Let’s start with my big failure as a Localist: My registry. I tried to register for local items. I really did. I put weeks into searching for local stuff that Russell and I wanted or needed, that wasn’t prohibitively expensive, and that could be bought online (most of our guests don’t live in Birmingham). I asked friends for ideas, put out a call for ideas on social media, and scoured Etsy. For the most part, I though, I came up short. There were some Great Bear Wax candles on our registry, some Piper & Leaf tea, and a few cookbooks from local businesses, but that was about it.
When readers of my book get discouraged about not buying 100% locally, I tell them the best way to be a localist is to shop local-ish — to buy local where they can instead of getting so stressed out about trying to be perfect that they stop trying at all. So I took my own advice, and Russell and I ended up spending almost all of our budget with local vendors, artists and businesses.
Like Russell’s ring, that I bought from Ember and Onyx, owned by our friend Sangeeta. I met Sangeeta at one of Russell’s jiu jitsu matches. She was reading a book in the bleachers, an obvious a sign that we’d probably get along. She’s a scientist who does really important work in research, and she’s also an artist who creates some amazing jewelry. I didn’t even know if she made formal jewelry, but I asked anyway, and she delivered the most perfect ring, even though I ordered it scandalously late. I was able to surprise Russell with it the morning of our wedding, and it was a really great moment — a moment that wouldn’t have been as special to us if we’d just ordered the ring online or from a corporate jewelry store.
My other favorite way to support local business was by writing a guide to Birmingham for our wedding guests and adding it to our wedding website. When you’ve visiting an area, it’s easy to pick the places you know — Starbucks, Chipotle, Panera, etc. There’s no shame in that, but I think it’s more fun to explore local spots, and I was happy to be able to share the places I love with family and friends.
I guess trying to buy local for a wedding is about the same as trying to buy local any other time — sometimes it’s going to work out, and other times it’s not. But maybe a wedding, which is a time to celebrate community and to reset intentions for your life with a partner, is an important time to give it a shot.
Carrie Rollwagen married Russell Marbut in September of 2019. She’s the author of The Localist, a book about buying independent, and cofounder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Currently, she’s Communications Director at Infomedia, a Birmingham-based web development company. Find her on social media as @crollwagen: Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Russell is a web developer and jiu jitsu instructor who isn’t much into wedding blogs or website bios. He’s on Instagram as @russellg9.