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A wedding gift for centuries to come

What do you get for the couple who has it all? Laura Dalzell and Charles Smart had set up house five years prior to their wedding, and were looking for gift ideas that would mean the earth.

The couple met in their first year at the University of Otago—although there were no signs of romance for a few years. Now together for eight, they’ve made their home together in Auckland with Sylvie the cat, and were married in January this year.

While most COVID considerations were solved with a simple video call link, the problem of how to allow guests near and far to contribute meaningful wedding gifts remained. 

“Not only did we feel we didn’t need any physical gifts, we didn’t have room for much in our wee townhouse,” laughs Laura. 

“There were some family members who really wanted to give us a special gift—for which we were grateful—but we felt that it would mean much more to us to be able to give back to the world. We wanted our marriage to reflect our values of caring for others and the planet.”

The solution? Native trees.

After some initial Googling, Laura stumbled across Trees That Count, a website that helps connect people wanting to donate native trees with over 700 planting groups across Aotearoa. 

Laura and Charles set up their own native tree registry, which works just like any other gift registry. Guests could log in to donate native trees and leave a message for the couple. 

They were overwhelmed with the positive response. “Our guests loved the idea—many of them commented how nice it was to give to a charity, rather than giving ‘stuff’.” 

The opportunity also gave rise to a number of tree puns from creative guests:

"We can’t be-leaf how lucky you are to have each other, we know you’ll stick together in the years ahead. Make sure to branch out and try new things, that’ll keep you feeling chipper. You’ve grown so much together and we know you’ll have a treemendous life ahead."

Laura and Charles’ wedding registry received an amazing 452 native trees donated. The trees, of course, don’t head to the couple’s own backyard: they’ll be distributed to experienced planting groups in their chosen region of Canterbury. 

“We were married at my parents’ home, a farm in Canterbury,” explains Laura. “I was so pleased to be able to pick the same region for the native trees to be planted in, to give the guests an idea of how their gift would translate into real life.” 

Most of the native trees gifted for Laura and Charles’ wedding will find their homes at Hidden Valley Farm, south of Christchurch. The landowners have fenced off two hectares of stream gully for native regeneration, and are already seeing native bird life return to the area with over 10,000 eco-sourced native plants in the ground. 

More of the native trees donated by wedding guests will be planted at Avon-Okataro Forest Park, an indigenous forest park established within the red zone. The final ten were matched to West Harbour Beautification Trust in Dunedin, a nod to the couple’s history in the city.

“We have strong environmental values and we know that trees are so important for carbon storage and biodiversity,” says Laura.  

“We felt that by creating our registry for native trees we are contributing in a small way to our future. Being able to give in this way has meant a lot to us and added to the spirit and values of our wedding, which is a lovely way to start our marriage.”


Have a special occasion coming up? You can set up a native tree registry here: