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How to Plan a Sustainable Wedding Like an Influencer

Jules Acree of Om & The City threw a wedding that was the epitome of eco-friendly chic—just take a look at the gorgeous photos.
Maddy Sims
by Maddy Sims
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Your wedding should be a reflection of you as a couple, including your style, love story and values. If living an eco-friendly lifestyle is important to you and your partner, your nuptials should relay that. To help make that happen, we've put together a guide on how to throw an eco-friendly wedding with tips from 2020 bride and Om & The City blogger Jules Acree, who was among one of The Knot Most Influential Couples. 

Acree and her husband, Andrew, planned a green wedding weekend in Costa Rica complete with dozens of refreshing details (including a giant slip-and-slide and a custom-made, eco-friendly wedding dress). "It was a no-brainer for us because those are the values we live by at home," she tells The Knot. In an exclusive interview, the wellness entrepreneur shares how she pulled off the ultimate eco-friendly wedding; plus, she shares her best advice for couples hoping to make their nuptials more sustainable.

Be Thoughtful About Who You Hire

One of the best ways to bring your values to life at your wedding is to hire a team of like-minded vendors. Acree tapped planner Danielle Leilani, owner and founder of Leilani Weddings, to help with the logistics and design. "Danielle was very aware of our values from the beginning, and I'm so glad she respected those values and brought them to life," Acree says.

Leilani has previously grown from experience working with to-be-weds seeking a green wedding. "Most of our couples are conscious when it comes to their carbon footprint and the impact they make on the world, so sustainability is something that we keep in mind when planning our events," she says. Acree says that Leilani's dedication to sustainability was integral in making the event a success.

Hiring a like-minded team is important not only for allyship, but also because last-minute issues can arise—and sometimes your team has to make decisions for you. For example, when the florals for the rehearsal dinner didn't make it in time because of travel delays, Leilani took it upon herself to forage greens and flowers from around the venue as a resourceful fix. 

Choose a Venue That Prioritizes Sustainability

"My best advice is to pick a venue that already holds sustainability as a value if possible," Acree says. She and Andrew decided to exchange vows in Costa Rica (one of the most sustainable destinations on the planet) at Kinkara, a luxury eco resort and wellness center.

The property practices sustainability at every turn—from banning single-use plastics to using solar power energy to funding reforestation. Nearly all of the food at Kinkara is produced right on the land for a true farm-to-table dining experience. Wedding guests were invited to sleep in eco-friendly glamping tents underneath the stars.

Acree says booking the venue was the one of the best decisions she and her husband made, as its practices made it easier to have a sustainable wedding. "It was really exciting for us to find a venue that lives and breathes its values. It was such a special place."

Keep the Guest List as Small as Possible

While you may want to invite all of your loved ones to come celebrate your marriage, Acree says one key way she and her husband were able to keep waste down was by creating a small guest list. The couple invited 34 of their closest friends and family members to fly out for an intimate event.

The Acrees' small wedding is part of a newly emerging wedding trend. According to The Knot 2019 Real Weddings Study, the average wedding guest count continues to trend down. Additionally, minimonies, microweddings and elopements are on the rise.

Rethink Your Wedding Stationery

Acree says minimizing waste was a top priority for the wedding. One way they were able to make that happen was by getting creative with their stationery. They bucked tradition by skipping save-the-dates and sending out invitations only instead. In addition, the Acrees were mindful about the material used for the stationery. "We sent our invitations through Minted and all the paper was post-consumer recycled paper, so we were reusing what was already out there." Additionally, the couple opted for online RSVPs (a feature available on The Knot Wedding Websites) to cut down on unnecessary paper waste.

Post-consumer recycled paper is just one of many options available when it comes to eco-friendly wedding invitations. Couples can also use seed-infused biodegradable paper or opt for online save-the-dates and wedding invitations.

Rock Low-Waste, Eco-Friendly Wedding Attire

The couple also minimized waste through their fashion choices. Because the guest list was so small, Acree opted out of having a wedding party, instead asking just her mom and best friend to wear something special. Both women rocked made-to-order, zero-waste dresses from sustainable clothing brand Fame & Partners. Acree asked her other guests to wear any kind of pastel-colored outfit they'd like. "I didn't want to make people buy bridesmaid dresses that they're never going to wear again," she says. "I feel like skipping bridesmaid dresses can be one of the easiest ways to cut back on waste."

The star of the show, though, was Acree's sustainable wedding dress. The content creator tapped her friend, Marteal Mayer, owner and bridal designer at Loulette Bride, to create her dream gown. Loulette Bride specializes in low-waste pattern making, which ensures that there aren't excessive fabric scraps left over after the construction process. Acree's gown also has a recycled poly-charmeuse lining, making it even more eco-friendly. The end result was an airy A-line gown with an illusion waist that Acree describes as "boho but still elevated."

After exchanging vows in her gorgeous custom gown, Acree changed into her second look: a pre-owned gown she found on Poshmark. She had her tailor add a slit in the side so that she could perform the steps to her choreographed first dance.

Thoughtfully Source Your Florals (& Donate Them After)

Acree says if she had planned a local wedding, she would have tried to rent plants for her wedding to minimize waste. However, since she and her husband had a destination wedding, she and her florist had to get creative. Her florist, Juan Carlos of Los Angeles Floral Couture, sourced all organic, local and sustainably-sourced flowers and greens from a small local farm in Costa Rica called Ticaflor Farm. Thoughtfully sourcing your flowers is not only great for the environment, it's also a great way to support small businesses near your venue.

After the celebration, Jules and Andrew donated their wedding flowers to nearby hospitals, churches and nursing homes. "It definitely felt good to do that instead of just composting them," Acree says. "It's really nice to know somebody else was able to enjoy those beautiful flowers." There are so many places you can donate your wedding flowers, so look into delivery services near your wedding's venue. You can also ask your florist if they offer recycling services. It's a simple way to make your wedding more eco-friendly—plus, you'll instantly brighten someone else's day.

Minimize Waste Whenever Possible

Leilani says the one of the best ways to have an eco-friendly wedding is to cut down unnecessary waste. One major decision the Acrees made was to ban single-use plastics. Instead, they rented items or used what was on the property. They also chose to forgo any kind of plastic at all, opting for a wooden welcome sign made by a local vendor instead of an acrylic sign.

A major opportunity for a less wasteful ceremony is wedding favors. Lelani says that the key to wedding favors is to give guests something they'll actually use or enjoy. "Guests would much rather enjoy an 'edible' favor, such as a donut from a donut wall or a burger from an In-N-Out Truck after drinking and dancing the night away," she says. "Another sustainable favor idea might be a pack of seeds your guests can take home to start a garden." The Acrees thoughtfully gifted their guests reef-safe, zeo-waste sunscreen from Raw Elements, GoMacro bars and fanny packs from Aloha for adventuring.

Decide What's Important to You

If you're in the middle of wedding planning, you've likely been bombarded with pictures from Pinterest and social media. But Acree says it's important to be realistic and prioritize what's important to you. That way, you'll be able to cut down on waste and be as sustainable as possible. 

"When you search online, you see all of these beautiful weddings with so many gorgeous details," she says. "As much as I love those details, I think it's important for everyone to get real about what's important to them." Maybe it's the flowers, or maybe it's the food. Before making any big decisions, sit down with your partner and prioritize what's important to each of you. Then, work with your planner to figure out how to bring those dreams to life.

Strive for Sustainability, Not Perfection

There are so many wonderful ways to plan an eco-friendly wedding, but other factors can sometimes get in the way. Budget and guest count, for example, can end up making things more challenging as it relates to sustainability. "I would never want to make somebody feel bad about not being able to make an eco-friendly choice because of budget, but I feel like I saved so much money because I was using what the property already had," Acree says. That's why she suggests booking a venue that puts sustainability at the forefront of everything they do. In the end, it will make things much easier.

However, Acree adds that there are many small steps you can take to make your nuptials more eco-friendly. Donating your flowers or composting your food waste are tangible things that can make a real difference. Having a green wedding is less about making everything perfectly eco-friendly and more about being thoughtful and intentional throughout the planning process. 

Your wedding is about celebrating your love story with the ones you love. While the sustainability aspect was extremely important to Acree, she says the best part of the weekend was seeing her loved ones form friendships. "To have our friends and family from over the years actually be able to make connections with each other was really, really incredible."


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