By Daniela Degrassi
Who says sustainable weddings can’t be a work of art? Do you really need glamorous chandeliers, spend thousands on a gown you’ll never wear again, or pay for an expensive venue with sit down dinner to make an impression on your guests?
When I connected with Belinda Lau, founder of new sustainably oriented event production company Opus Events Co, I was so touched by her vitality and enthusiasm for being among the wedding professionals who are trying to stir the wedding industry towards more sustainable practices. She’s not just trying, actually, she’s succeeding!
After relocating to Los Angeles, Belinda has surrounded herself of like minded professionals and started her own company set up to produce wow factor events with the lowest impact possible on Mother Earth. Last week she launched her new website and I virtually sat down with her to learn more about her work and mission.
Belinda, you have 14 years of experience between stage production and luxury events. What brought you to work in this industry?
I’ve always been attracted to creative fields centered around genuine connection. Events are a chance to gather, celebrate, and create something beautiful and unforgettable. With my history in the performing arts and stage production, events seemed like a natural transition.
Now you started your own company, what was the particular need to set out on your own?
For the last 5 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with seasoned industry professionals bi-coastally on celebrity parties, high-profile charities, over-the-top mitzvahs, multicultural extravaganzas, and luxury weddings. The one thread of commonality between all of these different kinds of events, no matter the budget or style, was that everything left over at the end of the night got tossed in a dumpster. The quickest cleanup is always preferred – because who wants to be stuck at a venue breaking down and cleaning past 3 AM? But I started to think that the industry practice of focusing on just that singular day and not the impact that one event, let alone many events, has afterwards on our environment and community was pretty irresponsible. Can you imagine the amount of waste and clean up of 1 person at a party – the number of beer bottles or wrappers or cocktail napkins? Now multiply that by 120 people, plus single-use packaging of any kind and items that are perishable like florals and leftover food, and that’s the average amount of waste for a wedding. I began thinking that that waste could be better managed and put to better use. If I was going to have any kind of control over that vision, I needed to create a company that was reflective of my own values and lifestyle.
Photos by Ruff Media
You also are a professionally-trained opera singer (do you still perform?), how much of your love for theatrics goes into your wedding planning?
I’m not going to lie, I do have a dramatic flair. There’s something so satisfying about creating an unexpected “WOW” moment that really moves someone. Working in the opera world also really prepared me for the fast-paced, unforgiving schedule of being an event planner. I’ve been lucky to have experience not only as a performer, but as a director, stage manager, choreographer, hair & makeup artist, and costume designer. Putting on a production isn’t that far off from overseeing an event. There are lots of creative teams at play, and you’re tested on your ability to multi-task, stay cool under pressure, and work well with others. Though I’m not performing much anymore, I do still occasionally practice and sing for the love of it.
What can a couple expect working with you?
I really try to get to know the couple throughout the process so that I can tailor the event to them. A wedding is about your union and we’re here to celebrate the evolution of your relationship. My philosophy is that if you really listen to the couple and bring their personality into the details (not just follow the hottest wedding trends), then you’ve created a distinctly unique event that can’t be recreated. One that’s built around emotion, not just what’s “Instagrammable.” A little secret of mine – I like to make a “soundtrack” of what I envision a couple’s wedding to be like. It’s just for me so that I have a full creative picture of their event. Some people make mood boards, I resonate with music.
Photo by Amy Van Vler
What are your 3 top sustainable tips for couples that are planning a wedding on their own?
1) Start from the end of the event and really figure out the nitty-gritty of the disposal and cleanup. It’s not the most glamorous part of the planning, which is why many people neglect to do this until the very last minute and it ends up being a toss off (slight pun intended). If you do this first, you’ll have time to consider how to minimize what goes to the landfill – even composting or recycling or donating. If you set this as a priority from the beginning, it’ll also greatly influence the vendors you end up hiring.
2) If you’re DIYing, most likely you’re ordering a ton of stuff. While it’s tempting to do that because of the convenience and cost, there is so much waste in packaging, and shipping leaves a large carbon footprint. Support local or rent if you can! Small businesses oftentimes don’t order in bulk, minimizing the amount of overstock. If you’re ordering from a small business on Etsy, request that packaging be a minimum (you don’t need your escort cards, menus, and programs each separately wrapped in shrink wrap). Spending more money on less stuff also promotes a culture of quality over quantity (not just the illusion of quality).
3) There are many resources out there for you to plan your own sustainable wedding. A few of my recommendations include “The Green Bride Guide” by Kate L. Harrison, The Conscious Bride, and Our Organic Wedding. Because green weddings are picking up traction, even traditional publications such as The Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Brides have articles on sustainable weddings as well.
What are your favorite things to do when you’re not working?
I honestly just really love spending quality time with my loved ones – whether that’s eating, going to museums, enjoying a hike, or discovering new hidden gems in the city. When I need alone time, yoga and meditation bring me back to myself.
At The Kind Bride we’re so excited Belinda and Opus Events are going to be part of the first ever vegan bridal fair we’re planning in Los Angeles on September 8th! Don’t forget to buy your ticket before the end of July to enjoy a special discount and make sure you can grab your gift bag. Belinda is planning on something really special for it!
Cover photo by Shane F King
An incurable enthusiast 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. Currently splitting her time between SF Bay Area and 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.