By Daniela Degrassi
We don’t often see the term ‘zero waste’ associated to planning a wedding. From one-time-wear dresses, invitations, flowers and food waste, many elements used during a wedding celebration will simply end up as trash in the landfill. Trend or not, a conscious culture is rising and it’s now inspiring couples to adapt zero waste tricks to their wedding planning. Just what Michaela and Dan’s did to celebrate their vegan wedding. As you’ll see, recycling and repurposing certain items personalized their special day in the most romantic way. I am so thrilled to share their story today and I am sure it will motivate many brides-to-be among our readers. And as usual, we love to hear all the details from the bride herself!
Michaela, how did you meet your groom?
Cliché as it sounds, he was a special education teacher and I was a school counselor. We worked with the same students and for me it was an instant connection. Dan took a little longer to realize how wonderful I was!
What made you become vegan?
For years I considered myself an animal lover, but never made the connection with the animals I “loved” and the ones on my plate. I went vegetarian randomly on a vacation with my sister and father. After that I started doing my research. I watched 5 minutes of Earthlings and went vegan right then and there.
Zero waste was a more gradual process. I became interested in the movement after hearing Bea Johnsons’ TedTalk. I became fascinated by this woman who fit a years worth of trash in a Mason jar. I started doing research on zero waste and the zero waste lifestyle and discovered that Green Indy, a local Indy zero waster, was hosting a talk. I dragged my husband to the lecture and felt inspired to make the change. I immediately felt the need to cut everything plastic out of my life, only to become overwhelmed and give up a few short weeks later. About a year ago I watched a documentary about plastic and realized I couldn’t claim to be an environmentalist and still use plastic in the large amounts I was. I realized I wanted to live mindfully in regards to how my choices and actions involving consumption and consumerism affect the planet…I also realized I’m a sucker for documentaries.
How did you decide to plan for a zero waste vegan wedding?
This was never a question. My husband and I are both vegan and could not imagine celebrating our love with dead bodies. To us, vegan is love so we wanted vegan for our wedding.
The decision to go zero waste was also a no brainer. Weddings produce a lot of waste and I didn’t want my wedding to harm the environment and the creatures in it. I will say a zero waste wedding was more daunting for me than a vegan wedding.
Were your families and friends supportive?
Yes, everyone was very supportive. My husband and I are passionate about the cause and I think everyone assumed the wedding would be vegan. We did get some “what am I going to eat” jokes when we said the wedding would be completely vegan, but I was expecting that. I knew that most of the jokes were made in good nature so I didn’t take them to heart.
The decision to have a zero waste wedding was met with a few more questions. My family, at the time, wasn’t familiar with zero waste and couldn’t imagine planning a wedding in which waste wasn’t an option.. I was able to explain the swaps I wanted to make such as having real silverware, plates, cups and napkins. With some explanation everyone was on board.
I wanted the wedding to be boho / woodland fairy. My mother and grandmother spent months going to various Goodwill locations collecting colored vases for the tables, building a beautiful arch and ensuring the majority of the décor was hand me downs, natural resources from nature, or recycled/repurposed items found at Goodwill.
My mother, grandmother and aunt helped me a lot. Dan and I had a small wedding, 28 guest total, so we were able to utilize my amazing family and plan the wedding ourselves. Even 28 guests was a little overwhelming at times!
What were the major obstacles in planning your wedding?
Really the only obstacle in planning involved our dessert. We had planned on serving the guests vegan donuts from General American Donut Company. We ordered 30 vegan nutella and 30 vegan hibiscus. Unfortunately, there was mix-up with our donuts the day of the wedding. When my husband went to pick them up, they had given our donuts to another wedding party and we didn’t have any other dessert for our guest. General American ended up finding the donuts and delivering them to us, but they were not good and the icing had melted off. I was really disappointed with them and wish we had gone through Duos for our desserts.
The biggest challenge with planning a zero waste wedding was thinking of all the little details that go into creating waste. For example, making sure the items we ordered were shipped plastic free. As well as, choosing eco- friendly products to use over the convenience of disposable plastic items. Finally, shopping at the local Goodwill over buying mass produced wedding items. Zero waste is not hard, but it does require planning and thinking outside of the normal consumerism mindset.
What zero waste choices did you make for your wedding?
We decorated the venue with colorful glass bottles from Goodwill. The majority of the décor was hand me downs, natural elements from nature, handmade items, or repurposed goods from Goodwill. The linens for the tables were my grandmothers and great aunts. The appetizer, dinner and dessert plates, napkins and silverware were my grandmothers. The cups were mason jars that are now holding my bulk pantry items. We had vegan tea lights in glass jars that were either recycled or repurposed after the wedding. We donated all the colorful glass bottles, extra tea lights and mason jars to a friend planning her wedding.
The Save the Date and Wedding invites were done through Evite to reduce paper and material waste.
My bouquet and the flowers at the wedding were all from my grandmother’s garden. She also put together several beautiful succulent arrangements for the appetizer tables.
As for gifts, they can be a big source of waste at a wedding. With wrapping paper and gift boxes a few presents can lead to a trash can full of waste. My top tip would be to have a registry. This does not need to be a typical registry, it can be filled with fun experiences and money (yes, you can ask for money). Providing concrete gift ideas can be helpful for family members who want to give zero waste items as vegan gifts, but have no idea where to start.
We recycled all the kombucha bottles, beer bottles and wine bottles. We had debated ordering a keg for the wedding, but thought it would be more wasteful due to the small number of beer drinkers at the wedding. I think a keg would be a great idea for those who want a low waste alcohol option at their wedding.
The rugs we used as décor for our ceremony are the rugs from our living room.
One important aspect of zero waste is to use what you have and not feel pressured to buy new things. This can be very difficult to remember especially on your wedding day when there are hundreds of companies telling you the exact opposite. I was mindful of buying new and made sure each item I bought could be reused or repurposed to avoid waste. Nothing in our wedding was single use or disposable and that was a conscious decision my husband and I made..
Michaela and Dan got married at Eagle Creek State Park in Indianapolis. The wedding was officiated by her aunt.
And you went zero waste fashion wise too, how?
I decided I did not want to wear a white dress on my wedding day. I wanted a dress I could wear again and again. The first day my mother, sister and I went to look at dresses we stopped in Anthropology for inspiration. I was looking in the clearance section and found my perfect dress. I tried it on and knew it was the one. I tried on one more dress at Anthropology (just in case) but that was it. I found my dress in less than 30 minutes and it was $45….can’t beat that.
For jewelry I wore a rose quartz necklace and earrings from Ty Matik on Etsy. My mother, sister and I wore matching necklaces. On Etsy we also found our wedding rings, by Metal Wendler.
I had one bridesmaid, my sister. She wore a mauve dress from Windsor, a rose quartz necklace from Etsy and copper heels from DSW. I didn’t have a specific color or style I wanted her to wear. The same day we found my wedding dress we found my sister maid of honor dress. When shopping for shoes I recommend always reading the entire material list because I have found leather can often be found in “vegan looking” shoes.
Dan wore a dark blue thrifted pants, a light blue long sleeve button down from Target’s Goodfelllow & Co. line and a vest from Men’s Warehouse. One thing to be aware of when shopping for a vest is the material. We saw a lot of vest that had wool in them!
Did you have a vegan hairstylist/make up artist?
My hairstylist isn’t vegan, but used vegan and cruelty-free products on my hair for the day. We kept it simple and went for loose waves with a braid in it. It was simple, but elegant. The hair salon I go to is Shine 29 and my hairstylists are Maria and Madgeline.
I did my own makeup and used makeup from 100% Pure, Elate cosmetics and Han cosmetics. I love playing around with makeup and struggled finding a makeup artist in the area who used cruelty-free, vegan, natural and zero waste makeup.
Who catered your food and drinks?
Duos was our caterer and they did an absolutely amazing job. I knew I wanted Mediterranean food, my favorite, and falafels for the main course; but that was the only requirement. For appetizers they served: baba ganouj, cashew cucumber dip, black olive tapenade, polenta squares, mushroom phyllo. As a main course we had: panzanella salad, falafel over greens with a tahini sauce, roasted red potatoes.
For drinks we served Kombucha from Primal Delights (a local Indianapolis company), red and white wine from Our Daily, a mix of vegan friendly beers, lemonade, tea and water.
Who made your wedding cake?
My grandmother made our wedding cake. It was a vegan white cake with white icing. She decorated the top with flowers from her garden.
Were your guests pleased/surprised by the food quality? Any stories you can tell about non-vegans reactions at your vegan wedding would be appreciated.
I think everyone was surprised by how flavorful and “not boring” the food was. My father, who is the furthest thing from a vegan, commented on how delicious the food was. One of my friends, also a non vegan, texted me the next day saying she was craving our wedding food and really wished she had more of it. I think it was the perfect opportunity to showcase how delicious vegan food is. Hopefully the guests recognized that flavor doesn’t have to be sacrificed to be cruelty free.
It was important for us to prevent plastic waste and food waste at our wedding. We made sure to provide to-go bags for anyone interested in taking food home, although I’m pretty sure Dan and I snagged most of it! We utilized a buffet style dinner so our guests were able to take as much or as little as they wanted.
What did you use as wedding favors?
My aunt owns The Delectable Dane and she made vegan dog cookies for our guest. Everyone loved the cookies and it was an amazing way to incorporate our furry friends and family in our wedding. We have 3 dogs and 2 cats so we always love when people remember them!
Was your wedding all you wanted it to be?
Our wedding was exactly what we wanted it to be. It was a celebration of love and life with our closest family and friends. We loved being able to share veganism and zero waste in a nonjudgmental and inclusive way. Knowing our wedding was cruelty free, vegan and eco conscious made the day even more magical. Our photographer Allison Griffith did an amazing job capturing all the pictures we wanted. She was a joy to work with!
Happily zero-waste ever after to Michaela and Dan! Keep getting inspired by Michaela zero waste lifestyle following her on Instagram!
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.