By Daniela Degrassi
Nicole Hay credits all of her passion and drive to her lifelong best friend and daughter, Lizzy. This rambunctious, loving beagle inspired her to look beyond her love for animals and make it her life’s mission to help all of those in need. Lizzy’s passing in 2017 has left Nicole devastated, but she will always be the driving force behind Nicole’s success. Prior to launching Everlasting Vegan Events, Nicole worked as an Office Manager at Beagle Freedom Project (BFP) and an Event Coordinator at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
As an Undergrad at California State University Channel Islands, Nicole focused her studies on the issues of animal abuse; including domestic animals, and animals used for entertainment and agriculture. Nicole uses her found research to educate her clients on the horrors animals face everyday.
I met Nicole during my latest (and unbelievably rainy!) trip to Los Angeles this winter. We sat down at Sage Restaurant by Echo Park and talked about this new chapter in her life.
What inspired you to start Everlasting Vegan Events?
I have always been an animal activist. As I child I studied hard and got straight A’s so I could get into veterinary school and live in Africa and save all the elephants… all while eating meat and wearing Uggs! *cringe.* Once I realized I wasn’t going to Africa, I got my degree at CSU Channel Islands and moved on to find a job in the animal rights community. I quickly learned that planning events was something I was very good at and passionate about. I wanted to become a wedding/event planner, but felt guilty about the excessiveness of the whole industry. That’s where EVE was born! I realized I could start a vegan event planning company that focused on vegan food and alcohol, animal-free clothing, and sustainability. I have gained a lot of experience in my past jobs with animal rights and now here I am building a company and planning events, all while saving animals, which is the most important thing!
What makes a wedding vegan?
I love this question! So many people believe it is just the food, but let me tell you, it is so much more! A vegan wedding has many different aspects. We work with catering companies and bakeries to provide vegan food, but we also make sure they support veganism and they are recycling and composting. The biggest aspect of any event is the decor, and so much decor is detrimental to our environment. Take confetti for example, it never goes away and it eventually makes its’ way into the ocean, causing devastating consequences for our marine life and environment.
Flowers are another huge contributor, as the pesticides used to grow flowers are harmful to our planet, and oftentimes these beautiful pieces are used for just a few hours and then thrown away! We try to work with organic florists when possible. If that’s not an option, we work with companies that recycle the flowers, and our final step of action is to send the flowers home with guests or donate to a local hospital. We will also contact venues to collaborate on events they may be having before our event to see if we can re-use their flowers for ours! Many people simply throw out their flowers after an event and it creates so much unnecessary waste.
We make sure no animal products make their way into your event, from clothing, to alcohol, to decor. We talk with vendors to secure cruelty-free makeup, hair supplies, cleaning supplies, and even photography! There are so many aspects to a vegan event! We don’t expect every event to be 100% vegan and environmentally friendly; we have a long ways to go for that. There are many different “levels” of vegans that we work with. We are not here to police every decision you make, we just want to make it as easy as possible to make positive changes that will ultimately help the animals and the planet.
Why have you chosen to focus on the importance of wedding management and avoiding ‘day of coordination’ services?
We have hopped onto the train that wants to rid of “Day-of Coordination” and we can’t be more excited! The idea that a planner can walk onto an event the day-of and know every aspect and every detail is nearly impossible. Our first package is the “Wedding Management” package, which means we will be with you every step of your planning process. Our expertise ensures you have enough time for everything and we make sure all of your plans are realistic and will be seen through. We will help keep you on track and will offer advice when needed. This way when we show up the day of event we know it will run smoothly!
How does the importance of the vegan community help to facilitate wedding vendors?
We obviously LOVE working with vegans, but that’s not to say we don’t work with non-vegans! We have a great list of vegan contacts for everything, from djs and photographers to production companies and venues. When planning events, it is always great to work with companies you have experience and relationships with and when those companies are vegan, we relate on a whole other level!
What other services do you provide besides weddings?
We plan birthdays, anniversaries, galas, fundraisers, retirement parties, engagement parties, conferences, holiday celebrations, family reunions, and graduation parties! If you’re planning any type of event, we can help!
What advice can you give vegan brides to be that are hesitant in planning a vegan wedding?
This is your day! You know how important veganism is to you and if you want your event to reflect that, then plan that vegan wedding! Don’t let anyone’s comments bother you; we all face the same ridicule. I have heard so many guests comment that they’re “going to starve” or that “the cake will have no taste.” My suggestion is, don’t talk about the food with everyone; it will save you a lot of stress! Many families don’t understand why we have chosen to go vegan and attempting to please all of these people while planning your wedding is virtually impossible. Realize and accept that you may experience some kick back, but we promise it will be worth it! We even offer a bit of “counseling” before your wedding if you feel someone needs it. We’re here to help with stress management on top of everything else. At the end of the day, vegan events are the perfect form of activism, as it’s a great time to introduce your friends and family to veganism. Our ultimate goal is that one day vegan weddings will be the norm and all of this unnecessary defiance will be a thing of the past!
What sets EVE apart from other event planning companies?
EVE is an all vegan company and we have a full-understanding of what veganism means. There is no one quite like us. Many coordinators help with vegan events, but they don’t specialize in it. We want to plan vegan events with people who share the same ideals as we do. We work with your budget and we help you and the animals while planning an amazing event. We want to build a community of vegans who want to continue giving and who want to meet other amazing vegans. EVE will be partnering with sanctuaries and donating a portion of our proceeds, so stay tuned!
We strive to plan events that take less from the planet and don’t harm others. An average wedding accumulates around 400 pounds of waste, leftover food and flower arrangements are thrown away, and animal products are often found in the unlikeliest of places, such as wedding dresses and suits. Products that are tested on animals are being used for make-up and cleaning products. EVE thinks of the animals, humans, and the planet when planning events. We don’t serve any animal products or non-vegan alcohol. We support small businesses and we keep sustainability in mind while planning. We encourage our clients to go paperless, to recycle and re-use. But, don’t let that scare you away! We are fully aware that not everyone has the tools, finances, or access to host an event that is perfectly green and cruelty-free. This is why we work with all “levels” of vegans and we don’t judge! We provide you with the tools and guide you to do what you can, and we will be there to help you every step of the way!
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.