Weddings are often fussy, stressful, and overworked life events, but they don't have to be. If you want, you can choose to celebrate your union with a vibe that's simple, relaxed, and stress-free. That's exactly what journalist Santiago Rodriguez Tarditi and eco-entrepreneur Valeria Hinojosa did, orchestrating their big day to reflect not only their laid-back yet plugged-in way of life, but their commitment to animal advocacy, earth stewardship, and zero-waste living, too.
Their love story begain when Santiago took a break from traveling the world to touch back down in Miami. At that time, he had one intention: to get his stuff out of storage and leave again. Surprised when a friend suggested that he meet Valeria as a potential romantic interest, he almost didn’t bite—resolving to move on to his next adventure. But when Santiago found out that Valeria was vegan, an animal lover, and a fellow world traveler, he softened.
Valeria, founder of the environmental advocacy organization The Yindah Foundation, wasn’t looking for a relationship. But when the same friend told her “He’s vegan, he plants trees, and he’s very tall,” she agreed to meet the potential love match.
The love story
The pair met for a coffee date before Santiago departed for Colombia. A few weeks later, the pandemic arrived, and quarantine prevented the two from reconnecting in person. So, they spent hours deep in conversation on video calls.
After being trapped in Colombia by travel restrictions, Santiago secured a spot on a humanitarian flight to Florida two months after the couple first met. “Are you ready for me to move in with you?” he asked Valeria.
“That was our second date,” she says. “I picked him up, and then he moved in with me.”
Living together in the city Santiago had tried to leave, the couple experienced a whole new Miami. Together they explored little-known parts of the city and off-the-beaten-path vegan-friendly restaurants, supporting them during the pandemic. “It was a good long staycation,” says Santiago.
The Big Day
The couple—passionate about protecting the environment and animals—made it a priority to ensure every element of the celebration reflected their values. Their spirit of exploration brought them to the Patch of Heaven Sanctuary for the event—a lush natural space and nonprofit that helps the forest to grow through conservation programs. On a steamy Florida day, the pair honored the earth as much as they celebrated their love for one another, with a zero-waste wedding featuring eco-friendly décor that supported ethical businesses.
Standing amidst the sanctuary’s lush greenery, they were married by a spiritual healer, exchanging vintage rings from the 1930s. The newlyweds served the celebratory meal themselves, pouring organic vegan wine by TILIA into recycled glasses, and presenting the cake on compostable plates made from palm leaves.
As the sun set, the couple realized they hadn’t had their first dance. So, they shared an impromptu moment under the great tree—moving to a rhythm of their own.
Guests sat at a communal dining table covered in a hand-printed tablecloth made by craftspeople in India. In place of fresh flowers, the couple created a display of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables that became a meal the next day.
Surrounded by chirping birds, scampering lizards, and the crunch of fallen leaves, the sounds of the sanctuary were more meaningful to the couple than the music. “We kind of let nature be our soundtrack,” says Santiago.
The wedding's tasty, Asian-Latin fusion menu was catered by local vegan dim sum hot spot Minty Z. Dishes included ...
- Guava, pesto, and smoked gouda empanadas
- Warm beet and endive salad
- Fresh spring rolls
- Smashed cucumber salad
- Cuban corn wontons
- Miso-kabocha potstickers
- Wok-fried wild mushrooms
- Vegan wine
- Sangria with organic fruit
- Coffee with oat milk
- Local vegan beer
The bride’s intricately decorated, long-sleeved gown was created by fair-trade designer FARM Rio, which plants a tree for each purchase. She wore her hair up using clips from BaYou with Love, crafted out of recycled gold from computers. Santiago’s vintage guayabera shirt and pants were purchased secondhand and worn with vegan boots made from recycled rubber and organic cotton by Virón.
Valeria created the place cards for the wedding herself out of clay, non-toxic paints, and leaves she picked at the sanctuary the morning of the wedding. Santiago stirred up refreshing sangria for the celebration—adding berries, fresh mint, and rosemary.
How you approach your wedding is a personal decision that you will make as a couple, but let Valeria and Santiago's celebration give you food for thought. When you allow external pressures to fade into the background and instead focus on what is most meaningful to you both, the vegan wedding of your dreams will manifest accordingly. What could be better than that?
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