a couple who want to get married. Everything after that is fluff, is an add-on. Even the beautiful personal vows are an add-on. I think starting from a blank canvas is where to start and then adding on from there, and only adding what is important to you as a couple. I guess sitting down together at the start and having a chat about how you want this day to feel and what’s important to you both and what are your values and how do you enjoy spending your time together and even what’s your favourite time of day. If you’re really morning people, then don’t fall into the trap of having this sunset wedding at the end of the day for dinner. Heck, have a breakfast wedding, if that’s your thing. I think one question is how do you want to celebrate the first day of your marriage because that’s really what it comes down to.
I love that idea. Yeah, I love that take on it too because it makes it feel very different to just planning a wedding.
Kat Wray 07:33
Exactly because the wedding is a party really at the end of the day. It’s a party. Some people, especially with elopements, don’t choose to have that party. That’s that big difference. You actually had a podcast episode where you interviewed a celebrant and I’ve forgotten her name.
Yes, Robyn Pattison. We did talk about this in length. Yeah.
Kat Wray 07:52
She said a great thing. She said she asks couples when they inquire with her, “Are you having a wedding or are you having a marriage?” That was her way to separate the people who are just having their Instagram wedding, hadn’t really invested enough time in their relationship and couplehood to have that intentional wedding. I’d much rather the couples that are there for the marriage than the fluff.
To me, and you touched on values earlier, but planning an intentional wedding is also about making decisions that really align with the values that you live by, the things that, for instance, a vegan might not have meat at their wedding because they live by vegan values. How do we make sure that our wedding aligns with our values?
Kat Wray 08:39
I guess the first place to start would be to ask yourselves what is important to you as a couple and write it down, that little what’s your why and what’s the purpose of your wedding. Actually write that down on a post-it, put it on your fridge, and remind yourselves what your values are and why you’re doing this and almost setting boundaries and parameters because it’s so easy to get carried away, but that can bring you back to your why. If someone’s like, “Oh, but you’ve got to serve meat for all the people that love meat,” you can be like, “No, our veganism is really important to us and so we won’t be serving meat at our wedding. It’s on our post-it on the fridge and we’re sticking to it.”
Yeah. I think vendors are really important in this equation, aren’t they? They embody essentially what your values are as well. You obviously don’t want to have a vendor that is completely at odds with what you’re believing and then you’re planning a day with them. It’s not aligned. When we’re looking for vendors, how do we make sure that we find those who will work with what we want for the day and how do we figure out who is a good fit for our intentional planning and thoughts and values, etc.?
Kat Wray 09:54
I think finding vendors with the same values as you will be a pretty good bet that there’ll be a good fit. If you find other vendors, as your example was, who are also vegan, you’re probably going to be aligned in so many other ways and they’re going to understand why you don’t want to do that. They’ll also, in that example, create amazing vegan meals to even swoon the meat eaters of the world.
Kat Wray 10:22
Personally, my tagline is ‘chill vibes for fun folks’. That pretty much sets the tone for the kind of couples who inquire with me. I make it very clear on my website what my values are. Everybody knows that I care about the environment. I made it very clear on my website, so even if they’re not as passionate about it as me, they definitely respect it and they’re definitely not going to book me if they don’t believe in that. It’s hard to find vendors if you have specific values, I don’t think everyone is as waving their flag of what they believe in too much and I don’t know if people are Googling eco-friendly wedding photographer, but I think if you can at least find one vendor that aligns with your values, ask for their recommendations because they probably know all the other people like them in the industry and who are doing it right, not just saying they’re doing it, actually doing it, and living it in a day-to-day way.
I think something I’ve noticed with intentional weddings or value-based weddings and when we’re talking about it is there tends to be a thought, “Well, it’s always going to be in the middle of a forest and people have bare feet.” It’s always like it’s a bit alternative, which I think is not necessarily encompassing what we’re talking about today and how an intentional wedding can be planned because anyone can plan an intentional wedding. It doesn’t always have to look like an elopement. How can we plan something that is probably a bit larger, a bit more traditional, perhaps a bit more on-trend with intention and meaning?
Kat Wray 11:53
Yeah. I hate that, especially if you say eco-friendly wedding, I’m sure people think hessian sacks and barefoot in a field or something. Having a meaningful and intentional wedding isn’t about missing out and it’s not about having a very specific look. It’s just about ditching the things that don’t hold meaning or value to you as a couple. You’re basically intentionally deciding what you don’t want or need in your wedding. If you’re planning a bigger wedding because you want to celebrate with all your favourite people and you have loads of friends and you’re an extrovert and you love a big party, then that’s totally fine. If you want your dad to walk you down the aisle because you’ve been talking about it since you were five years old and that’s your thing, go for it. If you want to look super trendy on your day because you love high fashion couture and you want to look like you’re in your music video and that’s your vibe, go for it. I think it’s just about balancing it out and making sure that if that’s you, then you do you if that’s you, but don’t follow trends or traditions just because someone else told you to do it, or because you’ve seen it and you think that that’s what you’re meant to do, or that it’s a high trend at the moment to, I can’t even think of a high trend at the moment. There’s a lot. It changes so quickly and I can’t imagine these couples who are trying to keep up with the trends that are in trend right now, yet your wedding’s nine months down the track. A whole new trend will be in by that stage and you’ll feel like you’re behind the time. If you stick with what you love and what holds meaning to you, you’re bound to have this, classic isn’t the word, but when you look back at your wedding in 10 years’ time, you’ll be like, “Yeah, that was totally us,” not “That was embarrassing. That was totally in trend at the time.”
Yeah. It’s really hard to shut that noise out and shut out the noise of what everyone is saying is cool and on-trend because I think for a lot of us, weddings are an affirmation that we’re okay in a lot of ways. “Oh, look, your wedding was cool enough to be on a blog. Your wedding was cool enough to have all the trends, etc.” I think that’s where planning intentionally is really, really important because no one can take that away from you.
Kat Wray 14:06
Exactly. No one can tell you that that was wrong or not cool because that was you. That’s your personality.
Yup, and you’re perfect the way you are.
Not to get too cheesy. So, the guest list. Now, this is where it gets really tricky I think because you’ve got mom who wants you to invite all her friends and in-laws and friends and family. There’s so much politics and so much contention around a guest list. How do we get intentional when we’re talking guest list?
Kat Wray 14:37
Yeah. I think traditionally, I’d say parents were contributing so much money towards the wedding that they felt they had in return input on the guest list and input maybe in some decisions, whereas I think in modern weddings, we’re moving away from that. If you don’t want them to have a decision, then maybe don’t accept the money. I don’t know. That’s on them. I think two questions you could ask yourself is would you buy this person dinner and would you share a personal special moment with this person? If it’s some distant relative that you never see, you have no connection with and you wouldn’t buy them dinner because you don’t even like them and you’ve never shared a personal moment with them, then do they really belong at your wedding, which isn’t just about you. It’s about your couple. If they’ve never even met your partner, then why are they there? But that’s just me.
Yup. That leads on to the advice from family and friends who may be very well-intentioned, as they always are. How can you manage that unsolicited advice without creating lifelong fallout? I believe it’s all really well to say, “No, I’m not going to do that” and shut it down, but these relationships continue beyond the wedding like the marriage does, obviously. If there is a fallout, I feel like it can last beyond the wedding and you can damage that relationship forever. How do you juggle that without damaging those relationships? If you don’t want to damage them. Maybe you do, but in this case, we’re talking about you don’t want to damage them. You want those people in your life.
Kat Wray 16:11
I’d say put it back on them. Ask them why they think that particular thing is important and just keep asking why because I’m almost certain for most things, if you keep asking why, you’ll reach a point where they realize I have no idea why they think something was important. They just think that it has to happen or that’s how it’s always been done and that’s why we’re doing it. If you just keep asking why, “But why? But why?”, maybe you’ll get to the bottom of it and maybe they’ll realize, “Oh. Maybe it isn’t important” or “You have a point.” I put it back on them.
When all that advice gets too much and when the noise and the pressure of Instagram and this, that, and the other thing get too much, what is your advice on how to just keep coming back to what is important to us and what is that core value around our wedding, etc.?
Kat Wray 16:59
I think if you set that clear intention from the beginning, that post-it on the fridge reminding yourself why you’re doing it and your boundaries and parameters, you can just keep coming back to it and reminding yourself what the day is to you. I think this is why elopements got so popular in the last few years, aside from COVID making it almost the only option. I had so many couples telling me that they were using COVID as an excuse to elope because it meant they could have the wedding they wanted without any input from anyone else. It removed so much of the embellishments. It took away so much decision-making they didn’t have to make. It was literally, “Where do we want to get married? What means something to us? We don’t have to think about anyone coming. It’s just about us two. We could walk into a park, we could walk into the bush, we could just pop down on the beach,” and it was more about them because so much was taken away from that decision.
Yup. Come back to the post-it. I think even making it your phone wallpaper and your desktop screensaver, get it into as many places as possible so you can remember that.
Kat Wray 18:04
100%, and both of you have to come up with this little, I always say to my couples, your mantra, but that’s probably not as good.
We call it wedding mission statement.
Kat Wray 18:15
That’s a good one. I like that. It sounds corny, but I think you’d both need to come to that decision together. I know that there are some couples where one is particularly shy and they don’t want the big party and then the other person really does want the big party because they’ve come from a big family or they are an extrovert or whatever, so sometimes, there is a bit of compromise. If you can come to that mission statement and agree with it and have it documented, you won’t get distracted because you will definitely get distracted along the way and you have so many opinions trying to distract you from that mission statement.
Sometimes, you might change your mind along the way. I recently had a couple who, when they inquired, it was going to be a small elopement in a national park with 20 people. It ended up being a 100+ people wedding still in the national park. They still did their vows, their personal vows. We went off into the national park and they privately said that to each other as part of the portrait shoot, and then they just had a backyard wedding after. The essence was still there. It’s just they decided they really wanted all their favourite people with them and they just happened to have a lot of friends, I guess.
Yup. I think with the wedding mission statement, it also allows you to let go the stuff that is not so important. For instance, if you’re not interested in the cake and mum really wants to plan the cake, you can tell yourself, “Well, I actually don’t need to be so adamant and so stressed out about the cake that I want because it’s not one of my top three” or mission statement or whatever it is. It allows you that space like with that couple of yours, “Okay, we’re going to invite more people because the thing that was important to us was not about the size of the wedding, but about being surrounded by our favourite people,” or whatever it is. It allows you to focus on what is important.
Kat Wray 20:17
Exactly. The core essence of the mission statement I guess hadn’t actually changed. It’s just the guest numbers. The vibe, my favourite word is vibe, had not changed. It was still like an intimate event even though there were heaps of people. It was still the same intimate event surrounded by nature. Practically everything was the same aside from the numbers.
So they stuck to what they want. I love that. That really shows how it is just about the value and not so much specific in that way.
Kat Wray 20:49
How can we incorporate things like culture and religious traditions into a wedding day? Those are often really important, but a bit more tricky when it comes to something intentional because they are a bit more overarching than a mission statement.
Kat Wray 21:05
To be honest, I haven’t had much experience with religious and cultural weddings, probably because my whole thing is untraditional weddings. I have had a few inquiries lately and they have got a religious or cultural aspect in there. I just can’t say whether some of these traditions are flexible or not, but I guess if there’s no hurt in asking why, again, pushing back against the reason why some of these cultural things and religious things are the way they are. Sometimes, you might find out they actually are flexible. It’s just that’s just how they’ve always done it, but they’re like, “Oh, actually, we could I guess spin that around. You could do a bit of you and a bit of the tradition stuff.”
Yup. Part of the beauty of the traditions is reimagining them. The traditions get passed down because we’ve reimagined them into suiting the generations and the times that they’re in. I think you’re right in asking the question so that you might be able to have the flexibility to make it your own.
Kat Wray 22:06
Exactly. So often now, we’re blending traditions and cultures. I just had an inquiry about a Buddhist and I think it was Indian wedding. Two completely different cultures are going to blend and they’re having to create a ceremony from scratch. How do we blend these two cultures together?
Exactly. We’ve planned our day with intention. We’ve got all our decisions made with values alignment and all that stuff. When it comes to the day itself, how do we make sure that we stay in that centred calm space and not let ourselves get carried away with the stress and the noise on the day itself?
Kat Wray 22:46
Again, I think if we plan a wedding based on the question “How do you want the day to feel?”, then you’ll have created a wedding that’s perfect for you. As a photographer, I know that the portrait session is also this great time for the couple to have this quiet moment together, to look into each other’s eyes. I sometimes get them to take a deep breath, close your eyes, have a moment because I can sense that this is probably the last quiet moment they’re going to have. Sometimes, you can sense that they’re not overwhelmed, but it’s a lot. Even as I’ve talked about, you can plan to pull them out later in the evening if they want a little quick break. We could just fake a little like, “We’re just having a little portrait session outside,” just to give them a little break from talking and having to see everyone and talk to everyone. As far as the centred calm thing, I’m all about chill vibes, and so I always make sure that from the start, in the timeline planning process, that it is planned with that in mind so that you do have space for a quiet moment. The day isn’t so “Go, go, go,” back-to-back everything.
That was going to be my next question. What are some of the intentional moments we can plan on to keep coming back? You mentioned a little portrait session during the reception, and obviously then the normal portrait session or the portrait session after the marriage, or if you’re doing a first look before the ceremony. Are there any others that we could build in? I know some couples start their day with things like yoga, etc., which is another way of bringing yourself back to centre.
Kat Wray 24:25
It depends on the couples. Some couples, they are extroverts. They love being with all their people, so they want to almost get the photos out of the way first and they’ll do their portrait session before the ceremony so they don’t waste a minute getting photos when they could be with their friends and family. I once had a couple who loved coffee. They actually exited their ceremony out into a courtyard. We’ve got a big group photo and then they came straight around, cut the cake. There was several cakes and pastries and all these delicious desserts. They cut a cake in front of everybody and then they served it to all their guests with coffee because that was their big thing. All the guests were sugared up, caffeined up, and it was a perfect way to end the ceremony that was totally reflective of their personalities. It meant that they could just enjoy the cake with all their people and just have this quiet chat before it got into the crazy reception vibes.
Yeah. That made me think. When you’re talking about introverts and extroverts in the way that they might want to spend a lot of time with their guests versus not, I think it is often not talked about that the ceremony is a very big emotional moment and you might need time afterwards to absorb that and centre yourself a little bit. You just look at all the photos, you think, “Oh, yeah. It’s just you say your vows and blah, blah, blah,” but often it is really intensely emotional. It might be nice to give yourself space after the ceremony to be with your partner and just work through that in your brain about what just happened. I hadn’t considered that before between introverts and extroverts, and I think that’s a really good point of figuring out what kind of person you are and how you might respond to that situation.
Kat Wray 26:08
Yeah. You get that standing up in front of a bunch of people, you’re basically public speaking, and that is not for everyone.
And your innermost thoughts. You’re not just public speaking about how to make a billion dollars. You’re public speaking about the most vulnerable part of yourself.
Kat Wray 26:25
Yeah. Some people love telling their love story and verbalising their personal vows in front of everyone, but there are those couples that would rather say what they really mean in private, like that couple I mentioned in the national park. They wanted to do that privately. They didn’t need everyone to hear it because all that mattered was that each other heard it. This just comes back to that “What’s right for you?” It’s only hard when there’s a couple where one’s an extrovert and one’s an introvert, which happens quite a lot, where you can tell one of the couple was totally happy to have this big party in front of everyone and you can see the other one’s struggling with the fact that they’re going to have to stand up in front of everyone and whatever.
If they go quiet in this planning meeting, I will always try to ask them, eye to eye, “What do you want out of this? What will make the day good for you?” Sometimes, all they need is one little thing to get them through it. It might just be, “Hey, would it make you feel better if we do the portraits beforehand? If that’s the most nerve-racking thing for you, let’s get it out of the way so that straight after the ceremony, you can just go celebrate with your friends and all the hard stuff’s done.” It’s just working out what’s right for them, which is why I love getting involved in that planning process so that I can help them mold the day. A lot of couples will almost plan the day around the venue’s (almost) template. I’m sure venues just had this basic template like, “This is when we serve food. This is when we recommend you do the speeches.” They just have these stock standard template that all the couples have to follow and there’s no room for personalising it. I try to get involved early so that we can like, “Well, we don’t have to do it that way. You can do whatever you want.” Make it right for you.
That was going to be my next question. How can we then work with our photographer and other vendors, including venues, on the day to make it more intentional and less formulaic that “everyone does this” because, obviously, everybody’s different, etc.?
Kat Wray 28:33
I guess asking those questions, whatever is important to you. Let’s use the example if the environment’s really important to you, ask all your vendors how they will bring or make their service sustainable. You’ll get that feedback. If you’re shy, then there’s no point booking a super extroverted party, hype girl photographer if you are super quiet introverts. That’s probably not going to work. They’re going to push you and you’re not going to feel comfortable on your day. I think making it very clear in your inquiries what type of people you are, what you expect, and what you’re hoping for, will give the vendors, they’ll know if they’re the right fit for you because it goes both ways. The couples have to find the perfect vendor for them, but the vendors have to find the perfect couples for them. It’s no good, me taking a 200+ people, high-end hotel wedding. That’s just not my vibe and I’m not going to do that wedding justice because I’m not feeling it, whereas you want to elope in the bush, just you two, I am the perfect photographer for you. I think there’s enough vendors around to shop and find your people.
You told me about the forest wedding which I love the sound of, but what are some of your favourite weddings you’ve worked on that have really nailed that intentional wedding or meaningful values-aligned wedding?
Kat Wray 30:03
Oh my god. It’s so hard to narrow it down. Look, just recently, within a few days each other, I did three weddings. They were all super intentional and amazing and it was almost overwhelming to do so many amazing weddings in one short hit. One, she, I say she because her husband works FIFO, so she did have to do a lot of the planning, but she made sure this wedding only was for them. There was nothing that didn’t need to be there. She didn’t even care about putting makeup on the day. She was like, “I don’t really wear makeup. I didn’t care. It was all about her values and what was important to them.” They just hired a rooftop bar. They greeted everyone when they arrived. Eventually, once they knew everyone was there, they had a ceremony and then they just went to their backyard for a big celebration there. All their clothes were sourced with intention. She had sourced French lace because she’s French and she’d found a bridesmaid’s dress in a shop, cut it down, and made a whole new skirt out of it. Everything was amazing. I had this other one where the couple just wanted to hang out with their best mates, basically. We did a super simple ceremony, and then straight after, we went and did a bar crawl with their closest mates, and then met the family at the reception, which was a super chill reception, but we met them there after. The portrait shoot was actually a bar crawl. It’s basically all these people really pulling their personalities out and saying, “What is us?” and I love it. It just gets the best photos because people are being themselves and they’re doing what they find fun with their favourite people.
I love that. I think it’s often said, “Well, we don’t need to give marriage advice because you know how to be in a marriage, in a relationship, etc.,” but I do think there is space today to talk about planning beyond a wedding and planning a marriage as well. What do you think are some of the conversations or things that we could be talking about through this wedding planning process, where our relationship is under a spotlight and everything is very heightened, to ensure that we’re looking beyond the wedding and into the marriage?
Kat Wray 32:19
I guess that’s why I think planning a wedding together is so important. A marriage is a partnership. I think you’re really going to set the tone for your marriage if you can plan a wedding together, make hard choices together, compromise, get creative together, almost discover what would be your perfect day. It’s almost an adventure in itself. You often hear about the cisgendered hetero weddings where the bride is planning her perfect day and the groom just rolls with it. I just think they’re missing out on this great opportunity to plan an event together and start the first day of their marriage with a party that celebrates their relationship and they knew they got through it together. I know that when I renovated a house with my partner and we’ve got the puppy together and we’ve had kids, these are all big life events. A wedding should be another one of those things that you do together as a team.
And you can each focus on the things you’re strong at as well. It doesn’t have to be, “Oh well, I’m not interested in napkin colours, so therefore you do it.” One of you might be really interested in food and one of you might be really interested in music. I agree with you. I think doing this together, no matter your gender or relationship status or anything like that, is really, really important in order to build that going forward and not have resentment about “Well, I did all the load of this.”
Kat Wray 33:45
Yes. Because what does that say about going forward, your relationship? Is that just going to set the tone for how you’re going to always have to do the hard stuff and carry the load of other things that are going to come up in life?
And I think it then also brings up how you’re going to communicate those things rather than, “Oh well, I’m just going to stew about it because I have to plan all the wedding and blah, blah, blah,” instead of communicating, “Well actually, I’m finding this really hard and it’s a bit too much and I would really like to do it with you.” I think that it’s a good breeding ground to start having those kinds of conversations.
Kat Wray 34:21
Yeah. 100%. I hate to say it, but it is a bit of a test on your relationship and I think it’s necessary. There’s no point ignoring it. If you can’t plan a wedding together, then you’re either not planning the right wedding or you need to look inward at your relationship. I’m sure religious ceremonies, as part of that, you have to go to couples counselling. I appreciate that that’s part of it because I feel like nearly everyone should, right? They should.
I agree with you. I was about to say the same thing. I think even when your relationship is great, it’s good to go to couples counselling because I think there’s always ways to improve it and ways that perhaps you don’t think that it’s bad, but it’s actually not great.
Kat Wray 35:07
Yeah. In a perfect world, if you’ve met your partner in your 20s and you’re going to get married in your late 20s, early 30s, you have just been rolling through life and you might not have hit the hard stuff yet and you might not have really talked about kids and family and goals and life and retirement goals, even. And then you get married and you get caught up with the planning of a wedding and you might not have even had these big discussions together. I think making sure you’re on the right path and you’re both headed towards the same future’s probably a good start.
We highly recommend premarital counselling or counselling in general because I think too, you also get so busy, right? Day to day is so so busy that sometimes this stuff you don’t really have mental space to think about when it is really so important.
Kat Wray 36:00
Yeah. 100%. Didn’t that show up during COVID, that we were sweeping things under the rug and not really addressing things?
Let’s be honest, I don’t think many of us have still addressed it with the amount of stress involved. You’re right. It did put a magnifying glass on it all.
Kat Wray 36:19
It definitely did.
There’s nowhere to run.
Kat Wray 36:21
I feel like weddings now have become more socially conscious, that we’re much more conscious of things like acknowledgments of country, for instance, which is so important, and an inclusivity around LGBTQ weddings and the way that we use wording and all that kind of stuff. Talking eco-friendly, with more awareness of the impact humans have on the world, how do we as vendors have a role in guiding and encouraging couples who may not have thought of this aspect? Even if it’s just a few small changes, how can we encourage as vendors, but I suppose also as couples ourselves, to be a little bit gentler on the earth and the world as we plan our weddings, which are very high in consumerism and buying and waste.
Kat Wray 37:05
Yes, which is my big passion thing. Couples planning weddings are so overwhelmed with choices and most of them have never planned a big event, so they’re not good at it or have the skills. A lot of them I think trust the vendor is giving them the best advice, but not all vendors are created equal. Not everyone considers the environmental impact of their service. They just want the most convenient, high impact solution that will just get the job done with the most profit, which there’s a space for that. As a photographer, I don’t have much of an environmental impact beyond travel and data storage, but I make it my personal duty to educate and inspire my couples to consider the environment and I only recommend eco-friendly wedding vendors to my couples just to help them because then, if they’re choosing an eco-friendly vendor, they can trust that they’re doing the right thing.
Just like florists, not all florists are created equally. Couples don’t even think about where the flowers are coming from. They probably create a Pinterest board or see something on Instagram and think, “‘l’ll have that thing.” They don’t realise that not not all those flowers are grown in Australia, or maybe the flowers you want aren’t in season at the time of your wedding. They’re going to be flown from another side of the world. Flowers have a huge carbon footprint, mostly associated with the travel, and a lot of florists are still using floral foam to hold the flowers in place. That floral foam is this toxic microplastic, which is bad not only for the florist which I don’t think they realise, but it’s also terrible for the environment. I think asking lots of questions is great and specifically choosing vendors that have those values is going to help. I think vendors need to step it up, especially florists. They have not necessarily made it hard on themselves because there are alternatives there, but doing the right thing and it might not be the easy road, but they’re doing it anyway because it’s the right thing to do.
Yeah. I think it comes back to, again, if eco-friendly and being kind to the Earth is important to you, you have to find vendors and do the work to find vendors that align with that so that you can embrace that with every part of your wedding.
Kat Wray 39:31
Yeah, absolutely. And it is hard to find. As the editor of Less Stuff – More Meaning, we have vendors on there that specifically have those values, so there are places you can find those people. There’s also, again, the Wedding Footprint Calculator is another great way to find where the big carbon footprint is in your wedding. Maybe it’s the flowers. Maybe it’s just the fact that all your family are going to travel. You’re not going to stop your family from traveling. Air travel is one of the biggest carbon emission footprints that will contribute to a wedding. You’re not going to stop your family from coming to your wedding, but maybe you can balance it out by removing some other things, or at the end of the day, planting some trees to try and balance out some of the must-haves that you can’t part with on your wedding day. There’s tools out there and there’s choices to be made and things you don’t need to have, like wedding gifts. Is that even a thing anymore? I don’t know. I don’t think they’re necessary.
You heard it from you first. Do you have any last words of advice when it comes to making sure that we’re planning a wedding intentionally and meaningfully?
Kat Wray 40:45
I think that post-it. It comes back to the post-it. If you have that, you’re going to have a great day, however that’s reflective of you. Big, small, all the trimmings, absolutely nothing minimalist, I think as long as you do you, it will be great.
Yeah. Well, thank you so much for sharing all of your knowledge and wisdom with us today and all of your wonderful thoughts. I’m so happy that we got to have this chat.
Kat Wray 41:12
Thank you so much for having me. Great to be part of Polka Dot.
We love having you. Thank you.
Kat Wray 41:18
If you’d like to find out more about Kat, head on over to weddingpodcast.com.au or polkadotwedding.com/podcast. Over there, we have a full transcript of today’s episode, including all the links to Kat’s businesses, Red Eclectic and Less Stuff – More Meaning.
We’d love your rankings, reviews, and feedback on today’s show, so make sure you hop on over to your favourite podcast platform or send us an email because we’d love to hear from you. We’ll be back in another few weeks with another episode and much more wedding ideas and inspiration.