My dreams of a library for everything may be a long way off, but in the wedding space Rell&Co are nailing it with their styling hire offerings. We chat with Dave and Jade about their approach and ethos, all whilst finding ourselves in an episode of Friends (Ross doppelgänger much?!).
“Rell & Co is an event and wedding business, for purpose and committed to caring for people and the planet. We use sustainably sourced elements from local makers & ethical producers. We mix recycled, up-cycled & found items with new pieces.
It’s about providing people with a pathway to ensuring their event doesn’t cost too much, and positively contributes to the environment and the supply chain. It’s hard to be responsible in the way we consume, people need easy solutions and we have a model that delivers that. Weddings can create so much waste and cost ridiculous amounts; we want to change that and make it all easier!”
How did this dynamic duo of Dave and Jade evolve?
Dave: Jade and I met when she moved into an apartment across the street from where I lived. She constantly lost her keys, and so she would climb on top of her car and somehow crawl into her balcony quite often. I noticed this and always wondered what her deal was… and obviously thought she was super attractive! We ended up having friends in common and started to do board game nights at each others places and the friendship kicked off well. A bit later, we admitted that we were definitely into each other, and it kind of spiralled into weird love-land that made our friends kind of sick. She became my rock, best friend, encourager… all the things a relationship needed to be for me. We used to take early sunrise morning walks to the beach near our place (even though Jade is NOT a morning person – that’s true love). So one day, on her birthday and as the sun rose over the water I asked her to marry me and we’ve never looked back. We got married in a beautiful ceremony in the Hunter Valley and actually loved the process of planning a wedding. I think it was at that point Jade started thinking about working in the space, though it took me a little longer to click. This year we decided to try running a business together helping people make their weddings and events sustainable and ethical. Its honestly been challenging but so much fun. I guess its rare to find someone you work well with besides being in a relationship. Somehow I got super lucky I guess!
When designing Rell&Co’s offerings what did you decide to do differently?
Dave: Initially Jade was looking into items for our own wedding (way back when) and found that the options were limited. We certainly want our aesthetic to be different and I think we have achieved that. Our pieces are beautiful as well as functional (well we think so!).
Much later when we both decided to launch our business we wanted every single piece to be traceable as well as aesthetically pleasing. That means the factory, the country of origin… essentially we did not want to contribute to supply chains which disadvantage people. Every Rell & Co. piece that we purchase brand new has come from a careful decision & much discussion with the supplier around who makes it, ensuring that their workers are paid a living wage (able to survive and provide for their families), access to employee support, and also that the materials sourced are done so in a way that doesn’t contribute more than is necessary to landfill etc. We have been really surprised at how well some large manufacturers are reporting and being transparent in this way, it’s not just the small makers who are getting it right. More and more, people are seeing the value in sustainable practices and we really hope that we can help support that movement.
We hear so many shocking statistics around waste here in Australia. One I heard was that the average wedding produces 127 kg of waste. But the truth is, we need to stop bashing people with the stats and focus on empowering them to make a difference. That’s ethical business. Its not just about a bottom line profit, its about people and the planet taking equal priority. If we pave the way for people to make great choices when consuming, we empower them to perpetuate change…
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing your industry when it comes to taking an eco-ethical approach?
Dave: Complacency. Its rife in our culture. Basically people think “how much of a difference can I really make?” And that may be valid, however its also true that one step in the right direction is still moving forward. If we model ways to hack sustainability, not just in weddings or events but across the board, the culture will shift and people will catch the idea more and more.
Jade: Price tends to hold many people back from choosing sustainable purchases. For example, an Australian made, ethical piece of furniture with a transparent supply chain might cost quite a lot. You could even buy four or five similar items from a fast-textile / fast-fashion retailer. But as soon as a cheap bed or sofa is heavily used it becomes likely to end up in a council clean up due to poor workmanship, changing trends, the circle keeps going. If we think more long term, ponder our need to own so much “stuff” and perhaps think of ways we can strip back and really value beautiful craftsmanship, we get to really appreciate the beauty in objects which we might have taken for granted. Our aim with Rell & Co is to position our products to be priced competitively so that people have the experience of using great items, appreciating good quality and then perhaps even making more thoughtful purchases as a result for their own homes.
What would you like to see more of in your industry?
Jade: Transparency. How hard is it to know how much something costs, where its made, who made it…? Obviously its extremely hard in our culture at the moment. Simplifying and practicing honesty and integrity needs to be front and centre. We actually don’t intend to scale our business to some huge level, we just want to try doing things the right way and see if others will catch on. If people are happy dealing with us, then I’m happy! After helping with a few weddings for family and friends, we got the impression that some vendors can be incredibly overpriced, often impersonal, the information isn’t always clear, the customer experience can be stressful – it seems like customer experience wasn’t a factor.
Dave: Less stress! Let’s see beyond the paycheck. While there are some really good people doing great stuff in the space, it seemed to us like there was room to do something creative and mix our passions for beautiful aesthetics with ethical sourcing and business models. Planning a wedding is considered by some to be one of the most stressful life events, we have seen some weddings that would justify that statement. We don’t profess to be able to limit all the stress around Events and wedding planning, however I think we do make things a little better. Our aim is to be customer focussed at all times as well as caring deeply about our impact on other people and the planet. It is meant to be a positive experience, one to remember fondly.
What are your top tips for reducing wedding waste?
Dave: We are so passionate about this. Currently, we have developed an eco guide which is simply our research and findings on best practices around event management and hire. Anyone can access this by signing up on our website. Essentially, one big factor is saying a big “NO” to the throw-away culture which Australians seem to embrace at the moment. Regardless of how well something is made, its our responsibility to keep it well, use it, pass it on if its done its duty and not dispose of things en masse in landfill. For example; take disposables like napkins. Paper is the third largest contributor to waste in Australia, after building materials and organics, at over 6,000 tonnes per year according to the ABS. What elements of an event could be either digitised, alternative methods to signage, etc? With a bit of creativity it can be easy. Another shocker statistic is that that Aussies send 85% of textiles to landfill, and consume an average of 27kg of fabric per year. Its amazing how much is thrown away. By using hired items like fabrics or even simple things like jars, vases, platters and NOT throwing them out, we reduce our impact. When you think about the scope of a large event, it becomes even more effective to choose sustainable practices over simply purchasing things for a one-time use.
What do you wish couples planning a wedding knew more about/thought more about when it comes to planning a wedding consciously?
Jade: I think planning eliminates the stress and last minute snap decisions that lead to waste. Allowing enough time to think about what you really want to see, whats practical, investigating the options, chatting to people who can help… all these things can contribute to a great outcome. So much is available in terms of advice, inspiration and resource. Use it and also be realistic. After our wedding, we realised there were things we just didn’t need to worry so much about. It’s the same story we always hear I guess!
Dave: As consumers with quite a lot of spending power and influence, I think we do need to consider how our choices impact other people and the environment. I want to look back at an event or a project and think fondly about how we were able to help people and create a pathway. It’s easy when you shift your thinking I guess, or at least easy to talk about. It’s just like shopping smarter – there are stores where you can be sure your purchase is benefiting people in the supply chain, and the product is coming from ethical sources. The more we see things change for the better in this space, the more choice there will be.
What is one of the quirkiest things you’ve seen at an ethical wedding?
Jade: Maybe we are too quirky because I haven’t really seen anything that shocked me! We did once attend a wedding in a cafe… it was small and squashy but the experience was still beautiful. I think the traditional ideas around lavish venues and huge cars rolling past to drop people off are a little irrelevant now. It’s about expressing yourselves and your love through a day – offering an experience for people to share in. I’m all about that!
What is one thing you do on a daily basis to ensure you are living purposely?
Dave: Gee, we have a LONG way to go. Lately a huge impact for us has been the War on Waste series by the ABC. It caused us to really reconsider our small daily habits such as coffee cups, fresh produce and where its thrown out, soft plastics… we are aiming to be zero waste but it’s hard work. Currently, its about ensuring our plastic use is low. Bio bags / keep cups every day. We don’t go anywhere without them.
Jade: Yep, its hard. Learning continuously is key. We have a compost heap now which is great, but the bins still need emptying pretty regularly. We are reading about more ways we can keep focussed on valuing what we have, wasting less and being content. Easier said than done. We are also ALWAYS learning. We certainly don’t have it all together. We also aren’t hippies, we live in the middle of Sydney and have like four jobs between us… so there needs to be a practical happy medium sometimes.
And finally, what in a wedding, is your absolute favourite?
Dave: Hmmm. I love sharing in experiences with people, especially when it comes to speech time. Some people hate them, but I am such a fan of wedding speeches. I pretty much always cry!
Jade: To be opportunistic, I’ve got to say the table settings. When you see a beautiful table set with amazing pieces, beautiful fresh native flowers, simply decorated… little details that help you understand more about the kind of people you’re celebrating… The little things really make it for me. The smells, the colours, the textures, the symbolism. I love that stuff. And hopefully lots of other people love it too!
Mindfully Wed wedding tip: