By Daniela Degrassi
The beautiful Virginia Wine Country is the setting for Jo and Luke romantic and glamorous Vegan Wedding. On a perfect Fall sunny day…
Jo and Luke, like many soulmates, met in college. Jo shares the story with us, so romantic it feels just like out of a movie: “My Sophomore year, I, along with eight of my girlfriends, moved into a big, old house down town that we lovingly called The Rough House. As fate would have it, a group of Sophomore guys moved into the house right next door. Our houses inevitably became friends. We spent many a snow-day with those boys, cooking and playing video games and board games and having Netflix marathons. At one point Luke stole the comforter off my bed and hid it in the freezer. It was a pretty lame prank, but you could say it broke the ice (ba-dum-ching). After that, Luke and I became especially close friends. The practical jokes turned into conversations, conversations became deep, late night talks, and those talks became all-nighters. Over that year our friendship bloomed into romantic love. We were dating by the spring. Four years later, he’d get down on one knee, and 6 months after that, we’d say “I do!”
Jo, how did you and Luke decide to have a vegan wedding? “I had committed to a vegan diet and lifestyle that summer before Sophomore year (when Luke and I met). By the time we started dating, he had become a vegetarian. Several months into dating, he made the switch to veganism. We’ve both been ethical vegans ever since. Even before he was completely vegan, he was always so incredibly supportive of my lifestyle and always ordered vegan with me at restaurants and stood up for me if other people gave me a hard time about it. Now that he’s 100 percent vegan as well, we’re really a team about it. It’s so nice to have a partner that not only supports my lifestyle, but makes it his own too. I initially went vegan for health reasons (and let me just take a moment to say WOW has my health improved since I went vegan all those year ago. 25 lbs just fell off and it greatly improved some digestive issues I’d struggled with my whole life), and for Luke, it’s more deeply rooted in his respect for nature and the environment, and his desire to protect it. Having said that, for us, planning a vegan wedding really just meant planning our wedding. It was never even a second thought… of course our wedding would be vegan because we’re vegan. It’s like when someone asks me what my favorite vegan meal is… my favorite vegan meal is just my favorite meal! 😊
Where your family/friends supportive? If so, how? Did they help? “When I first went vegan my family (particularly my parents) were not supportive. I think many young people have this problem with the older generation. They were raised thinking cow’s milk was the only source of calcium in the entire world. They warned me that my teeth and hair would fall out and begged me to reconsider. But over the years, as they watched me grow healthier and stronger, they realized this lifestyle was healthy. They became increasingly supportive and now my mom even eats a plant-based diet (though she still considers the word “vegan” too extreme for her). When I started dating Luke, I’m pretty sure his family must’ve seen me as the girl that converted their son to vegetarianism (and eventually veganism), but they were supportive right off the bat. They had questions just like anyone would, but his family made me feel welcome and accepted right away and supported his decision. His mom and sister are even pescatarian now because of his influence! All that being said, when it came time to plan the wedding, no one was surprised that it would be a vegan wedding. They were all nothing but supportive. Luke’s mom planned a rehearsal dinner that was largely plant-based (that even included a vegan chocolate fountain)! For our actual wedding, our venue used an exclusive caterer, so early on I had mentioned that we were vegan to make sure it wouldn’t be an issue. When the person at the venue responded that they could certainly provide Luke and myself with a special vegan option, I was shocked to hear my mother (a very conservative, quiet woman who would never presume to “rock the boat”) pipe right up and said, “oh no, we’re doing an entire vegan menu for everyone. No animal products at this wedding.” To this day, I’m sure she doesn’t realize how much that meant to me. Luke and I are incredibly appreciative of our family’s support”.
Did you have major obstacles in planning a vegan wedding? “The fact that our wedding was vegan didn’t seem to add more complications or obstacles. I think people might immediately assume that it would, but as long as you’re upfront with all your vendors about keeping everything vegan, it all goes pretty smoothly also thanks to our venue coordinator, Amy Thunell, she was outstanding. Knowing that we were vegan, she made sure that everything met our requirements and didn’t have any kind of strange reaction that you sometimes get from people when you tell them you’re vegan. She was incredibly professional about the whole thing and never once made us feel like we were being too picky. Not to mention, she’s just super organized and good at her job.
Jo and Luke tied the knot at The Stables at Bluemont Vineyard in beautiful Bluemont, Virginia. The catering was provided by Savoir Fare, the exclusive caterer of Bluemont Vineyard, who put together a entire vegan menu with no questions asked. And you know us, at The Kind Bride, we are always very curious to get menu details when possible! And Jo and Luke’s had a real wow factor, as it also served nut and gluten free options!
Display Station Hors d’oeuvres – Hummus, grilled vegetables, pita, assorted olives, baba ghanoush
Butler-Passed Hors d’oeuvres Fried green tomatoes with pepper jam NF, Baby red potato stuffed with tomato avocado salsa GF/NF, Black bean mini taco with mango salsa GF/NF, Hummus with olive tapenade in phyllo shells NF
Salad Course Apples, red onion, pecans, mixed greens topped with balsamic vinaigrette GF
Freshly Baked Breads A freshly baked assortment of bread served with olive oil NF
Family Style Entrees & Sides Risotto-stuffed acorn squash with almonds, leeks and dried cherries GF, Ratatouille tarts NF, Curried cauliflower with couscous GF/NF, Vegetable stir fry with tofu N/F
Skipping the wedding cake, Jo and Luke ordered a special dessert consisting of Doughnuts by B Doughnut – Jo’s long time favorite sweet treats. She tells us: “I had to specially request their discontinued Berry-Granola vegan flavor, which is my absolute favorite! They were incredible. Best doughnuts I’ve ever eaten, vegan or not.”
Jo, were your guests pleased/surprised by the food quality? “From what I heard, everyone absolutely loved the food. We had a good handful of vegans there, but the majority of the guests were not plant-based, and they loved the food. After the honeymoon, I came back to work and all my coworkers were raving about how delicious the meal had been. One friend even asked if there was any way I could get the tofu recipe for her because she was amazed at how tasty it was. She said she’d never really eaten tofu before but that she loved it. I had other friends who were raving about the doughnuts. Overall, I got a lot of ‘wow, you wouldn’t even know this was vegan.’ As a vegan, that always makes me laugh. I wish more people understood that vegan food is just food, only without the death and cholesterol. There’s nothing gross or weird about it. Just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s made from wheat grass and spirulina. We use flour and sugar and oil and delicious seasonings and fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds. Vegan food is GOOD food. I always chuckle when people are so surprised by that”.
The bride and bridesmaid bouquets were by The Pink Poppy and Liz Milliman, Jo’s aunt, did the reception floral centerpiece arrangements and the beautiful archway.
Moving to fashion talk now, Jo wore The Carlton dress from BHLDN Designer Collective Collection (which we featured on the blog this summer), and JustFab sandals. She kept accessories pretty minimal – a plain veil, a beaded belt, a bracelet gifted by her best friend, and rose gold earrings. Jo gave her bridesmaids a general color scheme (crimsons, burgundies, pinks, neutrals) and she told them to get whatever they wanted. She says: “I put my sister/maid of honor in charge of approving the dresses. It turned out great and I loved that eclectic, mismatched look (we love it too!). I also thought it was a great way to make sure each bridesmaid got something that she liked and would wear again so that they didn’t feel like they were wasting money on a dress they didn’t even like. I also think it’s great to let a woman choose what she wants to have on her own body. Everybody’s comfortable in something different and I can’t necessarily make that judgement call. I wanted to give them that autonomy. Luke and his fellas wore simple white dress shirts, cotton dress pants, suspenders and mismatched floral cotton ties”.
Was your wedding all you wanted it to be? What did it mean to have a vegan wedding? “As cliché as this might sound, my wedding felt like a fairytale. I felt beautiful, I was surrounded by friends and family, I was marrying the man of my dreams, the weather was perfect, the food was delicious, and no animals were harmed in the process. What more could any girl want? The bottom line? You can have your dream day at no one else’ expense. You don’t need to harm other beings to be happy. You can eat delicious food without slaughtering. You can eat healthy food without causing pain. For me and Luke, that’s all it’s about. If we can live a happy and healthy (I’d say healthier) life without harming other beautiful creatures or wreaking havoc on planet earth, why wouldn’t we? Our wedding was perfect because it was everything we wanted, without taking anything that didn’t belong to us. Plus, none of our vendors were exclusively vegan, but they did offer excellent service and paid special attention to our criteria that everything be vegan”.
I think Jo’s last reflection is especially important for any bride-to-be reading her story. As you see, planning a vegan wedding is not that complicated.. don’t be shy in asking, even non-vegan vendors are happy to accomodate a vegan meal. It’s really an amazing chance to let plant based food shine and speak volumes about your values and its universal message of love.
Photographs by Key Lite Photography
A feminist and independent spirit since she could remember (her childhood heroines were Pippi Longstockings and Katharine Hepburn) Daniela Degrassi found her creative outlet as a lifestyle photographer, working mainly in Northern California where she lived for 15 years before moving back to her native Italy to continue to be her autistic sister’s primary caregiver. Vegan since 2014, she found a perfect way to carry her message of compassion while celebrating her love for the wedding industry launching The Kind Bride in February 2018.