Guide to Planning a Vegan and Sustainable Wedding
And did I mention that I was a vegan?
Whether you were once a bride or are a soon-to-be bride, we know wedding planning is not all rainbows and butterflies. At least, that was the case for me.
I want to warn my readers that this blog post is NOT about having the perfect vegan wedding. It’s also not about having a zero waste or zero carbon wedding.
However, this blog post is about making more sustainable and conscious choices for your wedding to your best ability.
By the way, I’m Minnie, an environmental sustainability expert and a vegan fashion enthusiast. And now, I am also a happily married newlywed, and a sustainable and vegan lifestyle blogger.
I decided to share this very intimate and personal story of my wedding to offer some help not just to brides planning a vegan and sustainable wedding, but for all brides planning that perfect wedding.
There is more to a vegan wedding than food
There is more to a vegan wedding than food. At least for me, that is more or less, the lesson I learned from planning my wedding.
I am blessed to have found a life partner who shares the same values as I do. He has been in full support towards my journey towards veganism, and has also dramatically changed his diet to become mostly plant-based.
So naturally, serving all vegan meals at our wedding was first on my list, and thought would be the easiet to implement.
But when my husband (then fiancé), who loved eating all plant-based with me at home was against this idea, I was utterly shocked that for the first time, our values have crossed.
I cried and screamed, “This is my wedding and I can serve whatever I want.” I was so upset and didn’t understand why I couldn’t have all vegan food at my own wedding celebrations.
At my very distressed state, I called my mother because she was always the person who provided me with the best answer. When I told her the story, she calmed me down and said, “Your fiancé is right. You can’t serve all vegan food at your wedding. Weddings are not only about you. It is also about your guests. It is about keeping them happy as well. And believe it or not, for some people, not having a steak at a wedding will make them distraught. Not everyone is like you and if you can be compassionate for the animals you love so much, you can be compassionate to understand that you cannot impose your values on other people. You can give the people the choice between a vegan entrée and a non-vegan entrée, but that is all you can do, and hope that people will choose the vegan option.”
After this conversation, I realized that “choice” was the key word. For guests attending a wedding, the only choices they get are “will you bring a plus one” and “which one of the following entrees would you like.”
If you are vegan and reading this, you may think that I could’ve imposed an all vegan food rule, and that I was weak not to. But then, what example would I be setting? I remember reading in a book that said, “you must not impose your values on people, but lead by example.”
Some vegan readers may think, “But wouldn’t you be unhappy looking at that very rare steak across from you at the table?” Yes, I would definitely feel at unease, but being the only vegan among omnivore (even vegetarian) family memebers, friends and colleagues, I witness that all the time when we go out to restaurants.
Ironically, food was the hardest part of my vegan and sustainable wedding planning. And everything else including my wedding dress, shoes, gifts, and venue, I can choose the sustainable and vegan option.
At the end, I didn’t impose an all-vegan meal on my guests and instead, gave the guests a choice to choose between a vegan entrée or a non-vegan entrée.
Not being able to have an all-vegan food at my wedding, I was challenged to be more creative in veganizing and at times, choosing more eco-friendly options.
1. Reception hors d’oeuvres
Just because the main course at your wedding had non-vegan options, it doesn’t mean you can’t serve plant-based for all other meals.
Vegetable platters with hummus dips make great appetizers during the reception. And for the main course, throw in a vegan salad and vegan appetizer in the course meal, and your guests will never know they ate most plant-based.
2. Wedding Dress
Silk is a commonly used material for wedding dresses. And yes, silk is an animal-based product.
If you are looking for a vegan wedding dress, consider using other plant-based materials such as cotton, or synthetics such as polyester or nylon.
Since many designer gowns are made from silk, I opted for having my dress made from scratch by a local designer in NYC, Mika Inatome (I was living in NYC during my wedding planning days).
Not only is it extremely fun to select your own design and fabric, I saved a lot of money from not purchasing a wedding dress with the designer-label markup. And as a petite woman (5’2’’ and weigh less than 100lbs), even if I bought a discounted designer wedding dress off the rack, I would have to pay few hundreds or more to have my dress altered.
My one-of-a-kind wedding dress and veil were made from quality cotton and lace, with bits of Swarovski crystals added to the gown. And because my dress was simple and minimal, I opted for a bright and colorful bouquet, which really accentuated the elegance and simplicity of the dress.
I have to say though, any materials including cotton and recycled polyester, have an impact on the environment.
If you are looking to choose a more eco-friendly option, I would recommend purchasing a second-hand wedding dress.
Vegan wedding dress made from cotton and lace with Swarovski crystals by MikaInatome
3. Wedding Shoe
Making sure my shoes were non-leather was first on my list.
Finding the perfect vegan shoe was the hardest and required a lot research on every search engine and shopping site possible.
I am very girly and love romantic, elegant, and simple style shoes. And unfortunately, I found many of the vegan shoes I came across, to be clunky and just plain ugly.
As I was googling like a mad bridezilla and ready to give up, I came upon the holy grail of vegan shoes – VEERAH.
VEERAH shoes aligned with the elegant and romantic style I wanted. And not only was their brand 100% cruelty-free and vegan, but also used more eco-friendly materials.
I wore the Mulan in Champagne Blush, which is VEERAH’s signature bridal collection, for my wedding ceremony.
Another great perk of VEERAH shoes is that they come with stylish accessories, which can be easily clipped on to wear your shoe in different styles.
So for my reception and dinner, I wore a VEERAH pair I already owned, Audrey in Pearl Nude with the Orchid Blossom Brooch that came with the wedding shoe. Talk about cost savings again. (If you have a beautiful cream color shoe you own already, consider just purchasing this accessory as it really goes well with cream, off-white, pearl color!)
So I knew these shoes would not be a one-time wear and forget purchase, but I would wear them daily and for other special occassions as well.
Vegan leather wedding shoes by VEERAH
Pre-owned vegan leather shoes by VEERAH worn with its versatile clip-on accessories for reception & dinner
4. Groom’s Suit
I am very blessed to have a partner who is very supportive of my values. He also loves animals very much, and when I asked him to wear a vegan suit for the wedding, he agreed without hesitation.
I have never been to a bespoke suit shop before and was surprised to learn how much animal-based materials (such as horsehair canvas) were used.
We were able to find wonderful custom bespoke suit maker, Hall Madden, in NYC. This was not their first time creating vegan suits, and they were very accommodating in explaining all the materials to us. We opted for a timeless Italian cotton suit and shirt, which my husband now wears to work as well.
Bespoke cotton suit by Hall Madden – This classic design allows my husband to wear it to work as well
5. bridal Hair and Makeup
This one is really easy because there are so many cruelty-free, vegan make-up brands nowadays.
If you already own vegan make-up, feel free to bring them with you and your make-up artists will be more than happy to use them for you.
For me, I found a make-up and hair artist that uses cruelty-free and non-toxic products, Love & Beauty Maui.
6. Wedding Venue
My husband and I are from two different continents – he is from New York City and I’m from Seoul.
Thankfully, we were on the same page when it came to our expectations of the wedding.
We both wanted an intimate wedding on a beautiful outdoor space. And that is the reason we decided to have a destination wedding in Hawaii, which is half-way between Korea and the U.S. And with a destination, we were able to keep our guest list to a minimum (total of 33 guests).
A smaller, intimate, outdoor wedding is the more eco-friendly option than having a larger, indoor wedding.
First, you can save on energy by taking advantage of the natural lights of an outdoor wedding. Second, by having less guests, you can save on food waste and reduce the travel carbon footprint of your wedding guests. Finally, you will realize that a beautiful outdoor wedding requires not much decoration, creating less waste on your wedding day.
And if does end up pouring on your outdoor wedding, as it did on mine, it’s not as bad as you would imagine. You can still have a great time and get those beautiful wedding photos.Our family and friends were real good sports about it, telling us we are so lucky to get rain on our wedding since it is a symbol of a long and prosperous marriage. And as time passes, that rain on your wedding day will still be a great story to tell people.
No need for decorations when you have a beautiful view of the ocean – wedding venue at Merriman’s Maui
7. Wedding Cake
The cake-cutting ceremony is a traditional part of a wedding. But if you are stuck with a venue that does not offer vegan cakes, you have wo options.
- Option 1: Don’t have a wedding cake at your wedding.
- Option 2: Have a vegan wedding cake delivered from a nearby vendor.
I went from Option 2 to Option 1, not by choice, but because it just happened. I pre-ordered a vegan cake from an outside vendor (because my wedding venue did not make vegan cakes), which ended up not being delivered due to the brush fire that happened prior to my wedding.
Vegan cakes are so delicious nowadays that I assume people would not know the difference between a vegan cake and a non-vegan cake. In my case, they may not also realize there was no wedding cake at all (at least I hope they didn’t ).
8. Wedding Invitation
The digital economy makes it very easy to send paperless invitations. We used Appy Couple for our wedding invitations and to share any logistics related announcements for the wedding. There are plenty of other paperless invitations options you can choose that is right for your wedding.
Paperless invitations are eco-friendly, less costly, and also makes it easier to track and make changes including guest RSVP updates, meal selections, last minute logistics announcements, among others.
9. Wedding Favors
Wedding favors are a way to show how grateful you are to your guests for taking part in the celebration. And wedding favors can be fun because you can get really creative.
I would suggest doing some research by looking at wedding favor recommendations on the Knot, and decide on what would be the best option for your wedding.
We chose the SolarPuff from Solight, a solar powered lamp that is waterproof and lightweight, as our wedding favor.
This was something I purchased couple of years back at the NYC Green Expo. I use it as my night light for the bathroom.
My SolarPuff is always there to guide us to the bathroom at night
And the SolarPuff was perfect for our wedding because not only was it a more sustainable choice, but it was functional, and light enough for me to carry it in my luggage. Plus it would make a great photo for your wedding!
Solar-powered lantern, SolarPuff, by Solight Design as wedding favors
Another great wedding favor is handmade vegan soap. Everyone loves soap and it’s also very affordable if you have a large number of guests.
I also recommend ordering from smaller vendors (from Etsy or anyone you know) because I found that they are more than happy to customize the gift for you and also willing to provide a discount for bulk purchases.
My husband has a very large family and we held a banquet in NYC for those that could not attend the Hawaii wedding.
Seul Luxe customized this delicious cruelty-free, vegan soap for us for the banquet.
For larger number of guests, affordable vegan soap by Seul Luxe in a reusable bag from Etsy
10. Wedding Decoration
One of the perks of having an outdoor wedding is that you will spend less on decoration. Why would you need additional decoration if you have a breathtaking view of the beach, mountains, or garden?
It is totally unnecessary (and may hamper that beautiful view) when you have nature as your scenery.
When our wedding venue asked us if we wanted an arch for the ceremony, we were happy to say no and save $500.
And do you really need that photo booth? There are so many free apps out there such as B612 that lets you take those fun and cute sticker photos.
The only decoration I had for my wedding was my bouquet and centerpieces for the dinner, which took place inside a Cabana. And if you want more eco-friendly flowers for the wedding, see this article from the Knot for tips.
And outdoor venue requires very little decoration – I said no to all additional options such as arch for the ceremony, specially decorated chairs, among others. The only decoration I had were flowers from Dellables.
11. Accepting Wedding Gifts
I am Korean and my husband is Chinese American. Therefore, this was not much of a concern for us since both Korean and Chinese wedding traditions give money to the bride and groom as wedding gifts.
If the wedding tradition in your culture is to accept gifts instead of money, a wedding registry is a great idea to make sure you receive what you may need or want.
And if you have been living together with your fiancé and already own all the home goods you need, I recommend opening up a honeymoon registry instead. Many hotels offer a honeymoon registry, where your guests can help you pay for some of the leisure activities you would like to enjoy at your honeymoon.
I also saw that some people start a newlywed or honeymoon fund through secure fundraising sites such as gofundme.
Custom-made money box from Etsy – I plan on using this for many other occassions and also makes a great decoration at our home
It poured on my wedding and I did not get to have the 100 percent vegan, zero waste, zero carbon wedding I dreamed of.
I learned that wedding planning takes effort, patience, and compromising.
Yet, despite all the challenges we faced, looking back, we truly believe it couldn’t have been more perfect.
And the experiences of my wedding was once again a reminder that living more sustainable and conscious is not about perfection, but about making better choices, small or big, whenever we can.
Note: Grateful to my loving family and friends for bearing the pouring rain to celebrate our special day with us. Thank you to the wedding coordination team at Merriman’s Maui for making it all happen. Thank you to Reverend Tino Rosete for your divine words of wisdom. Thank you to our musician Josh Kahula for playing that special music we requested for our ceremony. Thank you to Dellables for delivering the beautiful flowers despite the logistics challenge. Thank you to AnnaKim Photography and videographer Sunlit Films for capturing these special moments. Thank you Solight Design and Seul Luxe for providing amazing wedding favors. Thank you Etsy for having customized items for difficult brides like myself. Thank you VEERAH, MikaInatome, Hall Madden for making us fashionable on our wedding. Finally, thank you to my most kind and loving husband for making me the happiest wife on earth.
Wedding day photo credits: AnnaKim Photography