Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, is having an environmentally conscious wedding at Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria on April 22 – Earth Day, of course. At 64, May will marry John Kidder, 71, one of the founders of the Green Party of B.C., former federal Liberal candidate and brother to the late actress and activist Margot Kidder. Not only a progressive politics power union, the wedding heralds significant personal shifts for both: May’s been single for decades, raising a now-grown daughter, and Kidder lost his wife of 32 years in 2009, after which he left Vancouver for a solitary life on a farm in B.C.’s Southern Interior. We talked to May from her home in Sidney, B.C. about planning a wedding in an election year, how to green the wedding industrial complex and the joys of a man who pitches in.
The romance started at the Green Party convention in September and the wedding is in April – the definition of whirlwind. How did it happen?
I was convinced I was never going to meet anybody. I thought, I’m just going to get a dog so I have somebody happy to see me when I get home. My daughter had thought she could put up an online profile for me, but that was not going to happen. So my good friend Sylvia [Olsen, mother of Green Party MLA Adam Olsen] said, “Well, I’m a matchmaker!” More than a year went by and then she came up to me at the convention and said, “Okay, I found your guy: John Kidder.” I said, “Oh, I love him.” “Well, he loves you, too.”
Weddings can be enormously wasteful. According to The Green Bride Guide, the average American wedding produces 400 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of carbon dioxide. How will you keep it green?
All the organizing is being done by our daughters. We didn’t do little fluffy paper invitations. Everything is online. I’ve told my bridesmaids, nobody needs to go buy a new dress. We’ll use the altar guild’s Easter Sunday flowers because it’s Easter Monday. A friend of mine on Saturna Island, said, “We’ll do the bouquets with the flowers that are in our garden.” A lot of things are being co-ordinated by a lovely network of dear friends volunteering their time. A friend who’s a seamstress has been working for weeks now on the wedding dress. I just threw a sketch on a piece of paper.
Travel to destination weddings tends to leave a huge environmental footprint.
I didn’t put any pressure on family and friends who live far away. Friends of John’s are coming from Vancouver in an electric bus and there will be a cavalcade of electric vehicles from the cathedral to the reception in Sidney. My brother is not coming from Cape Breton. Too many carbon miles. So we’ll have reception parties for friends in Toronto and Ottawa, and a big party in Cape Breton.
Is an eco honeymoon even possible?
We both love trains. Our honeymoon is getting on the train in Vancouver and heading back to Ottawa. I don’t fly on vacation because of the carbon. Unfortunately you can’t do your work as an MP without being on airplanes and you can’t be a climate activist without being attacked for doing work that involves getting on airplanes.
Did you have any wariness about giving up the independent single woman identity?
I really believed that line that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. I mean, I didn’t feel incomplete. For me, and for John, it’s really important to be committed with a capital C. John has the experience of being in a good relationship, but I don’t. And it’s just glorious. It hit me one Sunday when I was heading back to Ottawa for work. I was buzzing around my place in Sidney, “What do I have to do now?” John said, “Why are you rushing?” I said, “I’ve got to take out the recycling, clean up the kitchen, get to the airport.” And he said, “Honey, don’t do any of those things. I can do all of it.” Oh, that was the best. It took me aback.
You’re the first federal leader to be planning both a wedding and an election campaign. Did you consider waiting?
Oh my God, no, I couldn’t. To get through a campaign requires a lot of emotional support. If we were going to see each other at all, we had to be married. People understand there's a social convention around this: We should allow you to spend time with your husband. It's also such a lovely thing to be planning a wedding. It takes my mind off politics although a lot of political friends are coming to the wedding. It’s nonpartisan.
Is there a connection between private love and public service?
Love can connote love of country, love of community, love of friends. Love of future husband is a different category. Being with someone who completely supports me –I don’t have words to express how much love John is giving me. We’re just blissed out, just ridiculously in love. He’s over there smiling, eating his granola. While we were talking he made me cappuccino. I mean, really!
This interview has been condensed and edited.
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