For a while now I’ve been trying to come up with the right words to explain my feelings towards buying from certain online overseas sites… yet balancing the need to stick to a wedding budget. Then last night came across this video post by KILT on Facebook and it was the final piece of the puzzle for me: It’s not about buying online – i.e. how we are buying things (whether for our day to day lives, or a big event like a wedding) It’s what we are buying, and who we are buying from.
I’ve mentioned KILT before. They design and produce beautiful clothing, right here in New Zealand, and they’re one of the most popular suggestions on the Online Bridesmaid Dresses post. KILT celebrates all things beautifully New Zealand-made by encouraging themselves and their fans to purchase only New Zealand made products during the month of March. A fun initiative they’ve celebrated since 2012, called “NZ Made March”. Love! So to support their endeavour I’ve pulled together a few of my thoughts on this topic.
How I am supporting New Zealand made
Let’s get this out of the way upfront. As a small business owner in New Zealand (my main “job” is Be My Guest), sure I have a vested interest in saying you should buy NZ made. But I try walk the talk too. My wedding invitations are all printed in New Zealand, by two small businesses. The envelopes that accompany them are manufactured right here in New Zealand, and my packaging is purchased from a Dunedin owned business. My amazing assistant/website goddess Elien lives in Wellington, my product photographer Danni is in Hamilton and my computer guys and the hosting are based right here in New Zealand. The bulk of my businesses expenses go right back to New Zealand companies.
Personally I’d probably get a solid B on buying NZ made. I don’t really buy a lot, to be honest – and when I do, it’s from NZ companies, which is a start. But I think embracing NZ made March will get me considering where the few purchases I do make have been manufactured.
One of my absolute favourite dresses is from Dunedin fashion designer (and Southern Bride Verified member) Beau Couture. Every. single. time. I wear it, I get compliments on this dress – and every time I reply “thanks! it’s from a Dunedin designer!” It’s such a rush to be able to be genuinely proud of where my stuff comes from. So that’s a feeling I want to feel about more of what I wear, use and gift.
Why buying New Zealand made is important
First let’s consider why people don’t buy New Zealand made. The answer is pretty unanimous – it’s more expensive. Why is that? The labour costs more – the people who made the product need to be paid! The reason it’s more expensive to buy NZ made, is the same reason that buying New Zealand made is important in the first place.
We didn’t, as a society, bust our guts for decent wages, actual health and safety (what a privilege that we can take the piss of it huh), fair working conditions and rights… just to lose those jobs overseas (oh wait… that’s right… they are moving).
NZ manufacturers and businesses have to abide by New Zealand law too. Not just health and safety as touched on above, but following and upholding copyright law. Whereas in China, ground zero of eroding-NZ-manufacturing, intellectual property means very little compared to getting a good deal. This means it’s not unusual to see a designer wedding dress and their professional photography ripped off by Chinese based websites. Yes it is happening. By supporting these websites, you are condoning it. Whether you mean to or not, when you spend your money is a vote. Do you want to vote for what’s right and just?
How your wedding can support New Zealand made
Important Note: I have tried really hard to make this last section as non-lecturing as possible, as a lecture or soapboxing is not my intention here. I really, genuinely understand that money is precious and wedding budgets are tight – I had a below average cost wedding myself, so I really don’t want to shame anyone, or upset anyone for the decisions they’ve made, or have to make. I just want to offer a different perspective and hope that by doing so, some of you may be able to shuffle the budget a little and keep some of that money within New Zealand.
Many of your big ticket wedding purchases will be going towards New Zealand businesses (if you’re getting married in New Zealand that is!). Your venue, catering, cake, wedding photographer, celebrant and entertainment don’t generally get imported from China for the night!
Please, can I urge you to pick just one thing that you splurge on and go NZ made with? It might involve some compromises, sure. It’s the smaller ticket stuff which really adds up that you can make a difference with, as although it’s more expensive, it’s doable on a smaller scale.
The most obvious one that crops up all the time, is where you buy your wedding dress and bridesmaids dresses. I know that buying a wedding dress online is tempting. The attitude is basically – “it’s so cheap, so why not risk it?”. Whereas I feel the attitude should be: “if it’s so cheap, how is it being made fairly?”
If the wedding dress took 5 hours of sewing and you’re getting it to New Zealand for $100 – how much was the seamstress paid? It’s a skilled job too – not just anyone can sew a wedding dress. As I mentioned above, there’s some pretty shady practices with factories not just ripping off designs, but misrepresenting themselves to their customers. Cheap yes, but pretty unethical.
There are a few talented wedding dress designers out there if you want to commit to a NZ made wedding dress (like Beau Couture), but at least if you buy your dress from a NZ owned bridal shop instead of overseas, the people who look after you and help you find your dream dress, and the designers who put the hard work into designing the wedding dress are being compensated for their time, skill and effort.
For bridesmaids dresses, a good compromise could be to ask your bridesmaids to use shoes they already own (instead of buying them shoes), and using the extra cash towards buying beautiful quality NZ made bridesmaid dresses.
The other thing that people buy online a lot are decoration and decor items. Here I’d urge quality over quantity… especially when you see how many of these items end up being sold brand new on Trade Me or Facebook buy sell groups because they weren’t used after all (although buying/selling second hand is awesome for keeping the money in NZ, and can help with your budget – so it’s not a bad thing at all!).
I know I managed to buy a few things I didn’t end up using, mainly because buying something made me feel more organised (vs actually being more organised). So consider whether that 60 meters of ribbon is really something you’ll use, or if you’re buying in the hope that the $20 it’ll cost is going to alleviate some of the wedding planning stress (from experience: it won’t).
So how can you NZ-ify your wedding decor? Don’t bother buying table scatters, 5 types of candles and laser cut boxes off the A-word… instead put the money towards some beautiful NZ made table runners. Scrap buying silk flowers from overseas and look into some of the beautiful NZ made alternatives like these flax flowers or felt flowers (there might be a NZ manufacturer of silk flowers out there – I just know the work these two florists do which is why I’m sharing them).
As with anything budget, you have to prioritise, and maybe NZ made is not a priority for you. But changing habits, and changing the community in which we are all part of, begins with everyone just making small steps. And for the month of March, please let’s get behind KILT’s initiative and make the effort to buy NZ made.