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Guest Interview with Elise Brannan

by Bethany Picone Photography

Let us introduce you to Elise Brannan – Elise has a love for the planet and people that make for spectacular events!  Elise started her business in 2015 with a mission to help create beautiful, unique and memorable celebrations.
 
As an environmental and social justice advocate, she believes it’s part of her responsibility as an event professional to do everything she can to be conscious, inclusive, and sustainable when it comes to producing an event. Elise believes that every wedding can be as unique and special as it is inclusive and conscious of the world around us.
 
Elise is a perfect fit for The Good Beginning and I’m so excited to be able to ask her a few questions so that you can get to know her better.
Tell us how you got started with Brannan Events & Design.

It actually goes back to my time as a kid. I was a part of several non-profit youth groups and it helped instill a passion for leadership, project management, and networking~ which that last part is me just really liking meeting people and creating relationships:). From there I was hooked! In college I worked in various facets of the wedding industry; working for a planner, assisting a florist, and working part-time at a wedding dress salon. After graduating college, I worked as a catering sales manager at a property in Napa, gaining some confidence and honing my skills. That’s when I decided to start my own wedding planning business. My first wedding as a business was in 2014 and it was unpaid, but from there I was able to slowly build up a portfolio and a list of clients who were willing to recommend me. Here I am almost nine years later:).

I love that you credit your mom to raising you with a love for the natural world.  What are some things as a child that led you to who you are now?

Me too! I have very vivid memories of being a girl scout (my mom was one of our troop leaders) going camping with my troop, collecting badges because that was so fun, and selling cookies to pay my way to attend summer camps. My first job was when I was 12 years old and I started working on a farm, caring for mostly ponies and other small critters like birds, dogs and cats. I loved being outside; whether it was playing a sport, swimming, trying to climb a tree, or observing the roly poly bugs in my grandma’s backyard- I just loved (and still love) nature.

Today I consider myself an environmental advocate. I’m a lover of the natural world and the creatures we’re fortunate enough to share the planet with. I’ve been vegan for nearly 6 years and I think it’s helped me refocus and tap into the environmentalist I am now. 

What is it about sustainability that speaks to you?

Sustainability and environmentalism have been a journey for me and I think my biggest take away is that it’s not about perfection. It’s about all of us coming together, being a bit more mindful in our everyday lives. For me some of this looks like composting, eating lower on the food chain, and being that gal with various types of reusables on hand. Collectively our small changes can create massive impacts. So I think what speaks to me most about sustainability is a deep love for all of the biodiversity on this planet and a deep desire for finding connection with others; preserving our natural world together.

by Bethany Picone Photography

 

What are some larger ways that you design once in a lifetime celebrations while being mindful of the planet?

I am a big fan of repurposing and reusing!! Whether it’s repurposing your ceremony flowers to frame your dance floor, incorporating a treasured family piece, or scouting for antique/thrifted design details. I’m all for avoiding new waste. I personally love the “Buyerarchy of Needs” method and if you aren’t familiar I’d recommend a quick internet search.

I’ve mentioned food a few times for me personally but, being mindful about catering selections can have an immense impact on your event. Here are three significant ways to be mindful when crafting your wedding menu…
(1) You can significantly reduce your carbon emissions by reducing or removing animal products from your menu. With so many talented chefs in the wedding culinary scene, there are plenty of yummy plant-based options to consider, all you need to do is ask:)
(2) Work with a caterer who sources their ingredients locally. Because they shop locally, you’ll reduce the carbon emissions for the transportation of food all while supporting the local economy.
(3) Did you know that in the United States it’s estimated that 30%-40% of our entire food supply is wasted? It’s one of the reasons I’m passionate about avoiding food waste and preventing our food supply from ending up in the dump. You can be mindful of food waste by talking with your caterer about reasonable portions and replenishment, and by determining what will happen post-event with scraps and leftovers. Will they compost the scraps? Can leftovers be donated to a local organization who can distribute it to those in need?
If any of this resonates with you, chat with your planner and catering team.

 

Explain to us how using locally grown flowers can help.

Much like locally sourced food, locally grown flowers can have immense benefits for the environment. As you probably guessed it, it reduces carbon emissions dramatically by decreasing the resources it takes to deliver those flowers. Some of the most Pinterest worthy flowers are being flown across the globe in order to make it to your wedding and that’s something that’s easily avoidable:). Find yourself a skilled and sustainable florist; they’ll be able to suggest local alternatives and still make all your wildest dreams come true!

The growth of local, seasonal, organic flowers can also benefit local pollinators, which enriches the whole local ecosystem!

For a really amazing resource for all things wedding flowers and sustainability, check out my friends over at Gather Flora. In the past, it would be incredibly difficult for a busy florist to connect with a local flower farmer. Local product would end up going unused while exported flowers were more accessible. How wild is that?! Now Gather Flora is bridging that gap by making it easy for florists to connect with local farmers and source their products sustainably. 

What are some of the challenges that arise while you are trying to be less harmful to the environment?

Unfortunately single-use plastic is nearly unavoidable in the event industry. This happens in obvious ways with disposables such as plastic drink stirrers, straws, or dishes (which have alternatives/solutions), but it also happens behind the scenes. For example most linens are bagged with a thin plastic bag, many rental items are transported wrapped in padding and shrink wrap, flowers can have plastic packaging, and even if you order plastic-free items online, they’re often accompanied by some sort of single-use plastic. This is why I think back to my “why sustainability speaks to me” reasoning. It’s not about perfection. It’s about doing what you can with the resources you have. Being an environmentalist doesn’t mean you’re completely waste-free and that you never make mistakes. It means that you are conscious about your impact and that you want to do a little better day by day.

What does being inclusive mean to you?

To me, inclusivity is about inviting people in and treating those around me with respect. It means sharing tips, thoughts, and experiences with others in the industry rather than gatekeeping information. It’s about making sure that the vendors I chose to work with take care of their team members and employees. It means making sure that those who have the most labor intensive jobs are provided with gratuities that match their hard work. It’s about understanding that on any given wedding day it’s likely that 40-100+ other humans have worked hard to help bring this beautiful day to life. It’s about recognizing that we all contribute to the mental wellbeing of those around us and I like to be mindful of all those elements by doing my best to create a comfortable environment.

 

What’s one easy thing an everyday couple can do to reduce the impact of their celebration? 
Ok well this will seem like a shameless plug but- hire a wedding planner that prioritizes sustainability! We’ve been working hard to foster those relationships and we have some pretty wonderful insights.
Something else you can do today, right now, for free is to ask any vendor who you’re working with (or considering working with) about their sustainability practices. If it’s something that’s important to them and their business ethos they’ll likely have loads of information to share. It’ll make it easier for you to make the most sustainable choices. If they don’t have much of an answer you’ve at least reminded them that clients/potential clients are prioritizing sustainable environmental practices. Hopefully it helps inspire them to make some changes in their business.
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to share a little bit here with the Good Beginning audience:). You’re here which already shows how much you care about the impact of your wedding! I’ll leave you all with one of my favorite metaphors~ The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.

by Bethany Picone Photography

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