Wedding lists go green as couples tie knot later in life

Solar panels, water butts and charitable gifts are taking the place of toast racks and china tea sets

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Couples now marry later in life than they used to, and when they do, they tend to have as many toasters and pasta makers as they need.

Now wedding guests are being confronted by new kinds of wedding lists which asks guests to stump up for the floorboards, walls and doors of the marital home instead. They may also be asked for "honeymoney", to throw cash into a "wishing well", or to donate to charity.

The most recent figures from the National Office of Statistics show that the average age to get married in the UK is 36.2 years for men and 33.6 for women – and couples have often cohabited before getting married. "This is the first list that enables you to build a home," said Colette Harris, editor of You and Your Wedding magazine.

The sustainable building firm Footprint Building supplies everything a couple might need to set up an eco-friendly home, from solar panels to water butts. "Green wedding lists are a great idea. What better way to mark your future together than helping to safeguard it for us all?" said Friends of the Earth's executive director, Andy Atkins.

While they might not damage the planet, these eco-friendly gifts will dent a guest's wallet. Solar panels cost £3,000-£5,000; a bespoke dining table is a more manageable £500 and a water butt is just £100.

"We hope that our service will tap into the traditional role of the wedding gift list long ago, which was for family and friends to help 'build' a new home for the newlyweds," said Ken Aylmer, managing director of Footprint Building. "Things like getting insulation done aren't glamorous, but people are moving away from buying impractical things."

"There is also a big trend towards cash," said Ms Harris. "People have been asking for vouchers for a while, and in the US people now have 'wishing wells'." Fake wishing wells are set up at the reception, with guests putting cash or cheques into the bucket and lowering them into the well.

Other couples are now getting honeymoons for free using "honeymoney" lists. But there has also been a corresponding rise in the number of couples choosing to forgo a traditional wedding list and asking their guests to donate to charity instead.

Cancer Research runs a campaign called Give in Celebration in which guests donate money on behalf of the couple, while people can choose to buy goats, toilets and classrooms for deprived communities courtesy of Oxfam Unwrapped's Wedding Lists.

"Charity gift lists are popular. Some people say that they feel so blessed and happy to be spending their life with the other person that they want to bring some happiness to other people too," Ms Harris said.

Green gifts

Solar thermal system (three panels): £4,700

Air source heat pump: £5,000

Rainwater harvesting system: £2,133.25

Engineered oak flooring: £30 per square metre

Bespoke dining table: £500

Eco-friendly paint: £17.99 a pot

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