An Environmentally-Friendly Destination Wedding in Big Sur, California
Couples often cite shared values as the pillar of their relationship and for Elle Communications founder Danielle Gano and her husband Adam Finck, that pillar (among many others!) is the environment. The duo first crossed paths on the top of a mountain during an 800-person dinner event, just after Danielle was hired to manage the PR for the nonprofit where Adam worked—later that evening, he asked her out. Concerned with the conflict of interest, Danielle fought their connection for a year-and-a-half. When Adam changed jobs—today, he's the Africa Programs Director at the international human rights and peacemaking Bridgeway Foundation—they gave it a shot.
That wasn't the last time the outdoors would play a major role in their love story. Adam proposed in Malibu, while the couple sipped Chardonnay at the edge of a meadow overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Nine months later, the native Californians exchanged vows at Fernwood Resort in Big Sur, tucked in between a grove of redwood trees. The natural setting informed the entire celebration, from the woodsy venue to the couple's environmentally-conscious approach to planning. "Getting out in nature and enjoying the beautiful world we live in is something that is so important to Adam and me," said Danielle. "Nature inspires us in life, and it inspired our wedding day as well."
The result? A gorgeous outdoor affair that proved that it's absolutely possible to throw the wedding of your dreams and support the environment at the same time. From asking the wedding party to rent or borrow big day attire, to choosing ethically-sourced wedding bands, and recycling bouquets into centerpieces, there wasn't a single aspect of the celebration that generated waste or excess. "We asked of our vendors to help us be creative in having as minimal a footprint as possible," explained Danielle of the big day, which was coordinated by local planner Mariah Green Events and captured by Suzi Jacobs.
Danielle and Adam shared their love for the earth with their 200 guests throughout the entire wedding weekend, which began with a rehearsal dinner picnic, group hike, and private concert. The day after the nuptials, the newlyweds enjoyed a beach day with their close friends and family before jetting off to their Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand honeymoon.
"We were so excited for our friends and family to explore Big Sur, so we made a whole weekend of plans for people to participate in," said Danielle, of the action-packed wedding weekend. The couple kicked off the festivities with a camp-themed rehearsal dinner (celebrity chef Mikaela Reuben created the healthy and portable cuisine, which the party enjoyed on the go) and sunset hike to a picturesque tree-ringed meadow, where The Tree Ring performed an impromptu concert. To close out the eve of the wedding, the group retired to the lodge for karaoke and hot toddies under the stars.
Pre-Wedding Surf Session
On the morning of the wedding, the groom and his men headed to the beach to surf while the girls took a yoga class, led by Erin Ward.
For Danielle, nothing was more important than finding an ethically-sourced, locally-made engagement ring. Adam knew that his soon-to-be fiancée was obsessed with the values and minimal aesthetic of Los Angeles-based designer Gabriela Artigas, so he worked with her to design a custom ring (via FaceTime!). When it came time to choose her wedding band, the bride-to-be went back to that same designer. Adam's ring was made by Naturaleza Organic Jewelry, and includes a thin piece of wood that the couple collected while camping at their wedding venue earlier in the year.
The bride's sister, Erin, was responsible for creating her simple bridal gown, which featured long sleeves and a button-enclosed back. "We worked together on a pattern that I loved and sent a model back and forth between L.A. and Sacramento where she lives," Danielle explained. "I tried on the close-to-final dress one week before our wedding and didn't actually put on the final dress for the first time until I was putting it on to walk down the aisle! But my sister is a genius and it fit like a glove."
Bridesmaids' Dresses and Bouquets
In the interest of keeping excess to a minimum, Danielle gave her bridal party a few guidelines—they needed to be floor-length, white, and minimal (no frills!)—and asked each woman to select her own dress. "While some of them purchased dresses, many of them reused pieces they already had or even borrowed from friends," she said. Their petite greenery bouquets, designed by Hello Honey Flower Co., were later repurposed into the reception's tabletop décor.
White peonies, ferns, and astilbe helped the bride's arrangement stand out. "Hello Honey Flower Co. was totally on board with my goal to keep it minimal and sustainable and not waste too much," she said of her personal arrangement. "We mixed a few tropical greens with things like ferns that grow locally."
The Groom and Groomsmen
Danielle and Adam took the same laid-back approach to styling their groomsmen. The couple ask the guys wear suits any the gray spectrum, which meant they could choose an ensemble they already had or borrow or rent one. To keep their looks cohesive, they donned the same white shirt as the groom, sported matching boutonnières and pocket squares, and wore brown leather shoes and belts.
One of the duo's friends brought an organ to the venue and played "Hard to Find" by The National as Danielle walked down the aisle. The ceremony was a family affair—it was officiated by Adam's father, a recently-retired Lutheran bishop. "He surprised us with stories and quotes that brought tears to our eyes," Danielle reflected. "We also involved Adam's sister, Erin, who read 'To Love is Not to Possess' by James Kavanaugh." The couple wrote their own ten-minute-long vows, which they spent months perfecting. "We wanted to agree on what we were promising to one another and we wanted to celebrate the things we are most grateful for in one another," she continued.
The Table Setting
At the tented reception, guests sat at reclaimed wood tables that were decorated with candles, minimalist vases, greens (repurposed from the bouquets!), and 200 tiny succulents from the grooms' parent's garden, which they returned post-nuptials. The couple skipped table linens and drank out of mugs—which featured their wedding crest by Dear Darling Calligraphy & Co. and doubled as favors—to keep the reception as plastic-free as possible. The eco-friendly bamboo plate company, Bambu, was responsible for all plates, cutlery, and paper products.
Feeding 200 people without generating excess was a challenge, which is why Danielle and Adam opted for the local food truck, Ketch It, which served up sustainably-caught fish and locally-grown organic veggies in made-to-order portions. "Guests got to choose from grilled fish, fish and chips, fish tacos, ceviche, and an array of sides. It was delicious!" said Danielle. For drinks, the couple uncorked bottles from OneHope Wine—their favorite! They selected the Cabernet Sauvingon, which donates to support children with autism with every bottle purchased, and the Chardonnay, which benefits organizations working to eradicate breast cancer. For every bottle of Champagne poured on their special day, 15 meals were given to children in need.
The (Camp-Themed) Dessert
"We skipped cake and had s'mores instead!" Danielle said, of their campfire snack. "My mom also made 200 pieces of my great-grandma Vera's fudge recipe in place of chocolate. The dessert station had a photo and story of my grandma, who was such a special person to me."
Event planning, Mariah Green Events
Catering, Ketch It Food Truck
Wine, OneHope Wine
Flowers, Hello Honey Flower Co.
Officiant, Bishop Murray Finck
Stationery and Calligraphy, Dear Darling
Rentals, Alexis Party Rentals
Hair, Garrett Markenson
Makeup, Katey Denno