Ambassador Kaitlin Peña Steps Out from Behind the Camera to Talk About Sustainable Weddings

Ambassador Kaitlin Peña Steps Out from Behind the Camera to Talk About Sustainable Weddings

One of my first introductions to weddings as a young girl was the 2008 romantic comedy 27 Dresses. There is a famous scene where James Marsden’s character, Kevin ‘Malcolm’ Doyle, and Katherine Heigl’s character, Jane Nichols’ interview for The New York Journal will become an impromptu fashion show of all the 27 bridesmaid dresses she has accumulated over the years. I remember being in awe of her apartment closet, filled from top to bottom with dresses that couldn’t even close without the pink tulle princess gown popping out the door. I wanted that closet. 

15 years later, I think to myself what a waste it was to have those bridesmaid dresses sit for years in a closet where their lifespan shortens by the minute. The memories will last a lifetime, but did the dress withstand a lifetime to be proud of? 

Research shows an average of two million weddings yearly in the United States. If you break that down, there are over 5,000 weddings taking place every day. With the peak of wedding season going on right now, I can’t deny this is one of the most exciting times of the year. Our fridges fill with save-the-date cards, and reuniting with friends and family brings endless comfort and joy. But there is also no denying that the wedding industry is a major contributor to waste, and how will an industry built on excess and extravagance support mindful consumption?

I had Tulerie Ambassador and New York City Wedding Photographer Kaitlin Peña weigh in on this world where weddings and sustainability coexist. Peña first entered the community of closet-sharing and fashion rental as someone who witnessed the devastation across headlines of the 2012 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh–she said her eyes were open to how harmful the fashion industry was. However, she fell victim to society's misconception of sustainability, which painted the picture that sustainability was only a space for the “granola” aesthetic. Since then, she has been searching for brands and rental companies backed by ethics in support of environmental sustainability that could offer her access to high-end fashion that fit her statement-worthy personal style. 

“Historically, the sustainability initiative has not done a great job reaching people to try and make sustainability more accessible in a way where you don't have to go the full-on granola and sacrifice your style,” she says. Peña has also seen this lack of sustainable fashion education in her clients. “When they think rentals, they think this is five years old, it's not going to show up as the photo looks, and the quality is going to be cheap,” she says. “So, when I come in, I say, no, you could get something that just walked the runway this season, and it's incredible.” 

In response to the stigma around borrowing fashion, especially for extra special events like a wedding, Peña says that renting is the best option for occasion wear because it offers both luxury, style, and a sustainable approach–especially amongst the pressure of social media not allowing you to feel comfortable wearing an outfit more than once.

It’s even written in the old wedding day rhyme, embrace your “something borrowed.” Found in The New York Times, “According to a study by the sustainability consultancy Edge Impact in 2020, the average American wedding emits 57,152 kilograms of CO2. You would need to plant 2,722 trees to offset this.” Fashion rental and peer-to-peer lending are just one of the meaningful ways to reduce consumption during a wedding and ultimately lower your carbon footprint. 

Peña says a major gap exists between the bridal party and the wedding planner. “If the planners had a more sustainable mindset, that would quickly influence and change,” she says. The power lies in the wedding planners directly making the decisions. The New York Times advises them to set priorities with their clients, find local vendors, rent, consider floral arrangements, and minimize food waste. 

Tulerie invites all brides, bridesmaids, mothers of the brides, and wedding guests to find their perfect something borrowed in our closet. With the peer-to-peer model, you can borrow, which doesn’t break the bank and doesn’t contribute to overconsumption. You can also earn money back on the item you bought by becoming a lender expanding its lifetime past the Jane Nichols’ apartment closet, where it will only sit and look pretty. 

“I think more and more, especially with Gen Z, people are looking for ways to make meaningful choices,” Peña says. “I think the more you guys talk about sustainability, I talk about it, and other Tulerettes talk about it, makes it more of a mainstream thing where the stigma doesn’t exist.”

-As always, elevate your wardrobe with respected fashion and embrace the shift in style

*Photograph taken by Kaitlin Peña*