JUNE 26, 2020
VEERAH Brides: Minnie Shin
Minnie’s Guide to Planning a Vegan and Sustainable Wedding
Photo by Joanna Kosinska
Despite these unprecedented times, life must go on for all of us. We’ve slowly—or have we really?— adjusted to our home-based lifestyles either alone or with our families. As for 2020 or 2021 brides, we know planning your wedding has suddenly ground to a halt because of suppliers pausing their businesses for the time being. However, don’t be discouraged because you can still work on your wedding by drawing a ton of inspiration online, having regular video calls with your fiancé or members of your entourage, and still getting in touch with your suppliers because you never know, they might just answer your queries.
Here at VEERAH, all brides are welcome. Whether vegan, starting to go vegan, or just switching to a more conscious lifestyle; we’re cheering you on in making the best of this situation to still “go forth and conquer” with your wedding planning. With the help of Minnie Shin of Minnie Veggie, here’s her take on how you can achieve that dream vegan and sustainable wedding.
Guide to Planning a Vegan and Sustainable Wedding
By Minnie Shin
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. First and foremost, I want you to know 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 is about making more sustainable and conscious choices for your wedding to the best of your ability.
I decided to share this very intimate and personal story of my wedding to offer some help not only to brides planning a vegan and sustainable wedding, but also for other brides planning that perfect wedding.
Minnie and her husband
THERE IS MORE TO A VEGAN WEDDING THAN FOOD
There is more to a vegan wedding than food, at least for me. I am blessed to have found a life partner who shares the same values as I do. He has been fully supportive of 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 it would be the easiest to implement. But when my husband (then fiancé) was against this idea, I was utterly shocked that for the first time our values clashed.
In a state of distress, I called my mother and 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 towards the animals you love so much, you can also be compassionate enough to not impose your values on other people.”
A candid moment with Minnie and her mother
Ironically, food was the hardest part of my vegan and sustainable wedding planning. I was; however, able to choose more sustainable and vegan options for my wedding dress, shoes, gifts, and venue. In the end, I didn’t impose an all-vegan meal on my guests and instead, gave the guests a choice between a vegan entrée or a non-vegan entrée. I was challenged to be more creative in veganizing and at times, choose more eco-friendly options.
Veggie platter with hummus dips make great appetizers
1. RECEPTION HORS D’OEUVRES
Just because the main course at your wedding has 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 a 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 mostly 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 plant-based materials such as cotton or synthetics.
Since many designer gowns are made from silk, I opted to have 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, but I also saved a lot of money by not purchasing a wedding dress with the designer-label markup.
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 do 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.
Minnie’s midi wedding dress is by Mika Inatome
3. WEDDING SHOES
Making sure my shoes were non-leather was first on my list. Finding the perfect vegan shoes was the hardest, and required a lot of research on every search engine and shopping site possible. 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 that I wanted. And not only was their brand 100% cruelty-free and vegan, but it also used more eco-friendly materials. Another great perk of VEERAH shoes is that they come with stylish accessories, which can be easily clipped on, so you can style your shoes in different ways. Therefore, I knew these shoes would not only be a one-time wear, but also a purchase that I would never forget.
Minnie changed into the AUDREY pair for her dinner reception
I wore the Mulan in Champagne Blush —which is part of VEERAH’s signature bridal collection—for my wedding ceremony. As for my dinner reception, I wore a VEERAH pair that I already owned, the Audrey in Pearl Nude
with the Orchid Blossom Brooch
that came with the wedding shoe (talk about cost savings again). Tip: If you have beautiful, cream color shoes that you already own, consider just purchasing this accessory as it really goes well with cream, off-white, or pearl color!
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 were used. We were able to find a 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 often wears to work.
Minnie’s husband looked dapper in a bespoke vegan suit by hall madden
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.
Minnie and her bride tribe
6. WEDDING VENUE
My husband and I are from two different continents—he is from New York City and I’m from Seoul. We both wanted an intimate wedding in a beautiful outdoor space. And that is the reason why we decided to have a destination wedding in Hawaii, which is half-way between Korea and the U.S.
A smaller, intimate, outdoor wedding is a more eco-friendly option than having a larger, indoor wedding. First, you can save energy by taking advantage of the natural light 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 minimal decoration, creating less waste on your wedding day.
Minnie and her husband, Steven
Don’t let the rain put a damper on your big day
And if it 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 really good sports about it, telling us we were lucky to get rain on our wedding, since it is a symbol of a long and prosperous marriage. And as time passes, it will still be a great story to tell people.
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 two options: don’t have a wedding cake or have a vegan wedding cake delivered from a nearby vendor.
I went from option two to option one. I pre-ordered a vegan cake from an outside vendor (because my wedding venue did not make vegan cakes), which could not be delivered due to an unexpected brush fire that occurred prior to my wedding. Vegan cakes are so delicious nowadays that I assumed people would not know the difference between a vegan cake and a non-vegan cake. In my case, they may have not realized that there was no wedding cake at all (at least I hope they didn’t).
a SolarPuff from Solight wedding favor
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 invitation options that you can choose from for your wedding.
Paperless invitations are eco-friendly, less costly, and also make it easier to track and make changes, including guest RSVP updates, meal selections and last-minute logistics announcements
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 they allow you to get really creative. I would suggest doing some research by looking at wedding favor recommendations on The Knot, and then decide 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 a couple of years back at the NYC Green Expo. I actually use it as my bathroom night light. The SolarPuff was perfect for our wedding not only because it was a more sustainable choice, but also functional and light enough to carry in our luggage.
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.
10. WEDDING DECORATION
One of the perks of having an outdoor wedding is that you will spend less on decorations. Why would you need additional decorations if you have a breathtaking view of the beach, mountains, or garden? It is totally unnecessary when you have nature as your backdrop. When our wedding venue asked us if we wanted an arch for the ceremony, we politely declined and saved $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 dinner centerpieces.
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 during your honeymoon.
I learned that wedding planning takes effort, patience, and compromise. It poured on my wedding, and I did not get to have the 100% vegan, zero waste, carbon neutral wedding of my dreams. Despite all the challenges we faced, looking back, we truly believe it couldn’t have been more perfect.
The experience of my wedding was once again a reminder that sustainable living is about making progress and not about achieving perfection. It's using your potential and working with your circumstances to make better choices, whenever we can.
Minnie and Steven’s wedding was definitely one for the books
All wedding photos by Anna Kim Photography
About Minnie Shin
Minnie is a business owner who works with leaders that are using disruptive technologies and ideas to change our world for the better. Her expertise includes cross-sector sustainability strategy and branding, impact assessment, and climate policy analysis. Minnie not only preaches, but acts on what she believes in. She is the founder of Minnieveggie – a sustainable and vegan lifestyle blog that breaks down complex sustainability issues into a fun, readable blog for the public. You can also find her Korean vegan recipes by following her on Instagram at @minnieveggie.