The following Engagement with Purpose feature was written by amazing bride-to-be and Four Letter Word non-profit founder, Rayna Cohen, and photographed by the ever so talented Savannah Lauren Photography.
We like to think we are people who care about the environment, the nations, and those who are less fortunate, but you don’t have to donate all your money to charity or volunteer every bit of your spare time to be the best you. After all, it is small steps that lead to big changes. Soon after starting Four Letter Word, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, in 2014 jumpstarted a lifestyle for my fiancé and I to be intentional about where we spend, what we buy, and how it impacts our community and environment. Four Letter Word provides resources, education, and empowers both individuals and communities to build healthy self-sustainable habitats. We currently work in 6 countries and have community farms where we teach people how to provide for themselves using the resources they have available.
It’s easy to get caught up in the moments and details of planning a wedding. It’s not always in the forefront of our minds to think about how our spending can impact the environment and people around us, how it could make all the difference or significantly take away from local small businesses in our communities. We’ve noticed the wedding industry thriving on over abundance and opulence, and were overwhelmed trying to plan a wedding that didn’t feel like “us”. We saw an opportunity and it became fun and extremely important picking options that gave-back-to or benefitted our local community; now every detail has a purpose and a plan that will last longer than our “one big day”. Although we have nothing against fortune 500 companies, because let’s be honest who doesn’t love Target, this quote captures how we feel perfectly; “when you buy from a small business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third vacation home. You are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, a mom put food on the table, a dad pay a mortgage or a student pay for college.” That is why we became motivated to give back in everything that we do, and in that there is peace.
All of our vendors are either word-of-mouth recommendations, or people that we already know. Each person that is part of our day is here with a purpose, and most of them sew into the small communities in which they live in their own unique ways.
We will be having our wedding ceremony at a local homeless ministry, Amazing Love, which we volunteer a few times a month. Amazing Love Ministries feeds over 300 people in the Ybor City area every week. In addition to providing hot meals and cold drinks, people are also given a to-go bag full of food to take with them. The ministry also provides many of the items that people need to live on the street: clothing, backpacks, shoes, blankets, toiletries, etc.
We wanted our Engagement photo shoot to reflect and showcase a few of our favorite things; like how important it is to buy local. At one of our favorite local produce markets, Bearss Groves, we had an amazing time picking out freshly picked fruits and veggies that we would use in the days to come.
We chose our second location at a friend Julie Shematz’s farm, where she and her husband help victims of human trafficking. Julie started Beauty from Ashes in 2005 and developed faith based programs in prevention, intervention, and restoration for victims of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and sex trafficking. She specializes in Equine, Art, and Creative Therapies, which are evidence-based treatments for abuse and trauma. To take this one more level into sustainability we decided to use Smart Press to print our Save the Date magnets (because magnets are reusable) that has a “Green Choice” initiative where they use earth-conscious printers, recycled paper options, environmentally superior printing presses, and continue to plant trees to better the environment. For our invitations we are looking into options like seed paper; a type of handmade paper that includes any number of different plant seeds. The seeds themselves can still germinate after the paper making process and they can sprout when the paper is planted in soil.
We are currently growing our own Baby’s Breath and also incorporating paper flowers (recyclable) and fruits and veggies (edible) into our flower and table arrangements. We, along with a team of friends, are making most of our own hand-crafted decorations out of wood and found items from thrift shops and flea markets. We plan on using eco-friendly palm leaf plates and wooden cutlery to recycle and compost everything consumed at our reception.
We will be donating proceeds to a few different local ministries and non-profits in honor of our guests as part of our wedding favors. We are also going to do a build-your-own trail mix bar, where we will be purchasing all locally grown seasonal fruit and dehydrating it ourselves so our guests can enjoy some native Florida delicacies.
Planning intentionally and not over-buying are little ways you can be more sustainable. Being earth-conscious doesn’t mean you make your Bridesmaid’s wear brown paper dresses but find something they can all re-wear in the future. Its little details that can make a big overall difference, we are very excited to include our community and the environment into our special day.
Photography: Savannah Lauren | Rayna and Jon’s non-profit – www.fourletterword.org | Wedding Ceremony – www.amazinglovemin.org | Produce Market/Engagement- www.bearssgroves.com | Human Trafficking Ministry/Engagement – www.beautyfromashes.org | Save the Date printer – www.smartpress.com